Chayei Sarah
 


Parshat Chayei Sarah          22 MarCheshvan 5765              November 6, 2004              Vol.14 No.8


In This Issue:

Rabbi Josh Kahn

Mitch Levine

Ben Krinsky

Halacha of the Week

Rabbi Chaim Jachter

 

 

It's Not About Me
by Rabbi Josh Kahn

The apple does not fall far from the tree.  The relationship between Avraham and is a good example of this familiar saying. certainly does not have the same reputation as Avraham, but the kindness he witnesses for years in the house of Avraham has its impact.  In fact, we find in last week's Parsha that just as Avraham immediately invites guests into his house the moment he sees them, Lot, too, immediately takes in as his guests the visitors he sees, even though the punishment in Sedom for such a "crime" is death.  However, a close analysis of the storyline shows a fundamental difference between the manner of Avraham's (and in our Parsha, Rivka's) hospitality and that of Lot's.The Torah describes Lot sitting outside at night, after having been elected the mayor of the town (according to Chazal).  He then sees visitors walking by and invites them in.  But his concern remains self-focused.  He tells them to first sleep, and only then to eat.  Rashi points out he does not want them to wash their feet because he wants it to be noticeable that they have just arrived, which will prevent him from getting in trouble for harboring guests.  His concern is not the comfort of his guests, but rather his own wellbeing.  He then tells them to leave early in the morning.  Although Lot's hospitality was at great risk to himself, the whole time his focus remained whether he would get in trouble and not his guests' comfort.  In fact, the Or Hachayim Hakadosh points out that Lot recognized the angels as such because of the time he spent in Avraham's house, and therefore treated them with kindness, implying that he was only hospitable to them because of who they were.
On the other side of the coin, the Torah also describes the actions of Avraham Avinu, the paradigm of kindness.  Three days after having had a Brit Milah, Avraham sits outside his tent on an extremely hot day.  Why does he choose to sit in the brutal heat instead of his air conditioned tent?  It is because he is focused on helping others, not himself.  Upon seeing three men in the distance, Avraham runs to greet them, so that he may perform an act of kindness.  He then bows down to them and calls them "Adonim," "masters," treating his guests as royalty.  The Ramban points out Avraham's sensitivity to the fact that these men were traveling and might not want to be delayed.  Avraham therefore tells them to wash their legs with cold water to energize them, and he tells the guests they can leave whenever they wish.  The kindness embodied by Avraham shows sensitivity to the needs of the recipient of the kindness.
The following story illustrates what it means to be sensitive to the needs of the recipient.  Before Pesach a woman came to the Beit Halevi with a basic question.  She wanted to know if she could use milk for her Arba Kossot.  The Beit Halevi, not wanting to embarrass her about the simplicity of the question, asked if she minded waiting while he looked for an answer.  He proceeded to open several Seforim and look around until about five minutes later he returned with a bottle of wine and a large piece of meat.  Afterwards, a family member asked the Beit Halevi, "I understand why you gave her wine, but what about the meat?"  The Beit Halevi gave a remarkable answer.  He explained that this woman might not have known she could not use milk for the Arba Kossot, but everyone knows it is forbidden to have milk and meat at the same meal.  If this woman was considering using milk for her Arba Kossot, she must not have been able to afford any meat for the meal, and he therefore gave her meat for Pesach.  The Beit Halevi could have given her a bottle of wine and told her she should use that instead of milk. He would have still felt generous for not sending her away empty handed, but instead he thought about what else she might be missing.
This is the message of Avraham Avinu.  With this in mind It comes as no surprise that in this week's Parsha, Avraham looks for a wife for Yitzchak who will also embody this type of kindness.  Rivka, sensitive to the camels' needs, offers the water to Eliezer's camels and without even waiting for Eliezer to ask.  Not only does Rivka offer water to the camels, but she insists on refilling until the camels can not drink anymore.  Even more amazingly, during this whole process, Rivka runs back and forth so as not to make them wait, even though she is doing them a favor.
Avraham and Rivka provide a great example for us to try to emulate.  After all, the apple does not fall far from the tree.

A Beautiful Life 
by Mitch Levine

Parshat Chayei Sarah opens with the Pasuk, "Sarah's lifetime was one hundred years, twenty years, and seven years; the years of Sarah's life."
Why does the Pasuk have to repeat the word years? Rashi says that the word is repeated because Sarah's life was divided into three separate periods. At age one hundred, she was as sinless as she was at twenty, as a person does not suffer heavenly punishment at the age of twenty. At the age of twenty, she still had the wholesome beauty as a seven year old, whose beauty is natural.
R' Moshe Feinstein commented here that, despite Sarah's breathtaking beauty, everyone that saw her recognized her purity and innocence.

Divine Guidance
by Ben Krinsky

In this week's Parsha, Avraham sends his servant Eliezer to find a wife for his son Yitzchak from among Avraham's relatives living in Charan. Upon reaching the local well where many young women gather, Eliezer prays to Hashem for help. He makes an oath that he would ask a woman for some water and if she volunteers to water his camels as well, then he would know that she is the correct woman for Yitzchak. However, this is a strange request because the girl might not be from Avraham's family, from whom Eliezer was instructed to search!
The Gemara in Taanit (4a) raises brings up this exact point while explaining three people in Tanach who took similar open ended oaths. In addition to Eliezer, the Gemara mentions Shaul Hamelech who made an oath that whoever would kill Galyat would receive a large cash sum and his daughter's hand in marriage. However, the person who killed Galyat could have been someone unfit to marry a Jewish princess. Additionally, the Gemara relates the story of Yiftach who before going to battle made an oath that if Hashem would help him win the war, he would offer as a Korban the first thing to exit his house. However, again this is a difficult to comprehend because the first thing to exit Yiftach's house could have been an animal unfit to be offered as a Korban. Despite their inappropriate oaths, Hashem helped Eliezer and Shaul, as Elizer found Rivka and David became Shaul's son in-law. On the other hand, Hashem didn't help Yiftach as his daughter was the first one to exit his house. Yet, the question is, why was Yiftach less fortunate than the others?
Rav Ravir of Yeshivat Shaarei Mevaseret Ziyon posits that Eliezer and Shaul made their oaths in order to benefit the Jewish people, therefore, there requests were honored. However, Yiftach only wanted to pad his ego; he wanted to be the one to save the Jews from Amon. The Gemara even points out Yiftach's haughtiness by commenting that he could have gone to a Kohen to annul his oath once death was imposed upon his daughter, yet, he says that the Kohen should come to him since he is the leader of Bnei Yisrael (see Tosafot ad. Loc. s.v. Vihynu). We can learn from these three individuals the importance of doing Mitzvot Lishma. If we do Hashem's will, He will guide our actions in the right direction.

 

Halacha of the Week
The Aruch Hashulchan (Choshen Mishpat 378:1) writes that one should be as careful regarding possible theft or damage as we are careful to avoid something that is possibly not kosher. In fact, the Aruch Hashulchan adds that we should be even more careful that our money should be unquestionably "Kosher" than we are regarding ritual matters, because Yom Kippur forgives only matters that are between us and Hashem and not matters that are between us and other people.

 

Staff at time of publication:

Editors-in-Chief:  Ely Winkler, Willie Roth
Executive Editor: Jerry M. Karp
Publication Editors: Jesse Dunietz, Ariel Caplan
Publishing Manager: Andy Feuerstein-Rudin
Publication Managers: Orin Ben-Jacob, Moshe Zharnest
Business Manager: Etan Bluman
Webmaster: Avi Wollman
Staff: David Barth, David Gross, Mitch Levine, Josh Markovic, Moshe Schaffer, Chaim Strauss
Faculty Advisor: Rabbi Chaim Jachter

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