Parshat Chayei Sarah Vol.10 No.10
Date of issue: 27 Marcheshvan 5761 -- November 25, 2000
issue has been sponsored
by Rabbi Dovid and Sury Kamenetsky
in honor of their newborn grandchildren,
Avigayil Rachel and Yosef Yehuda.
The Eleventh Test
by Rabbi Steven Prebor
The Mishna in Pirkei Avot (5:3) states that Avraham was tested ten times. There is a dispute regarding which ten events in Avraham's life are to be included in this list. Most opinions view Akeidat Yitzchak as the final test, although Rabbeinu Yonah claims that Sarah's burial is the last one. There is an event that takes place after Sarah's burial which, although not formally included in anyone's list of tests, still reflects the type of challenge to which Avraham was subjected in these tests.
Avraham tells his servant (presumably Eliezer) to go to Avraham's birthplace to find a wife for Yitzchak. The servant is concerned that the woman he chooses for Yitzchak might not come back with him without seeing her future husband. He therefore asks if he would be allowed to bring Yitzchak to Aram. Avraham replies with an emphatic no, Yitzchak was not to leave Canaan under any circumstances. Later on, in Parshat Toldot, Hashem is equally emphatic to Yitzchak, even in a time of famine. Rashi explains that after the Akeida, Yitzchak maintained the status of an Ola Temima, a perfect Korban, and thus could not leave the Holy Land.
Avraham is faced with a dilemma. If Yitzchak is to succeed Avraham in the formation of the Jewish Nation, he has to have an appropriate wife. Avraham states unequivocally that all Canaanite women are therefore excluded. This necessitates a trip to Aram Naharayim, a trip that Yitzchak cannot take. Would the servant be able to find the right woman? Would she agree to follow him blindly? Avraham expresses his attitude with the following words: Hashem Elokei Hashamayim Asher Lekachani Mibait Avi Ume'eretz Moladti Vaasher Diber Li Vaasher Nishba Li Lemor Lezaracha Eten Et Haaretz Hazot Hu Yishlach Malacho Lifanecha Velakachta Isha Livni Misham, "Hashem, God of the heavens, Who took me from the house of my father and the land of my birth, and Who promised me saying, 'To your children I will give this land,' He will send His angel in front of you [the servant] and you will take a wife for my son from there" (24:7).
The Chizkuni claims that this is a prophecy, and Avraham is telling his servant not to worry because he foresees that everything will work out. The problem with this explanation arises from the following Pasuk: Avraham had made his servant swear that he would follow Avraham's guidelines. In Pasuk 8, Avraham says that if the woman does not want to follow the servant, he is absolved from the oath. Avraham is thereby entertaining the possibility that it will not necessarily work out as planned. How, can Pasuk 7 be a prophecy if Avraham is expressing doubt? As a result of this problem, the Ibn Ezra claims that it is not a prophecy, but rather a prayer. Avraham is praying to Hashem and asking Him to make everything work out.
The Rashbam, it appears, has a third approach. He uses the term Yodea Ani, "I know," to describe what Avraham is feeling. According to the Rashbam, therefore, it is neither a prophecy nor a prayer, but an expression of faith. It is almost as if Avraham is being tested once again. How does Avraham then deal with this latest challenge? By expressing his faith so clearly and confidently that it appears as if he is prophesizing the outcome. Such faith on Avraham's part is indeed striking given how outlandish the plan seems. Then again, given the contradiction inherent in the Akeida ("through Yitzchak you will be a father of a great nation" vs. "bring Yitzchak as an offering to Me"), this situation pales in comparison.
In any event, Avraham serves as a role model to us. We are faced with many situations that have inherent contradictions. Often it is a religious obligation with which Hashem challenges us. In recent days, we have seen this with the Mitzva of living in the Land of Israel. The situation in Israel makes it look at times as if Hashem is making it more difficult for us to fulfill His Mitzvot. That probably is the case, as it was with Avraham. We are not prophets; however, we can be prayer-givers. In addition, we can express Bitachon and the "knowledge" that Hashem will "send His angels" in whatever form that may be.
To Life, To Life, Lechayim
by Yechiel Shaffer
In Sefer Bereishit, there are two Parshiot that seem to have improper names: this week's Parsha, Chayei Sarah, and Parshat Vayechi. These names are strange because these Parshiot deal with the deaths of great people (Sarah and Avraham in Chayei Sarah, Yaakov and Yosef in Vayechi), but their titles refer to life. Why did Chazal name these Parshiot the way they did?
In Melachim I, Chapter 3, we read of the famous dream of Shlomo Hamelech. In it Hashem allows Shlomo to ask for whatever he wants. Shlomo asks for only one thing, wisdom, and Hashem grants him this. Furthermore, Hashem grants Shlomo everything else that he could have asked for, including long life. We know that Shlomo only lived for 52 years; how is this a "long life"? We can explain that life is not only measured in physical terms but also in spiritual terms, which is where life is really lived. Shlomo was granted a reward of long life in Olam Habah (the World to Come), not in Olam Hazeh (this world).
In Pirkei Avot, there is a famous statement of Rabbi Yaakov: "This world is like a lobby before Olam Habah; prepare yourself in the lobby so that you may enter the banquet hall" (4:21). This means that every person must prepare himself in this world by keeping Torah and Mitzvot so that he can enter Olam Habah and take part in the "wonderful banquet" that is waiting there for him. This is when life really begins.
The Gemara (Chagiga 15) relates a story that illustrates this point in a most graphic way. There was a very famous Rabbi, the teacher of Rabbi Meir, whose name was Elisha ben Avuya. We are told that he was out one day and saw a young boy going to send away a mother bird (the Mitzva of Shiluach Hakan) as per his father's instructions. One who performs the Mitzva of Shiluach Hakan and the Mitzva of honoring one's parents is promised a long life, but when the boy was coming down from the tree he fell to his death. After Elisha ben Avuya saw this event, he asked how there could be a God. After all, the reward for these Mitzvot is long life, yet the boy died in the act of doing these Mitzvot. This was one of the events that eventually caused Elisha ben Avuya to leave Judaism and assimilate into Hellenist society. It is clear that when the Torah says the reward for these Mitzvot is long life it does not necessarily mean life in the physical sense but in terms of spiritual life in Olam Habah. Elisha never accepted this interpretation.
On the basis of these comments we can now explain the titles of these Parshiot. It is true that these Parshiot deal with the deaths of four great people, but this is only their physical deaths, not their spiritual deaths. In fact, when they arrived in Olam Habah, they first began to live in the spiritual sense. Chazal convey this message to us in the names of the Parshiot and in the lessons we have explained from the Navi, Mishna, and Gemara.
Towers of Chessed
by Josh Dubin
Throughout Sefer Bereishit, the Torah describes Avraham's hospitality and greatness in detail. Last week, the Torah took seven Pesukim to describe Avraham's hospitality to his guests, the three angels. At the end of this week's Parsha, the Torah sums up Avraham's life by saying, "And Avraham expired and died at a good old age, mature and content, and was gathered to his people" (25:8).
Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz explains these Pesukim with an analogy. When a person wins the lottery, he tells all his friends that he has won the lottery. He does not explain all the details of his millions. Yet a person who has worked all his life and is able to save up those same millions will have a lot to tell about how hard he worked and the sacrifices he had to make to save up all that money. He would tell you how he had to work long hours with very little sleep, etc…. Each aspect of his hard-earned money is dear to him. The more effort he put in, the more he would talk about it.
Rav Yeruchem Levovitz explains that the actions and behavior of the righteous are like a building. With each action, a righteous person is building a large skyscraper. That is why the Torah tells us of the hospitality of Avraham in such great detail. Avraham did not become righteous overnight; he worked every minute of his life to become righteous.
We learn from here that it takes work and effort, often over one's entire life, to become righteous if one sincerely wants to do so. However, Hashem guarantees that if you strive for righteousness, He will assist you in attaining your goal.
Hey* 52, Where Are You?
by David Gertler
The word Naara, young girl, is used a number of times in the Torah, and each time, except for one, it is missing the feminine particle, the ending Hey*, and is spelled Naar.
Twice, this is quite understandable; the woman in question did not act in an appropriate feminine way. One of those times is at the beginning of the story of Dinah and Shechem (34:3). Dinah went out and, the Meforshim (e.g. Rashi) say, acted unfeminine; therefore the Hey*, representative of modesty, femininity, and Godliness, was taken out to show that they were lacking in Dinah's actions. The second understandable missing Hey* is in regard to the defamation of a married woman who is suspected of not being a virgin (Devarim 22:13-21). The specific case is when she was a virgin at the time of Kiddushin (the marriage ceremony) but at the time of Nissuin (the consummation), her husband claims that she is not a virgin. The only time in the Torah that word is written with the letter Hey* is in the case where she is found to be a virgin, while in the rest of the story the letter Hey* is missing.
In this week's Parsha, the would-be 52nd Hey* (from the beginning of the Perek) is missing, but this case is not one of a girl who "went out" and was raped or someone who cheated on her betrothed. This case is that of a woman, Rivka, whose modesty and Godliness is acclaimed. The Pasuk tells us doubly that was a virgin and a man had not "known" her. Why is such language used to describe someone of Rivka's stature? It cannot be referring to immodesty or a lack of femininity. Rav Hirsch simply says that this is how the Torah usually writes the word, with only one exception. One answer I have heard, although it is not satisfying, is that she was not yet twelve years old, and Naara refers to a girl at the age of twelve. The Torah left out the Hey* to say that she is a Ketana and not officially a Naara.
For now this remains a most bewildering question. Where has the Hey* gone? Was Rivka immodest? How could this usage possibly be used for the matriarch who the Pesukim and Meforshim say was modest? The mysteries of the Torah are many, and all we can say is: "Hey* 52 (24:14, and those in 24:16, 18, 55, and 57), where are you, and why are you missing?"
*In this article, Hey refers to the fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, not an interjection.
Halacha of the Week
The prohibition of Lashon Hara applies even if one would not be embarrassed to say the Lashon Hara to the victim's face (Sefer Chafetz Chaim 3:1).
Staff at time of publication:
Editors-in-Chief: Avi-Gil Chaitovsky, Dani Gross
Managing Editors: Moshe Glasser, Zevi Goldberg
Publication Editor: Daniel Wenger
Business Manager: Ilan Tokayer
Staff: Josh Dubin, Zev Feigenbaum, Shuky Gross, Michael Humphrey, Binyamin Kagedan, Yair Manas, Uriel Schechter, Yechiel Shaffer, Gil Stein
Consultant: David Gertler
Faculty Advisor: Rabbi Howard Jachter
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