Parshat Chayei Sarah Vol.11 No.9

Date of issue: 24 Cheshvan 5762 -- November 10, 2001

This week's issue has been sponsored by
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In honor of their son Yosef's
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This week's featured writers:

Mr. Baruch Speiser
Nachi Friedman
Ilan Tokayer
Rabbi Howard Jachter
-Modern Issues in Brit Milah - Part Two

 

Sarah Lives On
by Mr. Baruch Speiser

Vayevaah Yitzchak Haehala Sara Imo Vayikach Et Rivka Vatihi Lo Leisha Vayaehava Viyinicham Yitzchak Acharei Imo.(Bereshit 24:67).
What made Rivka so special? Why was Rivka a perfect choice for Yitzchak? While a superficial reading of the Chumash seems to indicate that it was because she was a Baalat Chessed, being a kind and caring person does not instantaneously make a spouse. What made Rivka 'right' for Yitzchak?

First, we must analyze the character of Yitzchak. It is fairly straight forward; his life in Chumash and the stories that involve him as the focal character are sparse. There are only two stories in Chumash that really involve Yitzchak as a critical element of the story: the Akeida and the blessing of Yaakov and Esav.

Yitzchak's nature, at least according to the simple reading of the text, was that of a passive, reflective individual. Yitzchak does not actively pursue the will to get married. Unlike Avraham, who is already married to Sarah when he first appears and later marries Ketura of his own accord, Yitzchak waits for his father to choose a wife for him. Unlike Yaakov, he does not work to earn his wife's hand in marriage. He is simply passive in this regard, following the will of his father Avraham; or even possibly the whim of his servant, considering that it was Eliezer who not only chose his wife but also established the criteria to do so.

Furthermore, Yitzchak was clearly not the outspoken type. He did not say much by the Akeida, nor did he seem to be proactive in his involvement with the affairs of his own children, Yaakov and Esav. In fact, of all the Avot, Yitzchak seems to have the least impact of all three of our forefathers. While one could argue that this is because he was neither the first nor the last and hence the middleman who must serve only as a transitional figure, it could be equally argued that he was chosen to be the second forefather because of his passive nature.
On the other hand, there is Rivka. Once she enters the scene, Rivka plays a role in the forefront. Note how the Chumash acknowledges her significantly - the beginning of Parshat Toldot mentions Rivka but does not mention her mother-in-law, Sarah. After Esav marries a Hittite woman, the Pasuk indicates that he was rebellious to both his father and his mother. (Compare this to the stories of Avshalom ben Dovid Hamelech, where the mother is not mentioned as being rebelled against.)

Rivka is proactive and offers to provide water for Eliezer's entourage. Later on, she does not advise Yaakov to "deceive" his father Yitzchak, but rather she explicitly commands him to do so. She also then imagines an excuse for him to leave and escape the wrath of Esav, by claiming that she does not want him to take a wife from the land of Canaan like his brother did.

Throughout her lifetime, Rivka is outspoken, headstrong, and free-willed. It also seems that her family life had an impact as well. Like Yitzchak, Rivka's father Betuel was also very passive. Her brother Lavan steals the show when Eliezer is invited in, and Betuel subsequently disappears from the narrative. It seems that Lavan took advantage of his father's quiet, passive nature and grew to be his own self, laced with greed and self-centeredness, quite parallel to the way Esav developed under his quiet father. Rivka realized that she must spiritually direct herself away from the path of Lavan, because she would not have any help from her father, and unlike her future husband did not have a mother like Sarah, who was willing to rebuke her husband in order that he would focus his attention to the correct son for spiritual development.

Thus, we see the sharp contrast of Yitzchak and Rivka. They were perfect for each other because of the force that they each carried - Yitzchak as the carrier of divine influence, which he learned from the Akeida and the special bond it formed between him and his father; and that of Rivka, a much more practical and pragmatic sense of pedagogical insight, someone with determination and the inner strength to set things straight.
Thus, we see that Yitzchak and Rivka were perfect for each other because they became the embodiment of Avraham and Sarah. Both couples faced similar pedagogical challenges; the father, who thought the divine spirit should rest with one son and the mother, who proactively retuned the transition.

We see that Yitzchak was comforted over he loss of his mother because Rivka replaced the role of his mother. It is quite possible to suggest that Yitzchak was afraid after his mother was gone due to the loss of Sara's practical outlook and common sense. With the entrance of Rivka, he realized that he, too would have the assistance of an Eizer Kinegdo, someone who would be able to set things straight for his children.


The "Kol" Factor
by Nachi Friedman

In this week's Parsha, Chayei Sara, we read about two themes, the purchase of Maarat Hamachpela by Avraham in order to bury his wife Sarah and Avraham's mission to find a wife for Yitzchak.

Between these two stories, (in 24:1) the Torah says, "And Avraham became old and Hashem blessed him in everything. "The word "Bakol" is very difficult to understand. What does "Kol" mean, and why "in"?

Chazal explain this phrase in connection with the following. There are two other places in Bereishit where the word Kol is used in a similar way. When Esav asks for the Beracha, but Yitzchak had already blessed Yaakov, Yitzchak says (27:33), "And Yitzchak had a great shock and said, "Who had brought me the hunted food before and that I ate from everything and I blessed him before you came?" The next time Kol is mentioned is when Yaakov meets Esav and offers him many gifts in order to appease him. Esav refuses the gift, but Yaakov insists that he take it and he says (33:11), "Take the present I brought to you because Hashem has been very good to me and I have everything."
We have noted three times where it says Kol in different forms. By Avraham it says "Bakol," by Yitzchak it says "Mikol," and by Yaakov it says just plain "Kol."

Chazal understood from this that each of our Avot was given a taste of Olam Haba while still alive in this world. Avraham's uniqueness was that Hashem had blessed him Bakol, in everything, meaning that he appreciated everything Hashem gave him and did for him and truly felt blessed. Because of this he grew as a person and as a Jew through each of these blessings. Yitzchak, on the other hand, has the ability to see blessing and thrive on the blessing which he gets Mikol, from everything. Even though Yitzchak faced many difficulties in his life, he sees blessing in carrying out Hashem's will and this alone makes him happy. Finally we come to Yaakov, who has everything because he is totally satisfied with what he has. This is the attitude of Kol. This idea is also expressed in Pirkei Avot. "He who is rich is he who is happy with what he has."
Now we can understand why in Birkot Hamazon we say, "Bakol Mikol Kol." This is the way we wish to be blessed, just like our three Avot. We are asking Hashem to bless us in a way that we too can appreciate all that we have and see the good in everything around us.


The H2O Predicament
by Ilan Tokayer

According to many, the primary purpose of Sefer Bereishit is to teach us how to act morally towards fellow man. In Parshat Chayei Sarah, there is one episode from which we can learn two important principles of how people should act towards one another.

When Eliezer asks Hashem for a sign of the girl to marry Yitzchak, he asks Hashem that she should not only give water to himself, but rather his camels as well. Why is this the specific sign that Eliezer asked for?

The Bait Halevi, Rav Yosef Dov Halevi Soloveitchik of Brisk, explains that Eliezer was looking for a girl with not only kindness and good Midot, but the Sechel to know how to use her good Midot as well. Rivka came to the well and encountered Eliezer, whereupon Eliezer, a total stranger, asked Rivka for water. Eliezer, a traveler coming from a long journey, could be sick and thereby contaminate the entire jug of water that he drank from. This leaves the girl in a difficult situation. She could not take the jug home and feed her family the possibly contaminated water, but on the other hand, she could not spill out the remainder of the water in the jug, thereby embarrassing Eliezer. Eliezer realized this and therefore asked that the criteria for Hashem's sign be that she offers the remaining water to Eliezer's camels, eliminating both problems. The Bait Halevi adds that she even offered to repeatedly draw more water until the camels were fully satisfied.

There is, however, one more apparent problem with this episode. We are told (24:19) that Rivka serves Eliezer and then asks to serve Eliezer's camels. This raises an obvious contradiction with a famous ruling of Chazal, as Rav Yehuda says in Rav's name (Berachot 40a, Gittin 62) that a person may not eat before he sees that his animals have food. We learn this from the placement of "Vinatati Esev Bisadcha Libehemtecha" before "Viachalta Visavata" in the Parsha of "Vihaya Im Shamoah." (Indeed, this rule is exemplified in this week's Parsha where it says "Vayavo Ha Ish Habaita... Vayitain Tavo Umispoa Ligmalim," that Eliezer brought the camels food as soon as he arrived at Betuel's house, even before he himself ate after a long journey.) How did Rivka do the right thing by giving Eliezer to drink before the camels? Once again Rivka did the right thing by using her Sechel. Knowing that camels can go for over a week without thirst, but man becomes thirsty after only a few hours, especially when traveling through the hot Middle Easetern sun, she offered Eliezer water before the camels.

We can learn so much from our Avot and Imahot, especially how to act with good Midot. It is important for everybody to approach every situation with the mentality of Rivka Imenu, and be able to take all factors into account while making a decision and act with both good Midot and Sechel.



Staff at time of publication:
Editors-in-Chief: Josh Dubin, David Gertler
Managing Editors: Yair Manas, Uriel Schechter
Publishing Manager: Zev Feigenbaum
Publication Editor: Ilan Tokayer
Business Manager: Yehuda Goldin
Staff: Noam Block, Ami Friedman, Shuky Gross, Simcha Haber, Oren Levy, Ari Michael, Effie Richmond, Dani Shaffren, Sam Wiseman
Webmaster: Yisroel Ellman
Faculty Advisor: Rabbi Howard Jachter

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