5759 - Chayya Sara by 36FgQS


									par59007.doc                                                                                           love of G-d was unshakeable, that this further episode is potentially
                                                                  ‫בס"ד‬                                 frustrating and unsettling. After all that Avraham went through, was it not
PARSHAT HASHAVUA                                                                                     "enough already"? All his life - so far - Avraham had been testedby G-d.
                                                                                                       Avraham is getting on in years; his life's partner is dead - enough
PARSHA : CHAYEI SARAH                                                                                  testing. Yet, Avraham is put to one more test. It does not have to be
                                                                                                       difficult - what is paying a high price for a piece of land compared with
Date : 25 Cheshvan 5759, 14-11-98                                                                      other trials and tribulations? But the real test is "when does it end?",
“The Best of Parshat HaShavuah” Articles taken from list subscriptions                                 "when can he rest?". Survivorsof the Holocaust were not guaranteed
on the internet, edited, reformatted and printed for members of Kibbutz Sde                            that they would not go through anymore difficult times in their lives.
Eliyahu (Editor: Arieh Yarden)                                                                         Many have had very troubled lives since liberation of the camps. (Some
Please respect the Holiness of these pages                                                             have been blessed with very comfortable, trouble-free lives.) Do we
                                                                                                       each not know of families that have had multiple tragedies? Etc. Etc.
      Dedicated to the loving memory of Avi Mori                                                            Nothing happens to us - as a nation and as individuals - that hasn't
               Moshe Reuven ben Yaakov z”l                                                             happened to our forefathers. Their experiences help guide us through
                                                                                                       our own tests of faith.
Internet address: yarden@seliyahu.org.il                                                               LEVI - Second Aliya - 13 p'sukim (23:17-24:9)
                                                                                       The field, cave, trees, etc. become the lawful possessions of
1 - TORAH TIDBITS                                          (Israel Center)
 Phil Chernofsky, OU/NCSY Israel Center, Jerusalem Home Page : http://www.cyberscribe.com/tt
                                                                                                       Avraham, after which he buries Sara. Avraham is now at an advanced
                                                                                                       age and has been blessed greatly by HaShem.
  WHAT'S NOT IN A NAME?                                                                                     And G-d Blessed Avraham with All
       The Torah repeatedly teaches us the significance of a name. Avram                                    What was the extra blessing, beyond long life, health, wealth,
became Avraham, becoming the "father of nations". Sarai became Sara. fulfillment? The Gemara and Midrashim give us many explanations as
G-d instructed Avraham and Sara to call their son Yitzchak because of to what the Torah means when it says that Avraham was blessed
its meaning. An angel told Hagar that her son shall be called Yishma'el, BAKOL, with everything. The numeric value of BAKOL, 2+20+30 = 52 is
because of its meaning. So too with Amon andMo'av, Yaakov and the same as BEN, son, 2+50. Avraham was blessed with all when
Eisav, Yisrael and Edom, Yaakov's sons, etc. etc. etc.                                                 Yitzchak was born.
       But occasionally, we run into a notable absence of name. That this                                   R. Meir says that his extra blessing was that he had no daughter. In
week's sedra as an example. Avraham's name is mentioned 37 times in Avraham's time, in his unique circumstances, a daughter might not have
Chayei Sara. Sara's name appears 9 times. Efron, who sells the burial been a blessing. Whom would she have married? Would she have
place to Avraham is also mentioned nine times. Yitzchak's name followed in Avraham's ways?
appears 13 times and Rivka's is found 12 times. B'tueland Lavan are                                         On the other hand, R. Yehuda says that Avraham was blessed with
named 4 and 3 times respectively. The main character (maybe) of the everything - that he HAD a daughter. Fathers with daughters would tend
sedra, the one who appears in all "scenes" of the parsha, is Eliezer. to agree with R. Yehuda as to how great a blessing daughters are. R.
Take a guess (before you read further) how many times his name Eliezer HaModai says that Avraham was consulted by noblemen from
appears in Chayei Sara. Unless you already know the answer, and if far and wide concerning matters of astrology, an expertise of Avraham
you are the suspicious type who expects"catch" questions, you'd Avinu.
probably guess "once", and you'd be close. Eliezer's name does not                                          R. Shimon bar Yochai says that Avraham possessed a precious
appear at all in Parshat Chayei Sara. The star of the show. He's in the gem with curative powers that would heal all those who gazed upon it.
second portion, when Avraham sends him to his families hometown to                                          These two opinions both identify the BAKOL of G-d's blessing as a
find a wife for Yitzchak. He's at the well, he meets Rivka, he goes to the position of prominence in the world. This is in line with Avraham's stated
house of Lavan and Betuel, he retells his story,he takes Rivka back to role as "the father of many nations".
Yitzchak. No one else is in more of the sedra than Eliezer. Not once is                                     Some suggest that Eisav's not sinning while Avraham was alive,
he named.                                                                                              and of Yishmael's having repented during Avraham's lifetime. The
       He does have two descriptive terms with which he is referred to - quality of such a blessing should be obvious to us all.
Ha'Eved or a variation thereof (the servant, 12 times) and Ha'Ish (the                                      Others explain BAKOL that Avraham was given a preview of the
man, 7 times). When Eliezer is referred to in relation to Avraham or World to Come, and that the Angel of Death had no power over
Yitzchak, he is The servant. Vis-a-vis Lavan or Betuel, he is The man. Avraham. (Avraham died "by a Divine kiss" and worms and maggots did
To Rivka he is also The man, until she fullyagrees to the match - then not attack his body in the grave.)
Eliezer becomes The servant to her as well.                                                                 From the variety of explanations of BAKOL, and regardless of which
       Each of us has a name (or two) which has a meaning semantically, explanations one might favor, it is quite clear that Avraham's unique
possibly Biblically, and family antecedent-wise as well. But we also have status as the one who restored belief in One G-d to the world did not go
identities of a more generic nature. And those are us (we), as well. We unrewarded. We can see in this list of blessings all the different kinds of
are The child, The sibling, The parent, The friend, The person, The Jew. blessings that can be for the spiritualheirs of Avraham Avinu.
Each of those "handles" is sometimesas important, or more, as our                                           The one major task remaining, which will forge the next vital link in
name.                                                                                                  what promises to be a great People and a great chain of tradition, is
SEDRA-STATS                                                                                            finding a suitable "shiduch" for Yitzchak. Everything now will depend
       5th sedra of 54 (5th of 12 in B'reishit)                                                        upon Yitzchak. However great Avraham was, unless there is "solid"
       4 Parshiyot; 3 open, 1 closed                                                                   continuity, all will be lost. To this end, Avrahamcalls upon Eliezer to
       105 p'sukim - ranks 32nd (tied with D'varim) Actually, D'varim is swear that he will faithfully carry out his task, that he will return to
much longer                                                                                            Avraham's family, and find a wife for Yitzchak there, and that Yitzchak is
       1402 words - ranks 37th                                                                         not to leave Eretz Yisrael. [SDT] The Rama says that a son need not
       5314 letters - ranks 36th                                                                       listen to his father, if his father forbids him to marry a specific woman.
       Ranks 11th in B'reishit in all 3 categories                                                     The Meshech Chochma points out that Avraham made Eliezer swear
       Shorter than average p'sukim                                                                    not to take a wife for Yitzchak from Canaan but did not similarly
       Chayei Sara does not contain any of the 613 mitzvot. However, we command Yitzchak. This is consistent with the Rama's ruling.
do learn halachic matters such as burial of the dead, eulogizing the SH'LISHI - 3rd Aliya - 17 p'sukim (24:10-26)
dead, and - L'havdil - things related to marriage                                                           Eliezer (who is exclusively referred to as "The Servant", as opposed
ALIYA-BY-ALIYASEDRA SUMMARY                                                                            to by name) takes 10 camels laden with a splendid assortment of
KOHEN - First Aliya - 16 p'sukim (23:1-16)                                                             goods, and travels to Avraham's home town. Upon arrival, he ties the
       Sara died at the time of the Akeida. [SDT] Midrashim relate that camels up near the well, towards evening, at the time that the local girls
Sara died of shock when she found out where and why Avraham and come to draw water. And he asks G-d to be kindto his master Avraham.
Yitzchak had gone. Some commentaries say that she could not cope Eliezer asks for a sign - the girl who will offer him drink and also for his
with the possible loss of her only son. Others give an interesting twist to camels, she will be the one sent by G-d. No sooner had he finished
this issue, and say that Sara's terrible shock was not that Avraham speaking when Rivka bat Betuel of Avraham's family arrives on the
would sacrifice theirson, but that he might not! She feared that scene with her water container on her shoulder. Eliezer runs to her and
Avraham's compassion and kindness would prevent him from carrying asks for a bitof water. She immediately gives him his fill and then draws
out G-d's command, and after so many years of devotion to G-d, water for his camels. (The Midrash tells us that Eliezer witnessed a
Avraham would finally fail. This was a thought that she literally could not miracle as the waters rose towards Rivka as she approached.)
live with.                                                                                                  [sdt] The Torah prohibits "acting on the basis of omens" (Vayikra
       Sara died in Kiryat Arba - Hebron (note: Kiryat Arba IS Hebron) at 19:26, Dvorim 18:10). Rambam in the Laws of Idolatry (ll:4) defines this
the age of 127. Avraham comes (some say from Har Moriah, some say prohibition with several examples, such as "one may not say 'because a
from Be'er Sheva) to eulogize Sara and cry for her.                                                    fox crossed my path...I will or will not do such and such today'". He
       Avraham then must tend to her burial. He turns to the people of concludes by saying all things like the aboveare forbidden like what was
Cheit (among whom he lives) and requests of them (specifically of done by Eliezer the servant of Avraham. The Rambam seems to
Efron) to buy a burial place. (Tradition tells us that Avraham knew of the consider as sinful Eliezer's actions in asking for and acting upon a sign
burial place of Adam and Chava and that was the specific plot of land from G-d to identify Yitzchak's prospective                                              bride. Many other
he was negotiating for.) After exchange of                                          courtesies and the commentators disagree and claim that Eliezer's choice of signs was a
magnanimous (but empty) gesture of Efron to give the Land as a gift, valid indicator of the personalitytraits of the girl he was looking for.
Avraham pays handsomely for the field and cave of Machpela.                                                 Furthermore, Eliezer asked for G-d's help. The problem with omens
       [SDT] Most commentators consider the Akeida (the Binding of is that a person relies on them as opposed to G-d. The Gemara takes a
Isaac) as the final test of Avraham's faith. Rabeinu Yona does not. He middle view, that Eliezer was not so correct in his words, but G-d
counts the difficulties that Avraham had while acquiring a burial place favored him with success, nonetheless.
for Sara, as his tenth test. What makes this noteworthy, is the strong                                      Anxious to find out whether she was "the one", Eliezer waits until
implication from the text of the Akeida, that it(the Akeida) was the the camels have their drink and then presents Rivka with gifts of jewelry.
ultimate test. How can we understand Rabeinu Yona's reckoning? And (On the one hand, he has seen her kind nature and tireless act of
what in the dealings with Bnei Cheit and Efron constitutes a test of chesed; on the other hand he has not even asked her who she is.)
faith? Perhaps, it is precisely because the Akeida was so tough a When Rivka tells Eliezer that she is indeed fromAvraham's family, and
challenge to Avraham's faith and knowledge of G-d, and because of the invites him to stay at her home. He acknowledges G-d with a bow.
strong impression that it -more than any of the preceding tests - settled R'VI'I - 4th Aliya - 26 p'sukim (24:27-52)
the matter once and for all - that Avraham's commitment to and                                       1             Eliezer also utters a blessing to G-d for not abandoning
Avraham or withholding Divine Kindness from him. Rivka runs home to             learn - positive or negative - from our own, seemingly insignificant
tell her family what has happened. Lavan, her brother (filled with ulterior     actions and words. Sometimes, it is not clear whether an episode of the
motives, our commentaries tell us), runs to greet Eliezer. The gold             Avot is positive or negative. When confronted with a famine in the Land,
jewelry adorning Rivka catches Lavan's eyes, and he"graciously" offers          Avraham fled to Mitzrayim. From here we learn that it is permissible to
Eliezer his hospitality. Eliezer is served food, but refuses to eat until his   leave Eretz Yisrael when certain severe economic conditions exist
"business" is completed.                                                        here. On the other hand, some commentaries fault Avrahamfor leaving
     Eliezer proceeds to tell the story of his mission. He tells of Avraham     the Land to which G-d had sent him. They say that because Avraham
and Yitzchak and of being sent to find a wife for the latter. When he           left the Land, his descendants were destined to leave Eretz Yisrael and
asks for Rivka's hand on behalf of his master, Lavan and Betuel                 spend many "unpleasant" years in Egypt. These two ways of looking at
(commentaries point to Lavan's pushing himself before his father as an          Avraham's actions might not be contradictory - they are "merely"
indication of his wicked personality) acceptall as G- d's will.                 complex.
     Eliezer again prostrates himself before G-d in grateful acknowledge        A MATTER OF ATTITUDE
ment to Him.                                                                         The Torah tells us that G-d blessed Avraham with EVERYTHING.
CHAMISHI - 5th Aliya - 15 p'sukim (24:53-67)                                    When Eliezer was telling Rivka's family about his master, he said that
     Eliezer gives more gifts to Rivka and to her mother and brother.           Avraham was blessed with            VERY MUCH. Similarly, Yaakov
Now they all celebrate with food and drink, and Eliezer and his party           acknowledged that G-d gave him ALL and Eisav spoke of his having
stay overnight. In the morning Eliezer asks his leave. Rivka's family           MUCH.
asks that she remain for a while, but Eliezer insists on leaving                     A righteous person who truly appreciates G-d's grace and gifts, will
immediately. Rivka is consulted and she agrees to leaveright away.              be happy and content and view his lot as "everything". A "not-so-
They send her off with a "maid" (later identified in the Torah as Devora)       righteous" person will boast about what he has, not be completely
and bless her. (This blessing has been repeated countless times to              satisfied with it and always want more. Perhaps that explains the
Jewish brides through the generations.) And finally the entourage sets          different terminology as applied to Avraham and Yaakovon one hand,
out for Canaan.                                                                 and Eliezer and Eisav on the other. (Thank you Y.Tz.G. for this insight)
     When Rivka sees Yitzchak in the distance, she jumps down from              YITZCHAK ESTABLISHED MINCHA
her camel, asks Eliezer about him and covers her face with a veil when          The Talmud in Brachot teaches us two approaches to our davening
she is told that he is her intended. Eliezer tells Yitzchak everything that- Davening was instituted to correspond to the sacrifices in the Beit
has occurred. Yitzchak takes Rivka as his wife and she becomes a           HaMikdash; davening was instituted to correspond to the Patriarchs.
comfort to him for the loss of his mother. Andshe becomes for us, Rivka    Rather than being an "either, or" type of dispute, we can look at these
Imeinu.                                                                    two schools of thought as mutually enhancing. In the Beit HaMikdash,
     Meanwhile, Yitzchak (having gone to bring Hagar back to Avraham)      there were two daily sacrifices - one in the morning and one in the
is in the Negev area and is communing in the field when he sees a          afternoon. Correspondingly, we daven Shacharit in the morning and
caravan in the distance.                                                   Mincha in the afternoon.
SHISHI - Sixth Aliya - 11 p'sukim (25:1-11)                                     At the end of Chayei Sara, the Torah tells us that "Yitzchak went out
     Avraham, having provided for the continuity of what will become       LA'SU'ACH in the field, before evening. LA'SU'ACH means to converse
Judaism, now lives out his remaining days as a "private citizen". He       and has the connotation of prayer - to converse with G-d - based on the
takes for himself a wife named Ketura (assumed to be Hagar) and            verse in T'hilim 102: "A PRAYER of... and before G- d he pours out
fathers (six) more children. He gives them gifts but Yitzchak remains      SICHO (his conversation)".
his exclusive spiritual heir. Avraham dies at the "ripeold age" of 175          Interestingly, SICHA,in addition to conversation, has the meaning of
having had a graceful, good, and fulfilling life. He is buried in the Cave inner feelings and thoughts that one pours forth. This fits well with the
of Machpela where he had buried Sara, by both Yitzchak and                 different aspects of davening - the retirement to actually vocalize one's
Yishmael. (The implication is that Yishmael has repented his ways and      prayers, and that the prayers must be said with KAVANA. SICHA is
has become righteous. What greater joy can a father have!) G-d blesses     definitely a worthy synonym for prayer. The TUR SHULCHAN ARUCH
Yitzchak after Avraham's death.                                            (232) states:
SH'VI'I - 7th Aliya - 7 p'sukim (25:12-18) The descendants of Yishmael          And when Mincha-time arrives, one should daven, and be very
are now enumerated. Yishmael dies at the age of 137. The Torah's           meticulous about this, for R. Chelbo in the name of R. Huna said: A
wording parallels that used for Sara and Avraham - a further indication    person should always be careful with Mincha for it was only at Mincha-
that Yishmael did T'shuva before he died. The last 3 verses are reread     time that Eliyahu HaNavi was answered (on Mt. Carmel, in his
for the Maftir.                                                            confrontation with the false prophets of Baal). And the reason that
HAFTARA - 31 p'sukim - 1 Kings 1:1-31                                      Mincha is special is that with Shacharit, there is a fixed time in the
     The Sedra tells of the aging Avraham and his providing for the        morning, shortly after awakening, that a person davens, before he
continuity of his beliefs through his son Yitzchak (even though there      begins his working day. Similarly, with Maariv, one davens when he
were other potential heirs). The Haftara parallels this theme by telling ushas finished his day and returns home, and is not distracted by his work.
of the aging King David with many potential heirs, providing that it would But Mincha - it is in the middle of theday, when a person is occupied
be his son Shlomo who would be the nextlink in the Davidic line. (This,    with business matters and one has to free his mind of all things except
in fulfillment of a promise made to Shlomo's mother, Bat Sheva. This is    for davening. If one succeeds at this difficult task, his reward is great...
similar to the promise made to Sara that her son would inherit.) The            Ironically, great importance is attached to this smallest of the prayer
starting points are Avraham Avinu and David HaMelech. But no matter        services. We, therefore, should relate to Mincha as a great, rather than
how strong their personalities, the chain ends with them unless the next   a short prayer. WHEN?
generationis as strong as a Yitzchak Avinu and a Shlomo HaMelech.               The different times of the day that relate to Mincha are first
G'MATRIYA based on L'ORA SHEL TORAH by R. Yaakov Auerbach z"l              presented to us in the Mishna, Brachot 4:1 and P'sachim 5:1.
     The first six times that Efron's name appears in the Torah it is      Combining these two sources, and adding input from other sources as
spelled "full", with a VAV. The final time, "and Avraham pays Efron the    well, the following picture emerges:
money...", the name is written without a VAV. Rashi quotes the                  Note: There are two ways to reckon the length of the day, and
Talmud's explanation, that the missing VAV indicates that Efron was a      consequently, there are two ways to calculate the halachic zmanim of
big talker, but lacked in the action end of things.The BAAL HATURIM        the day - sunrise to sunset and dawn to stars-out. In the explanations
notes that the G'matriya of Efron = 70+80+200+50 = 400, the exorbitant     below, only the sunrise-sunset day is considered. The dawn-stars day is
amount that Avraham paid to Efron. The GR"A says that Avraham              much more significant when it comes to the deadlinesfor Sh'ma and
intended to give the full 1000 silver shekels he had received from         Shacharit and less so where Mincha is concerned. Furthermore, the
Avimelech in payment for a burial place for Sara. Even the 400 that        determination of dawn and stars-out is complicated because of differing
Efron asked for was a high price, but his greed lost him 600, hence the    opinions as to exactly how much before sunrise is dawn and how much
missing VAV. R. Auerbach z"l adds that Efron's full name also makes an     after sunset do the stars emerge.
appropriate      numeric statement.        EFRON       B. TZOCHAR =             MINCHA G'DOLA (MG) is the earliest time that the afternoon
70+80+200+6+50 (406) + 2+50 (52) + 90+8+200 (298) = 756. Efron's           TAMID (daily sacrifice) was ever slaughtered. Although this time was
character can be summed up by the expression from Kohelet -                used only on Erev Pesach that fell on Friday, it still represents the
HAKESEF YAANEH ET HAKOL,                   money answers everything =      earliest time that the Kohanim in the Beit HaMikdash could begin the
5+20+60+80 (165) + 10+70+50+5 (135)+ 1+400 (401) + 5+20+30 (55) =          afternoon sacrifice. THEREFORE, it (MG) is the earliest time (but not
756.                                                                       necessarily the ideal time - see further) that we may daven Mincha. MG
 A SIMPLE ACT THAT SET A PRECEDENT                                         is a half hour after Chatzot, halachic noon. Chatzot is the midpoint
     One must feed his animals before he himself eats. This we learn between sunrise and sunset, i.e. the midpoint of the day. Some
from the sequence in the second passage of the Shma which contains authorities require the addition of a full 30 minutes when the halachic
G-d's promise - if we hearken to the mitzvot... I will give grass in your hour is shorter than 60 minutes(in the winter), while requiring half of a
fields for your animals, and you will (have what to) eat and be satisfied. halachic hour when the day is longer than 12 clock-hours. The chart
Food for the animals is mentioned beforefood for ourselves.                here reflects this opinion.
     On the other hand, one may drink before watering his animals. One          MINCHA K'TANA (MK) is 9.5 hours of the day. It is the time that the
source for this is Rivka's giving drink to Eliezer, and THEN drawing afternoon Tamid was actually offered on the Mizbei'ach in the Beit
water for the camels. Nice, but how can we be sure that Rivka did the HaMikdash (of course, not IN but outside of) on a regular day. Erev
right thing? (No offense meant, but not every action of the Avot & Pesach was the exception. On any day except Friday - including
Imahot is considered correct.) Commentaries             point to another Shabbat - the schedule for the Tamid was advanced to allowmore time
unimpeachable source to support             Rivka's action: When G-d for the Korban Pesach, which was brought AFTER the daily sacrifice.
commanded Moshe to strike the rock so that water would come forth, When Erev Pesach was a Friday, the Tamid was begun earlier still, to
the Torah tells us thathe did, and the water gushed out for the people to allow time for bringing AND roasting the Korban Pesach before
drink, and for their flocks.                                               Shabbat. The point is, that on a regular day, the afternoon Tamid was
     If this is so, why cite as the source of this halacha, the story with placed on the Altar at 9.5 hours, and thereforethat is the best time for us
Rivka, rather than learning from the Torah's straight statement? The to daven Mincha (all other factors equal - which they rarely are).
answer is that we learn another, important lesson by the way. The               PLAG HAMINCHA (Plag) is the midpoint between MK and sunset.
seemingly insignificant deeds of our fathers and mothers impact on our Midway between 9.5 hours and 12 hours is 10.75 hours of the day,
own lives. Sometimes in a positive way; occasionallyin a negative way. which is 1.25 hours before sunset. (Remember that the "hours" depend
But there is always a significance (otherwise the Torah wouldn't tell us upon the length of daytime.) Rabbi Yehuda says that Plag is the
about them).                                                               deadline for Mincha and the starting point for Maariv The unnamed,first
     And the same can be said of our own children and what they          2        opinion in the Mishna (a.k.a. Tana Kama) is that the day ends at
sunset (deadline for Mincha) and night begins a bit later, at stars- out                          by Rabbi Yehuda Shaviv
(which we are not discussing now). The Talmud concludes that                                      Most of this week's Torah portion is devoted to the marriage of
whichever opinion one follows, a person has acted properly. It's almost                      Yitzchak and Rivka. It is true that the marriage itself is described in a
"take your pick". Not quite, but almost.                                                     few words: "And Yitzchak brought her to the tent of his mother
     So when should I daven Mincha?                                                          Sarah, and he took Rivka, and she became his wife and he loved
     All other things equal, one should daven Mincha at MK. This is ideal                    her" [Bereishit 24:16]. However, much of the text is devoted to the
because it is at the special time that best links davening with the service                  story of how Elazar searched for Rivka, tested her suitability, and
of the Beit HaMikdash. Davening at the time of MK is also a display of                       negotiated the match. The establishment of a family is important,
Z'RIZIM MAKDIMIM... - people enthusiastic about mitzvot do them                              and it is worthy of having almost an entire Torah portion devoted to
without delay.                                                                               it.
     Second to that would be anytime from MK until Plag - this was the                            The story of the matchmaking is preceded by the account of
time of the Tamid in the Beit HaMikdash, and, being before Plag, it does                     Sarah's death and burial. To the sages, this implies a unified theme -
not enter the timeframe of the dispute between Tana Kama and R.                              "The Almighty did not let the sun of Sarah's influence set until He
Yehuda.      Although we have halachic permission to chose, it is                            had caused that of Rivka to rise" [Bereishit Rabba 58:2]. Only after
preferable to avoid the dispute, if possible.                                                Yitzchak married Rivka was the Torah able to declare, "And Yitzchak
     After Plag and before sunset is a fine time for Mincha In fact, it is                   was consoled for the loss of his mother" [Bereishit 24:16].
the most common time in our society for Mincha. This is so for practical                          The Talmud, in the beginning of Kedushin, sees another link
reasons - it allows one to daven Mincha, wait a bit and then daven                           between marriage and Sarah's burial. The word "vayikach" is used
Maariv. Thus, people are not burdened by going to shul at separate                           as a proof text showing that money can be used to perform the act of
times for Mincha and Maariv Waiting for closeto sunset has the major                         marriage, just as it is a valid way to purchase land. It is certainly true
drawback of potentially missing Mincha if anything delays one from                           that the Torah places more of an emphasis on the purchase of the
davening. Davening at MG is okay, but not ideal - except that there are                      Machpela Cave than on the details of Sarah's death. Thus, the Torah
factors that will make MG a preferred time. Availability of a minyan, how                    portion describes two acts of taking possession - marrying a woman,
busy your afternoon usually is, the likelihood of forgetting to daven if                     and purchasing a piece of land. While the purchase of our heritage
you wait for late afternoon - these are some of the factors that prompt                      can teach us the technical details of how such an act is to be
people to opt for a MG minyan. The Shulchan Aruch, taking the lead of                        prerformed, taking a woman can teach us the correct attitude to our
the Mishna, lists certain functions that may not be begun "near Mincha                       objectives: just as taking a woman is not an act of possession but the
time". The Mishna B'rura concludes that the most problematic activities                      beginning of a fruitful and productive life, so the act of purchase of
are those that tend to take a very long time and would likely lead a                         land in Eretz Yisrael is not simply a transfer of title but the beginning
person to forget to daven Mincha, or something that can agitate a                            of a creative life.
personmentally, to the point where proper concentration at davening is                            This is the essence of the blessing which Rivka's family gave her,
severely compromised. Opinions vary among Poskim, since the Mishna                           a blessing which the Torah felt was important enough to record in
did not specify which Mincha it was referring to, nor did the Mishna                         detail: "Our sister, may you be the source of tens of thousands, and
detail how involved the activity must be in order to pose a threat to                        let your descendents inherit the gates of their enemies" [Bereishit
missing Mincha. For example, some say that one maynot begin a                                24:60].
regular meal if it is near Mincha time, until one davens Mincha. Some                        POINT OF VIEW: Men and Women in Local Politics
say that this applies only to a banquet-type meal such as a wedding                               by Rabbi Yisrael Rozen
feast. There is a tendency to be lenient today and allow many activities                          "Rabbi Nachman said: Manoach was an ignorant man, as is
in the afternoon before one has davened, because - and if - the person                       written, 'And Manoach rose and went after his wife' [Shoftim 13:11].
has a specific routine of davening Mincha in shul in the late afternoon.                     But Rabbi Nachman bar Yitzchak diagreed, asking: Does this mean
This, ostensibly, will almost eliminate to concern of Shulchan Aruch that                    that Elkana was ignorant, from the verse 'And Elkana went after his
the person might miss Mincha. On the other hand, each person must                            wife' (Tosafot note that they were not able to find such a verse), or
know himself and take steps to avoid the inadvertant missing of                              Elisha, as is written, 'He rose and went after her' [II Melachim 4:30]?
Mincha. Often this means davening Mincha before settling down to a                           In these cases the verse simply means that the man followed the
longafternoon and early evening of work.                                                     advice of the woman. The same is true of Manoach, who followed
                                                                        his wife's advice. Rabbi Ashi said, in view of Rabbi Nachman's words,
Extract from SHABBAT-B'SHABBATO, published by the Zomet Institute of Alon Shevut, Israel
                                                                                             claiming that Manoach was ignorant, it would seem that he did not
                                                                                             even study the Torah. For it is written, 'Rivka and her maids arose
OUR ILLUSTRIOUS ANCESTOR AS AN EDUCATOR                                                      and they rode the camels, and they went after the man' [Bereishit
     by Mrs. Sarah Meshorer, Petach Tikva                                                    24:41]. They did not go before the man." [Berachot 61a].
     The numerical value of first word of this week's Torah portion,                              This article will be published after the municipal elections in
"Vayih'yu" [and they were] is 37. Sarah was 90 years old when she                            Israel, but since I am writing it beforehand I will not try to predict the
gave birth to Yitzchak, and until then her life was one of suffering.                        results. In any case, it is worthwhile to note that the innovation of
From the time of his birth, she was able to derive pleasure from her                         several years ago of having separate elections for mayor has had an
son Yitzchak. Thus the value of the first word points to the last 37                         interesting effect in that it has led to a decreased influence by the
years of her life, until she died at age 127.                                                nationwide parties.
     Rashi explains: "At age 100 she was like age 20 in freedom from                              In many cities and towns, "personal parties" and organizations for
sin (since until age 20 one is not punished for sins), and she was just                      the election of a specific candidate have been established, and many
as beautiful at age 20 as at age 7." Sarah had an inner beauty which                         agreements have been made which cut across the lines of the
was clear to all, a beauty which resulted from her modesty. Sarah                            political left and right. Even those who disagree about questions of
was the daughter of Haran, Avraham's brother; she had another                                security and peace are not necessarily on opposite sides about such
name, Yiska, and as is written, Haran was the father of Malka and                            issues as city planning or budgets for traffic control, social activites,
Yiska. The name denotes either her ability to understand Ruach                               or sewage. This independent stand by local officials is part of the
HaKodesh, the spirit of G-d, or the fact that everybody was                                  growing trend of responsibility to community affairs, a phenomenon
impressed by her beauty (Sanhedrin 69). Sarah was very beautiful.                            of local partriotism. It is a worthwhile trend, and it should be
While the same is also written about Avishag, she was not half as                            encouraged in all municipal areas, from large cities to small towns.
beautiful as Sarah was (Sanhedrin 39).                                                            Unfortunately, I must add that together with this decrease in the
     Sarah was an outstanding educator, and as one who was in tune                           involvement of national issues in local politics, and the appearance of
with Ruach HaKodesh she was adament in her demand to expell                                  candidates who are not strongly identitified as part of the political
Hagar's son Yishmael from the house. "And she said to Avraham:                               right or left, new local controversies have arisen which emphasize
Cast out this maidservant and her son, for this son of a slave will not                      the divisions between the religious and the irreligious sectors. The
inherit together with my son, Yitzchak" [Bereishit 21:10]. Even                              social trends which have brought renewed emphasis on individual
though Avraham was not happy with this demand, the Almighty said                             rights and freedoms have led to the establishment of homogeneous
to him: "Do not feel bad about the boy and about your slave, do                              neighborhoods and increased friction between religious and secular
whatever Sarah tells you" [21:12]. This implies that Sarah was a                             neighbors. Examples are the cities of Pardes Chana, Teveria, Eilat,
greater prophet than Avraham.                                                                and of course Jerusalem.
     Sarah took on a great challenge in educating Yitzchak, in order to                           In many of the municipalities, the religious representatives were
set his character as the one to continue the progress of the                                 not wise enough to establish a joint election front, and they have
generation. Every parent should similarly learn to educate his                               maintained the national points of disagreement. In these cases,
children, as representatives of the coming generation, to rise to the                        "minor" issues of local politics have been usurped by "major" national
great challenge of continuing the family chain. Constant and steady                          issues, and this inhibits the formation of a local combined force. The
education, without pause at any time and not just taking advantage                           implication is that there are significant local differences between the
of chance opportunities, can be a source of ingrained understanding                          various parties, such as Shas, the religious Zionism party, Aguda,
by the sons and daughters how to continue the challenge of the                               and Degel HaTorah. This has happened in Haifa, and also in such
continuing generations.                                                                      places as Afula and Metulah, Gedera and Chadera, Carmiel and
     It is written, "For I know him, that he will command his sons and                       Ariel, and Dimona and Binyamina. This divisive tendency is typical of
his house after him, and they will maintain the way of G-d, to do                            the religious parties, and it appears even in places where it is clear
charity and justice" [Bereishit 18:19]. Rashi comments that this verse                       that a combined party will receive more votes than the total of all the
should be interpreted in the present tense, as a continuing action.                          component parties. There often seems to be a conservative policy for
That is, Avraham continuously commands his sons to follow the path                           its own sake, under the influence of the national parties, which are
of G-d, and the result is that G-d gives Avraham the rewards He                              not inhibited by the danger of causing themselves harm.
promised. It is to one's credit that he has a well developed sense of                             There is one issue which has cropped up more than once as a
responsibility. When his flame is extinguished, his children are ready                       reason for not establishing a joint religious party. This is the question
to take over the responsiblity and continue to spread the light, as is                       of nominating women as candidates for municipal office, a practice
written, "The candle of G-d had not been extinguished, and Shmuel                            which the Mafdal has refused to abandon in several municipalities.
lay in the Temple of G-d where the Ark was" [Shmuel 3]. Education                            Let us not forget that half of those who vote for the Mafdal are
requires a consistent and sustained effort, as is written: "If one claims                    women.
to have succeeded as a result of his efforts, believe him."                                       I do not believe that there is a halachic prohibition to vote for a list
TORAH OCCASIONS: Sheva Berachot                                                              which incoudes women candidates, and this is true even for one who
                                                                                           3        is not in favor of appointing women to office. It is true that the
Rambam writes: "A woman should not be given royal status, as is                color to decorate the pitcher. The main colors in vessels found at
written, 'appoint a KING' [Devarim 17:16] - and not a queen.                   Shomron and at Achziv are black, red, and yellow. The latter two
Similarly, all appointments within Yisrael should be men and not               colors can be combined to give the dull clay finish of the pitcher the
women." [Hilchot Melachim 1:6]. However, this is no more relevant to           appearance of copper, a much richer material. There were places on
our modern way of life than when he writes, "In addition, a woman              the Greek islands where the potters specialized in uniquely beautiful
should not teach small children, to avoid meeting their fathers who            art. This could be geometric shapes on a black background, overlaid
come to be with their sons" [Hilchot Talmud Torah 2:4]. Being a                with leaves and plants in such colors as white, yellow, and red. The
member of a Municipal Council is not a leadership position in the              sea surrounding the islands gave inspiration for other figures, such
sense meant by the Rambam, who is referring to a task which would              as fish, dolphins, algae, and fishing nets, among other things.
give the woman power over men who would serve her. Other tasks                 RELIGIOUS ZIONISM IN ACTION: The Great Value of Eretz
held by women have much more direct power - examples are school                Yisrael
principals, directors of old age homes, chief nurses, or directors of               by Nissim Swed
an office staff.                                                                    This week's Torah portion describes the act of taking possession
     It is common to quote the above Midrash, which suggests how               of a heritage in Eretz Yisrael. The objective is to "notify the value of
ignorant Manoach must have been to be under his wife's influence.              Eretz Yisrael over all the other lands, for both the living and the
(A close inspection of the text will show that Manoach did not                 dead" [Ibn Ezra, Bereishit 23:19]. This concept provided the theme
actually follow his wife but went towards her, to meet the angel who           for this year's project of the Chemdat school system, supported by
appeared TO HER but not TO HIM.) For some reason, the second                   the Center for Religious Education. The specific subject for this
part of the Midrash is quoted less often: Elkana and Elisha followed           year's project is the eternal bond between the nation of Yisrael and
women, meaning that they followed their advice. Women have what                the land.
to say even to the greatest prophets. (According to tradition, Elkana               In order to teach this subject, Tzion Amir edited a booklet (230
was also a prophet.)                                                           pages) by the name of "Eretz Chemda," with contents including
     One final note: it must be kept in mind that there are limits which       Yisrael on the land, exile, aliya, settlement, wars fought over the
should not be crossed. This is the reason that the sages emphasized            land, Jerusalem, and the State of Israel. With the aid of illustrations
in the above Midrash that Rivka and her maids went after Elazar,               by Bat-Sheva Chadad and graphics by Miriam Vansblum, the
and did not precede him. There is a red line of personal modesty               students will pass through a time tunnel which will help them better
which must be maintained in all relationships.                                 understand the topic. The teachers will be provided with aids
THE TEMPLE AND THE TORAH PORTION: Those Resting in                             including a discussion of the objectives of the program, notes on
Chevron                                                                        teaching techniques, and additional material.
     by Gedalya Ginsburg                                                       
     According the Mishna (Tamid and Yoma), the daily ritual in the
Temple started with a verbal ritual by the Kohanim. The leader would           3 - MACHON MEIR
demand: Go out and see if the time for slaughtering the sacrifice has          MACHON MEIR - http://www.virtual.co.il/education/machon-meir/parasha.htm
arrived. If the dawn had come, the Kohen would reply, "Barka'i,"               AS OF NOW “Shall the sword devour forever?” (II Samuel 2:26)
there is light. According to Matia Ben Shmuel, the conversation                      Rabbi Dov Bigon
continued: The watcher would announce, All of the face of the east                  Regarding Abraham it says, “Abraham breathed his last and died in
has lit up. And the others would ask, Has the light reached Chevron?           a good old age, old and satisfied, and he was gathered to his people.
And he would answer, Yes.                                                      His sons, Isaac and Ishmael, buried him in the Cave of Machpelah”
     Why was it so important to note the arrival of the light as far south     (Genesis 25:8-9). In what sense did Abraham die “in a good old age?”
as Chevron, why didn't the onlookers ask about the north, such as              [ ?]‫שיבה טובה‬In that Ishmael repented and honored Isaac, letting him
Beit El or Shechem? The answer of the Talmud Yerushalmi is that "it            proceed before him (Rashi).
was desired to emphasize the merits of the forefathers." This refers                 The Canaanite children of Heth who inhabited Hebron repented as
to Avraham's diligence when he started out to sacrifice Yitzchak:              well, honoring Abraham by calling him “a prince of G-d in our midst”
"Avraham rose early in the morning." [Bereishit 22:3].                         (Genesis 23:6). They sold him the field and cave of Machpelah, and they
     This is also referred to in the Selichot prayers of the Days of Awe:      left the Land and went to live in Africa (Mechilta, Bo, 18). Will the
You who are clothed in charity and good deeds, to you alone is the             repentance of Ishmael and the sons of Heth -- their recognizing the
advantage If we do not have good deeds, remember those who rest                rights of the Patriarchs and the Jewish People to the Land of Israel -- be
in Chevron Let them constantly rise in memory before G-d As the                repeated in the future? Will the nations, including the Arabs, honor the
morning Olah sacrifice, brought as the Tamid sacrifice.                        People of Israel and their exclusive right to Eretz Yisrael in the future?
A MITZVA IN THE TORAH PORTION: Mincha                                          Shall the sword devour forever? Shall the wars and struggles over our
     by Rabbi Binyamin Tabori                                                  right to survive and live as a free people in our land continue forever?
     The Mincha prayer was instituted by Yitzchak, as is learned from          The answer is a definite no! All of the prophets and sages, in setting out
the verse in this week's Torah portion, "Yitzchak went out towards             to describe the future anticipated for the Jewish People and for all of
evening to discourse in the field" [Bereishit 24:63]; the word                 mankind, describe a world at peace, and the central place that the
"discourse" refers to prayer [Berachot 66b]. On the assumption that            Jewish People will hold in their land, amongst the family of man, as a
the three daily prayers are in accordance with precedents laid down            light unto the nations:
by our forefathers, it was Yitzchak who established Mincha.                          “And it shall come to pass in the last days that the mountain of the
     However, there is another opinion, which states that the prayers          L-rd’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall
were instituted in memory of the daily Tamid sacrifices. Thus,                 be exalted above the hills; and all the nations shall flow unto it. And
Shacharit corresponds to the morning Tamid, Mincha to the                      many people shall go and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of
afternnoon sacrifice, and Maariv to the burning of the remaining               the L-rd, to the house of the G-d of Jacob, and He will teach us of His
parts of the sacrifice, which was done during the night. A different           ways and we will walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law,
suggestion is that of Rabbi Yossi (Yerushalmi Berachot 4:1), who               and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.... And they shall beat their
maintains that Mincha corresponds to the afternoon offering of                 swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall
incense. However, it is then not clear why a prayer was instituted to          not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more”
correspond to the incense which was offered in the afternoon and               (Isaiah 2:2-3,4).
not that offered in the morning.                                                     Indeed, the repentance of Ishmael and of the sons of Heth in the
     According to Rabbi Yosef Engel, the choice of which incense               formative period of our nation, the era of the Patriarchs, will appear and
offering to commemorate depends on a disagreement as to which of               be revealed in the future as in the words of the prophets, soon in our
the two offerings was more important. This argument appears in                 day, Amen.
Menachot 50a, discussing which offering of incense was part of the                   Right now, we are at the height of the process of the rebirth of the
dedication ceremony of the golden altar. Rabbi Shimon feels that the           Jewish People in their land. Millions of Jews are returning home and
dedication was with the afternoon offering of incense, while others            building a glorious state. The nations of the world and the Arabs have
feel that it was the morning offering. Thus, it would seem that Rabbi          not yet come to terms with this process, and they are preparing for war.
Shimon feels that the afternoon offering is the more important of the          Thank G-d, we have the Israeli army, one of the strongest armies in the
two, and it was therefore decided to say Mincha during the early               world, which holds them back from their designs. Yet the day is not far
afternoon.                                                                     off when all the earth’s inhabitants, including our neighbors, will know
     The problem with this reasoning is that there seems to be a               and recognize that the G-d of the world is the G- d of Israel who is
pardox in the Rambam. He rules (Hilchot Temidim Umusafim 3:1) in               returning us to our land for the purpose of showing benevolence to
accodance with Rabbi Shimon, that the golden altar is dedicated with           mankind and to continue proclaiming G-d’s name, just as Abraham did.
the afternoon incense offering, but on the other hand he states that           They will repent and will understand the essence, the noble soul of the
Mincha was instituted in memory of the evening Tamid sacrifice and             Jewish People. Then they will honor and admire us as the chosen
not the incense.                                                               people, and they will come to pray in our Temple -- “For My house shall
     The order of the rituals performed in the Temple was that the             be called a house of prayer for all people” (Isaiah 56:7).
evening offering of incense took place after the offering of the                FOR THE SABBATH TABLE “To Meditate in the field”
evening Tamid sacrifice. Thus, if Mincha corresponds to the incense,                Rabbi Ya’akov Ariel
the prayer should be delayed and recited relatively late. This is what               “Isaac established the Minchah prayer, as it says (Genesis 24:63),
was ruled by the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 233:1), when he                   ‘Isaac went out to meditate [lasu’ach] in the field toward evening’ ”
states that the time of Mincha is after 9.5 hours during the day.              (Berachot 26b). Those commentators who focus on straightforward
ART IN THE TORAH: "She Lowered her Pitcher" [Bereishit 24:18]                  meaning interpret this verse as referring to his strolling among the
     by Shlomit Perlman                                                        hedges [siach] (Ibn Ezra) or to his supervising workers planting hedges
     Ancient archeological sites usually are strewn with broken peices         in the field (Rashbam). Why did our sages therefore see fit to interpret
of pottery. The pitcher, made of the clay commonly found on river              the word “lasu’ach” as meaning -‫ שיח‬siach, “meditation,” in the sense of
banks, was the main storage vessel in ancient times. During the                prayer? Moreover, praying in a field is forbidden according to our sages
manufacturing process, the potter could give a pitcher interesting             (Berachot 34b, Rashi, Tosafot), and such has the law come down to us
artisitic shapes, including the shapes of a human being or an animal.          in Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 98:5): “One should not pray in an open
It was also possible to engrave designs on the surface of the pitcher,         space like a field.” Why then did Isaac see fit to pray precisely there?
such as symmetric geometrical shapes or free form lines limited only           The only Patriarch who had fields was Isaac. Abraham and Jacob were
by the imagination of the artist.                                              shepherds. Only regarding Isaac does it say, “Isaac farmed in the area.
     After drying and firing in a kiln, the potter would often use         4          That year, he reaped a hundred times as much as he sowed”
(Genesis 26:12). This is why the surrounding nations fought and                  Shema lying down, adopting the stricture of Bet Shammai, and bandits
struggled only against Isaac. He was the only one of the Patriarchs who          took advantage of this and almost killed him. When he told what
was born in the Land, died in the Land, and lived his whole life in the          happened to the other sages, they responded, “For violating the words of
Land. Isaac was a perfect burnt offering who was forbidden to leave the          Bet Hillel, you really should have incurred a death penalty” (Berachot
Land.                                                                            10). In what sense was he violating the words of Bet Hillel? Surely he
      Each of the Patriarchs signifies a special aspect for their                was just adopting a strict approach in comparison to Bet Hillel’s
descendants. Isaac’s mission was -- the field. It was his job to represent       approach? Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato explains that there was a great
the nation’s being rooted in the land. From here stemmed his favoritism          disagreement between Bet Hillel and Bet Shammai that almost split the
toward Esau, who was a man of the field, as opposed to Jacob, who was            Jewish People, and after enormous efforts, the law was decided in favor
a dweller in tents. Yet Esau would verbally stalk his father, asking him         of Bet Hillel. When Rabbi Tarfon went and adopted the strict approach
how to tithe salt and straw. Salt does not grow in the soil, and straw is        for all to see, he was weakening the force of this decision and causing
not the main part of what grows, but only the chaff [hence both are              harm to the Jewish People. “In such a case, it is more saintly to hold like
exempt from tithing]. For Esau, there was no special virtue to the soil of       Bet Hillel, even with the lenient view, than to be strict like Bet Shammai”
Eretz Yisrael or to its fruits. He therefore wondered why we do not tithe        (Mesilat Yesharim, Ch. 20).
other products as well. Esau was a man of the field, but not of the field              Indeed, many Torah scholars customarily keep severe strictures at
blessed by G-d, not of the field that is holy ground. The very concept of        home, yet when they are invited to the homes of others, they eat without
“holy ground” seemed strange in his eyes. For Esau, soil was the height          hesitation any food that has a hechsher. By doing so they fulfill the great
of materialism. Holiness for him was abstract spirituality. In his view,         mitzvah of increasing the honor of the sages, which is a foundation that
there was no combining the two, neither could so “strange” a                     the Jewish People rely upon.
combination exist.                                                                     It is true that with disagreements between Torah scholars, in the
      Isaac may very well have gone out to stroll in the field. Yet, when he     heat of the argument they sometimes use harsh expressions, yet such is
saw the sheaves waving in the breeze, the sea of grain rising and falling        the way of Torah, and this does not make it permissible for us, the
like the waves of the sea, he presumably saw G-d’s spirit looming over           insignificant, to insult their honor in a similar way. The book “Keter Shem
the field -- the angel of G-d who says to every blade of grass: “Grow!”;         Tov” tells that the Ba’al Shem Tov, founder of the Hassidic movement,
Divine Providence blessing the field; the heavens dripping dew and               had a fierce opponent, Rabbi Nachman of Horodneko, who would
fattening the land to increase the grain and wine. Likewise, when he             constantly criticize him. One time that same rabbi heard his students
would go out to supervise the harvesters and planters, we must assume            speaking against the Ba’al Shem Tov, and he castigated them, saying,
that he did not remove his thoughts for a moment from the purpose                “How dare you speak that way against a holy man!” They responded,
toward which end the planting was carried out -- to cause the Jewish             “But you yourself spoke out against him.” He then replied with exceeding
People to be rooted in the Land, to cause holiness to penetrate the soil.        severity, “The way that is permissible for me to speak is not permissible
When G-d said, “Dwell in the Land” (Genesis 26:2), He meant not only             for you.” He then told a story of two craftsmen who worked together for
for Isaac to plant trees but simultaneously to cause the Divine Presence         twenty years in order to fashion the king’s crown. In the end, when the
to rest in the Land. He wished him to plant the heavens in the foundation        time came to set the diamonds in the crown, one said it should be one
of the earth. Otherwise, why would the Torah tell us of Isaac going out to       way and the other countered that it should be another. The argument
the field?                                                                       grew in intensity until one craftsman called the other an idiot. A passerby
      Such then was Isaac’s prayer -- the perpetual bond between man             who witnessed the argument injected his own words and called the man
and his G-d, not only during official prayer, but beyond that as well. Even      an idiot as well. The first craftsman, who had called the other an idiot,
when his body was enveloped in working the soil, his soul was serving            then said, “Are you aware that we are friends and that we have worked
G-d. This is the “perpetual prayer of the soul striving to permeate all of       together for twenty years, making the king’s crown? Our lives depend on
man’s energies and yearning to reveal its essence throughout its                 this last detail, and that is why we are expressing ourselves so sharply.
environment, throughout all the world and all of life” (Olat Re’iyah, 1:11).     But you! Have you lifted even a finger for the king’s crown? Have you
      This is why Isaac established precisely the Minchah prayer. This is        ever in your life seen the king? YOU are the idiot!” Even when Torah
the only prayer recited in the middle of the day when a person is busy           scholars argue over Jewish law, we, the insignificant, must stand in fear
with his labors. It is precisely then that he must recall his purpose, the       and awe and honor them all.
reason for all his toil. This prayer, the one we are most likely to forget, is   
the true test of whether a Jew is serving G-d or worshipping his wealth.
ARE ALL HECHSHERIM KOSHER?                                                       4 - NYCI (Block)
                                                                                 NCYI Weekly Divrei Torah, From:Kenneth Block (kenblock@dorsai.org)
      Rabbi Shlomo Aviner                                                        Rabbi Moshe M. Greebel Associate Member, Young Israel Council of
     Question: What difference is there between all the hechsherim               Rabbis
(Kashrut supervisions) on food products? I heard people making fun of                                   "THE ENIGMATIC VEILS"
hechsherim of the local rabbinate, claiming that the food is not kosher,               The Berditchever Rebbe, R' Levi Yitzchak was literally a man of
and casting aspersions on the rabbis who grant the hechsher. I am a              the people. He associated not only with Talmidei chachamim, the
simple, naive woman, and I have been told that in order to become a              eminent, and prosperous, but also with those who were destitute,
rabbi you have to study Torah for many years and to take difficult tests. If     ignorant, and even rebellious against Torah authority.
there is really a difference between hechsherim, then an injustice is                 It came to pass that the elders of Berditchev once confronted the
being committed against those people who place their faith in the                Rebbe with the reproach that it was beneath his dignity to affilate
kashrut certificate of a local rabbinate. Is an entire population that trusts    himself with such undesirables.
those rabbis being deceived? Am I sinning when I purchase a chicken                   "Allow me to tell you a story," replied the Rebbe. "When the
with the hechsher of the local rabbinate?                                        Moshiach arrives, he will give a great feast for the Avos (patriachs),
     Answer: All of the hechsherim from a real rabbi are valid. Every            the Nevi'im (prophets), the Tzadikkim (righteous), and all true Torah
simple G-d fearing Jew is presumed reputable, and one can eat his food           scholars. As for myself, I will have to find a back door in which to
without question, and this applies all the more so with a Torah scholar.         sneak, and inconspicuously sit down in one of the last rows at the
After all, there is a standing presumption that a Torah scholar “does not        table."
allow food to leave his domain without its kashrut being ensured”                     "When I am finally discovered and asked to justify my presence, I
(Niddah 15b). G-d forbid that a torah scholar should feed the Jewish             will simply say, ‘Perhaps you will have compassion for me, since I
People non-kosher food! This thought is itself the height of unkosher            had compassion for others.' "
thinking. There could be no greater denigration of Torah scholars than                It is no less than remarkable that the Jewish nation, which has
this. Even if aspersions are cast against a particular hechsher, it is           suffered so harshly for so many years at the hands of so many
forbidden to believe them. Rather, they must be rejected as Lashon               countless aggressors, has cast no doubts whatsoever on the arrival
Hara, evil speech, of the most abominable sort. Even if the supervising          of the Geulah Shelaima-the Great Redemption. Our greatest
rabbi himself concedes that there are problems with the hechsher that            strength-and test-as a nation, has always been to faithfully adhere to
he gives, it makes no difference whatsoever. Despite his having said that        our Holy Torah regardless of the times in which we live, and to keep
there are problems, he still signed the word “kosher” on the product,            alive in our hearts the desire to witness the day of our deliverance.
signifying that he had determined that the problem had a solution. Even               Will a total state of peace for the Jewish people result with the
if that rabbi announces, “I do not eat food with my own hechsher,” it            coming of Moshiach Tzidkeinu? Prior to answering this question, it
means nothing. It is the way of torah scholars to be strict regarding            must be understood that the following sections of Gemorah and their
themselves and lenient regarding others.                                         commentary, deal with areas in which our understanding is eminently
      In a word, any food product that is marketed with the hechsher of a        limited. Our Chachamim have offered us only a glimpse, a peek, and
rabbi, whether Haredi or Zionist, whether from Eretz Yisrael or from             a subliminal impression of the days of Moshiach and Olam Haba'ah
abroad, is kosher. Obviously, however, as with everything else, one has          (the World to Come).
the option of taking the strict approach. Regarding this it said, “Whoever            That having been said, the Gemarah in Shabbos sheds a great
takes the strict approach shall enjoy a blessing. Whoever takes the              deal of light on this question, and begins with a verse in Yeshaya:
lenient approach has support for his action.” A person is not obligated to            ...And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their
undertake all the strictures in the world. It is a voluntary matter.             spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against
Everyone can adopt whatever strictures he wishes, in kashrut, Shabbat,           nation. (Yeshaya 2:4)
guarding the tongue, or treating others with respect, in choosing to serve             The verse specifies a time when war will no more be a threat to
in an elite army unit or moving to a front line settlement, in deeds of          humanity. The instruments of war, once utilized for killing, will be
kindness or righteousness. The possibilities are endless. It is the              transformed into practical appliances for the sustaining of life. At first
personal choice of each individual. Thus, if it turns out that a particular      glance, one would assume that the verse speaks of the days of
food is “just kosher” while a second one is “mehadrin” [more exacting            Moshiach. Yet, that is not necessarily so. At this juncture, the
supervision], the person who takes the stricter approach will enjoy a            Gemarah presents a disputation between two Ammorayim (scholars
blessing. An example of something being “just kosher” might be where             of the talmud)-Shemuel and Rabbi Chiya.
there is a disagreement among our sages and while most permit                         For Shemuel has stated, "The only difference between the
something, a minority forbid it, hence the Rabbinical decisors deemed it         present world and the days of Moshiach, is the subjugation of the
permissible. Certainly, if someone takes the strict approach and eats            exiled. This is as stated, ‘For the poor shall not cease from out of the
only what all the rabbis permitted, that is preferable. Even so, it is           land (Devarim 15:11).' "(Shabbos 63a)
forbidden to denigrate those who do not hold to this stricture. There is              Shemuel's conviction is that with the exception of Israel's release
nothing more disgraceful than to make fun of a hechsher and of the               from the subjugation of the other nations ( and the building of the
rabbis who gave it.                                                                     Bais Hamikdosh and Yerushalayim-Tosfos), nothing else will
      Rabbi Tarfon was once traveling, and he recited the evening            5
change in the days of Moshiach. This would of course mean that war             prenatal existence, Eisav fought with Ya'akow in the belly of their
would still be a threat to mankind even in the days of Moshiach.               mother and still fights against Ya'akov today. The twins of Tamar
     How then, does Shemuel interpret the verse in Yeshaya-'nation             however, represent Moshiach, and the time of peace. That is, from
shall not lift up sword against nation'? Rashi tells us the following:         Peretz came Chetzron. From Chetzron came Rom. From Rom
     It appears [from the Devarim verse] that there will always be             came Aminadav. From Aminadav came Nachshon. From Nachshon
[poor people]. Hence, the poor and the wealty will always exist. It is         came Salmon. From Salmon came Boaz. From Boaz and Roos
heard from here that the consolations prophesied by the Nevi'im                came Ovaid. From Ovaid came Yishai. And from Yishai came Dovid,
(Prophets)... ...were not meant for the days of Moshiach which are of          the forefather of Moshiach Tzidkeinu.
this world. For if they were, the poor would cease from you [which is               We may very well ask, "When will war end, and when will
not in accordance with the Devarim verse]. (Rashi Shabbos 63a)                 Moshiach bring an era of peace?"
     The word for war in Hebrew is "Milchama"- its most basic word                  That, the Divrei Yirmiyahu says, is something we cannot know for
root means "Lechem" -bread or wealth. All wars that have ever been             the present. You see, the answer to each of these questions is
fought, are fought, and will be fought, have as their chief objective          covered with a veil. And until these veils are lifted, we as Jews must
economic gain. As long as wealth and poverty co-exist, war is                  rely only on our Bitachon (faith) in HaShem to bring about the end of
inevitable.                                                                    war and the reign of peace in its correct time. May that time come
     >From Rashi we see clearly that Shemuel's interpretation of the           speedily.
verse, ‘nation shall not lift up sword against nation' does not refer to       
the days of Moshiach. Yet, if the prophecy of Yeshaya is not meant
for this world, for which world is it meant? In the Maharsha's                 5 – RAV RISKIN
                                                                               Rabbi Shlomo Riskin: http://www.ohrtorah.org.il/index.htm#top
elucidation of the opinion of Shemuel, an answer to our question is                  Who is Isaac? Abraham and Jacob-Israel, Isaac's father and son
supplied.                                                                      respectively, are clearly developed and fully described Biblical
     ...This verse of ‘nation shall not lift up sword against nation' is not   personalities, whom the Biblical reader comes to know as husbands,
referring at all to the days of Moshiach. Rather, it refers to Olam            parents and leaders.
Haba'ah (the World to Come)...(Maharsha, Shabbos 63a)                                But with regard to Isaac, the Torah seems far less generous in its
     What is Olam Haba'ah? While it is no easy matter to provide an            delineation of his character and motivations. The major events of his life
adequate answer to this question, the following Gemarah from                   - the "binding", his marriage, and his bestowal of the blessings to the
Berachos may serve as a quick glimpse into that which is beyond our            next generation - seem to happen to him rather than their having been
competence to fathom.                                                          initiated by him. Even the actions he does take - his going down to
                                                                               Egypt during a famine, and his conflict with his neighbors over the
      There is a pearl in the mouth of Rav (who said), "this world is          ownership of certain wells - are almost a replay of What Abraham his
unlike Olam Haba'ah. In Olam Haba'ah there is no eating, no                    father did before him. Isaac, the unique individual, eludes our ability to
drinking, no propagation, no transaction, no envy, no hatred, and no           analyze him, seems hidden behind a veil of silence and growing
competition. Rather, the righteous sit with their crowns on their              blindness. On one level, Isaac may be seen as the dutiful son, the carrier
heads, delighting in the radiance of the Shechina (Divine Presence).           of the tradition, the link in the chain - a critical function indeed
This is as it is said, ‘And they detected [the radiance of the Shechina        fundamental to the continuity of the Abrahamic vision, and a most
of] HaShem, and did eat and did drink (Shemos 24:11).' " (Berachos             necessary model for the rank and file of his descendants. But I believe
17a)                                                                           there is one complementary and fundamental dimension - and it is
     This verse in Shemos refers to Matan Torah (the giving of the             reflected in his name! After all, Isaac alone among the patriarchs
Torah). Yet, what was eaten and drunk? Rashi explains: That is,                possesses a name that does not undergo some sort of transformation.
they were sated from the radiance of the Shechina, as if they would            Abram's name is changed to Abraham, 'Av Hamon Goyim' [Gen. 17:5],
have eaten and drunk. (Rashi Berachos 17a)                                     father of a multitude of nations. Jacob, after wrestling with the
     The way in which the Maharsha goes on to explain how the verse            anonymous being at the side of the Jabbok River, receives a new name
‘and they shall beat their swords into plowshares' can take place in a         entirely --Yisrael, he will overcome. But Isaac is born Yitzhak, he is
non-physical world, will best be deferred to bigger Talmidei                   initially named not by his parents but by G-d, and he dies Yitzhak.
Chachamim. At first it seems disheartening that according to the                     Obviously, `Yitzhak' the name is linked in some way to the root word
position of Shemuel, the world-and Israel-will be menaced by war in            for laughter (zchok); a characteristic and activity which seems strangely
the days of Moshiach. Perhaps, this may not necessarily be so.                 incongruous with the personality of Isaac as the Torah Portrays him. He
Consider again, the words of the Maharsa: [In the time of Moshiach]            comes by the name as a result of his father Abraham's laughter, when -
Israel will not be subjugated by the Kingdoms of the other nations.            already an old man - living with a woman who has long ceased to
However, one nation will lift the sword against another nation.                menstruate - he hears from G-d that he a Sarah will indeed parent a son,
(Maharsha Shabbos 63a)                                                         the fruit of their seed and womb. "Then Abraham fell upon his face and
     What is meant here by the Maharsha is difficult at best, to fully         laughed (vayitzchak), and said in his heart: Shall a child be born unto
understand. In the days of Moshiach will Israel still be embroiled in          him who is a hundred years old? And Shall Sarah who is ninety years
the wars of the other nations even though Israel will not be                   old give birth [Gen. 17:17]?" G-d, not at all critical of Abraham's
subjugated by them? Or, will Israel live securely in their land                response, confirms His promise: "And G-d said, 'Indeed, Sarah, your
because of their freedom, even though the other nations surrounding            wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Yitzchak. And I will
them turn the world into turmoil?                                              establish my covenant with him for a covenant forever, and with his seed
     The Rambam, who held Shemuel's position rather than that of               after him.'" [Gen. 17:19]
the upcoming Rabbi Chiya, however, has this to say about the days                    A striking parallel occurs with Sarah's response - she is also
of Moshiach.                                                                   involved in `tzchok' - laughter -but the almighty takes less kindly to her
     ...The fact of the matter is, that Israel will live securely with the     reaction. It is the third day Abraham's circumcision, and despite the heat
wicked idolatrous nations, which are compared to the wolf and                  of the day and his own great pain, when three wandering strangers are
panther... (Mishna Torah, Sefer Shoftim, Hilchos Melochim,                     sighted in the distance, Abraham runs to greet them and invite them into
Chapter12, Mishna 1)                                                           his home for food and rest. The Bible informs us that they are angels,
     While the Rambam's view of Israel's living securely certainly             disguised as poor travelers, who have been sent to perform three tasks,
seems encouraging, it would probably be most prudent on our part               one of which is to bring good tidings to Abraham: "...Lo, Sarah your wife
not to pursue these conceepts into waters any deeper than the ones             shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the entrance of the tent...Now
in which we find ourselves at present. It is time to present the opinion       Abraham and Sarah were advanced in days, the manner of women had
of Rabbi Chiya.                                                                ceased with Sarah. Therefore Sarah laughed (vatizchak) within herself,
     For Rabbi Chiya Bar Abba has stated, "All prophecies of the               saying, `After I am withered, shall I have delight?'" [Gen. 18:10-12]
Nevi'im were prophesied only for the days of Moshiach. However,                      The text goes on to record how Sarah's laugh is heard by G-d, who
pertaining to Olam Haba'ah, ‘...Nor has the eye seen HaShem                    seems to make a critical inquiry as to the reason for her laughter. Sarah
besides you...[Yeshaya 64:3].' " (Shabbos 63a)                                 denies it, "I laughed not (lo tzachakti)," she says. But G-d insists, "You
     Rabbi Chiya disputes with Shemuel in two ways. 1) Prophecy is             did laugh (tzachakt)." Here, in the context of Sarah, the root word for
indeed meant for the days of Moshiach. 2)Even the Nevi'im could not            'laughter' appears four times, and Yitzchak hasn't even been born.
conceive of Olam Haba'ah. Therefore, in the days of Moshiach one               When Sarah does gives birth, and the son is named Yitzhak, Sarah
nation will not lift up the sword to another nation-a scenario where           declares: "..and G-d has made me a person to be laughed (tzchok) at; all
Israel will certainly be free of war.                                          who hear it will laugh at me." [Gen: 21:6]
     What has all this to do with Parshat Chayei Sara? Let us see. In                We're still not through with this word, for it crops up again as the
this Sidra we read of Rivka's journey to Chevron to marry Yitzchak.            major distinction between half-brothers Yishmael and Yitzhak and the
Atop her dromedary, she sees her betrothed for the first time. The             reason for their necessary separation - albeit in different tense forms:
Torah declares:                                                                "And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had born unto
     ...And she took the veil, and covered herself... (Bereishis 24:66)        Abraham, mocking (metzahek) - and the metzahek cannot live with and
     The Bereishis Rabbah has this to say concerning veils: There              influence Yitzhak [Gen 21:9, 10]." Rashi even goes so far as to cite the
were two women who covered themselves with a veil, and gave birth              midrashic definition of metzahek as referring to idolatry, sexual
to twins-Rivka and Tamar. Concerning Rivka, it is stated, "And she             licentiousness, and murder. Apparently, Yitzhak's name reverberates
took the veil..." Concerning Rivka, it is stated, "And she covered and         beyond his own social security card, extending to the lives of people who
wrapped herself with a veil...(Bereishis 38:14)."(Bereishis Rabbah             are closest to him both before and after his birth. Perhaps even more
60:15)                                                                         significant is the fact that "laughter-tzhok" can have either positive or
     The twins of Rivka were Ya'akov and Eisav. The twins of Tamar             negative connotations, depending upon the context. Indeed, the first
were Zerach and Peretz. What is the relaionship between veils and              time Abraham hears of Yitzhak's impending birth and laughs, Targum
twins? The Yefei Toar comments, that since both these women                    Onkelos translates laughter as `v'hadi', which means true rejoicing
displayed extreme modesty, they were merited to give birth to twins.           (hedvah).
     A most captivating commentary on this Midrash is offered by the                 However, in the very next chapter when Sarah laughs upon hearing
Divrei Yirmiyahu (as found in Likutei Basar Likutei). Every day, we            the same special news, Targum translates the word 'laughter' as
ask, "When will the horrors of aggression come to an end, and when             'gehakh' which is a cynical, sneering laughter, the exact opposite of
will peace come to the world as a result of Moshiach Tzidkeinu?"               Abraham's `hadi'. From the perspective of these different translations,
These questions are most difficult to answer for the following reason.         we can understand why the Almighty was supportive of Abraham's
     The twins of Rivka-Ya'akov and Eisav-represent the war against                   laughter - and used it as the basis for Yitzhak's name - but was
the Jewish people by the other nations of the world. Even in a             6
critical of Sarah's laughter. However there still remains one more textual      going to be?" The Netziv responded, "that is G-d's issue. It is His Torah.
mystery to solve before we can completely understand the significance           He knows He wants it learned. It is His problem." The Netziv had to do
of the name Yitzhak and Abraham's laughter. Immediately following the           what was right, despite the ramifications.
traumatic incident of the `Akedah' (binding), we read: "So Abraham                   So the Netziv closed the Yeshiva. At the time when the Netziv made
returned unto his lads. And they rose and went together to Beer-sheva;          his decision, he did not know what the result would be. In actuality, as a
and Abraham abode at Beer-sheva." [Gen. 22:19]                                  result of closing Volozhin, many other Yeshivos were started across
      Notably absent is any reference to Yitzhak. After all, they both          Russia, Poland and beyond. Closing the Yeshiva in Volozhin caused
underwent the awesomely difficult and problematic "test," with the Bible        Torah to be spread. The entire Yeshiva movement today can be traced
informing us twice in that very same passage. "And the two of them              back to that one Yeshiva in Volozhin! But the Netziv did not know what
walked together."                                                               the outcome would be. He did not know "what's going to be," and he did
      Where was Isaac now that it was all over?                                 not care. He only knew what was right. This was the approach of
      Rabbi Mordechai Elon of Jerusalem recently pointed out an                 Avraham Avinu, and this was the approach of Gedolei Yisroel.
interpretation in the Holy Zohar on the very beginning of Parashat Noah              I would like to tell over an incident which I recently heard from Rav
which suggests that, following the akedah, although Yitzhak may have            Pam, shlit"a (and again I am not trying to bring any parallels to today).
still physically walked the landscape of Israel, nevertheless his real          Reb Chaim Soloveichik had a son named Rav Velvel Soloveichik, who
essence was in the other world, the Divine ethereal world of the spirit,        later became the famous Brisker Rav in Eretz Yisroel.
the world to come. Targum Yonatan maintains that Yitzhak picked                      A relative of Reb Chaim once came to him and suggested that Rav
himself up from Mt. Moriah and went to study Torah in the Yeshiva of            Velvel learn the Russian language. The relative said, "Today, to be a
Shem [Gen. 22:19]. From a certain perspective, both interpretations are         Rabbi, one has to know how to speak Russian. It is time for Rav Velvel
saying the same thing: Yitzhak did not live in the here-and-now present         to learn Russian." To which Reb Chaim responded "So, he won't be a
world of the physical; he yearned for and succeeded in cleaving to the          Rabbi."
eternal world of the spirit, the perfected world of Torah, the kingship of           The man persisted, "Well, to be a businessman, it is certainly
G-d to come. Hence it's no surprise that his destined wife Rebecca first        necessary to know Russian." Reb Chaim responded, "So, he won't be a
encounters her husband-to-be as he emerges from the fields where he             businessman."
had been engaged in prayer and meditation with the Divine. As we                     So the man said, "Even to be a Rosh Yeshiva today, one must know
mentioned last week, Yitzhak returns again and again to Beer-Lahai-Roi          Russian -- to speak to the students and to the parents." Reb Chaim
since this is where G-d had revealed Himself previously to Yishmael;            responded, "So, he won't be a Rosh Yeshiva."
Yitzhak is constantly seeking Divine meetings, constantly striving to                Finally the man inquired "If he won't be a Rav and he won't be a
make contact with eternity. Yitzhak means he will rejoice; true joy and         businessman and he won't be a Rosh Yeshiva, what will be with him?"
happiness only comes to those who get their sights on the future, who           Reb Chaim answered, "He will be a poor man who knows Shas by
understand that the present is only illusory and transitory (and therefore      heart!"
whose present activities are barely recorded), who dedicate themselves               In other words, "What is going to be? I don't know what is going to
to a future, better world based on the past traditions and truths of our        be. But I know that I do not want my son Velvel learning Russian."
eternal Torah. Abraham glimpsed this future when G-d promised him a                  Again, no parallels to today. But the lesson to be learned is that one
son and heir, and so his laughter was the expression of the true rejoicing      must do what he feels is right, is in accordance with the Torah, and "let
which gave Yitzhak his name and vocation.                                       the chips fall where they may". The consequences are G-d's business.
      Sarah, at least according to Targum, found it difficult at the moment     When It Comes To Finding a Mate -- Providence Will Handle It
of the angel's prophecy to believe that an old woman could experience                The Medrash [Bereishis Rabbah 60] says that there were four
the physical pleasures of sexual rejuvenation - and so her laughter was         people in history who made improper requests. Three of these people
cynical and sarcastic, derided by G-d. Yishmael, the seeker after               were fortunate, in that even though their request was articulated
immediate physical gratification, is capable of committing every and any        improperly, G-d answered them kindly. The fourth person received a
act of immorality. He cannot live with Yitzhak, seeker of eternity,             terrible response. These four people were Eliezer, Kalev, Shaul, and
guardian of Jewish future destiny.                                              Yiftach.
                                                                Eliezer said "And it will be the girl that says 'Not only will I give you
                                                                                to drink, but I will give your camels to drink' will be the girl who will marry
The Jewish Learning Network Email: learn@torah.org URL: http://www.torah.org/
                                                                                my master's son." [Bereshis 24:14] The Medrash says that this was not
                                                                                an appropriate way to ask. What if a maidservant had come out and met
A). PG LIFELINE:                                                                all of Eliezer's conditions? Fortunately, G-d sent Rivkah.
text                                                                                 Kalev promised to give his daughter in marriage to the person who
B). RAV FRAND:                                                                  would capture the city of Kiryat Sefer [Yehoshua 15:16]. Kalev did not
What About A Back-Up Plan?                                                      know what kind of person would conquer the city. What if a slave would
      The pasuk tells us that Avraham sent his trusted servant Eliezer to have conquered the city? Fortunately, Osniel ben Kenaz conquered the
Avraham's own ancestral home to find a wife for Yitzchak. Avraham city.
instructed Eliezer that "...Under no circumstances are you allowed to                Shaul promised his daughter to the person who would kill Goliath
take a wife for Yitzchak from the daughters of Canaan..." [Bereshis [Shmuel I 17:25]. Again this was a rash promise, but again G-d was kind
24:3].                                                                          and Dovid killed Goliath.
      However, Eliezer raised a logical question: What should he do if the           However, there was one man whose improper request resulted in
girl does not want to follow him back to Canaan? Eliezer inquired tragedy. Yiftach was praying for success in battle against Ammon.
whether in that case, he should take Yitzchak to Paddan Aram. Yiftach said to G-d, "If You deliver Ammon into my hands, the first thing
Avraham's reply was "No. Even if she does not want to come here, that comes out of my house to greet me, I will offer as a sacrifice..."
Yitzchak cannot go there."                                                      [Shoftim 11:31] Unfortunately, his daughter was the first to greet him.
      The question arises; if Yitzchak could not go to Padan Aram and [According to the commentaries, Yiftach either sacrificed his daughter or
could not marry a girl from Canaan, then what option would Yitzchak sent her away for the rest of her life. Either way, this was a punishment
have if the girl refused to follow Eliezer to Canaan? How would Yitzchak for Yiftach's improper request.]
get married?                                                                         The question can be asked: Eliezer, Kalev, and Shaul also asked
      We can understand Avraham's preference that the girl should come improperly. Why were they fortunate and why was Yiftach struck with
to Yitzchak. But what about a back up plan? What about planning for a tragedy?
"worst case scenario" - in case she refused to come? What would have                 The Beis Av offers a beautiful insight. The Beis Av says that the
been with the Jewish people? What would have happened if Yitzchak did common denominator of Eliezer, Kalev, and Shaul was that their
not have a wife and children?                                                   requests all involved Shidduchim, marriages. When it comes to finding a
      Avraham's response teaches us an attitude and outlook (hashkafa) proper mate, that is one area regarding which a person can legitimately
towards life. If something cannot be done the way that it is supposed to say "G-d -- take care of me!" When it comes to finding a person's life
be done, then it should not be done at all. We have an obligation to live mate, the rule is that this comes from the Hand of G-d [Yalkut Shimoni
our lives based on Torah.                                                       117]. Regarding Shidduchim one is allowed to play with Providence and
      "What is going to be? I do not know what is going to be. I have to do rely on G-d's intervention.
what I know is right; the rest is G-d's responsibility."                             Yiftach's pledge had nothing to do with a shidduch. When one utters
      It is this outlook which we see with Avraham, and which we have an irresponsible pledge like that, anything can happen.
seen throughout the ages from the Gedolei Yisroel, the Sages of Israel.              I once heard the following from Rav Simcha Zissel Brody, who heard
We do not compromise. We do not bend the rules. If something can not it from the Chazzon Ish. The Chazzon Ish commented, there are two
be done the way it should be done, then we just do not do it! The things that are "as difficult as splitting of the Red Sea" -- a person's
question "but what will happen now?" -- is not our problem.                     livelihood and finding a mate. We all know that a person's livelihood is
      The Netziv, the Rosh Yeshiva of the Volozhiner Yeshiva -- the difficult because Adam received a curse that it should be difficult to
grandfather of all Yeshivas, provided a classic example of this concept.        bring forth bread from the earth. But, the Chazzon Ish asked, why
      At approximately the turn of the century, the Russian government should finding a mate be so hard?
wanted to impose a rule that Russian subjects would have to be taught                The Chazzon Ish explained that unfortunately, we live in a time in
in the Volozhiner Yeshiva. The alternative was that the Yeshiva would which we usually do not see the Hand of G-d. However, there is one
be shut down.                                                                   area where everyone admits that we often can still see it. G-d takes a
      [I am not trying to draw any parallels to today. We are not talking special interest, and plays a special role in Shidduchim.
about the pros or cons of secular education; I am merely trying to bring             We all have stories that we feel were 'basherte'. I will just say over
out a point. We cannot compare Russia circa 1900 to the United States my favorite shidduch story. This is a story of a young man who went out
circa 2000.]                                                                    looking for a shidduch for a very long time with no success. He went out
      The Netziv was faced with the question: "Do I permit Russian with his seventy ninth girl. It was a terrible date. He came back upset
subjects to be taught in the Volozhiner Yeshiva, or do I close the and broken. He decided to go buy something to eat. He walked into a
Yeshiva?" In order to understand the significance of that decision, we Kosher hamburger place in Borough Park, sat down at a table and
must remember that there were no other Yeshivos. Closing the ordered a burger. A woman came up to him and asked, "Are you
Volozhiner Yeshiva did not mean that the students would switch to married?" He responded "No". She said, "I have a shidduch for you."
others. Volozhin, with its 400 students, was the only Yeshiva in Russia.        This was a woman completely out of the blue, who had never met him
      The Netziv's dilemma was: should he allow Russian subjects to be before! Yet he and the girl suggested by that woman are now living
taught for a couple of hours a day, or should he close the Yeshiva. What happily ever after.
did the Netziv do? The Netziv closed the Yeshiva! But -- "what's              7            This is an example where we see Hashgocha (Divine
Providence) -- the Hand of G-d. Here a person can take the liberty and      these negotiations and to try to decipher the enigmatic requests and
say "Master of the World, take care of me."                                 responses presented. For purposes of analysis, the chapter is divided
C). PARSHA PARABLES (Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky)                            into sections (they do not represent verse numbers):
                             SOUL TRUSTEE                                        (And Sarah was a hundred and twenty seven years old; these were
     When Avraham seeks a wife for his son Yitzchak, he called no           the years of the life of Sarah. And Sarah died in Kiryat-Arba; which is
one other than his trusted loyal servant, Eliezer. Eliezer was one of       Hevron in the land of K'na'an; and
the primary soldiers, aiding Avraham during his battle to rescue Lot.       a) Avraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her.) And
Eliezer was considered by Avraham to be his heir apparent until             Avraham stood up from before his dead, and spoke to the Hittites,
Hashem informed him of the forthcoming birth of Yitzchak. Eliezer           saying: "I am a stranger and a sojourner with you; give me possession of
was nicknamed the one who drew and watered from his master's                a burying place with you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight."
Torah. Simply put, the Torah constantly informs us that Eliezer was         [Avraham's request for a burial plot]
Avraham's right-hand-man.                                                   b) And the Hittites answered Avraham, saying to him: "Hear us, my lord;
     Before sending Eliezer, the Torah tells us that "Avraham told his      you are a mighty prince among us; in the choice of our tombs bury your
servant, the elder of his household, who was in complete charge of          dead; none of us shall withhold from you his tomb, that you may bury
every one of Avraham's possessions, to swear that he would not take         your dead." [the Hittites assent to Avraham's request]
a girl from Canaan for Yitzchak. Eliezer swore in the name of               c) And Avraham stood up, and bowed to the people of the land, to the
Hashem, the Master of the heaven and the earth " (cf. Genesis 24:3).        Hittites. And he talked with them, saying: "If your mind is that I should
     Avraham instructed his most trusted aid to get the proper shidach      bury my dead out of my sight; hear me, and entreat for me to Ephron the
(mate) for Yitzchak. He was to go back to Avraham's hometown.               son of Zohar. That he may give me the cave of Makhpelah, which he
The girl had to come from the right family. She must have been              has, which is in the end of his field; for as much money as it is worth he
raised in the proper environment. And Avraham warned Eliezer that           shall give it me as a possession of a burying place amongst you."
Yitzchak was not to leave the Land of Canaan. His charge was                [Avraham requests a specific burial plot]
forceful. He made his trusted servant swear. He used strong                 d) And Ephron lived among the Hittites; and Ephron the Hittite answered
language. "Be careful - watch out! Lest you bring my son there!"            Avraham in the hearing of the Hittites, of all who went in at the gate of
(Genesis 24:6)                                                              his city, saying: "No, my lord, hear me; the field I give to you, and the
     The Torah's reiteration of Eliezer's domestic position in this         cave that is in it, I give it to you; in the presence of the sons of my people
context is perplexing. Isn't the juxtaposition - the glorifying of          I give it to you; bury your dead." [Ephron agrees to Avraham's request]
Eliezer's position as " the elder of his household, who was in              e) And Avraham bowed down before the people of the land. And he
complete charge of every one of Avraham's possessions                       spoke to Ephron in the hearing of the people of the land, saying: "But if
"contradictory with the severe scrutiny and pressure that Avraham           you will give it, I beg you, hear me; I will give you money for the field;
placed on him in reference to Yitzchak's matrimonial requirements?          take it from me, and I will bury my dead there." [Avraham insists on
If Avraham trusted Eliezer for his entire worldly possessions, why did      paying for the land]
he make him swear in this instance? And if he had to swear in               f) And Ephron answered Avraham, saying to him: "My lord, listen to me;
regard to Yitzchak, then why define him here as "the elder of his           the land is worth four hundred shekels of silver. What is that between
household, who was in complete charge of every one of Avraham's             you and me? Bury therefore your dead." [Ephron seems to insist on
possessions"? Isn't the fact that he had to swear, obvious evidence         granting the land without payment]
that he, in fact, was not in charge?                                        g) And Avraham listened to Ephron; and Avraham weighed to Ephron
     Rabbi Yisrael Lipkin of Salant, the founder of the mussar              the silver, which he had named in the hearing of the Hittites, four
movement, once stayed at an inn. The inn was quite crowded and              hundred shekels of silver, current money among the merchants. And the
the innkeeper realized that he was low on meat. Seeing a                    field of Ephron, which was in Makhpelah, which was before Mamre, the
distinguished and pious-looking Jew with a beard, the innkeeper             field, and the cave which was in it, and all the trees that were in the field,
approached Reb Yisrael.                                                     that were in all the borders around, were made over To Avraham for a
     "Are you perhaps a shochet? You see, I am running low on meat          possession in the presence of the Hittites, before all who went in at the
and I must slaughter a cow." Reb Yisrael was taken aback. "I would          gate of his city. And after this, Avraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave
love to help," he stammered, "but unfortunately I am not a ritual           of the field of Makhpelah before Mamre; the same is Hevron in the land
slaughterer."                                                               of K'na'an. And the field, and the cave that is in it, were made over to
     The next morning Rabbi Lipkin approached the innkeeper. "I             Avraham for a possession of a burying place by the Hittites. [Avraham
have a tremendous business opportunity. If you were to invest a few         pays for it nonetheless and receives more than the cave; he acquires
hundred rubles with me, I can guarantee a nice return."                     surrounding land, including trees, the field etc.]
     The man looked quizzically at the rabbi. "Reb Yid," he                      I would like to raise several questions about this narrative:
stammered. "I hardly know you! How do you expect me to invest with          1) Why does Avraham introduce himself to the Hittites - thus beginning
you? Give me a few references, and as many days, and let me                 the negotiations - as a *Ger v'Toshav* ("a stranger and a sojourner")?
check out the deal in its entirety. Then we can meet and I'll make my       2) What is the gist of the Hittite's salutation of Avraham: *N'si Elokim
decision."                                                                  Atah b'Tokheinu* - ("you are a mighty prince among us")?
     "Aha!" Exclaimed the great mussar luminary. "Just yesterday,           3) Once Avraham has singled out one particular field (that of Ephron),
you were about to trust me with the ritual slaughter of your cow. You       Ephron's response begins with the word *Lo* ("no"); what is Ephron
were going to feed you guests with that meat based on the                   rejecting?
appearance of my frock and beard. Nevertheless, you would not               4) Ephron seems insistent on granting Avraham a burial plot; why does
invest a few rubles on those same grounds. Shouldn't one treat his          Avraham keep negotiating with him?
spiritual skepticism on the same level as his financial uncertainties?"     5) Following the previous question: Why does Avraham insist on paying
     The Be'er Mayim Chayim explains: the Torah specifically states,        for the land (even though the amount is exorbitant)?
in the context of Avraham's admonitions, that Eliezer "was the elder        II "THE BEAUTY OF YEPHET SHALL DWELL IN THE TENTS OF
of Avraham's household, who was in complete charge of every one of          SHEM"
Avraham's possessions."                                                          In order to properly address the questions listed above, we will need
     When buying stocks and bonds, when investing in real estate,           to devote a significant portion of our discussion to a methodological
when purchasing appliances or furniture, Eliezer had free reign. Yet        question with far-reaching implications for the study of Torah and our
when it came to Yitzchak's future that esteem was not enough.               understanding of classical texts.
Avraham made Eliezer swear in the name of Hashem that he would                   Ever since the culture of the West, basking in the very real, if
bring a suitable wife for Yitzchak. Avraham's concern for spirituality      exaggerated glow of the Enlightenment, developed secular theories
and his future were by no means on the same level as those he had           about the history, literature, mores and evolution of religion, there has
for his mundane needs. True, Eliezer was in complete charge of              been an atmosphere of kulturkampf raging between the worlds of
every one of Avraham's possessions.            But when it came to          academia and religion. Although this state of affairs has occupied much
Avraham's future, when it came to spiritual decisions, even Eliezer         of the attention of the Protestant world (and, to a far lesser degree, the
was suspect. For when it comes to your spiritual needs, your sole           Catholic Church), nowhere has the battleground of this conflict been
trustee can never become your soul trustee.                                 fiercer - or claimed more casualties - than in our own world of Torah. The
                                                                            alarming rate of disaffection, attrition and assimilation throughout the
D). P’SHUTO SHEL MIKRA (Rabbi Yitz Etshalom)                                world of Ashkenazik Jewry over the past 200 years is unprecedented -
        AVRAHAM AND EPHRON: A CURIOUS NEGOTIATION                           and the relatively rapid replacement of Torah culture, values and ethos
                                                                            with those of "the West" has played no small part in this cultural and
    Parashat Hayyei Sarah tells two stories; undoubtedly, the more religious tragedy.
                                                                                 This                    that the spirit
popular (and lengthy) narrative is that of Avraham's slave and his analysis is not to claim of intellectual of inquiry, rigorous methodological
                                                                                        and embrace                      pursuits as having inherent value
mission to Aram to find a wife for Yitzhak. In last year's shiur (available are inimical to the Torah viewpoint - the very opposite is true. It is,
on the Mikra home page: torah.org/advanced/mikra), I suggested an
approach to understanding the nature of Avraham's directive. We will, however, both an understatement and grossly misleading to limit a
                                                                            description of the modern academic mien to these noble
with God's help, return to this fascinating and engaging story in future accomplishments. For the past two hundred years, with increasing
                                                                                                                           world of
    The first story, which occupies less than 20 verses (most of Chapter cynicism and dismissiveness, the the shelvesreligious faith other
                                                                            commitment have been relegated to                           occupied by
23), is Avraham's protracted negotiations with the Hittites for the Cave of curious ancient relics of a bygone world.
Makhpelah in Kiryat Arba (=Hevron). A superficial perusal of the text
                                                                                 Sadly,       casualties have not been limited to those who preferred
gives the impression that it was the death of Sarah that motivated Cambridge the Volozhin; the world of Torah scholarship has also been
Avraham to purchase this plot. A more studied engagement with the text affected by the demographic and sociological changes wrought by the
indicates that this was the appropriate time and circumstance for
                                                                                                           secular culture.
Avraham to finally "take hold" of a piece of Eretz Yisra'el, beginning the last two centuries of the understandably A subtle yet significant
                                                                            development has been                                 (yet regrettably) negative
process of acquisition which was the completion of his mission. (See last attitude towards secular disciplines which permeates many Torah-
week's shiur for a more complete presentation of this observation.)
    As such, the negotiations for Makhpelah were not just geared to observant circles and communities. world of Torah study always viewed
                                                                                 This is, of course, not how the
procuring a burial plot for Sarah; they represent Avraham's first "serious" the pursuit of secular knowledge. The Rishonim, by and large, were not
attempt to acquire land in "the place that I will show you."
    It behooves us, therefore, to review the Torah's narration of           only doctors - they were also poets, philologists, philosophers and
                                                                          8        mathematicians. Across the spectrum (although this is not as
ubiquitous in the world of Ashkenaz as in the Iberian and Provencal             history. In other words, even though we would be satisfied adopting Rav
worlds of medieval Torah scholarship), the great scholars of the High           Kook's approach - that we need not reject findings of the academic
Middle Ages (Maimonides, Nachmanides, haLevi, ibn Ezra, S'forno,                world which seem to contradict Torah teachings, since the main
Avrabanel, Me'iri, etc.) utilized these disciplines to enhance their            emphasis in studying Torah is the "message" - if we can enhance our
understanding of Torah and to help develop and actualize their own              understanding of "p'shat" through these methods, we certainly will.
Torah-weltanschauung. This attitude towards "worldly" knowledge,                IV CAN THESE BONES LIVE?
already evidenced throughout both Talmuds and the Midrashim (e.g. BT                 One of the fascinating areas of research which has opened up many
Pesahim 94), was a fulfillment of a Rabbinic interpretation of the blessing     new doors of Torah understanding and insight is that of archeology.
of Yephet:                                                                      This field, relatively new and, in its finest hours, painstaking and rigorous
      God shall enlarge Yephet, and he shall live in the tents of Shem;         of method, has found the Near East to be the most bountiful of areas for
      (B'resheet 9:27).                                                         its own research. The many digs in Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Syria and
      The Rabbis explain the relationship between Yephet (Greece) and           throughout the Middle East have uncovered virtual treasure troves of
Shem (Yisra'el) as follows: "[this means] that the words of Yephet shall        evidence linking our present to our past. The most notable example,
be in the tents of Shem." (BT Megillah 9b). Although in its original            one which deserves far more than the passing mention it will get here, is
context, this comment was brought to explain the special consideration          the momentous find of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 in the series of
accorded the Greek language holds in Halakhah (as regards the writing           caves known as Qumran. Our understanding of the religious schisms
of Kitvei haKodesh), many Rishonim understood it (and other statements          affecting the Judean community in the last two centuries before the
of Hazal - e.g. BT Shabbat 75a) as a charge to harness the great                common era has been enhanced hundredsfold as a result of the Scrolls -
intellectual accomplishments of Man - be they Jewish, Greek or Arabic in        and countless puzzling passages throughout Rabbinic literature have
origin. The goal of this mastery was always understood not as an end in         become clarified as well.
and of itself, rather as a vehicle for enhancing one's grasp and                     Archeology has been able to take us even further back - and there
appreciation of God's world (see, inter alia, MT Yesodei haTorah Chs. 1-        are even instances where words in T'nakh which were indecipherable to
4) and as a valuable tool towards enhancing one's mastery of Torah and          the Rishonim have, as a result of archeological evidence, become
Yir'at Shamayim.                                                                clarified. For example, the word *Pim* in Sh'mu'el I 13:21 was rendered
      The tenor of Torah scholarship since the Enlightenment has been,          by the classical commentators as any one of various types of farm
for the most part, very different than that embraced by these Rishonim.         implements. This translation does not fit the verse smoothly - but, since
As the "academic" world has bared its anti-religious fangs, the world of        the word is a hapax legomenon (occurs only once in the T'nakh), there
religion has, understandably, backed away. The prevailing attitude (for         was no contextual reference against which to clarify it.
the past several hundred years) within most circles of Torah scholarship             Recent digs in central Israel have brought the Pim to light - it is an
is one of reticence regarding the embrace of secular disciplines,               ancient coin (weighing roughly 8 grams of silver); this finding has
especially in the world of the social sciences and humanities. As               allowed us to go back to our verse and understand that the T'nakh is
mentioned, this is an understandable reaction to the terrible losses            teaching us how much the B'nei Yisra'el had to pay the P'lish'tim to
inflicted upon the Torah world by the popularity of secular culture and         sharpen their tools, rather than another item in a list of implements. (See
academics.                                                                      the verse in context, the traditional commentaries and Da'at Mikra ad
      [Parenthetically, it is prudent to note that our greatest Torah leaders   loc.)
have all made great use of the fruits of modern research to increase their      V "I AM A STRANGER AND SOJOURNER"
ability to issue proper Halakhic rulings. This is not the issue at stake             Recent discoveries of Hittite law and other Near Eastern texts have
here; no one challenges the value of utilizing research for practical           uncovered a basic piece of information which sheds light on our entire
knowledge. We are addressing the utilization of "secular" knowledge to          Parashah: In many near eastern societies, foreigners (anyone outside
enhance our Torah knowledge beyond the practical realm.]                        of the tribal family) were not allowed to purchase land. (See, e.g.,
      Nonetheless, there is much to recommend an ideal of utilizing the         Lehmann's article in BASOR 129, Skinner in ICC Genesis p. 336 and
positive contributions of the past several hundred years of academic            Pritchard in ANET p. 219 n. 47)
growth in "the West" to enhance and cultivate a greater appreciation for -           [The interested reader is directed to B'resheet 34:21 - the impact of
and mastery of - our holy Torah. Although many students of Torah                that arrangement becomes clearer in light of the evidence offered here.]
understand the benefit of harnessing the technological advances made                 In last week's essay, I suggested that the reason Avraham delayed
available to us through arduous research (note how many yeshivot have           acquiring land in Eretz K'na'an for over 60 years from the time of his
state-of-the-art web pages), this is not "the beauty of Yephet dwelling in      arrival until the purchase of Makhpelah was due to his not yet having
the tents of Shem"; this is simply Shem riding on Yephet's horses (or           reached "the land that I will show you." There is, however, a more
sitting in the back of Yephet's limousine). For the richness of Greece          prosaic reason which becomes clear when we view the evidence of local
(i.e. the "academic world") to adorn the Torah, we need to wisely and           law in K'na'an at the time of the Avot. As a *ger*, Avraham did not have
carefully identify those disciplines, sources and schools which can,            the right to buy land in K'na'an - nor did the local peoples have the right
indeed, bring more glory and understanding into the Beit Midrash. Too           to sell it to him without special dispensation.
much of secular "wisdom" is driven by anti-religious sentiment and bias;             Before going further, we can already revisit our first question and
it is hard to find a university today that does not teach purely heretical      answer: Avraham introduces himself as "a stranger and sojourner"
notions as anything but the new gospel.                                         because he is explaining why he has no land as of yet - no place to bury
III SCIENCE AND TORAH: DIFFERENT LANGUAGES?                                     Sarah. It also explains why he gathers the Hittites (or their leaders -
      Beginning in the last century, a significant number of great Torah        S'forno at 23:7) to begin the negotiations. After all, why didn't he go
scholars addressed the "new findings" of the scientific world against the       directly to Ephron, if it was his field he desired? He congregated the
backdrop of the Toraic narrative. Clearly, the most troubling challenge to      B'nei Het together in order to create the possibility for a communal
the Torah's account of history was the publication of Darwin's "Origin of       decision allowing this foreigner to purchase land.
the Species" and the theory of evolution introduced with that work.                  We can now understand their response: "You are a lord and prince
Although some great scholars (then and now) rejected the theories of            among us..."; in other words, with all due honor and respect, Avraham,
evolution, the age of the world etc. out of hand, many have taken a more        you are not one of us. We cannot allow you to purchase land, as that will
accommodating approach.                                                         naturalize you here. You are certainly a noble man - but a *N'si Elokim*
      For example, R. Shmuel David Luzzato (Italy, d. 1865), in his             is hardly a member of the people! We will certainly _grant_ you any
introduction to his commentary on Humash, states:                               place you wish - no one would withhold that from you - but we cannot
      The enlightened should understand that the intent of the Torah is not     sell it to you. This answers question #2 above.
      to teach about natural wisdom and science, rather the Torah was                Let's recall the rest of the negotiations - and clarify the "between-the-
      given to straighten men to the path of righteousness and justice          lines" of each side:
      (*tz'dakah umishpat*), and to fix in their minds the belief in [God's]         And Avraham stood up, and bowed to the people of the land, to the
      unity and providence, for the Torah was not given to the wise alone,      Hittites. And he talked with them, saying: "If your mind is that I should
      but to the whole nation. Just as the ideas of [Divine] providence and     bury my dead out of my sight; hear me, and entreat for me to Ephron the
      recompense were not explained in philosophical terms (nor should          son of Zohar. That he may give me the cave of Makhpelah, which he
      they have been), rather the Torah spoke in the language of men,           has, which is in the end of his field; for as much money as it is worth he
      likewise the creation is not recounted by the Torah in a philosophical    shall give it me as a possession of a burying place amongst you."
      way, like our sages have said: "It is impossible to recount the power     [Avraham is asking the members of the clan to approach Ephron - so
      of the creation to human beings." (Midrash Hagadol, B'resheet 1,1).       that he should be able to sell the land to Avraham in their presence]
      Rav Avraham Yitzhak haKohen Kook zt"l, first Ashkenazi chief rabbi             And Ephron lived among the Hittites; and Ephron the Hittite
of Eretz Yisra'el, wrote the following:                                         answered Avraham in the hearing of the Hittites, of all who went in at the
      "...Regarding the claims coming out of the new research, which, for       gate of his city, saying: "No, my lord, hear me; the field I give to you, and
      the most part, contradict the literal words of the Torah: My opinion      the cave that is in it, I give it to you; in the presence of the sons of my
      regarding this is that...even though none of these new ideas is           people I give it to you; bury your dead." [Ephron insists on granting the
      indisputably true, nevertheless, we are in no way obligated to reject     burial plot. As Professor Yehuda Elitzur points out, he says *Natati,
      and challenge them; for it is not a basic principle of the Torah to       natati, natati* - "what more do you want, I have given it to you!". That is
      relate simple facts and events which occurred. The main thing is the      the meaning of the introductory *Lo* - I will not sell it, but I will grant it.
      content; i.e. the inner explanation of things...these things were         Avraham, for his part, will not bury his dead without first gaining
      already stated by the Rishonim, especially in the Moreh N'vukhim          ownership rights via a proper sale. We have now answered questions 3-
      (I:71, II:15-16) and we are, today, prepared to expand this idea          5]
      further." (Ig'rot R'ayah #134, dated 5 Iyyar 5668)                             And Avraham bowed down before the people of the land. And he
 There are many other Rabbinic giants who have expressed similar                spoke to Ephron in the hearing of the people of the land, saying: "But if
sentiments - and serious students of Torah have, by and large, adopted          you will give it, I beg you, hear me; I will give you money for the field;
this approach to resolving apparent conflicts between the literal sense of      take it from me, and I will bury my dead there." [As mentioned above,
Torah narrative and contemporary revelations emanating from the world           Avraham is insistent on purchasing land - he wants an *Ahuzah* (holding
of the ivory tower. Some of our earlier discussions (e.g. last year's           which he can bequeath to his progeny) as opposed to a *Matanah* (gift)]
shiurim on Parashat B'resheet and No'ach; both available on our                      And Ephron answered Avraham, saying to him: "My lord, listen to
webarchives: go to torah.org/advanced/mikra/br.html) have utilized this         me; the land is worth four hundred shekels of silver. What is that
perspective as well.                                                            between you and me? Bury therefore your dead." [Something has
      Nevertheless, there are some areas where contemporary research,           shifted in the dialogue here. Explanation below]
done by earnest (yet secular) scholars in realms closely related to Torah       VI EAST MEETS WEST
narratives, have ultimately substantiated the Torah's account of            9               In 1927, E. Chiera published the findings of a "Joint Expedition
with the Iraq Museum at Nuzi". Nuzi is an ancient town in Mesopotamia -             faces when told to sacrifice his son after years of waiting for
a district familiar to Avraham if not to Ephron.                                    Isaac's birth. He does not complain at the injustice, does not
     Among the Nuzian legal documents published, we find several                    challenge God's motives, does not question whether God is
examples of a curious form of adoption, known as "sale-adoption". The               reneging on his vow. Now at Sarah's death, he is faced with
gist of this relationship was that an outsider (non-family member) could            the parallel test: although told again and again that the land is
pay to be adopted by a family member, thus circumventing the ban on                 his, Abraham's faith in God's word does not waver when he finds
selling land to outsiders. In other words, the outsider (in our case -              himself reaching for his wallet. The Sages are in awe at Abraham's
Avraham) would pay a sum to the clan member (Ephron) to allow him in                remarkable behavior, adding that while fully aware of who owned
to the family - thus allowing him to become a landowner among the clan              the rights to the land, Abraham nevertheless humbled himself when
members.                                                                            addressing the Hittites saying "I am a resident alien among you."
     This legal loophole was likely not known - or utilized - by the Hittites.      We might therefore interpret the Torah's attention to this story as
Avraham, however, being a Mesopotamian by birth, would have been                    another opportunity to illustrate the greatness of Abraham's
familiar with it; indeed, it may be that his years of "sojourning" were also        character and trust in God's ways.
an attempt to find the most suitable peoples among whom to settle - and                  The difficulty in explaining the purpose of our chapter as
with whom to begin his acquisition of the land via this method.                     similar to the test in chapter 22, is the sequence of the stories. The
     In any case, it is entirely possible that this is what Avraham                 Torah makes it quite clear that the Akeda was a test of Abraham's
proposed to Ephron - and that is reflected by Ephron's response: "what              faith. At its end Abraham is told "For now I know that you fear God,
is land of four hundred shekel between you and me?" - meaning, instead              since you have not withheld your son, your favored one, from Me"
of the *N'si Elokim* distance implied in the original salutation, our               (22:12). There is no such declaration in our chapter - the Torah does
relationship is now one of *beini uveinkha* - "between you and me", as              not state that Abraham was being tested, God does not congratulate
kin. (This would also explain the exorbitant price paid by Avraham)                 him for his trust in Him or for acting the true gentleman by not
VII EPILOGUE                                                                        demanding what was rightfully his. Most importantly, the story of
     The proposal suggested above is not intended, in any sense, to                 the Akeda is told as a denouement in the long relationship between
supplant the insightful and impactful messages gleaned by Hazal and                 God and Abraham. Forcing yet another challenge to Abraham's
the Rishonim from this significant text. As Rav Kook so eloquently                  commitment is not only anti-climactic but makes the reader cry
stated - and as is borne out by centuries of commentary by Hakhmei                  "enough!" in sympathy for this old man. I believe this argument is
haM'sorah - the essential of Torah is the message; how much our own                 substantiated by the fact that the last recorded communication from
lives are more firmly guided by the Divine teachings of Torah is                    God to Abraham is on that wind-swept mountain in the land of
immeasurably more significant than our ability to utilize various                   Moriah.
academic tools to verify historicity or other "p'shat modes". What we                    Are there perhaps other answers to the question - why must
have seen is that, in contradistinction to common assumptions, the world            Abraham pay for his gift? Abraham Korman, a 20th century Bible
of modern research has much to offer us in our own understanding of                 scholar, addresses this issue in the ninth chapter of his book
Torah. Was a Nuzian-type "sale-adoption" the mechanism used by                      HaAvot veHashevatim. "We should know," he writes, "that God's
Avraham to "get his foot in the door" of land-purchase in Eretz K'na'an?            promise to Abraham to give his descendants the land of Canaan,
We can't know for sure - but it is certainly an intriguing possibility.             did not mean that the people could sit back in anticipation of
     "If someone tells you that there is Torah among the nations, do not            miracles, and that suddenly the land would be theirs! What God
believe him; but if he tells you that there is wisdom among the nations,            promised was that he would direct circumstances enabling the
believe him." (Eikhah Rabbah 2:13)                                                  descendants to conquer the land. Did not Moses battle Midian,
     The glory of Yephet - the achievements of the academic world                   Sichon and Og? Did not Joshua fight for every town and farm in his
commonly associated with the western world - indeed have their place in             conquest of the land? In his zeal to attain a burial site Abraham
the Beit Midrash.                                                                   strove as well, to actualize the promise. By taking action he
                                                               participated in the start of the promise's realization."
                                                                                         Clearly, we can argue that God has manipulated the situation in
7 - HAR ETZION (Virtual Beit HaMidrash)
Virtual Beit Midrash, Alon Shevut, Gush Etzion 90433 e-mail: yhe@virtual.co.il,
                                                                                    Abraham's favor. In his time of mourning, Abraham is met only
Home Page: http://www.virtual.co.il/education/yhe                                   with kindness from his neighbors. Ephron is quite willing to part
A) INTRODUCTION TO PARSHAT HASHEVUAH                                                with his land and initially even waives any payment. The fact that
by Rav Jonathan Mishkin                                                             Abraham has no trouble raising the 400 shekels is also
                    ALL THE DETAILS FIT TO PRINT                                    attributable to God. After the burial the Torah states "Abraham was
      Genesis chapter 23 is wholly dedicated to a single topic: the                 now old, advanced in years, and the Lord had blessed Abraham in
burial of Sarah. Our first matriarch passes away at the age of 127 in               all things" (Genesis 24:1). That Abraham must act in the story is
Kiryat Arba and it's no great surprise that her husband Abraham                     not proof that it is not an account of God fulfilling His promise.
accepts the responsibility for securing a final resting place for his                    In a similar vein, we can cite the notion that anything worth
wife. What is a little unusual, though, is the amount of attention that             having is worth working for. This is stated in relation to the land of
the Torah pays to this episode. For twenty verses we read                           Israel by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai: "The Holy One, blessed be He,
details of the conversations between Abraham and the Hittites and                   gave Israel three precious gifts, and all of them were given only
Abraham and Ephron son of Zohar. Courtesies are exchanged                           through sufferings. These are: The Torah, the Land of Israel and
between the principals, accompanied by haggling that really isn't                   the world to come" (Talmud Berakhot 5a). The land is not merely
haggling. For 400 shekels of silver Abraham gets a field, a                         intended as a home for the Jewish people but as a place used for
burial cave and all the trees in the field. Ma'arat HaMakhpela - the                the service of God. And like the acquisition of Torah knowledge and
cave of Makhpela has passed into Abraham's possession and                           the reward of the next world, obtaining the land and making it
become the family burial plot. We get the feeling, though, that the                 blossom demand a struggle. Chapter 22 therefore illustrates
Torah could have reported the story in a single verse, perhaps                      Abraham's efforts to secure a part of his homeland as a
an amalgamation of verses 3, 16 and 19: Then Abraham rose from                      foreshadowing of his descendants' toil upon entering Israel.
beside his dead and buried his wife Sarah in the cave of the field of                    A final way of understanding the declarations God has made is
Makhpela, now Hebron, that he had purchased from Ephron for 400                     that Abraham himself was never meant to be given the land.
shekels of silver.                                                                  Israel was always intended as an inheritance to his
     Why does the Torah go to such lengths to describe the burial                   descendants. While some of the promises are to Abraham - "I am
plans and arrangements? Compare for example the short shrift that                   the Lord who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to assign
Abraham himself receives at the end of this week's parasha. In four                 this land to you as a possession" (Genesis 15:7), most of the
verses the Torah relates his death and burial. He is interred by his                references are to Abraham and his offspring. Furthermore, when
two sons as described in only two verses: "His sons Isaac and                       telling Abraham about the future oppression of his descendants
Ishmael buried him in the cave of Makhpela, in the field of Ephron                  in chapter 15, God informs him that "they shall return here in the
son of Zohar the Hittite, facing Mamreh, the field that Abraham had                 fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet
bought from the Hittites; there Abraham was buried, and Sarah his                   complete" (verse 16). Perhaps formal acquisition of the land would
wife" (Genesis 25:9-10).                                                            have to wait until after the slavery. Acthis fact would have gone
     Our initial understanding of this episode must explore the                     hand in hand with the recognition that the dream of countless
relationship between Abraham and the land of Israel. After all, the                 offspring would not be realized in his own lifetime. Abraham died
patriarch is not merely burying his dead in this chapter, but acquiring             with one son and one patch of land. Thus our chapter is not about
a piece of the land he has been repeatedly promised by God. It                      the fulfillment of God's promise.
has therefore been suggested (see for example Rabbi Avraham ibn                          The commentators list other morals to be derived from our
Ezra 12th century to 23:19) that our tale describes the fulfillment of              story. The Ramban (Rabbi Moses ben Nachman 13th century), for
God's declarations.                                                                 example, suggests that the story indicates that God's very first
     Of course, once we remember all the past statements by the                     promise has come true. In Genesis 12:2 God states "I will make you
Lord about Abraham's future, we have another problem on our                         a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great,
hands. In Genesis 13:14-15, for example, God tells Abraham,                         and you shall be a blessing." And lo and behold, here are the
"Raise your eyes and look out from where you are, to the north and                  Hittites treating him with great respect while saying to Abraham
south, to the east and west, for I will give all the land that you see              "Hear us, my lord: you are the elect of God among us" (23:6). The
to you and your offspring forever." By spelling out the various steps               Ramban adds that the Torah here was intent on telling us the
of the story, our parasha might be trying to emphasize that                         location of our ancestors' burial. But, as we've mentioned, the
Abraham was finally getting the land that God has been talking                      Torah seems to go to a lot of trouble in making only that point.
about for over 60 years. But there is no indication in any of the                        I would like to suggest one final message that our parasha has to
promises that God plans on selling Abraham the land - how polite is                 offer, but to do that I want to switch to a different genre - the prayer
it to present somebody with a gift and then turn around and say -                   book. The Amida prayer is traditionally ascribed to the Men of the
that'll be 400 silver shekels, please?                                              Great Assembly, a body of scholars which functioned in Israel
     Still, this is Abraham we're talking about and as we've                        roughly in the 3rd century BCE (see Talmud Megilla 17b). The first
discussed (see last week's essay) he was quite familiar with the                    blessing of the 19 comprising this prayer is AVOT in which the
difficulties of reconciling God's promises to the reality of his life.              Jew recognizes the Lord as God of the patriarchs and calls upon
Declarations of children and land are usually made together, yet                    Him to remember CHASDEI AVOT, a term literally meaning "the
the fulfillment of each is a painful process for the                                patriarchs' acts of righteousness." The prayer seems to be
patriarch. Genesis chapter 22 describes the test Abraham                          1        requesting redemption for the descendants based on the merits
of our ancestors. What did the authors have in mind as the acts of                  However, if Eliezer was charged with going specifically to the
righteousness exhibited by the three biblical characters?                     family of Avraham, it is very difficult to understand why he didn't
     Identifying the kindness of Abraham is a simple matter. We               immediately limit his interview to family members. Why did he
see him showing hospitality to three guests, followed by an anxious           originally intend on approaching all the girls in the village at random?
prayer to God to spare the inhabitants of Sodom. Finding similar              Why was he so overwhelmed when he discovered that Rivka was
behavior in his son and grandson is more difficult. In fact, Jacob's          related to Avraham (pasuk 27)?
treatment of his brother and father seems less than virtuous. We                    The commentators mentioned above based their interpretations
are a little more successful when we allow rabbinic interpretation            on the assumption that Eliezer retold the events with accuracy.
into the discussion. According to the Sages, the patriarchs intuited          Therefore, it is crucial to smooth over the discrepancies of the two
and kept the entire Torah long before the commandments were                   accounts. However, an unbiased reading of the original account of
instituted at Sinai.      This is viewed by some as CHESED                    the Torah clearly indicates that Eliezer was not sent to Avraham's
because righteousness is anything that goes beyond the letter of the          family but rather to his homeland. Therefore, he planted himself near
law. Since these individuals were not responsible for following the           the well, and began to interview all the girls of the village. When the
guidelines of Judaism, observance of the mitzvot is CHASDEI                   first girl successfully passed her interview, he immediately showered
AVOT (see for example the commentary Dover Shalom on the                      her with gifts, even before questioning her lineage.                  He is
Siddur by Rabbi Yitzchak Landau 19th century).                                subsequently overwhelmed by the surprisingly fortuitous discovery that
     But there is yet another act of kindness performed by all three of       this girl is in fact Rivka, a descendant of Nachor.
the patriarchs. This, of course, is the burial of their dead. In                   Eliezer diplomatically alters the story in order to convince Lavan
Judaism, burying a person is considered the ultimate righteousness            and Betuel to permit the marriage. Therefore, he claims that he was
- a CHESED SHEL EMET, a true act of CHESED, because the                       sent specifically to Avraham's family. Consequently, he is forced to
mourner knows that there is no way the dead can ever repay him for            switch the order of events, and claim that the jewels were only given
his kindness. In our parasha, Abraham while taking pains to bury              after determining Rivka's family connections.           In order for us to
his wife, insures that future generations will be able to perform the         appreciate Eliezer's contribution to the story, the Torah must transcribe
mitzva as well. His elaborate preparations teach his sons the                 both the actual events, as well as Eliezer's dialogue with Lavan.
importance of showing the proper respect to the dead. When                          However, I believe that the Torah's lengthy rendition of this
Abraham dies in chapter 25, the Torah need not relate that                    story comes to stress a different point. Although impressive, I find it
episode in great detail since the foundations have already been               hard to accept that the Torah was so verbose only in order to eternalize
laid in this family for the necessary arrangements. It is sufficient          Eliezer's sharpness and smoothness as a diplomat. Instead, I will
to mention that Isaac and Ishmael took care of their father's body as         try to show how a careful reading of the parasha reveals an engaging
he had taken care of Sarah's - they have learned the lesson by                tale of religious commitment, faith and divine providence.
watching Abraham. Jacob too is careful to bury his wife Rachel                     When initially charged by Avraham with the task of finding a bride
(Genesis 35:19) and he and Esav come together to bury Isaac                   for Yitzchak, Eliezer is skeptical regarding the success of this mission
(35:27). We learn later from Jacob that his father buried Rebecca in          (pasuk 5). Avraham assures him that with the help of God (literally),
the family cave, and that he himself has buried Leah there                    he will successfully complete his mission (pasuk 7).                With this
(49:31). This information is related as part of Jacob's dying wish to         assurance, armed with the promise of divine assistance, Eliezer
Joseph to make sure to bury him in Canaan.                                    faithfully embarks on his journey, with no idea whatsoever, how he will
     The cynical reader might be unimpressed and argue that this              proceed. Even upon reaching his destination, he does not know to
behavior is not all that unusual, nor is honor of the dead specific to        whom to turn. How is he to choose the "right girl" out of the hundreds
Judaism. Perhaps not, but burial is the one single act that binds             of possible candidates? In his desperation, he lifts his arms in
the patriarchs. Furthermore, whether or not they intuited the Torah           passionate prayer (the force of his supplication is indicated by the
or the existence of God, the term CHESED usually connotes an act              "shalshelet," pasuk 12). He devises a test that he will use in his
of kindness towards another human being. It is therefore my                   interviews which will help him make the right choice.
feeling that the authors of the Amida prayer were thinking of burial in            At this point, we can imagine that Eliezer assumed that he would
their choice of the phrase CHASDEI AVOT. Perhaps this is how                  spend the next few days in the village, until finding a girl who passes
the AVOT blessing connects to the second one in the Amida which               the test and is willing to leave everything, move to Canaan, and
talks about God's promises of resurrection of the dead.                       marry some unknown person. Even if he eventually finds such a girl,
     As for parashat Chayei Sarah, I believe that the Torah                   can he be certain that this is really Yitzchak's "bashert?"
emphasized the care and attention Abraham showed his wife, to                      However, even before completing his prayer, a beautiful girl
illustrate that his behavior made a lasting impression       on     his       suddenly appears, with pitcher on her shoulder (pasuk 15). Startled by
children. The veneration that Abraham's descendants have for him              the coincidence of her immediate arrival, Eliezer races towards her to
and his family is due in part to the respect they showed for each             begin the interview (pasuk 17). To his amazement, the girl passes the
other.                                                                        test with flying colors (pasuk 19). Stunned by the rapid unfolding of
B) INDEPTH PARSHAT SHEVUAH                                                    events, Eliezer must ascertain one additional point: will the girl and her
                          SICHAT AVDEI AVOT                                   father agree to the marriage? Everythinhangs in the balance. Was
By Rav Yair Kahn                                                              everything that happened mere coincidence, or has the Almighty
     Upon glancing at parashat Chayei Sara, one notices that the              responded to his prayer? Impatient to find out, Eliezer asks for the
account of Eliezer and his quest for a bride for Yitzchak spans the           girl's father's name (pasuk 23). Upon hearing the astonishing news
majority of the parasha. One is immediately struck by the length              that the girl is from Avraham's family, Eliezer, overwhelmed with
and seemingly unnecessary repetition, so uncharacteristic of biblical         gratitude and awe, prostrates himself before the Almighty (pasuk 26),
narrative. The Torah, which at times seems so stingy and grudging             an act that reflects his awareness of his encounter with Providence
regarding important details, is overly generous with respect to this          ("Hashgacha").
particular story. This feature is even more pronounced when                        Trembling with excitement, Eliezer follows Rivka to her home.
contrasted with the halakhic sections of the Torah, which are extremely       Spurred by a sense of urgency, he insists on telling his story
terse. This peculiarity was noticed by our Sages. In fact, Rashi in his       immediately (pasuk 33), stressing the divine nature of his mission.
commentary quotes the famous midrash: "Rav Acha said: The                     Lavan and Betuel, infected by Eliezer's passion, realize that Rivka is
conversations of the servants of our forefathers are dearer to the            divinely ordained to be the bride of Yitzchak, and have no choice but to
Omnipresent than the Torah of their children. After all, the parasha of       comply (pasuk 50). At this point Eliezer knows that his mission has
Eliezer is repeated in the Torah, while many laws can only be derived         been crowned with success, his gratitude to Hashem knows no
through subtle hints." In order to attain a greater appreciation of this      bounds, and once again he prostrates himself before Hashem (pasuk
statement, we must first analyze our parasha, specifically with respect       52).
to its verbosity.                                                             Summary
     Let us begin with the repetition of the story. Why does the Torah            The covenant between Hashem and the Jewish people is a dual one.
relate both the actual encounter between Eliezer and Rivka, as well as        It consists of the covenant forged with our forefathers, as well as the
Eliezer's retelling of this meeting? It is worth noting that the reference    Sinaitic covenant. The former is a covenant between Hashem and
of the midrash to "conversations of the servants," may very possibly          individuals. The latter was forged with the entire Jewish people. The
refer to the transcription of Eliezer's account. Therefore, we will briefly   terms of the covenant of Sinai are the 613 mitzvot. Values and
focus on Eliezer's rendition, and pay specific attention to discrepancies     ideals must be formalized and formulated as objective commandments
between it and the actual events.                                             in order to obligate the entire nation. The terms of the "berit avot" are
    Professor Nechama Leibovitz a"h, did a marvelous job both in              the values and ideals themselves. The lives and experiences of the avot
pointing out the differences between the two accounts, as well as             which express deep religious commitment as well as moral awareness
analyzing the reasons for these discrepancies. I cannot cover all the         and sensitivity.
points noted by her; therefore, I will focus on what I consider the ones           The "Torah of the children" can be derived from subtle hints.
which are critical for our purposes.                                          Through painstaking and committed study of the word of Hashem, we
     Eliezer is charged by Avraham to return to his homeland and              use nuances to ascertain the halakha. In fact, human involvement and
birthplace ("moladeti") in order to choose a bride for Yitzchak (pasuk 4).    intelligence, as opposed to divine signals, are preferred regarding
Eliezer, on the other hand, relates that he was sent specifically to          halakhic decisions. "Chakham adif mi-navi" (the sage is superior to the
Avraham's family ("beit avi") to choose a bride (pasuk 38,40). In order       prophet).
to solve this contradiction, the Rashbam interprets "moladeti" as                  In contrast, "the conversations of the servant's of our forefathers"
referring to family, and not to birthplace. However, a quick glance at the    relates a tale dealing with real people in real life situations, fraught with
first pasuk in parashat Lekh Lekha (12:1) reveals the difficulty of           challenges and dangers. The "irrelevant" detail is an experience, which
this interpretation.                                                          reflects a human reaction to actual events. One should accompany
     Furthermore, in the original account, Eliezer hands the jewelry to       Eliezer as he travels the road from skepticism to faith, one should
Rivka prior to determining her lineage (22:23), while in Eliezer's            actually feel the pounding of his heart.
account this order is reversed (22:47). The Ramban suggests that                   The singular fondness for "the conversations of the servant," is
Eliezer lifted the jewelry before questioning Rivka, but gave it to her       because it is a simple human story. It lacks great nature confounding
only after receiving her answer. After all, it would be absurd to             miracles. However, it contains a breathtaking human and religious
transfer the jewels to this girl before determining that she is a viable      drama, a drama in which man encounters Hashem within the natural
candidate, from the family of Avraham. (See Rashi's commentary for            order.
an alternate solution.)                                                            C) SICHOT ROSHEI YESHIVA
                                                                          1        Harav Lichtenstein Shlit"A
          "THE SPEECH OF THE FOREFATHERS' SERVANTS"                                                                         Lord" (Prov. 16:32). Hence the positive attitude towards relying on fate,
     Chazal teach us that "the speech of the servants of the forefathers                                                    as seen further in the saying, "The lot puts an end to strife and separates
is more beautiful than the Torah of [the forefathers'] descendants."                                                        those locked in dispute" (Prov. 18:18). Nevertheless, the Sage's homily
What is responsible for this?                                                                                               expresses reservations about using lots, even though it perceives
     It would seem that this is nothing more than a single instance of                                                      Eliezer's deed as relying on lots. This homily appears in several sources,
Rabbi Yitzchak's general question, which Rashi uses as the opening to                                                       one of which is Leviticus Rabbah, cited here:[2]
his commentary on the Torah: "Surely the Torah should have started                                                                    Four biblical figures set out with an oath, three of them making
only at the point where we are told, 'This month shall be for you the                                                            requests that were unreasonable, to which G-d responded
beginning of the months...,' for this is the first mitzva which Benei                                                            reasonably, and one making a request that was unreasonable, to
Yisrael were commanded. Why, then, did God start with the whole                                                                  which G-d responded unreasonably. They were: Abraham's servant
story of what took place 'in the beginning?' The reason is that 'He shall                                                        Eliezer, Caleb, Saul and Jephthah. Eliezer made an unreasonable
tell the might of His deeds to His nation.'" This means that we have to                                                          request, as it is said, "Let the maiden to whom I say, ..." (Gen.
know what to answer the nations of the world.                                                                                    24:14). The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him, "If it had been a
     The Ramban holds that Rabbi Yitzchak's question is meant to                                                                 maid-servant, or a gentile, or a harlot who had come out, would you
achieve more than simply providing a reason for the story of Bereishit.                                                          have said, 'Let her be the one whom You have decreed for Your
In his opinion, the principle that "the deeds of the fathers foreshadow                                                          servant Isaac'?" What did the Holy One, blessed be He, do? He
[those of] the children" does not mean that anything which happened                                                              caused Rebecca to appear... Jephthah made an unreasonable
to the forefathers will happen to their descendants as well. Rather, the                                                         request, and the Holy One, blessed be He, responded
deeds of the forefathers represent guidelines and instruction to their                                                           unreasonably, as it is said: "And Jephthah made the following vow ...
descendants as to what represents proper behavior.                                                                               whatever comes out of the door of my house..." (Judges 11:30-31).
     We find two types of instruction in the Torah. One type is presented                                                        The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him, "If a camel, or a donkey,
in the form of mitzvot, stipulating the various actions which a person                                                           or a dog had come out, would you have offered one of them to Me?!"
must perform or refrain from performing.               The second type is                                                        So the Holy One, blessed be He, paid him back unreasonably,
embodied in the character of those people whose actions, behavior and                                                            causing his daughter to appear, as it is said, "When Jephthah
way of life is meant to guide us. Sometimes the practical example set                                                            arrived at his home in Mizpah, there was his daughter coming out to
by a living character directs and influences us to a much greater extent                                                         meet him..." (Judges 11:34-38).
than the mere codification of that lifestyle in the form of mitzvot.                                                                  This homily points to the similarities between Eliezer and
This is particularly true of the mitzvot pertaining to inter- personal                                                           Jephthah: both decided to choose whoever came towards them first.
relationships, where it is often difficult to lay down precise and accurate                                                      Indeed, even the words used by Scripture are similar. With regard to
guidelines. The Torah does not leave it entirely up to the individual's                                                          Eliezer it is written, "behold, Rebecca came out" (Gen. 24:15), and
discretion to decide how to behave towards others, but at the same                                                               with regard to Jephthah, "behold, his daughter came out" (Jud.
time we are also not given a complete list of specific instructions                                                              11:34). According to this approach, presumably the maidens did not
regarding every situation which might arise during the course of our                                                             all come out to draw water together, rather one by one, each in her
lives.                                                                                                                           turn, and Eliezer decided to bet on the one who would come out first.
     The study of a real, live character, in all its detail, including all his                                                   Divine Providence guided events in such a way that his wager
behavior (in every situation, and in moments of crisis and change) as                                                            succeeded, and Rebecca appeared first.
well as the impression and influence which he leaves on those around                                                             The homily criticizes Eliezer for taking this chance by placing him on
him, provides one with a complete picture which he can strive to                                                            a par with Jephthah. The lesson the homily wishes to teach is that even
emulate.                                                                                                                    a righteous person like Abraham's servant Eliezer must not "force" the
     When faced with the temptation of sin, Yosef - who obviously was                                                       Holy One, blessed be He, to do his will. This is the trend in the writings
well-versed in the prohibitions pertaining to sexual immorality - suddenly                                                  of the Sages who likewise believed in Divine Providence but flatly
saw before him the image of his father who appeared to him and                                                              rejected relying on signs and omens that go beyond nature or common
inspired him - and therefore desisted from sin. Rav (one of the Sages                                                       sense. Hence they said, "Dreams neither add nor detract (Gittin 52a),
of the gemara) or Rebbi (according to a different view) said of himself                                                     and "One should not heed divine voices" (Berakhot 52a). Likewise, there
that he was sharper than his colleagues thanks to his continual sense                                                       is the famous case of Honi the circle-drawer, who as it were "compelled"
Rabbi Meir standing behind him. (Eiruvin 13b)                                                                               the Holy One, blessed be He, to bring rain, so that Simeon ben Shetah
     This sensing - even only in the realm of the imagination - of                                                          sent him a message, "Were you not Honi, I would have you ostracized"
personalities of high spiritual stature has the power to guide a person's                                                   (Ta'anit 23a).
lifestyle and influence his everyday actions.                                                                                    Eliezer's actions are explicitly defined as divination in a passage of
                                                                                                       the Talmud combining halakhic deliberations and homily (Hullin 95b).
                                                                                                                            There we read in the name of Rav: "Any divination [Hebrew nahash,
In Memory of Rabbi Abraham Leibtag [http://www.virtual.co.il/torah/tanach]
                                                                                                                            prohibited by Torah law] which is not like that of Abraham's servant
text                                                                                                                        Eliezer or that of Saul's son Jonathan, is not divination." The plain sense
                                                                                                       of this statement is that Eliezer's behavior constituted the type of
                                                                                                                            divination forbidden by the Torah. Moreover, it exemplifies the type of
9 BAR ILAN UNIVERSITY                                                                                                       divination which is proscribed: when a person sets himself an omen and
A project of Bar-Ilan University's Faculty of Jewish Studies, Paul and Helene hulman Basic Jewish Studies Center, and the
Office of the Campus Rabbi. Sponsored by Dr. Ruth Borchard of the Shoresh Charitable Fund (SCF). Published with
                                                                                                                            vows to guide his actions according to that omen.
assistance of the President's Fund for    Torah and Science.Web Site: http://www.biu.ac.il/JH/Parasha                            However, as opposed to this type of divination, a person may make
A) ELIEZER'S PRAYER BY THE WELL, AS VIEWED                                                                                  an omen of a particular event of his choosing in order to arouse his
BY THE SAGES                                                                                                                hopes of success in an undertaking, or to serve as a sign boding well for
                                                                                                                            the future, provided this hope not be translated into concrete action that
      Amos Hakham Jerusalem                                                                                                 he takes according to the omen. I.e., it is all right to say, "if such and
      The actions of Abraham's servant, known as Eliezer according to
Gen. 15:3, are described in great detail, taking up a considerable part of                                                  such occurs, I take it to mean that I will be successful." This notion is
                                                                                                                            presented by Maimonides in a halakhic ruling in his Mishneh Torah
the narrative about the servant's mission to Aram-Naharaim to bring                                                         (Avodah Zarah 11.4). Rabad takes issue with Maimonides in this regard,
Isaac a wife. The importance of the story can be seen from the fact that
it is retold several times in this week's reading. Indeed, the Sages said,                                                  arguing that according to the latter's view it follows that Abraham's
                                                                                                                            servant Eliezer and Saul's son Jonathan transgressed a severe
"The ordinary conversation of the patriarchs' servants is more pleasing                                                     proscription of the Torah. Clearly this exchange led to various
to the Almighty than the religious teaching of their children; for the story
of Eliezer is recounted twice in the Torah, whereas many important                                                          interpretations and debates among Maimonides' commentators and later
                                                                                                                            posekim. Even the Tosafists, who surely did not know Maimonides'
principles of the Law are only given obliquely."[1]                                                                         stand and Rabad's reservations on it, discuss this question (cf. Hullin).
      Nevertheless, this section reflects one of the typical characteristics
of biblical narrative, namely that the narrator does not describe every                                                     The issue is of utmost importance in understanding the positions taken
                                                                                                                            by the Sages regarding various sorts of divination. This, however, is a
detail of the setting in which the event transpired and especially does not                                                 subject in its own right, exceeding the limits of the present discussion.
dwell explicitly on the inner thoughts of the people whose actions are
being recounted, even when we are told that the person was thinking to                                                      Suffice it to say that, according Talmudic commentators, when Rav
                                                                                                                            referred to divination by Saul's son Jonathan he had in mind the story in
himself.                                                                                                                    First Samuel 14:9-10, although in our humble opinion it would be more
      Thus, the narrative at hand tells us of Eliezer's prayer as he stood by
the well, Eliezer himself saying that this prayer was uttered in his heart:                                                 appropriate to refer to the omen of the arrows, in First Samuel 20:20-22,
                                                                                                                            but this is not the place for further discussion of the matter.
"I had scarcely finished praying in my heart" (24:45). Yet these words,                                                     NOTES:
uttered in his heart, do not make clear Eliezer's primary intent, but need                                                  [1] Genesis Rabbah, 50.8, cited in Rashi's commentary on Gen. 24:42. [2] Margaliyot ed., p. 854. Other references
to be rounded out according to the understanding or imagination of the                                                      and versions are given in the editor's notes there.
person interpreting the biblical text. The main difficulty here is whether                                                  B) ABRAHAM'S DEALINGS WITH THE SONS OF
Eliezer meant to use a rational approach to find an appropriate wife for                                                    HETH
Isaac; did he intend to give the maidens who came to the well to draw                                                       Prof. Ze'ev Safrai Land of Israel Studies
water a character test and then select the maiden who scored highest?                                                            The story of the purchase of the Cave of Machpelah which opens
Many commentators take such a view, as Nehama Leibowitz sums up                                                             our parashah raises certain difficulties. An entire chapter is devoted
definitively (Studies in Bereshit[Genesis], p. 225): "To sum up: the                                                        to the commercial "give-and-take" between Abraham and the sons of
servant applied a character test and for this purpose sampled her                                                           Heth, with much repetition and long-windedness-- no less than three
kindness and generosity. It was only fitting therefore that his [Abraham's]                                                 rounds of negotiations are recorded in the text. By the same token,
future daughter-in-law was singled out for display of his very quality                                                      this is clearly a significant story which demands close scrutiny into
which has distinguished the behavior of the Jewish household                                                                the intentions of Scripture.
throughout the ages."                                                                                                            According to the Sages the cave of Machpelah is one of three
      Quite the opposite approach can be seen in the homilies of the                                                        places purchased by our ancestors so that the gentiles could not
Sages. They viewed Eliezer's behavior as a wager based on                                                                   claim we had stolen them. It is not crystal-clear that this argument
supernatural forces, what the Sages called nihush or divination. Eliezer                                                    convinces the gentiles, and perhaps we need to re-convince
prayed to G-d to grant him success in this wager by having the woman                                                        ourselves of our claim to the land via this story. A careful explanation
destined for Isaac appear by divine Providence. Such an approach                                                            of the story will deal with the problems we raised above and will
accords with the general spirit of biblical times, as reflected in the                                                      contribute to the history of the settlement of the Land of Israel.
proverb, "Lots are cast into the lap; the decision depends on the
      First, we must clarify some terminology: Biblical law distinguishes          C) ON LIFE AND DEATH
between two types of land: sdeh ahuzah -- a "field of possession,"                 Prof. Dov Schwartz Department of Philisophy
and sdeh mikneh -- a field which has been purchased. The laws of                        Our parashah concludes with the description of the death of
the jubilee year (shmitta) and the laws of assessment (arachin)                    Abraham. The death of a person is a situation from which most
depend on this distinction. The laws of the jubilee year state that a              people recoil and are repelled. The final moments of a person's life,
sdeh ahuzah, a field possessed in perpetuity, returns to its owners in             the agony of death, are portrayed in dark and sombre colors in
the jubilee year. "According to the number of years after the jubilee              literature, poetry and art. In contrast, however, to the social and
thou shalt buy (tikneh) of thy neighbour... According to the multitude             cultural convention Abraham's death is presented in our parashah in
of the years thou shalt increase the price (miknato) thereof... (Lev.              peace and tranquillity; one might even say, in festive language: "Then
25:15-16). In contrast, "In this year of jubilee ye shall return every             Abraham expired and died at a good ripe age, old and full of years
man unto his possession" (ahuzato) (v. 13). Thus, sdeh ahuzah is                   and was gathered to his people" (Genesis 25:8). Is this appropriate?
that which a person possessed for many generations. Such a field                        The sages of the midrash were aware of this difficulty and some
may be sold for a specified period of time, during which it is called a            of them chose the simple, obvious answer: righteous people are
purchased field, sdeh mikneh.                                                      certain of their life in the World to Come and its rewards: "The Holy
      This distinction also appears in the laws concerning assessment:             One blessed be He shows them [=the righteous] while they are still in
"If a man shall sanctify unto the Lord part of the field of his                    this world what will be the reward that will be given to them in the
possession (ahuzato)..." (Lev. 27:16), "and if he sanctify unto the                world to come, and their souls are satisfied and they sleep" (Bereshit
Lord a field which he hath bought (miknato), which is not of the field             Rabbah, parashah 62, Theodor - Albeck Edition, pp. 670-671). Their
of his possession (ahuzato)..." (v. 22). The prophet Ezekiel also uses             assurance of eternal reward brings a sense of tranquillity at the time
the same terminology (Ezek. 46:16-17).                                             of death.
      Now let us look at the negotiations between Abraham and the                       Apparently, however, there were other midrashic sages who
sons of Heth: Sarah has died, and Abraham seeks to bury her. He                    knew that the righteous do not always die with a smile on their faces.
turns to the elders of Hebron, requesting them, "Give me a                         They therefore muted the motif of satisfaction and fullness in dying by
possession of a burying-place-- ahuzat-kever" (Gen. 23:4). Though                  saying: "The pious men of old used to suffer ten and sometimes
the immediate reason is that he needs to bury Sarah, he uses the                   twenty days from diseases of the intestines to teach us that disease
opportunity to request a possession, a field that would henceforth                 cleanses" (ibid.). In other words, righteous and pious people are not
become his inheritance for all generations.                                        only accepting of death, but also accept with joy a life of suffering and
      The sons of Heth are willing to enable Abraham to bury his dearly            affliction. Happiness in death is a direct result of a life of self-restraint
departed as an act of charity, without giving him rights to the land: "In          and abstinence; in other words, death is the pinnacle, the peak of
the choice of our sepulchers bury thy dead [note the use of the                    man's ascent to perfection. In this way we should understand the
singular]; none of us shall withhold from thee his sepulcher, but that             midrash.
thou mayest bury thy dead" (v. 6). The sepulcher would still belong to             Does Judaism encourage self affliction and asceticism? Does not the
its owner. It would be as if Abraham were part of the owner's family or            Halachah encourage one to participate fully in society and family life
affiliated to the family, but he would have no future rights to the land.          ? It seems that in the history of Jewish thought two approaches co-
The next time he had to bury someone, negotiations would begin all                 existed side by side. The one saw social and family life in a positive
over again. A polite way of refusing, but a refusal all the same. At               light, the other had reservations about them, accepting them only
best the sons of Heth are offering Abraham the status of affiliate with            when absolutely necessary, as if by compulsion.
an established family, or of a subject without rights to the land.                 Let us examine the components of these two approaches:
      Abraham does not give up and pretends not to have understood.                1) The "positive" approach is characterized by the following factors:
He requests to buy a specific plot, the field of Ephron, saying, "for the a)            adopting of the "golden mean" in ethics and morality. The
full price let him give it to me in the midst of you for a possession of           extremes are negative and the proper road is that thin middle line
a burying-place" (v. 9). In his second request, Abraham tries to use               which runs through the center, equidistant from the undesirable
his money to persuade the sons of Heth. Ephron, however, reiterates                poles. Some philosophers tried to catalogue all moral
the stand previously taken. He is willing to have Sarah buried in his              characteristics and qualities in an attempt to define the "golden
sepulcher. He is even willing to go somewhat further: "The field give I            mean" for each of them. For example, courage defines the middle
thee, and the cave that is therein, I give it thee, ... give I it thee..." (v.     way between cowardice and a lack of initiative on the one hand and
11). Thus Ephron offers a gift, something whose status is far inferior             recklessness and unnecessary risk on the other. The golden mean
to that of a purchased field (sdeh mikneh).                                        negates exaggeration in the direction of self affliction, an isolated
      Abraham must make a partial concession. He no longer asks for                existence, and extreme abstinence.
the field as a possession, but is willing to settle for a purchased field. b)           viewing the social framework as a positive value in forming the
He offers a (rather high) price and buys the field. What is the legal              spiritual and practical aspects of the individual.
status of the Cave of Machpelah? Scripture states explicitly, "So the c)                recognizing the importance of the family unit and thereby
field of Ephron became purchased (lemikneh) by Abraham as                          granting legitimacy to sexual relations within limits (e.g. - the
witnessed by the sons of Heth" (vv. 17-18). Thus the negotiations                  prohibitions concerning forbidden sexual relationships [arayot] and
conclude with a compromise. Abraham does not receive the field as a                the laws of ritual impurity [niddah]. This approach is elucidated in
possession, but does obtain rights to the field through purchase.                  Maimonides' introduction to the Ethics of the Fathers (Pirkei Avot),
      Now we understand why Abraham addressed the tribal elders,                   the Eight Chapters (Shmonah Perakim).
and not Ephron directly. The right of possession over a field is not a             2) The ascetic approach demands of man that he draw the full
matter of private purchase and requires the consent of the entire                  conclusion demanded by the commandment to love G-d and to cling
tribe. Moreover, Sarah's death was not sudden. She was, after all,                 to Him. Accordingly, man must channel all his efforts and energies
127 years old, and Abraham was no youngster himself. Why had he                    toward that one goal and devote himself to it entirely. Any distraction
not seen to a burial place for himself ahead of time? In that era much             diverts Man from his perfection and purpose. Seen in this light, the
of the highlands was unclaimed territory, and not far from Hebron lay              family framework and social life vex the man who seeks truth and the
expanses of desert; so Abraham could easily have found himself a                   ultimate level of perfection. The man of perfection must shun the life
rocky field with no owner. It appears, however, that he had been                   of the community and isolate himself in order to cleave to G-d. Such
awaiting the opportunity to purchase a plot and obtain the status of               an ascetic ethos contains a description of the conflict between the
landowner.                                                                         material world and the spiritual, with a condemnation of the material
      In so doing he took a great risk. What would have happened if                dimension; a presentation of the isolated life as an ideal; finally, it
the sons of Heth had flatly refused? The negotiations concluded                    expresses the aspiration to cut oneself off completely from the
without Abraham achieving all he wished. He had sacrificed that                    material world. As an example of this approach Maimonides,
which was dearest to him of all, yet even Sarah's death did not afford             portrayed sexual activity as shameful (Guide to the perplexed 2,36;
him the opportunity to acquire a field as an inherited possession but              3,8).
only as purchased land.                                                                 Thus, an internal tension exists in Jewish sources between the
      History, however, is long, and failure may be temporary. The                 approach which affirms a balanced life and the ascetic approach
Torah states in summary that the "field and the cave that is therein               which negates participating in the material sphere. Maimonides'
were made sure unto Abraham for a possession of a burying-place                    approach is an example of the reflection of this tension in Jewish
(la-ahuzat kever) by the children of Heth" (v. 20). Ostensibly this                philosophical sources. One solution given for this tension is as
contradicts the earlier statement that the field was only purchased by             follows: in the early stages of Man's development he must adapt to
Abraham (vv. 17-18). This point, however, can be clarified by viewing              societal life, but in the higher stages, when Man attains final
verse 20 as a summary of the transactions from a later, historical                 perfection (as in prophecy, or in state of mystical communion with G-
perspective. For all their endeavors, the sons of Heth did not                     d ) he lives in isolation and asceticism. In our generation there were
succeed; ultimately the Jews established an iron-clad claim to the                 those who tried to apply this approach, such as Rabbi David Cohen
field and the cave -- a possession in perpetuity in every respect.                 (who was called the Nazirite Rabbi). Nevertheless the attitude in the
      Clearly the sons of Heth were not familiar with the laws of the              sources towards self-denial and the image of "the lonely man of faith"
jubilee year. Nevertheless, the distinction between ownership by                   teach us that no religious Jew can escape the dualism which
heredity verses ownership by purchase was apparently                               characterize the life of any religious person: on the one hand,
commonplace in Canaan. The Halakhah, in the laws of the jubilee                    involvement in commonplace, worldly activity and on the other,
year, gave this distinction legal significance in Jewish practice. To put          withdrawal and total commitment to G-d which brings about a sense
it differently, Canaanite practice recognized fields held in                       of joy even during suffering and the realization that death leads to the
possession, i.e., fields owned by one's ancestors, and purchased                   ultimate communion with G-d.
fields, meaning fields whose ownership only recently passed from                        The authors of the midrash proposed another solution to the
hand to hand. The laws of the jubilee year in the Bible used terms                 above tension. Man must fulfill all the social and family obligations in
reflecting accepted social and legal practice, but gave the concepts               his public life; however, in his hidden, innermost aspirations he is to
new and elevated content. According to Biblical law, a field                       be an ascetic, separated from society and totally devoted to the
possessed by one person can never become another person's                          spiritual life. If we return to the Scriptural account of the death of
hereditary possession, and a purchased field can never become a                    Abraham, we will find that the Torah linked his life and his death
field owned in perpetuity. In Canaanite law, however, it appears that              together. The verse preceding the description of his death presents
on rare occasions such transfer was indeed possible. Thus Abraham                  his life in brief: "And these are the days of the years of the life of
took advantage of a legal and social loophole to acquire the Cave of                      Abraham which he lived, one hundred and seventy five years"
Machpelah in perpetuity.                                                       1          (Genesis 25:7). The author of the midrash wanted to teach us
that the "joyful" and "happy" death of Abraham was the appropriate               mother of the news that a stranger has arrived. The parents of the girl
conclusion to a way of life. So a righteous person who dies of                   invite the traveler to dinner and there the details of the engagement
suffering ("diseases of the intestines") experiences a kind of                   and the marriage are agreed upon with him. Similar patterns appear
purification and cleansing; gladly he goes toward his departure from             in the meeting of Jacob and Rachel (Gen. 29: 1-20) and Moses and
this life. This is the appropriate conclusion to a life of asceticsism and       the daughters of Jethro (Exodus 2:15-21). The account in Genesis 24
withdrawal.                                                                      is atypical in several points: the groom, Isaac, is not present but
     And yet, we must keep in mind that among the three patriarchs               represented by his father's agent. In the other accounts the stranger
(Abraham, Isaac and Jacob), Abraham is presented as the most                     assists the girl in watering her sheep, whereas here, it is Rebekah
sociable; the account of his hospitality to strangers provides ample             who draws the water for the servant and his camels. In this way the
proof of this. According to the midrash Abraham, in the deepest                  Torah draws the dominant image of Rebekah in her relationship with
levels of his soul, aspired to absolute separation from the worldly life,        her husband. Finally, only this account offers a detailed description of
despite the fact that in his own everyday activity he affirmed it and            the negotiations between the parties leading up to to the marriage.
was involved in it. The righteous man observes the precept "and you                   A distinction must be made between the gifts given by the
shall choose life" in his public existence, but in his heart he yearns for       servant to Rebekah and her family, and the dowry. A clear separation
complete devotion to G-d. The image of Abraham reflects the inner                between the two is mentioned by Shechem ben Hamor to the family
conflicts and tensions which must beset every religious person                   of Jacob: "Ask of me a large dowry and many gifts and I will provide
already from the dawn of Biblical history.                                       it" (Gen. 34:12). The gifts, as opposed to the dowry, were given to the
D) MARITAL CUSTOMS AS REFLECTED IN THE                                           girl and her family for having accepted the marriage proposal. This
ACCOUNT OF THE MARRIAGE OF ISAAC AND                                             custom was commonplace in Aram Naharaim. If the parents of the
                                                                                 girl broke off the engagement, they were obliged to return double
REBEKAH                                                                          what they received, to the groom.
Dr. David Elgavish Department of Bible                                           Rebekah was given her maidservants (24:61); they would be
     The story of the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah (Gen. 24) is a               considered her private property after her marriage, as well. Laban
rich Biblical source for studying marriage practices and customs in              also gave his own daughters their maidservants (Gen. 29: 24-29).
the ancient world. The story begins with Abraham's instructions to his           This practice is hinted at in Psalms 45:15. We also know that
servant to bring a wife for his son. We might have expected that                 Pharaoh gave the city of Gezer as a wedding gift to his daughter
Abraham himself, would journey to Aram Naharaim to bring a wife for              when she married Solomon ( I Kings 9:16), and Caleb gave his
Isaac, but the Torah opens with the statement: "And Abraham was                  daughter a portion of land (Josh. 15:18-19), though the latter gift was
old, advanced in age" (24:1). Abraham's advanced age is, on the one              given after the marriage. It is possible that these sources are proof
hand, a pressing reason for his concern about the marriage of his son            that a dowry was provided by the family of the bride. Attention should
in order to continue the family line; at the same time, his age prevents         be paid to the fact that in all except the last example the givers are
him from going abroad and he therefore sends his servant.                        gentiles and it is possible that this kind of dowry was not customary in
     The servant is also aware that his mission is unusual and                   ancient Israel. In Babylonian law, on the other hand, the father of the
therefore he asks his master: "Perhaps the woman will not be willing             bride gave his young daughter certain properties which were hers by
to follow me to this land, should I then return your son to the land             law and whose fruit her husband enjoyed during the duration of the
from which you did come?"(24:5). According to Abarbanel the                      marriage.
question is to be understood as follows: perhaps the woman will want                  Rebekah covered her face with a veil when she first saw Isaac
Isaac himself to go and fetch her from her father's house, and she will          (65). According to the laws of Hammurabi, the use of a veil was
be unwilling to return with a servant of lowly state. In any case, a             symbolic of a free-born woman and its use by female slaves or
study of ancient Near-Eastern documents shows that sending a                     prostitutes was forbidden.[3] Rebekah fell from the camel upon
messenger of this kind was not unknown. We read of kings who sent                seeing Isaac (64). This seems to have been a gesture of honor due
messengers to foreign courts, where princesses were presented to                 to a man of importance. Similarly, Achsah fell before her father Caleb
them for the kings who had sent them. These messengers were also                 (Josh. 15:18), Abigail fell before David (I Samuel 25:23) and Na'aman
empowered "to close the deal" on the basis of their own                          before Gehazi, the servant of the prophet Elisha (II Kings 5:21). Our
judgement[1].                                                                    story concludes by saying that Isaac brought Rebekah to the tent of
     Abraham instructed his servant: "that you will not take a wife for          his mother (67). Aside from the evidence we derive from this about
my son from among the daughters of the Canaanite among whom I                    the fact that they did, indeed, live in tents, this teaches us something
dwell. Rather shall you go to my country and my homeland and take                about patriarchal marriages in which the bride is brought into the
a wife for my son"(24:3-4).Abarbanel asks why did Abraham rule out               house of her husband or that of her father-in-law. The woman will
the daughters of the Canaanites and prefer the daughters of Aram                 now belong to the family of her husband, and her children as well.
Naharaim (Mesopotamia) over them? Did not the Mesopotamians                      There are few exceptions in the Bible to this broad rule.
engage in idolatry as well ? Abarbanel also questions the manner of              [1] Examples may be found in several of the El Amarna letters; see: W.L.Moran, The Amarna Letters,
                                                                                 (Baltimore and London, 1992), Nos. 11, 19, 31.
the oath sworn by the servant. Abraham tells him, "Put, please, your             [2] For an example of the type-scene see: Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative.
hand under my thigh" (24:2). is this not a vulgar form of oath? Rashi            [3] This practice seems to conflict with the verse, "and he thought her to be a prostitute for she covered her
                                                                                 face" (Gen. 38:15), The subject requiers further discussion.
comments that Abraham asked him to swear by the commandment of                   
circumcision; but Abarbanel challenges this interpretation, saying:
"but we do not swear by commandments, just as we do not swear by                 11- RABBI ARI KAHN
a sukkah or by mitzvah of railing (on the roof of a house - ma'akeh)".           email: kahn@aish.edu or Kahnar@ashur.cc.biu.ac.il URL:. http://www.jewishsoftware.com/kahn/index.html
Therefore he explains that Abraham did not want to take a wife for his                                   “THE SERVANT OF AVRAHAM”
son from among the daughters of Canaan because the Canaanites                          The Parsha of Chaye Sara deals with two primary issues: the death
practiced adultery as well as idolatry, whereas in Aram Naharaim                 and subsequent burial of Sara, and the search for a wife for Yitzchak.
they sinned only by idolatry. On the difference between these two,               These sections, especially the latter, are told with painstaking detail. One
the Ran in his sermons commented that while it is possible to uproot             is immediately struck by the relative lack of brevity in this section,
false opinions it is much more difficult to fight the addiction to carnal        particularly when one bears in mind the terseness of many sections of
appetites. Abraham asked his servant to swear by the circumcision to             the Torah.
remind him what made the family of Abraham unique among all the                        One may posit that the first section, the acquisition of a burial plot for
other inhabitants of the land in which they lived. Abraham's command             Sarah, is stressed due to its monumental importance: This is the first
to his servant was also a testament to his descendants to hold fast to           step toward the conquest of the entire Land of Israel. We recall the
the land and not to leave it, while at the same time he enjoined them            words of Rashi on the very first verse in the Torah: Rashi questioned the
to keep apart from its inhabitants and not to intermarry with them.              propriety of the Torah beginning with narrative rather than law, and
     The marriage of Isaac to a daughter of his father's family is a             explained that the Torah thus teaches an important principle. The Land
form of marriage within the family which was common in ancient                   of Israel belongs to G-d, as does the entire earth, and therefore G-d
times. Girls married members of their family or tribes in order to               alone chooses who will possess and inhabit this Holy Land. Thus, when
remain in the family framework and to maintain the tribal connection,            Avraham legally takes possession of the Land, or at least the first
which served to safeguard the rights of inheritance as described in              foothold, the Torah should certainly recount the events in detail. After all,
the account of the daughters of Zelophchad (Numbers 36, 6-7).                    if all of Bereishit serves to establish and clarify ownership of the land, no
     Normally, parents arranged the marriage of their sons and                   details should be spared in the description of Avraham’s inaugural
daughters. In the case in question, Abraham was unable to go to                  acquisition in Israel, the purchase of the cave of Machpela.(1)
Haran himself so he sent his servant. The servant arranged the                         While this certainly provides a theological basis for the first part of
marriage agreement with the brother of the bride-to-be. In the same              the Parsha, we are still mystified regarding the long, drawn-out
way Judah took a wife for his son (Gen. 38,6) and Hagar took a wife              description of the search for a bride for Yitzchak. Here the Midrash notes
for her son (ibid., 21:21). It is true that the Torah says, "let us call the     the problem and suggests:
girl and ask her opinion" (24: 57), but Rebekah was not asked if she                        "And he gave straw and provender for the camels." (24, 32). R.
agreed to the marriage itself but only "will you go with this man?"                    Aha said: The mere conversation of the slaves of the Patriarchs’
(24:53), which means - would she agree to go with the servant or                       household is more important than the laws [Torah] of the
prefer to wait for his master to come and get her. According to                        (Patriarch's) descendants. This chapter dealing with Eliezer covers
Alsheich, when Laban saw that Rebekah had been given jewels while                      two or three columns, and [his conversation] is not only recorded but
her family were given only gifts of fruit (24:53-54) he began to regret                repeated. Whereas [the uncleanness of] a reptile is an integral part
the agreement and asked her "will you go with this man ?", "this man"                  of the Torah, and yet it is only from an extending particle in Scripture
implies contempt and disapproval; Laban hoped that she would                           that we learn that its blood defiles as its flesh. "…and water to wash
refuse. He attempted to delay Rebekah's departure in order to                          his feet " (ib.). R. Aha said: The washing of the feet of the slaves of
receive additional gifts or perhaps to cheat the servant. Comparison                   the houses of the Patriarchs is more important than the laws of their
to other ancient sources from Mesopotamia teaches that her consent                     descendants, so that even the washing of their feet must be
was asked by Laban because her father was no longer living and her                     recorded, whereas [the uncleanness of] a reptile is an integral part of
brother had authority over her.                                                        the Torah, and yet it is only from an extending particle in Scripture
     The description of the meeting at the well reflects a stereotypical               that we learn that its blood defiles as its flesh. (Midrash Rabbah -
scene in the Bible to describe such occasions[2]. The scene is built                   Bereishit 60:8)
upon the following components: the groom (or the agent) travels to a                   The Midrash observes that the amount of text dedicated to the
foreign land, there he meets a girl (or girls) by a well and assists her         servant of Avraham is disproportional. This is a relative statement, which
in watering her sheep. Afterwards the girl runs to inform her                           is especially poignant when we compare it with sections of law or
ritual. One could have argued that the objective of the Torah, ostensibly,            himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and defeated
is to teach law, and not to tell, nor certainly to repeat stories. Therefore          them, and pursued them to Hovah, which is to the left of
the Midrash declares that the amount of text dedicated to the topic is                Damascus.(14:14)
indicative of its relative importance. “The mere conversation of the                  The Talmud understands that there were only two people fighting:
slaves of the Patriarchs’ household is more important than the laws              Avraham and Eliezer.
[Torah] of their descendants.”                                                             Three hundred and eighteen: R. Ammi b. Abba said: Eliezer
      The story of the servant of Avraham is difficult. While the narrative is        outweighed them all. Others say, It was Eliezer, for this is the
detailed and repetitive, certain salient details are missing. For example             numerical value of his name. (Talmud Nedarim 32a)
the name of the “servant” is not mentioned at all in the text.                        There are various attempts in tradition to identify Eliezer with other
            And Avraham said to the oldest servant of his house, who ruled       famous personalities. One tradition tells us that he was none other Og,
      over all that he had, 'Put, I beg you, your hand under my thigh. And I     King of Bashan.(3) The historicity of such an identification is difficult, and
      will make you swear by the Lord, the G-d of heaven, and the God of         compounded by the fact that Eliezer is a positive character, which can
      the earth, that you shall not take a wife for my son of the daughters      not be said of Og. We may conclude that Eliezer was “head and
      of the Canaanites among whom I live. But you shall go to my                shoulders” above others; only in relationship to Avraham (and Yitzchak)
      country, and to my family, and take a wife for my son Yitzchak.'           was he subservient.
      (24:2-4)                                                                        Returning to the Midrash, we are told of the great value of the
      It is left to the Midrash and commentaries to make the identification:     conversation of Avraham’s servant. It even takes precedence when
the servant is Avraham’s trusted companion, the man whom Avraham                 compared to the Torah laws that will be given to Avraham’s
had imagined would perhaps one day be his heir, Eliezer.                         descendents. This comparison between narrative and legal sections of
            And Avram said, 'Lord G-d, what will you give me, seeing I go        the Torah may also be distilled from the Midrash which relates to the first
      childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus?'       episode recorded in our Parsha:
      And Avram said, 'Behold, to me you have given no seed; and, one at                   "…unto Avraham for a possession, in the presence of the
      home in my house is my heir.' And, behold, the word of the Lord                 children of Het' (23,17). R. Leazar said: How much ink has been
      came to him, saying, 'This shall not be your heir; but he who shall             spilled and how many quills have been broken in order to write "the
      come forth from your own bowels shall be your heir.' (15:2,3)                   children of Het," which is actually written ten times! These ten
      Based on logic, or perhaps tradition, the servant here in Chaye Sara            correspond to the Ten Commandments, teaching that if one assists
(chapter 24) is identified with the servant mentioned in Lech Lecha                   a righteous man in his purchase, it is as though he fulfilled the Ten
(chapter 15). Nonetheless it seems strange that he is not identified by               Commandments. (Midrash Rabbah - Bereishit 60:3)
name here in the section where he assumes the center of the stage.                    There is a relationship between “incidental” occurrences in
Perhaps we have answered our own question: Eliezer viewed himself as             Avraham’s life and Torah; even his servant’s dialogue contains
a dedicated servant of his master, and he was aware that his role was            incredible worth.
ancillary. He was not “Eliezer”, he was the “Servant of Avraham”, and                 The value of Eliezer's words seem to be called into question by the
hence: “The mere conversation of the slaves of the Patriarchs’                   Midrashic analysis:
household is more important than the laws [Torah] of their descendants.”                   "Behold, I stand by the fountain of water, etc.... so let it come to
      One apparent problem with this approach is that the appellation                 pass, that the damsel to be chosen shall be she to whom I shall say:
“servant” –EVED, is not consistently used in the text:                                'Let down thy pitcher' (24, 3f.) Four asked improperly. Three were
            10. And the servant took ten of his master’s camels,…12. And              granted their request in a fitting manner, and the fourth, in an
      he said, 'O Lord G-d of my master Avraham, I beseech you, send                  unfitting manner. They are: Eliezer, Calev, Shaul, and Yiftah. Eliezer
      me good speed this day, and show kindness to my master                          (said): 'So let it come to pass, that the damsel'--Even a bondmaid!
      Avraham…'18. And she said, 'Drink, my lord;' and she hurried, and               Yet G-d prepared Rivka for him and granted his request in a fitting
      let down her water jar upon her hand, and gave him drink… 21. And               manner. (Midrash Rabbah - Bereishit 58:8)
      the man, wondering at her, held his peace, to see whether the Lord              We are told that the mode of Eliezer's request was inappropriate; he
      had made his journey successful or not. 22. And it came to pass, as        "put G-d on the spot" with seeming irreverence. Perhaps in Eliezer's
      the camels finished drinking, that the man took a golden ear ring of       “irreverence” we discern his greatness. What was the source of Eliezer's
      half a shekel weight, and two bracelets for her hands of ten shekels       confidence that G-d would truly answer his request? The answer is
      weight of gold….26. And the man bowed down his head, and                   obvious, and stated: Avraham.
      worshipped the Lord. 27. And he said, 'Blessed be the Lord G-d of                    And he said, 'O Lord, G-d of my master Avraham, I beseech
      my master Avraham, who has not left my master destitute of his                  you, send me good speed this day, and show kindness to my master
      mercy and his truth; As for me, the Lord has guided me in the way to            Avraham.' (24:12)
      the house of my master’s brothers…'29. And Rivka had a brother,                 Eliezer’s eyes saw Avraham on a daily basis, we can only imagine
      and his name was Lavan; and Lavan ran out to the man, to the               the sight he had the good fortune to behold. The spiritual stratosphere of
      well.30. And it came to pass, when he saw the ear ring and                 Avraham, and indeed all the Avot, eludes our imagination. Eliezer saw
      bracelets upon his sister’s hands, and when he heard the words of          the majestic holiness of his master, and he was content in serving
      Rivka his sister, saying, 'Thus spoke the man to me;' that he came to      Avraham.
      the man; and, behold, he stood by the camels at the well…32. And                     "Who is among you that fears the Lord’ alludes to Eliezer; "Who
      the man came into the house; and he ungirded his camels, and gave               hears the voice of his servant," for he was Avraham's servant. "Who
      straw and provender for the camels, and water to wash his feet, and             walked in darkness" when he went to fetch Rivka. "And has no light":
      the feet of the men who were with him. 34. And he said, 'I am                   who, then, gave him light? The Holy One, blessed be He, illumined
      Avraham’s servant. …'52. And it came to pass, that, when                        his path with meteors and lightning. ‘"Let him trust in the name of the
      Avraham’s servant heard their words, he worshipped the Lord,                    Lord, and stay on his G-d": thus it is written, "And he said: o Lord,
      bowing to the earth. 53. And the servant brought forth jewels of                the G-d of my master Avraham, send me, I pray thee, good speed
      silver, and jewels of gold, and garments, and gave them to Rivka; he            this day. (Midrash Rabbah - Bereishit 60:1)
      gave also to her brother and to her mother precious things…58. And                   It is written, 'A servant that deals wisely shall have rule over a
      they called Rivka, and said to her, 'Will you go with this man? '... 59.        son that puts (his father) to shame, etc.' (Prov. XVII, 2). 'A servant
      And they sent Rivka their sister, and her nurse away, and Avraham’s             that deals wisely ' alludes to Eliezer. And wherein lay his wisdom?
      servant, and his men…61. And Rivka arose, and her maids, and                    He argued thus: 'My curse lies upon me from aforetime: (4) perhaps
      they rode upon the camels, and followed the man; and the servant                an Ethiopian or a Barbar will come and enslave me; then it is better
      took Rivka, and went his way…64. And Rivka lifted up her eyes, and              that I be enslaved in this house than elsewhere. (Midrash Rabbah -
      when she saw Yitzchak, she lighted off the camel. 65. For she had               Bereishit 60:2)
      said to the servant, 'What man is this who walks in the field to meet           He saw the wonders and knew of the miracles. Eliezer had no doubt
      us?' And the servant said, 'It is my master'; therefore she took a veil,   of his master's holiness, and merit.
      and covered herself.                                                            While Eliezer's request of G-d at the well was posed in an
      Who is this person-- a servant or a man? (2) Evidently his identity        inappropriate way, the actual wording compounds the problem:
poses challenges which are conveniently avoided when we simply call                        And he made his camels kneel down outside the city by a well of
him Eliezer. Apparently, depending upon perspective and the role being                water at the time of the evening, the time that women go out to draw
fulfilled in any particular verse, the identity of this person shifts from            water. And he said, 'O Lord, G-d of my master Avraham, I beseech
servant to man and back to servant. The details which would otherwise                 you, send me good speed this day, and show kindness to my master
have been glossed over, but are pointed up by this shifting identification,           Avraham. (24:11,12)
contain information which help us penetrate this story.                               He arrives just before sunset, yet asks G-d to 'work things out'
      This “man”, Eliezer, sees himself as servant of Avraham (and               before the day is done. This shows Eliezer's incredible trust in G-d. What
Yitzchak). The locals see him as a “man”. Verse 61 is therefore of note          was the source of this trust? He was a servant of Avraham. He had seen
because it uses both terms, making the subtle shift in identity clear: “And      Avraham. His words contain more Torah, more belief, than the words
Rivka arose, and her maids, and they rode upon the camels, and                   transmitted at Sinai.
followed the man; and the servant took Rivka, and went his way…”. She                 The Sages credit our Forefathers with having kept all the precepts of
followed the “man” while the servant took her on the journey to meet his         the Torah. Whether this is meant in a literal sense or a spiritual sense is
master. Yet even for Rivka, he ceases to be the “man” when she                   the subject of debate. Among chassidic (5) sources such as Izbitch, and
beholds Yitzchak. Then she speaks to the servant: “For she had said to           Berditchev there is an understanding that Avraham did not literally fulfill
the servant: 'What man is this who walks in the field to meet us?'               Torah law, but nonetheless fulfilled the Torah in a spiritual sense. His
      Rivka is cognitively aware that Yitzchak, and not Eliezer, is the          actions were such that they indicated a lofty level of spiritual
master of the house, even before ever seeing Yitzchak. Nonetheless,              accomplishment. We would be mistaken today to believe that we,
until she actually sees Yitzchak, Eliezer seems so impressive that he is         through following the Torah, are on a higher spiritual plane than the Avot
called “man”. Only in comparison to Yitzchak does Eliezer pale, his              who were not so commanded. Rather they “fulfilled” the Torah despite
stature reduced to "servant".                                                    not adhering to its literal words.
      To become Avraham's “right hand man”, this servant must have                    G-d looked into the Torah and created the world; Avraham looked
been an extremely impressive individual. As seen above, there was a              into the world and discovered G-d. He did not “need” the
period of time that Avraham had seen him as his heir apparent. Tradition         commandments; he was in touch with the inner message of the Torah.
tells us that Eliezer was an imposing warrior.                                   This concept is highly antinomian, for the seeking individual today may
            And when Avraham heard that his brother was taken captive, he        posit that he does not need the revealed Torah, that he is "in touch" with
      armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred           the soul of the Torah via his own path. Yet this type of individual
      and eighteen, and pursued them to Dan. And he divided                  1          spirituality is only possible prior to Sinai. Once the Torah was given,
the Torah alone now defines and directs spirituality. Individual paths                                               from the time of notification. Later, when Hashem informs Abraham
become impossible.                                                                                                   that Sarah's name has been changed, it is mentioned in terms of
     Just as a person has a body and a soul, so too the Torah. The Body                                              having previously been changed. Since the Covenantal Community
is the commandments and stories. Avraham existed prior to the                                                        required both Abraham and Sarah, it was impossible to change the
revelation of Torah in its current garb. Nonetheless, Avraham kept the                                               name of one without automatically affecting the name of the other.
entire Torah. His servant is that much closer to this authentic Torah; his                                           Sarah's name was changed automatically at the same time
words are therefore superior even to the words of the revealed Torah.                                                Abraham's name was changed. Hashem later simply informs
Therefore, when the Torah expends so much space on the words of this                                                 Abraham that her name has already been changed as well. Hence
servant, we must take notice, for in his words lies truth, incredible trust                                          their names were changed and they were selected together, and only
and faith, and knowledge of G-d. (6) It is for this reason that so much                                              together, to achieve covanantal sanctity.
space was used on these words, "so much ink spilled": These words,                                                         The Torah describes the connection between them in various
which were uttered by a man who knew and learned from Avraham                                                        stories. After Sarah dies, Abraham realizes that with the death of the
himself, are now the words of Torah. These words are permeated by                                                    mother of the Covenantal Community, his mission as father of the
trust in G-d, and indeed there is much to learn from them.                                                           Covenantal Community is drawing to a close. All that is left for him is
NOTES:                                                                                                               to act out the last part and walk of the historical stage, making way
1- The Zohar, however connects at least some of the prolixity with the uniqueness of Sarah:"And Sarah died in        for others to pick up the mantle of father and mother of the
Kiryat-Arba…" R. Abba said: ‘Of Sarah alone among all women do we find recorded the number of her days and
years and the length of her life and the place where she was buried. All this was to show that the like of Sarah was Covenantal Community. Abraham survived Sarah by 38 years. Yet,
not to be found among all the women of the world. You may object that we find a somewhat similar record in
connection with Miriam, of whom it is written, “And Miriam died there, and was buried there” (Num. XX. 1). But the   after the death of Sarah the Torah tells us just 2 stories involving
object there was to show the unworthiness of Israel, for whom water was made to flow forth only through the virtue
of Miriam. Hence Miriam's death was not recorded with such full details as that of Sarah.’ Zohar, Bereishit, Section
                                                                                                                     Abraham [in relation to his role as father of the Covenantal
1, Page 124b. 2- These questions were raised by Rav Mordichai Breuer, in a class I attended in 1980., Over the       Community]. The first is the purchase of the burial plot for Sarah, the
years his questions have remained with me, while his answers have eluded me. 3 -Pirki D'Rebbi Eliezer Chapter 15.    Mearas Hamachpelah, the second is the story of finding a wife for
See Daat Zikanim Ba'aley Tosfot 24:39 4- Due to Eliezer’s identification with Cana'an: Midrash Rabbah - Bereishit
59:9. " Canaan was Eliezer" 5 -See Maor V'Shemesh Rimzey first day of Sukkot, Maor Enayim Yitro. See Parshat         Isaac. Indeed, the latter story is more important in the context of the
Derachim 1. 6- The midrash notes that more could have been stated: AND THE SERVANT TOLD ISAAC ALL THE
THINGS THAT HE HAD DONE (XXIV, 66). R. Eleazar said: There is more general statement in the Torah than               relationship of Rebecca and Isaac as the next generation of the
detailed statement, for had he wished, he could have written two or three columns. The Rabbis said: He disclosed to
him the more welcome incidents [only, e.g.] that the earth had contracted before him. Midrash Rabbah - Genesis
                                                                                                                     Covenantal Community. The Torah says that Isaac brought Rebecca
LX:15                                                                                                                into the tent of his mother, and she filled the gap left by the death of
                                                                                                the mother for of the Covenantal Community. Once again there would
                                                                                                                     be a father and a mother for the Covenantal Community. Abraham
12-        HARAV SOLOVEICHIK ZT"L                                                                                    has now moved off the center stage for the remaining 38 years of his
(sometime in the 1970's)                                                                                             life, as he has entrusted the destiny of the Covenantal Community to
       Insights into the Parsha of Chayei Sarah are ipso facto insights                                              Isaac and Rebecca.
into the covanant community. The Parsha is a biography of the life of                                                      The Torah says that Abraham came to eulogize Sarah and to cry
Sarah and it is a pattern and paradigm for Jewish History as well as                                                 for her. Human nature would dictate that one would cry first and then
the future of Jewish destiny.                                                                                        eulogize. Crying is not mourning, rather it is the spontaneous release
       There were 2 covenants between Hashem and Bnay Yisrael. The                                                   of tension to a (usually destructive) surprise. On the other hand, a
first was the Patriarchal Covenant between Abraham, Isaac and                                                        eulogy is a rational, intellectual performance that requires clarity of
Jacob and Hashem. The second was the Sinaitic Covenant between                                                       mind to evaluate and appraise the loss, and to discover how reality
Hashem and Moshe and (again) between Moshe and Bnay Yisrael,                                                         has changed. Abraham suffered a double loss with the death of
which included the obligation to repeat the covenant before the death                                                Sarah. The first was the loss of his wife and partner, who went
of Moshe and upon entry to Eretz Yisrael. The focus of the Sinaitic                                                  through thick and thin with him and together they met the challenges
covenant is the commitment to keep the 613 Mitzvos. Our                                                              of life. No one understands the bleak loneliness and destructive
commitment to the Sinaitic covenant can be compared to the                                                           nostalgia felt by a surviving mate. Abraham felt that his whole world
contractual obligation through which one can accept upon himself                                                     had been dislocated. The second sense of loss was the uncertainty
indebtedness to another. Similarly, Bnay Yisrael have accepted the                                                   of the fate of the Covenantal Community. Abraham knew the secret
obligation to keep the Mitzvos of Hashem.                                                                            that the covenant was entrusted to both a man and a woman. Now
       The Rav wanted to understand the nature of the Patriarchal                                                    that the mother of the Covenantal Community had died, would
Covenant. On the surface it is an enigmatic covenant, with only one                                                  Hashem trust him to continue? Perhaps he had sinned and was no
commandment contained within it, circumcision. What did this                                                         longer worthy to be the father of the Covenantal Community. The first
covenant accomplish, what does it demand from the Jew and what is                                                    thing that Abraham did was to appraise Sarah's contributions to the
its relevance to us today?                                                                                           growth of the Covenantal Community, and to put in place a plan for
       The Torah mentions the Patriarchal Covenant when it first                                                     how to continue without her. After all, Abraham was not alone in this
mentions the Sinaitic Covenant in Parshas Bechukosai, referring to it                                                loss. As the Rambam writes, that they had brought tens of thousands
as Bris Rishonim. The dual covenant notion is expressed in Mussaf                                                    of followers into the covenant. These people also felt the loss of the
on Rosh Hashonah, as both are mentioned in the Beracha of                                                            mother of their community. First Abraham had to orient himself to the
Zichronos. Apparently the 2 covenants are complementary. The                                                         loss of Sarah in terms of the community. Only afterwards could he
Patriarchal Covenant is the background and pre-requisite for the                                                     break down and cry over his loss as an individual.
establishment of the Sinaitic Covenant . The Sinaitic Covenant                                                             What was Sarah's assigned role within the Covenantal
relates to human deed and performance. It teaches us how to act in                                                   Community? What kind of a person was she? The first (enigmatic)
all situations. The Patriarchal Covenant                                        addresses human                      verse (and Rashi) in the Parsha answers these questions. The
personality and character as a whole, the essence of the I-                                                          repetition of the word Shana after each digit in the number 127 is
awareness, teaching man who he should be. The Sinaitic Covenant                                                      strange, as well as the clause at the end of the verse, Shnay Chayei
teaches man how to act and what to do as a member of the                                                             Sarah. Rashi quotes the Midrash that the reason for the repetition is
Covenantal Community. The Patriarchal Covenant tells the Jew how                                                     to emphasize that when she was 100 she was free of sin as a woman
to feel as a member of the Covenantal Community, and how to                                                          of 20, and as a woman of 20 she was as beautiful as a girl of 7.
experience being a Jew. It is a wonderful experience to be a Jew,                                                    [Parenthetically, the Rav noted 2 questions here. We know that a
unfortunately not everyone knows how to appreciate this experience.                                                  woman is punishable from the age of 12, so why was she compared
       The covenant was reached with 2 people: man and woman. From                                                   to a woman of 20 in terms of purity from sin, which implies that a
the time of creation and their first rendezvous, Hashem addressed                                                    woman of 20 is not liable for her actions. Also, we know that the
Himself to both man and woman. Both were created together, only                                                      prime age of beauty for a woman is not 7, but closer to 20. The Rav
together were they called Adam and endowed with the greatest of                                                      noted that while he does not like to alter texts, he felt that this
gifts, their humanity of Tzelem Elokim. Human reality is a dual one,                                                 Midrash would read better if it was inverted to say that she was as
that at creation transcended the physiological sex differentiation and                                               beautiful at the age of 100 as a woman of 20 and as free from sin as
extended into the metaphysical level. The very statement of creation,                                                a young girl of 7.]
where man and woman were created together and in the image of                                                              What kind of a life did she lead? What was the essence and
Hashem, contradicts the perverse notion that Judaism ascribes an                                                     substance of her personality? The Torah answers these questions by
inferior status to women. At the same time, it also cuts away the false                                              stressing that indeed Sarah was a unique individual. She was a 7
notion that there is no metaphysical distinction between man and                                                     year old innocent child, with the beauty of a 20 year old girl at the age
woman. Man and woman differ existentially, but they do not differ in                                                 of 100. Rashi stresses that even though she was ripe in years (100),
terms of values (axiological existence), as both share the image of                                                  she was still a young vivacious girl. The whole biography of Sarah
God, their humanity. Hashem created a dual existence, man and                                                        can be summed up in these three closing words of the first verse,
woman, as they complement each other. The two existential beings                                                     Shnay Chayei Sarah.
together represent one perfect destiny.                                                                                    The Rav mentioned that he would associate the opening Rashi in
       This complementary nature and single destiny is the basis of the                                              Chayei Sarah with (Lhavdil) the story of Peter Pan. Peter Pan refused
covanant community. We can see this through the relationship of                                                      to grow up and take his place in life. However, Sarah did not suffer
Abraham and Sarah. Both were equal parties to the covenant with                                                      from a stymied, under developed personality. She was a bold, daring
Hashem. Indeed, at times we might be tempted to think that Sarah                                                     and responsible person who, miraculously, did not allow the maturity
was the central figure (see Rashi on the verse telling Abraham to                                                    of the adult in her to squash her inherent enthusiasm of an innocent
listen to the voice of Sarah, that Abraham was on a lower level, in                                                  child. She grew older and wiser with the passage of time, yet in times
terms of prophecy, than Sarah was).                                                                                  of need or crisis the young girl in her came to the fore. Rashi is telling
       The definition of the Covenantal Community as requiring both                                                  us that the three time periods of a member of the Covenantal
Sarah and Abraham, man and woman, is also seen at the end of                                                         Community, childhood, young adulthood and mature older person
Parshas Lech Lecha. Abraham asks that Hashem pass the covenant                                                       can coexist simultaneously; they are not mutually exclusive. The
on to Ishmael, resigning himself to remaining childless with Sarah.                                                  paradoxical confluence of all three in an individual is a sign of
Hashem answers that Sarah, his wife, will bear him a child to be                                                     greatness necessary for leadership in the Covenantal Community.
called Isaac, and this child, the product of both Sarah and Abraham,                                                       There are 4 basic Mitzvos in the life of the Jew. Study of Torah,
will be the recipient of the covenant. Ishmael cannot be the recipient                                               Faith in Hashem, Prayer and the Love of Hashem. One studies Torah
of the covenant, because he represented only one side of the                                                         with his intellect. Not everyone is endowed with the capabilities
Covenantal Community, Abraham, but not Sarah.                                                                        necessary to study Torah. Intellectual endeavors are esoteric in
       Another example is where Hashem appears to Abraham and                                                        nature. The more capable one is, the more time he has for study and
changes his name to indicate he is now the father of all the nations of                                              the pursuit of knowledge and the more knowledge he accumulates. A
the world. Hashem informs him that the change is effective                                                         1        wise person is called a Zaken because intellectual wealth is
usually associated with someone who has devoted much time to                       Both Abraham and Sarah, the founders of the Covenantal
study, which is typically an older person. Maturity is required for the       Community, exhibited maturity and child-like behavior when called
study of Torah. The immature mind cannot grasp the concepts of                upon to do so. The Torah expects a member of the Covenantal
study.                                                                        Community to fight as a young man for his ideals, like Abraham did
     Torah scholarship, indeed scholarship in any field, requires             when called upon to save his nephew. Abraham was at least 75
intellectual curiosity and skepticism. The effective student questions        years old at that time, probably older, yet he acted as a young warrior
everything that the teacher offers him, attempting to refute the lesson       when it was time to fight and went into battle without hesitation. When
in order to achieve a clearer understanding of the topic. The Gemara          Abraham studied the skies of Mesopotamia in search of Hashem he
(Baba Metziah 84a) relates the story that after the passing of Resh           acted as a wise old man. When he prayed, he did so with the
Lakish, the Rabbis sent Rabbi Elazar Ben Pedas to take his place as           complete faith of a young child. And when called upon to fight, he did
the study partner of Rav Yochanan. After a while he was sent back.            so as a young and vigorous man.
Rav Yochanan explained that Resh Lakish would argue with him and                   What is the covenant personality as defined by the patriarchs and
force him to support his positions and opinions. Rabbi Elazar Ben             matriarchs? One trait is the existential dialectic with which he/she is
Pedas would agree with Rav Yochanan and would not challenge him               burdened, having an awareness of greatness as well as
intellectually. Rav Yochanan had no use for a passive study partner.          helplessness, of courage and self doubt. The 3 fold personality that is
Some people become vindictive with old age. However old age that is           so indicative of the Covenantal Community, that of child, youth and
accompanied with a discriminating skepticism is a very important              old person, is expressed in the opening verse of the Parsha, Shnay
quality for the study of Torah.                                               Chayei Sarah, the biography of Sarah. These three traits combined to
     When it comes to prayer, skepticism is an undesirable quality.           form the essence of the covenant personality as exhibited by the
[The Rav noted that the Jewish people discovered prayer, taught the           patriarchs and matriarchs.
world how to pray, and unfortunately many of us have forgotten how                 In addition to the covenant personality, the Patriarchal Covenant
to pray. The Rav emphasized the importance of the Siddur in the life          has also created a concept of covenant historical destiny that is
of the Jew. He related the story of the first Lubavitcher Rebbe, the          distinct from historical experience. The covenant bestowed upon
Baal Hatanya, who as a young boy in White Russia reached the age              Bnay Yisrael a destiny distinct from other historical processes in 2
where he had to choose where to continue his studies. He was                  ways: 1) causal determination and 2) dialectic covenant destiny.
presented with 2 choices. The first, Vilna, was the center and                     The main distinction between universal historical and covenant
pinnacle of Talmudic study. The second was the town of Mezeritch,             dynamics lies in their view of the causality of events. Universal
where the Maggid of Mezeritch concentrated on the study of prayer             historical dynamics is based on the premise that an event in the
and the Siddur. The Baal Hatanya was an accomplished Talmudist                present is caused by an event in the past. Event A begets event B. It
already, but he felt that he knew nothing about the Siddur and how to         is based on a mechanical notion of causality. The covenant event
pray, so he decided to go to Mezeritch.] The adult, with the skeptical        should be placed in a different causal context, that of teleology or
mind does not know how to surrender himself in prayer. He does not            purposiveness. The covenant dynamic is sustained by the covenant
know how to generate the mood of despair, helplessness,                       promise and the drive to attain a goal that temporarily lies outside the
worthlessness necessary for prayer. If a man does not feel himself            reach of the community.
completely dependant on Hashem for his needs, he may not pray.                     Let us examine the relationship between the Jew and Eretz
The closer one comes to Hashem the more he realizes how                       Yisrael. The whole Eretz Yisrael experience, including that of the
insignificant he truly is. The Rambam speaks of man's movement                state and the political pressures that it faces, cannot be explained in
towards Hashem and with the sudden realization of how worthless he            normal historical mechanistic terms. Rather it is a covenant event.
is, that he is someone here today and gone tomorrow, he recoils from          The commitment of the Jew to the land is not based on events that
Hashem. The Rambam refers to this experience as Yiras Hashem.                 happened in the past as much as on a promise of a miraculous future
This experience is the spring well of prayer.                                 when the divine promise will be fulfilled. In covenant history, the
     The sophisticated intellectual cannot pray. Only a child, the naive      future is responsible for the past. Covenant events cannot be
person who is capable of complete faith and trust in Hashem can               explained in terms of normal historical categories. You cannot explain
pray. An infant has unlimited trust in his mother. King David                 in normal psychological terms the commitment of the Jew to Eretz
expresses this concept when he says that he puts his faith in                 Yisrael. It is an irrational yet unconditionally strong commitment
Hashem like the weaned child's faith in his mother. A child                   based on the covenant promise.
instinctively feels protected in the arms of his mother, sensing that              The covenant has created a new concept of destiny. The word
the mother would never allow any harm to come to him and would do             destiny conveys a notion of destination. The historical experience of
anything to make his life more enjoyable. A child has absolute faith in       the Jew is not based on the point of departure, but rather his
his mother because she has never lied to or disappointed him. This            destination towards which he is driving. The destination of the Jew is
same absolute, child-like faith in Hashem is required for prayer. In          the ultimate eschatological redemption of the universe that will occur
theological terms, faith cannot be applied to man. Faith is absolute,         with the coming of Moshiach. The covenant is the force behind this
complete reliance without reservation that he will never be betrayed          destiny.
or disappointed. To have faith in man would contradict the statement               However, historical destiny can also be characterized by another
of King David, Kol Haadam Kozev, all men lie. One can have                    trait, which is the contradiction of our historical experience. There has
confidence in man, but it is blasphemous to have faith in man.                never been a period in history where the Jew lived a completely
     Faith requires of the faithful the willingness from time to time to      covenant existence. From the beginning of our history, Jews have
suspend his judgement, to surrender body and mind to Hashem.                  always lived among non-Jews. Abraham lived among the children of
Faith sometimes requires irrational actions without providing an              Ches, he dealt with them in economic matters. The modern Jew is
explanation for the action. The ability to surrender judgement requires       certainly entangled and integrated into the general society.
the child within to help the intellectual adult surrender himself to God      Consequently we also share the universal historical experience as
and pray.                                                                     well. We have no right to tell society that societal ills like pollution,
     The ability to suspend judgement was required of Abraham at the          famine and disease are problems owned by the rest of society. These
Akeida. Hashem had decreed that it was prohibited to murder                   problems apply to the Covenantal Community as well. The Jew as a
another human being, including the abomination of human sacrifice.            member of humanity, as someone endowed with Tzelem Elokim,
One who commits such an act is punishable with death. Abraham                 must contribute his part to the benefit of mankind, regardless of the
had spent much of his adult life engaging the priests who practiced           terrible treatment accorded him throughout the ages. The patriarchs
human sacrifice in debate, attempting to convince them to stop this           and matriarchs were buried together with Adam and Eve, the parents
horrible practice, a practice that contradicts the very essence of            of all of society, in order to show that there is no gap between the
humanity. Abraham built altars, but he never sacrificed anything on           Jew and the rest of society. There is no contradiction between laws
them, with the exception of the ram on Mount Moriah after the                 based on human dignity of Tzelem Elokim, and laws based on the
Akeida. Suddenly, Hashem commands Abraham to offer a human                    sanctity of the Covenantal Community. The Covenantal Community
sacrifice. In this context, it was not important who he was to sacrifice,     adds additional responsibilities to the Jew beyond those he already
but rather that he was to offer a human sacrifice at all. Abraham             has based on his humanity.
could have protested to Hashem, how could he do the very thing that                The non-Jewish world finds it difficult to understand this duality
he had devoted so much of his energy and time to discredit and                and therefore view us as an enigmatic people. For example, they
prevent! How could he suspend his humanity and offer a human                  view our commitment to Eretz Yisrael as irrational because they do
sacrifice? Abraham never protested to Hashem. He suspended his                not comprehend the nature of the covenantal commitment that is the
judgement and humanity in order to fulfill the will of Hashem.                foundation upon which this attachment is based. The extra
Abraham acted as a child, showing complete faith in Hashem.                   commitment that the Jew has that they do not share or understand
     Hashem does not ask us to make the same leap of faith that He            creates existential tension between the Jew and non-Jew. Abraham
required of Abraham. All we are asked to do is to accept the Torah            described this tension when he instructed Eliezer and Ishmael to sit
and the Mitzvos without trying to rationalize each Mitzvah. We have           here while he and Isaac travel on to another point. The Jew and non-
no right to rationalize the Mitzvos, our obligation is to accept and          Jew have common cause up to the point of Poh, "here". However the
follow, and like Abraham show our complete faith in Hashem. It takes          Jew has an additional commitment beyond that of society. He cannot
a great deal of Chutzpa to rationalize the Mitzvos, to make them fit in       remain "here" as Abraham said. He must go further, to Koh, to fulfill
our view and mood of the minute.                                              his additional covenantal commitment and destiny. This tension is
     The Rambam writes that Abraham deduced that Hashem was the               worth enduring in order to be the maintainers of the destiny and
guiding force behind creation. The Rambam describes Abraham as                legacy of Abraham.
an intellectual giant who overcame the foolishness of the idolaters            
that surrounded him to recognize Hashem. Yet this intellectual giant
was capable of suspending his judgement when he had to faithfully             13- HALACHA (Gross)
                                                                              Selected Halachos Relating To Parshat HaShevua By Rabbi Doniel NeustadtDustributed by The Harbotzas Torah Division
serve Hashem. Abraham was also the first person to pray to                    of Congregation Shomre Shabbos
Hashem, because he was the first who was capable of suspending                DAVENING WAS INSTITUTED BY OUR FATHERS (Berachos 26b)
his intellect to express his complete reliance and child-like faith in        CONFLICT: INDIVIDUAL VS. CONGREGATIONAL CUSTOMS
Hashem. He was able to view himself as dust and ashes when                        Which customs should one follow when davening in a shul where
praying to Hashem. He acted the same way when called to perform               the nusach and customs are different from his own? While many
the Akeida. The Torah teaches us that man must be ready to act as             people are faced with this issue only occasionally, others must
both an adult and child, and to switch between them at a moments              contend with it on a daily basis. Often, the only available [or the most
notice.                                                                   1        accessible] shul is one that davens a different nusach from
one's own. It is difficult and uncomfortable for a person who is                       One who follows the view of the poskim that yire'u eineinu is not
accustomed to daven in a certain way to suddenly daven in a nusach                recited at the nightly Ma'ariv, need not recite it with the congregation
with which he is unfamiliar. In addition, it is a general rule that one           if the people around him will not notice his omission(23).
should not deviate from the customs handed down to him by his                          If the officers and members of a shul do not mind, there is no
parents and grandparents. But the halachah may require one to                     halachic objection to having men who put on tefillin on Chol ha-Moed
daven according to the nusach of the congregation where he finds                  and men who do not, daven in the same shul(24).
himself regardless of personal considerations. Let us, therefore,                 FOOTNOTES:
examine the sources before resolving these conflicting demands.                   1 Devarim 14:1.       2 Rashi, Sukah 44a; Yevamos 13b.        3 Rambam, Avodah Zarah, 12:14.      4 O.C. 493:2.
                                                                                  See Magen Avraham 6 and Pri Megadim for an elaboration.             5 32:33, quoted by Mishnah Berurah 131:6.
     A terse command in Parashas Re'eh(1), Lo sisgodedu, is                               6 Keren Orah, Yavamos 13b [see also Tosfos Rid, ibid.]; Da'as Torah O.C. 493:3. 7       See     Meishiv
                                                                                  Davar 17. 8 See Eishel Avraham O.C. 51; Teshuvos u'Vacharta b'Chayim O.C. 24; Kaf ha-Chayim 661:2
interpreted by the Sages as Lo sa'asu agudos agudos, do not splinter              (concerning different customs in a sukkah). See also Aruch ha-Shulchan 651:22 (concerning different customs
off into separate groups that perform mitzvos and serve Hashem in                 of shaking the lulav).        9 Salmas Chayim 22-23. 10 Pe'as ha-Shulchan 3:14. See also Chayei Adam 32:33
                                                                                  mentioned above. 11 See 31:8; 131:6; 493:16; 624:16; 661:2. 12 See Sha'arei Teshuvah 693:1; Beiur
different, somewhat conflicting ways. The Talmud discusses the                    Halachah 468:4; Igros Moshe O.C. 1:159; E.H. 1:59; Harav S.Z. Auerbach (Yom Tov Sheini K'hilchaso, pg.
nature of this prohibition. Abayei maintains that Lo sisgodedu applies            179). 13 Generally, the halachah is like Rava when he disagrees with Abbaye. The ruling of the Rambam
                                                                                  concerning this issue, however, is unclear and subject to much debate by the later commentators.         14
when two different batei dinim in one city issue conflicting rulings.             Pesachim 51b, and quoted in O.C. 468:4. See Avnei Nezer O.C. 424:7 15 Ma'asei Rav, She'iltos, 90. 16
                                                                                  Igros Moshe O.C. 2:23. This is also the opinion of most poskim with the exception of the Pe'as ha-Shulchan
This makes the one Torah that was received at Sinai appear as if it               who rules that one should always daven according to the nusach of the tzibbur. Harav S.Z. Auerbach writes
were "two Torahs"(2) and causes confusion and discord3. Rava,                     that it is not our practice to do so (Yom Tov Sheini K'hilchaso, pg. 180).      17 Igros Moshe O.C. 2:23. [In
                                                                                  other Responsa, however, Harav Feinstein required that Pesukei d'Zimrah and Birchos Kerias Shema be said
however, does not object to different batei dinim - even in the same              according to the nusach of the tzibbur; see O.C. 2:104.] Harav S.Y. Elyashiv is quoted (Tefillah K'hilchasa, pg.
city - issuing contradictory rulings, since it is within the very nature of       92) as permitting these tefillos to be recited according to one's own nusach. 18 Igros Moshe O.C. 2:23. This
                                                                                  is also the opinion of other poskim, see Meishiv Davar 17 and Minchas Yitzchak 7:1. [In a later ruling (O.C.
the Torah that different rulings will be rendered by different schools of         5:35-5), however, Harav Feinstein writes that this not required.] 19 Igros Moshe O.C 3:89.        20       Igros
                                                                                  Moshe O.C. 4:34. 21 Igros Moshe O.C. 2:29. Other poskim disagree; see Shoel u'Meishiv 3 1-247 and
thought, as Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel did for many years. In Rava's             Sheorim Metzuyanim B'halachah 26:3. Harav S.Y. Elyashiv is quoted (Yom Tov Sheini K'hilchaso, pg. 131;
opinion, the prohibition of Lo sisgodedu is meant to discourage one               Avnei Yashfei 1:14) as ruling like this view. 22 Igros Moshe O.C. 2:94. It is reported, however, that the
                                                                                  Brisker Rav left the shul when the congregation said Hallel (Hagadas Mo'adim u'Zemanim).          23       Igros
beis din from rendering a split decision. For the reasons stated                  Moshe Y.D. 3:96-8. If, however, he generally omits yire'u eineinu only on Motzaei Shabbos, then he must recite
above, the Torah did not want different factions of one beis din to               it along with the tzibbur; ibid.    24 Igros Moshe O.C. 5:24-5.

issue conflicting opinions, giving people a choice of which ruling to             
     We find in halachic literature that Lo sisgodedu applies even to
deviations from mere custom, not only from prohibitions and rulings
of a beis din. Rama(4), for instance, rules that during the Sefirah
mourning period observed between Pesach and Shevous, all
members of a community should follow the same custom and
observe the mourning restrictions during the same time period.
Chayei Adam(5) rules that that in a minyan reciting Tachanun, the
practice of nefilas apayim should be done in a uniform manner, all
using either the right or the left arm. This application of Lo sisgodedu
is hotly debated by the poskim. Many are of the opinion that it does
not apply in these situations at all. They base their reasoning on
some of the following arguments: Lo sisgodedu applies only when a
scholar instructs his followers to deviate from local custom(6); it
applies only to prohibitions, not to mere customs(7); minor
differences, such as different nuschaos, are not significant enough to
invoke Lo sisgodedu(8); it concerns only different actions, not
different words(9). But other poskim take a more stringent approach;
in their view any deviation from the accepted custom, as minor as it
may seem, may constitute Lo sisgodedu(10). While the Mishnah
Berurah does not discuss the particular question of nuschaos, his
rulings on related issues(11) point to a stringent view on this subject.
     In pre-war Europe, Lo sisgodedu was much more of an issue
than it is today. Most communities, especially in the small towns and
villages, had only one Rav and one local custom, and individuals who
practiced their own customs while disregarding local practice may
have possibly transgressed Lo sisgodedu. But nowadays when there
are many shuls and Rabbis in every city each following ancestral
tradition, the situation is similar to the case of two batei dinim in one
city where Lo sisgodedu does not apply(12) [according to Rava's
opinion(13)]. Still, it is possible that within the confines of a single
congregation, e.g., when an individual davens in a nusach which is
different from that of the congregation's, Lo sisgodedu may still apply.
     But even in situations where the Biblical prohibition of Lo
sisgodedu does not apply, we still find(14) an additional exhortation -
this one established by Rabbinical edict - which calls for uniformity
within the same congregation: Le'olam al yeshaneh adam mi-pnei ha-
machlokes - One should never deviate [from local custom] because it
leads to discord. As the Vilna Gaon warned(15): "Differences in
customs lead to differences of the hearts." Practicing different
customs, even minor ones, could lead to strife and discord.
     Harav M. Feinstein was asked numerous times for his opinion on
this matter. For reasons which are not completely clear, he did not
always give the same response. Basically, though, he was unsure if
the Biblical prohibition of Lo sisgodedu applied to the question of
different nuschaos - but the Rabbinical edict against deviating from
local custom was definitely relevant. Usually, he advised that the
local custom be strictly upheld, unless the individual could keep his
practiced undetected by others in the shul. The following is a digest
of the guidelines that Harav Feinstein offered on this subject and its
specific applications [see footnotes for the opinions of some other
     Any part of davening, e.g., Shemoneh Esrei, which is normally
recited in an undertone may be recited in one's own nusach(16).
     Preferably, Pesukei d'Zimrah and Birchos Kerias Shema should
be recited according to the nusach of the minyan, since they are
sometimes recited out loud. If, however, it is difficult for one to
change from his own nusach, they may be recited in one's own
nusach provided that they are said in an undertone(17).
     Kedushah or any other part of davening which requires a minyan
should be recited according to the nusach of the minyan, even if it is
recited in an undertone(18).
     Viduy and the Thirteen Midos should be recited with the
congregation before Tachanun, even if one's own custom is not to do
     One may recite Viduy in an undertone in a shul that does not
recite Viduy, but one may not strike his chest as he usually does.
The Thirteen Midos cannot be recited, since a minyan is required to
recite them(20).
     A sheliach tzibbur must always daven according to the nusach of
the tzibbur, even while reciting his own silent Shemoneh Esrei(21).
     On Pesach night, one should recite Hallel with the tzibbur even if
his custom is not to do so; he may not leave shul to avoid reciting
Hallel. If he can avoid reciting the blessing without it being noticeable
he should do so; otherwise he should recite the blessing as well(22).

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