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Parshas Chayei Sorah -
Vol. 5, Issue 5
Compiled by Oizer Alport
Vayakam Avrohom me’al p’nei meiso vay’dabeir el b’nei Cheis leimor ger v’toshav anochi imachem t’nu li achuzas kever imachem v’ekb’ra meisi mil’fanai (23:3-4)
The Gemora in Bava Basra (15b) relates that the Satan challenged the piety of Iyov and suggested that his commitment to Hashem wasn’t as pure and reliable as that of Avrohom, who didn’t question Hashem’s ways even when confronted with the trial of purchasing a burial plot for his beloved wife Sorah. As the Satan was attempting to demonstrate the extent of Avrohom’s devotion, why didn’t he invoke Avrohom’s steadfastness at the Akeidah, when he demonstrated his willingness to offer his only son to Hashem? What exactly was the trial involved in purchasing Sorah’s burial place, and in what way was it considered a more difficult test than the Akeidah?
Rav Mattisyahu Salomon explains by way of a parable. Imagine if one day the government would enact legislation making it illegal to study Torah more than eight hours daily. All of the leading Torah sages would give rousing speeches and publicize letters calling upon yeshiva students to brazenly and defiantly ignore this diabolical decree, and they in turn would eagerly heed the call. If so, why is it that on a regular basis, there are so many yeshiva students who constantly get distracted and fail to study eight hours daily? The answer is that when a person feels that he is being confronted by a challenge, his adrenaline takes over and he rises to the occasion, but when he doesn’t feel that he is being tested and there is no enemy to fight against, many times his performance leaves much to be desired.
Similarly, it was easy for Avrohom to recognize that he was being tested through the Akeidah. Hashem called to him and explicitly spelled out the trial, making it clear what was being demanded of him. While the difficulty of the test was unfathomable, it was nevertheless obvious that he was being tested, thereby allowing his adrenaline to flow and helping him to rise to the occasion.
On the other hand, purchasing the burial plot from the conniving, money-hungry Ephron – the equivalent of a modern-day used-car salesman – after he had just returned from the emotional rollercoaster of the Akeidah to find his beloved wife dead wasn’t presented to Avrohom as any sort of unique trial. Nevertheless, Avrohom handled it properly, conducting the transaction fairly and calmly in spite of his emotional state, without knowing that he was being tested. There was no knowledge that his actions would be recorded for posterity for all future generations to read about, yet he passed with flying colors through his natural and ingrained fear of Hashem.
In informing Miriam of her error in comparing Moshe to other prophets, Hashem explained (Bamidbar 12:7) that Moshe was different: in My entire house, he is the trusted one. The Rashbam explains that “trusted” means fixed and established always, in all situations of life. A similar expression is used in regards to Avrohom (Nechemia 9:8): And You found his heart trustworthy before You.
Avrohom’s greatness wasn’t proven by his unprecedented accomplishment in passing the trial of the Akeidah. Every person has peaks in his life when he is able to rise to the call of the test, but these moments don’t necessarily accurately reflect his internal level on a daily basis. Avrohom’s greatness was demonstrated by the fact that he passed all of the trials, all of the time, even when he didn’t know that he was being tested.
We can conclude by noting what an appropriate match Sorah was for Avrohom, as Rashi writes (23:1) that the Torah uses the expression “the years of Sorah’s life” to teach that her service of Hashem throughout her entire life was equally good. While it is essential to rise to the difficult tests life may throw our way, it is just as important – and much harder – to pass the more subtle tests of our relationships with Hashem and with other people that we face on a daily basis.
V’Yitzchok ba mi’bo be’er lachai ro’ee v’hu yoshev b’eretz ha’negev (24:62)
The focal point of the parsha is Avrohom’s efforts to send his servant Eliezer as his agent to locate a suitable spouse for his son Yitzchok. After Eliezer has done so, he returns with Rivkah only to find Yitzchok returning from a trip of his own. Rashi explains that after Sorah’s death, Yitzchok went to the town of Hagar to bring her back as a wife for his father Avrohom. Why was Avrohom busy trying to find a wife for Yitzchok while Yitzchok was in turn focused on searching for a wife for Avrohom? Why didn’t each of them seek out his own spouse in line with the Talmudic principle (Bava Metzia 62a) çééê ÷åãîéí – your life and personal needs take precedence to those of others?
The Torah relates (41:50) that Yosef bore two sons before the years of famine began. The Gemora in Taanis (11a) derives from this seemingly extraneous information that it is forbidden to engage in marital relations during a time of famine. How can this be reconciled with the Gemora in Bava Basra (123b) which teaches that Levi’s daughter Yocheved was born just as Yaakov and his family entered Egypt, which occurred two years after the famine began?
The Daas Z’keinim answers by noting that the Gemora in Taanis (11a) rules that a person who hasn’t yet fulfilled his obligation to have children is permitted to have relations even during a time of famine. Levi was therefore permitted to do so, as he had given birth to sons but not to daughters, and the opinion of Beis Hillel (Yevamos 61b) is that a person must have both a son and a daughter in order to fulfill this mitzvah. If so, why wasn’t Yosef also permitted to have relations, as he only had two sons at this point? The Daas Z’keinim explains that Yosef agreed with the opinion of Beis Shammai, who maintain that a person fulfills his obligation by having two sons.
Rav Moshe Wolfson suggests that just as Levi and Yosef argued about whether the law is in accordance with Beis Hillel or Beis Shammai, so too did Avrohom and Yitzchok disagree. Although the law is typically that one’s performance of a mitzvah takes precedence over helping another person do the mitzvah, this is only the case if both people have the same obligation in the mitzvah. If one person has fulfilled the obligation to have children while the other has not, the needs of the latter have priority.
The Gemora in Bava Basra (16b) teaches that in addition to Yitzchok, Avrohom also had a daughter named áëì. Avrohom, whose attribute of serving Hashem through acts of kindness is more compatible with the approach of Beis Hillel, maintained that in accordance with their opinion, he had already fulfilled his obligation to bear children through Yitzchok and his daughter. As a result, finding a marriage partner for Yitzchok was more pressing and received his focus and attention.
Yitzchok, on the other hand, represented the approach of serving Hashem through strength, a philosophy which was better suited for the opinions of Beis Shammai. Yitzchok maintained that because Yishmael wasn’t considered Avrohom’s son (21:12), Avrohom had yet to fulfill the mitzvah of bearing two sons in accordance with the opinion of Beis Shammai. As a result, he felt that his obligation to honor his father by helping him to perform a mitzvah was more important even than fulfilling his own mitzvah, and he consequently focused his energy on seeking out a wife for his father Avrohom!
the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) Why is our parsha known as Chayei Sorah, which means “the life of Sorah” when it begins with her death, and why is a later parsha known as Vayechi, which means “and he (Yaakov) lived” when it discusses Yaakov’s death? (Oznayim L’Torah)
2) Rashi writes (23:1) that at the age of 100, Sorah was just as free of sin as she had been when she turned 20, as the Heavenly Court doesn’t punish a person for his sins until he turns 20. Why isn’t Sorah included in the list (Shabbos 55b) of those who committed no sins in their entire lives and died solely because of the punishment of death decreed upon all mankind (3:19) as a result of Adam’s sin of eating from the tree of knowledge? (M’rafsin Igri)
3) Rashi writes (23:1) that the Torah uses the expression “the years of Sorah’s life” to teach that her entire life was equally good. The Torah uses the same expression when relating the death of Yishmael (25:17) – “the years of Yishmael’s life.” As he spent a large portion of his life involved in terrible sins (see Rashi 21:9), how is this to be understood, as his entire life was clearly not equally good? (Daas Z’keinim)
4) Rashi writes (24:17) that Eliezer saw that the water in the well miraculously rose to greet Rivkah as she approached. Why did he proceed with his original plan to test her willingness to offer him and his camels water to drink after he already recognized her tremendous piety as demonstrated by her ability to perform miracles? (Nesivos Rabboseinu 24:66, Darkei HaShleimus)
5) Which three people resembled Avrohom? (Rashi 13:8, 25:19, Bereishis Rabbah 60:7)
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