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Parshas Chayei Sorah - Vol. 10, Issue 5
Compiled by Oizer Alport
Parshas Chayei Sorah begins by recording, "Sorah's lifetime was 127 years, the years of Sorah's life," which seems redundant. If Sorah lived 127 years, isn't it clear that these were the years of her life? What is the seemingly superfluous expression at the end of the verse coming to teach us?
Rav Avrohom Yaakov Pam notes that Rashi writes (23:2) that the death of Sorah is juxtaposed to the Akeidah (the binding of Yitzchok, which is recorded at the end of Parshas Vayeira) to teach that the shock and fear that she experienced upon hearing that her son was almost slaughtered was the cause of her death. Realizing this, somebody might mistakenly assume that if not for this tragic turn of events, Sorah would have enjoyed many more years, or even decades, of her long and productive life. In order to counter this erroneous conclusion, the Torah emphasizes that these were the years of life that Sorah was allotted, and if not for this episode, she would have died in some other manner at the exact same time.
Rav Pam often used this message to comfort those grieving the loss of loved ones. Many times it seems that if they would have only tried a different medical treatment or if a certain accident could have been averted, their dead relative would still be alive, leaving the mourners feeling very guilty. Painful as the loss is, Rav Pam used the lesson of Parshas Chayei Sorah to teach that each person is given his own uniquely allotted lifespan, and nothing we think we could have done differently would have been able to prevent this person's death, from one cause or another.
Adoni shema'eini eretz arbo me'os shekel Kesef beini u'veincha mah hee v'es meischa kevor (23:15)
Parshas Chayei Sorah begins with Avrohom's negotiations with the children of Cheis and Ephron to purchase a burial plot for Sorah. In recording Avrohom's discussions with them, the Torah mentions the concept of burying the dead six times (see 23:4, 23:6 twice, 23:8, 23:11, and 23:13), and in each case, the word referring to burial is mentioned before the word referring to the dead body. However, the final time this topic is discussed (23:15), the word connoting the dead precedes the word for burial: "Bury your dead." Why was it necessary to repeat this expression so many times, and what is the reason for the apparent inconsistency?
The Gemora (Berachos 18a-b) teaches that the righteous are considered alive even after they pass away, while the wicked are considered dead even while they are still physically alive. The Gemora in Shabbos (152b) questions how the statement that the righteous do not die can be reconciled with the curse given to all mankind (Bereishis 3:19), "For you are dust, and to dust shall you return." The Gemora answers that just prior to the Resurrection of the Dead, the righteous will finally die and return to dust, and they will then be immediately brought back to life.
In light of this Gemora, the Vilna Gaon brilliantly explains that the Torah repeatedly mentions the concept of burying the dead to allude to the six righteous individuals who would be buried in Ma'aras HaMachpeila: Avrohom, Sorah, Yitzchok, Rivka, Yaakov, and Leah. In each of the first six instances, the Torah mentions the word burial before the word "dead" because even when the pious Avos and Imahos were buried, they were still considered alive. They will only die just before the Resurrection of the Dead, in which case it is chronologically accurate to refer to them as being buried and only afterward dying.
The final reference to the burial of the dead, in which the order is reversed and the word "dead" precedes the word "bury" hints to the seventh person who would be buried in the cave: Eisav, whose head was cut off by Chushim ben Dan and buried there (Sotah 13a). Because Eisav was wicked, he was considered dead long before he was buried, even while he was still alive, and therefore the order of the words that hint to him is reversed.
The Ostrovtzer Rebbe adds that Eisav is specifically alluded to in the verse in which Ephron demands 400 shekels from Avrohom for the burial plot, as the first six people who were buried there were considered alive, and he therefore could not charge Avrohom for their burial. Only Eisav, who was truly dead, needed to be buried there, so Ephron hinted to him to justify the price he was charging Avrohom.
Parshas Chayei Sorah begins with the death of Sorah, and Avrohom's efforts to purchase a burial plot for her. Even though Avrohom acquired the land by paying 400 silver shekels to Ephron, the transaction still seems to contain an element of deception. The Zohar HaKadosh (Vol. 1 128a) makes clear that Avrohom knew that the property he was purchasing was also the burial place of Adam and Chava, which increased its value immensely, while Ephron was unaware of this fact and therefore agreed to sell it for far less than its true worth. How could the righteous Avrohom take advantage of Ephron by withholding this critical information from him?
The Shem MiShmuel explains this episode based on a fascinating halachic ruling quoted by the Hagahos Ashri (Bava Metzia 2:9), who records that a Jew once purchased lead from a non-Jew in order to cover his roof. After buying it, the Jew changed his mind and decided not to use it, and instead he sold it to another Jew. The second Jew discovered that in reality, it wasn't lead, but silver covered with a thin layer of lead, in which case it was worth far more than the price he paid for it. What is the law in this case? Is the second Jew obligated to pay the first Jew for the full value of the silver?
The Hagahos Ashri quotes Rav Eliezer of Metz, known for his work Sefer Yereim, as ruling that in this case, the first Jew was unaware of the true value of his purchase and never intended to acquire the silver. Because he believed that he was buying lead, he never acquired the silver, and since it did not belong to him, the second Jew was permitted to keep it and was not obligated to pay for its additional value, and he adds that Rabbeinu Tam agreed with this ruling.
The Shem MiShmuel uses this ruling to explain Avrohom's conduct with Ephron. Ephron viewed his property as an ordinary field with a cave, and he was completely oblivious to its true spiritual value. Therefore, all he owned was a field with a cave, which was worth 400 shekels, and as such, there was no deception involved in the transaction, in which Avrohom paid Ephron the fair value for what he owned.
Rav Gedaliah Schorr extends Rav Eliezer of Metz's ruling to Torah study. The Mishnah in Pirkei Avos (6:2) teaches that any person who engages in Torah study becomes elevated as a result of the numerous spiritual qualities that the Torah imbues in a person. However, in light of Rav Eliezer's opinion that if a person doesn't recognize an object's true value, he never takes possession of it, Rav Schorr explains that a person who studies Torah for years but does not truly appreciate its holiness and greatness will not merit acquiring its virtues, just as the person who thought he was buying lead did not acquire the silver, and just like Ephron was unaware of the spiritual elements of his property and did not own them. Rav Eliezer's principle teaches us that the elevation and spiritual growth that a person merits through his own Torah study is directly proportional to the greatness that he ascribes to the Torah.
The Shem MiShmuel's justification for Avrohom's conduct is expressed by the Zohar HaKadosh (Vol. 1 127b), which records that Avrohom was chasing one of his cattle and followed it into a cave to which it fled. When Avrohom entered the cave, he saw a tremendous light, but Ephron never noticed anything unusual, and to him the cave appeared enshrouded in darkness. The Zohar explains that this is because objects are only revealed to their true owners.
Rav Elimlech Reznik of Yeshivas Mir in Yerushalayim derives a practical lesson from this concept.. He explains that sometimes a person experiences an epiphany in recognizing a certain project that should be undertaken. Based on Chazal's teaching that objects are only revealed to their true owners, the person must understand that this insight was specifically revealed to him as an indication that this is part of his responsibility and unique mission, and if he passes up the opportunity, he is missing out on an essential part of his life's work.
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Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) Parshas Chayei Sorah begins (23:2) with Avrohom coming to bury Sorah and eulogize her after her death, but it omits the content of his speech. What was the text of the eulogy that Avrohom said about Sorah? (Medrash Tanchuma 4, Darkei HaShleimus)
2) Why did Avrohom need to make Eliezer swear (24:2-4) not to take a wife for Yitzchok from the Canaanites instead of simply commanding Yitzchok not to marry a Canaanite woman? (Meshech Chochmah, Ayeles HaShachar)
3) Just prior to the return of Rivkah with Eliezer, Yitzchok went out to the field to pray (24:63). How was he permitted to do so when the Gemora rules (Berachos 34b) that one should not pray in an open field because only through praying in a private, enclosed location will one be able to fear Hashem and pray with proper intent? (Tosefos Berachos 34b; Beis Yosef, Bach, Taz, Magen Avrohom, Levush and Kaf HaChaim Orach Chaim 90)
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