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Parshas Chayei Sorah - Vol. 11, Issue 5
Compiled by Oizer Alport

 

Vayih'yu chayei Sorah meah shana v'esrim shana v'sheva shanim sh'nei chayei Sorah (23:1)

The Torah relates that Sorah died at the age of 127. Rashi notes that the Torah mentions "years" after each component of her age ("100 years and 20 years and 7 years") to teach that each of these units of her life had a unique significance. At the age of 100, Sorah was just as free of sin as she had been at 20, as the Heavenly Court doesn't punish a person for his sins until he turns 20, and she was as beautiful at the age of 20 as she had been at the age of seven. Both of these comparisons are difficult to understand. Although a person doesn't receive punishment, his transgressions are still considered sins. How can Rashi write that a person who turns 20 is free of all sins? Further, since a woman is typically expected to be prettier at 20 than she was at seven, in what way is the latter comparison complimentary to Sorah?

The Brisker Rov answers that the Gemora in Yevamos (64b) teaches that Sorah was an aylonis - a woman who is unable to have children. Such a woman never develops the physical signs of adulthood. The Gemora in Yevamos (80a) rules that when a woman turns 20 without becoming physically mature, she is declared an aylonis and legally considered an adult from that time onward. Therefore, although sins which are committed before a person turns 20 are indeed considered sins even if they aren't punishable at that time by the Heavenly Court, the transgressions of Sorah were not considered sins, as she was legally considered a minor until she turned 20.

Similarly, the Gemora in Yevamos (80b) lists the signs commonly associated with an aylonis, all of which are features traditionally viewed as unattractive. The Gemora in Sanhedrin (69b) teaches that women in these early generations were able to give birth as young as 8. As this was the age at which their bodies began to develop and mature, this was also the age at which an aylonis began to exhibit signs of unattractiveness. Although most women are expected to be prettier at 20 than they were at 7, Sorah became a full-fledged aylonis at age 20, so Rashi notes that she was nevertheless just as beautiful as she had been at age 7 before her condition began to develop.

Ach im atah lu shema'eini nasati kesef ha'sadeh kach mimeni v'ekb'ra es meisi shama (23:13)

Parshas Chayei Sorah begins with the death of Sorah. After Avrohom eulogizes her and mourns her loss, he then proceeds to obtain a burial plot for her. The Mishnah in Kiddushin (2a) teaches that one of the three methods through with a woman can be betrothed is by giving her money. The Gemora derives this from the shared use of the word kach - acquire - in the Torah's discussion of marriage and in Avrohom's purchase of the burial plot. Just as the phrase kach mimeni - take the money from me - that Avrohom said to Ephron refers to acquiring an item through the transfer of money, so too the mitzvah of marriage, which is described as (Devorim 24:1) ki yikach ish isha - when a man takes a woman - can also be effected by giving money to the woman. Why does the Torah specifically use the narrative of Avrohom's efforts to acquire a burial plot for Sorah to teach us a law governing marriage, and what lesson is it intended to teach us?

Rabbi Chaim Zvi Senter beautifully suggests that this was done intentionally in order to teach us the proper outlook on marriage, and on relationships in general. Even though Sorah was no longer alive and was incapable of ever giving him Avrohom any additional benefits or pleasure, he was still willing to spend an exorbitant amount of money in order to secure an appropriate final resting place for his beloved wife. Avrohom's willingness to do so demonstrates that his relationship with Sorah was not motivated by the pursuit of his own pleasure and happiness, but rather on how he could give to his wife and help her. In deriving one of the laws defining the conception of a marriage from this episode, the Torah is teaching us the proper outlook on marriage, namely that the very essence of the relationship is intended to be one that is focused on giving to and sharing with one's spouse, rather than a selfish focus on fulfilling one's own desires. Entering into marriage, or any other relationship, with this Torah perspective is a proven recipe for improving our middos and enriching our bonds with others.

V'haya hana'ara asher omer eileha hate na kadech v'eshteh v'amra sh'sei v'gam gemalecha ashkeh osah hochachta l'avdecha l'Yitzchok u'ba eida ki asisa chesed im adoni (24:14)

Eliezer established a litmus test to determine whether a potential match was the proper spouse for Yitzchok. The test revolved around her dedication to kindness, which would be evidenced by her willingness to give not only Eliezer but also his camels water to drink. Although a generous nature is certainly an important quality to seek in a prospective spouse, why was Eliezer willing to rely on this component without additionally testing her belief in Hashem, wisdom, and values?

Rav Meir Rubman answers based on a Mishnah in Avos (2:13), which relates that Rebbi Yochanan ben Zakkai instructed his students to seek out the path in life which a person should choose. Rebbi Eliezer said the possession of a good eye. Rebbi Yehoshua answered to acquire a good friend. Rebbi Yossi suggested finding a good neighbor. Rebbi Shimon opined to see the consequences of one's actions. Rebbi Elozar posited the possession of a good heart. Rebbi Yochanan ben Zakkai responded that the final suggestion (a good heart) is the best one, as it includes all of the other characteristics. The Bartenura explains that this is because the heart is the origin of all of a person's actions.

Eliezer carefully designed his test to measure the potential match's love of assisting others. He understood that the amount of water needed to feed him and his ten thirsty camels was tremendous. A young girl who was asked by a healthy man to draw so much water for him would typically respond by questioning why he couldn't do so himself. If a girl instead jumped at the opportunity, such as Rivkah who ran to bring the water (24:20), it could only be due to her generous heart. Once Rivkah passed this test with flying colors, Eliezer knew with confidence - as the Mishnah teaches - that she possessed all of the other necessary qualities, and there was no need to test them.

The Gemora in Taanis (24a) teaches that if one sees a prospective bride whose eyes are pretty, he needn't examine her appearance further. The Kli Yakar (24:14) is astonished by this statement. Firstly, he notes that it isn't true. There are many women with pretty eyes who are nevertheless unattractive. Secondly, why does the Gemora advocate the selection of a spouse based on her physical appearance when Shlomo HaMelech writes (Mishlei 31:30) that charm is false and beauty is vain?

The Kli Yakar explains that the Gemora isn't referring to a physical examination of the woman's eyes, but is suggesting that one test to see whether she possesses an ayin tova - a giving eye - as the most important feature of a woman is her generous spirit. The Gemora advises that once this has been established, no further checking is necessary, just as we learn from Eliezer.

Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1) Why didn't Yitzchok eulogize his mother Sorah, as the Torah records (23:2) only that Avrohom did so? (Targum Yonason ben Uziel 22:19, Rabbeinu Bechaye, Paneiach Raza, Mishmeres Ariel)

2) Rashi writes (23:2) that the death of Sorah is juxtaposed to the binding of Yitzchok in order to teach that the shock and fear from hearing that her son was almost slaughtered was the cause of her death. The Targum Yonason ben Uziel (22:20) adds that she heard this information from the Satan. How was the Satan able to kill Sorah when his job is to entice people to sin, but not to kill them? (Kehillas Yitzchok)

3) Avrohom paid 400 silver shekels to Ephron for the purchase of the burial plot for Sorah (23:14). Was this its actual value, and if not, was it worth more or less? (Targum Onkelos, Peninim MiShulchan HaGra, Chasam Sofer, Birkas Peretz)

4) After the match between Yitzchok and Rivkah was agreed upon, Rivkah's mother and brother Lavan escorted Eliezer and Rivkah, and they blessed her that her descendants should number many millions (24:60). Why did the wicked Lavan bless his sister that her offspring should be so numerous when they would presumably reflect her righteousness and the piety of her husband Yitzchok? (Yalkut HaGershuni, Torah L'Daas Vol. 1)



 
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