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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parshas Chayei Sarah

Genesis 24:7.

Hashem, the G-d of heaven, Who took me out of my father's house and from the land of my birth; Who spoke with me and Who swore to me saying: 'To your decedents I will give this land' - He will send His angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son there.


Hashem, the G-d of heaven, Who took me from my father's house: Rashi: And it doesn't say "and the G-d of the earth" whereas above (verse 3) it says "And I will have you swear by [Hashem, G-d of the heavens and G-d of the earth]." He (Abraham) said to him (the servant) 'Now He is the G-d of the heavens and the earth for I have made Him familiar in the people's tongue. But when He took me from my father's house He was [only] the G-d of the heavens but not of the earth, because humanity did not acknowledge Him and His name was not common on earth.


Rashi alerts us to a striking difference in language between verses 3 & 7. In these verses Abraham refers to G-d in two different ways. When he speaks of the G-d who took him out of his father's house, he refers to Him as 'the G-d of the heavens.' But later when he refers to Him in the present, He is called 'the G-d of the heavens and the earth.' It was Abraham's teaching the people of the world ( the earth) of G-d's existence that made the difference. Let us look at the Ramban's explanation for the difference between the two verses. The Ramban offers his interpretation on the first of the two verses, verse 24:3


And I will make you swear by Hashem , the G-d of the heavens and the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of Canaanites among whom I dwell.


The G-d of the heavens and the earth : Ramban: The Holy One, blessed be He, is called the G-d of Eretz Yisrael (earth = land), as it says: 'They did not know the law of the 'G-d of the Land.' (Kings II: 17:26) and it is written 'they spoke of the G-d of Jerusalem as of the gods of the peoples of the earth. (Chronicles II 32:19.) And there is a Sod (secret) here, which I will yet write about, G-d willing. However in verse 7 'Who took me from the house of my father' it does not say the G-d of the earth' the reason is that he was in Haran or Ur Chasdim (but not in Eretz Yisrael). And so [our sages] said: He who dwells in Chutz L'Aretz is as if he has no G-d, as it says: 'For they have driven me away this day from being connected to the inheritance of Hashem saying : Go, worship other gods.'


The Ramban explains the difference between the two verses as stemming from the fact that Hashem is called the G-d of the Land (not the earth) meaning the G-d of the Land of Israel. The Ramban says that Hashem is the G-d of Eretz Yisrael and less so than the G-d of other countries. He means that G-d's connection to the Land of Israel is unique and exclusive and thus the Law of G-d (the Torah) applies mainly and essentially to those Jews living in the Land of Israel. (see Ramban on Genesis 26:5)

The Ramban was an ardent lover of Zion in word and deed. His comment here shows us his view that Hashem's spiritual connection to the People Israel is mainly in the Land of Israel. In Genesis 26:5 the Ramban explains why Rachel dies when Jacob returned to Eretz Yisrael. Jacob married two sisters, which is forbidden in the Torah, but he did that outside the Land. It was tolerated then. But once he came back to Eretz Yisrael, the Land and G-d wouldn't tolerate it and Rachel died. The Ramban often expresses his deep feeling for the spiritual significance of dwelling in the Land of Israel.

The Ramban gave real life expression to his love by his coming to live in the Land towards the end of his life. The land was quite desolate at that time. He found only two Jews living In Jerusalem. He eventually settled in the north, in Acre. He died there in 1270 C.E.

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek

Avigdor Bonchek has published a new book on Rashi called "Rashi: The Magic and the Mystery" published by Gefen. Look for it at Jewish book stores.

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