Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 6 No. 5

Parshas Chayei Soroh

The Path of Life

"The path of life leads upwards for the wise man, in order that he turns away from the deep pit" Mishlei (15:24).

Shlomoh is informing us here that the wise man, who realises that this world is a world of loss, where everything deteriorates, knows that the path of life leads upwards, towards the world of spirituality - the wold of eternity. That is why he removes himself from the desires of this world, and declines to make an issue of them, which is what Shlomoh meant when he continued "in order to avoid falling into the deep pit".


This is comparable to someone who goes to live temporarily in a certain town. Do you think that, knowing that he will soon move on to his destination, he will buy fields and vineyards, and then go on to furnish his house with luxurious trappings?

Similarly, the wise man, who knows that his destination is heavenwards, does not make an issue of his material needs. He concerns himself only with his basic needs, and no more, and to those things that play a role in the service of G-d, and which are therefore indispensible. Because he knows that the World to Come is an everlasting one, whereas this world is only casual.

And because this world is one of vanity and superficiality, and it is not befitting to make it his main objective, but rather the fear of G-d, Shlomoh began his Book of Koheles 'Vanity of vanities' ... and concluded it with 'the fear of G-d'.


Alternatively, the 'lamed' in 'le'maskil' (the wise man mentioned in the opening posuk) is superfluous and the posuk is speaking directly to the wise man: 'Know, wise man' Shlomoh is warning him 'that you have a road that leads to the heavens. If you want to go in that direction then keep away from the pleasures of this world, which lead in the opposite one!' (see Parshah Pearls "Gee Thanks").

The reason that Shlomoh refers to a path as 'orach' rather than the more common 'derech', is because it is from the same root as 'orei'ach' - guest, and a person in this world is no more than a guest staying at a hotel, who knows that on the next day, he is due to depart for home. He longs to return home and to be reunited with his family. The wise man realises that his home is not here and that his homeward journey leads upwards. His soul longs to return to its source, which is also the source of life, which is why it is called 'chayah'.

Indeed, the soul is called 'chayah', say the philosophers, because its life is intrinsic, and its death, (the result of sin) unnatural; whereas the body dies intrinsically and lives unnaturally (since it only lives due to its combination with the soul, and not by its own force).

And that explains why Shlomoh ha'Melech wrote in Koheles (7:1) "... and the day of his death (is better) than the day that he was born". Because the day that a person dies has two advantages over the day of his birth:

1. As regards the World to Come: because the Soul cannot reach the utopian lifestyle of that world, which is its due, until the body dies;

2. As regards this world; because the righteousness of a person and the good deeds that he performed only become publicised on the day that he dies.

When a person is born, who knows what he will achieve by way of Torah and mitzvos in this world? But on the day that he dies, everyone gets to know of his good deeds and of the righteous acts that he performed in his life-time. And so our sages say about Soroh Imeinu; as long as Soroh was alive a light burned from erev Shabbos to erev Shabbos, a blessing constantly pervaded the dough and a cloud hovered over her tent. But who was to know whether these things occurred due to her merits or to those of Avrohom Ovinu? When she died however, and they ceased to function, everybody knew on whose merit they had occurred!


Parshah Pearls
(Chayei Soroh)
The Blessed and the Cursed ...

When Avrohom sent Eliezer on his mission to find a wife for Yitzchok, he told him to place his hand under his thigh and swear that he would carry out his mission faithfully.

Why under his thigh?

'Because someone who swears needs to hold an object of mitzvah, such as a Seifer - Torah or Tefillin - and the Milah was the first mitzvah that he was commanded, and it came to him through pain; so it was dear to him' - Rashi.


... Just Don't Go Together

The Kli Yokor adds another dimension: it is through the bris milah, he says, that a person becomes immunised against immorality. Now why did Avrohom make Eliezer swear that he would not take a wife for Yitzchok from the daughters of the Cana'anites among whom he lived? It was because the sons of Chom were cursed. And why were they cursed, if not because they were immoral - as demonstrated by Chom's conduct when he came across his father lying naked in his tent, when according to some opinions, he raped him and according to others, he castrated him. For that his descendants were cursed; and Yitzchok, the first person to be circumcised on the eighth day, was blessed. And it is impossible, Avrohom was telling Eliezer, to arrange a shiduch between someone who is blessed and someone who is cursed.

What more powerful way was there of conveying this message than by instructing Eliezer to take his Milah in his hand whilst swearing (Kli Yokor).


Perhaps using the Kli Yokor's idea, we can add a dimension to his explanation. Rashi comments later in the parshah (24:39) that Eliezer had initially hoped that Yitzchok would marry his daughter, until Avrohom pointed out that the curse of Chom (from whom Eliezer descended) and the blessing of Yitzchok, do not go well together.

In that case, by instructing him to take his Milah, Avrohom was conveying this very concept, making it clear to Eliezer why it was that Yitzchok was blessed, and that it was therefore not fitting that someone on whom the curse of Chom had taken full effect (even if he was circumcised) to take Yitzchok for his daughter. It was not just the Cana'anites that Avrohom was precluding from intermarrying into his family when he made Eliezer swear, but Eliezer himself.


Keturah alias Hogor

The expression "va'yosef Avrohom" (25:1) serves as a proof that Avrohom did not just marry Keturah, but re-marry her. In that case, she must have been none other than Hogor, daughter of Par'oh, whom he had already married before and divorced.

The Da'as Zekeinim asks how it was possible for Avrohom Ovinu to marry Keturah, or even Hogor for that matter, since the Torah forbids marrying a first or second generation Egyptian.


He suggests that Avrohom was a convert, and a convert is permitted to marry an Egyptian. Alternatively, he quotes a Medrash which maintains that Avrohom was obeying a Divine command when he married Hogor - both times.


The Kli Yokor asks, firstly, why the Torah changes her name here from Hogor to Keturah (see Sifsei Chachomim); and secondly, that Rashi (who explains that her deeds were beautiful like the ketores) appears to contradict what he himself wrote in Parshas Vayeiro (21:14); namely, that Hogor returned to the idolatrous ways that she had learned in her father's house?

To answer these questions, he first proves that, not only did Hogor revert to her idolatrous practices, but that the reason that Avrohom sent her away was because she had already reverted to idolatry before that.

If so, the question is even more blatant: On what grounds did Avrohom take her back? It can only be because she did teshuvah, which explains why she was now called Keturah - since ba'alei teshuva's deeds are compared to the ketores, and for very good reason: the Kli Yokor explains how all the deeds of a genuine ba'al teshuvah (even the evil ones) combine as merits, just like all the ingredients of the Ketores, even the poisonous and unpleasant chelbenoh combine to produce a beautiful aroma.


Gee Thanks, But I'm Not Going that Way!

In the main article, we spoke of the importance of following the road that leads to one's destination. This is reminiscent of the Chofetz Chayim's parable (to explain why he was not using his writing talents, writing novels): A traveller was once trudging along the road from Lodz to Minsk, when a wagon going to Lodz pulled up alongside. 'Hop in,' said the driver, 'you'll find it more comfortable by far than walking, and besides, why should you shlep that heavy bag, when my horses can do the job just as well?'

'Thank you so much,' replied the traveller. 'It really is most kind of you. There's nothing I'd like more than a comfortable trip to my destination. There's only one problem: what's the point of enjoying a comfortable trip to Lodz when my destination is not Lodz - I’m heading for Minsk!'

History of the World

(part 46)

(Adapted from the Seder Ha'doros)


Some maintain that Plato the Greek philosopher lives in Egypt at the same time as Yirmiyoh. At first he derides him, but eventually he comes to realise that Yirmiyoh's words are the words of G-d and that he is a wise man and a true prophet.


Some say that Yirmiyoh returns some of the ten tribes from exile, and King Yoshiyah rules over them.


In the eighteenth year of his reign, Yoshiyoh repairs the Beis ha'Mikdosh, two hundred and eighteen years after King Yeho'osh last did the same thing. Yirmiyoh prophesies in the market-places, Tz'fanyah in the Shuls and in the Botei-Medrash - both to the men whilst Chuldoh prophesies to the women.

It is on the express instructions of Yirmiyoh that Yoshiyoh hides the Oron ha'Kodesh, together with the Luchos, the jar of Mon, Aharon's staff and many holy ornaments deep in a cave in the vaults of the Beis ha'Mikdosh.

King Yoshiyoh sends messengers to Chuldah, the prophetess, (in spite of the fact that Yirmiyoh is there, because women tend to be softer than men, and he is hoping for a less harsh prophecy). Yirmiyoh however, does not take umbrage, because she is his relation - both are descendans of Yehoshua bin Nun. Others say that he is out of the country, bringing back the ten tribes (see year 3302).


King Yoshiyoh dies. His 23 year old son, Yeho'ochoz, succeeds him, but he only reigns for three months. He is annointed with the annointing oil - even though this is not generally necessary by the son of the previous king - only because he has an older brother, Elyokim, who is twenty-five, though he is unfit to reign.

Chilkiyoh is the Cohen Godol and Yirmiyoh the prophet. Yeho'ochoz is taken captive to Egypt by Par'oh the Lame, and he dies there. Par'oh the Lame places Elyokim the son of Yoshiyoh on the throne of Yehudah, and changes his name to Yehoyokim. Yirmiyoh and Uriyoh prophesy at the beginning of his reign, and some say, also Boruch ben Neriyoh. Azaryah is the Cohen Godol. Yehoyokim kills Uriyoh by the sword.

The prophet Yechezkel is exiled to Bovel, where he spends five years in jail. He is thirty when he writes his book. He is murdered by his fellow-Jews and is buried in Bovel at the age of fifty-eight.


Nevuchadnetzar the Second ascends the throne of Bovel in the fourth year of Yehoyokim's reign. He captures and destroys Ninveh. He will rule for forty-five years. Yehoyokim is told about Yirmiyoh's book Eichoh. When he sees the possuk "Its enemies have become its leaders," he takes it, cuts out all the names of G-d, and tosses it into the fire.


Nevuchadnetzar captures Yerusholayim and exiles Yehoyokim to Bovel, where he serves him for three years. He also sends into exile many thousands of Torah-scholars.


Yehoyokim rebels.


Nevuchadnetzar recaptures him. He dies on the way to captivity, and his body is left unburied. Many years later, Rebbi P'reida finds his skull, and following a number of unsuccessful attempts to bury it, he reverently wraps it in silks. His wife, led to believe that it is the skull of his former wife, whom he is unable to forget, throws it into the oven.

Nevuchadnetzar places Yehoyochin Yehoyokim’s son on the throne of Yehudah in his stead.

Yehoyochin (alias Yechonyoh) rules for only three months when Nevuchadnetzar sends him too, into exile, together with 18,000 men from Yehudah and Binyomin to Bovel. This is the fifth exile that Yisroel has endured. Among the captives is Yehoyochin's uncle, Tzidkiyohu, son of King Yoshiyohu. Nevuchadnetzar however, allows him to return, and to rule over Yisroel. He will rule for eleven years until the destruction of the Beis ha'Mikdosh.

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