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

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Vol. 8   No. 5

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Parshas Chayei Soroh

Soroh and Yitzchok

"Vayih'yu chayei Soroh" - (And the life of Soroh was a hundred and twenty-seven years). Rabeinu Bachye explains that although Soroh lived for a hundred and twenty-seven years, her real years of living numbered only thirty-seven (the numerical value of "va'yihyu") corresponding to the time that she lived together with her precious son Yitzchok.

A similar idea is expressed in the Or ha'Chayim, who divides the opening posuk of the Parshah into two parts: "And the life of Soroh ("Va'yih'yu chayei" which has connotations of pain) was a hundred years - comprising the first ninety years of her life, when she had no children. (Indeed Chazal derive from a statement made by Rochel Imeinu that a woman without children is considered like dead) and the following ten years, during which Yitzchok was hounded by Yishmoel.

"And twenty-seven years were the years of the life of Soroh" - referring to the years of real living that she spent with her beloved son, free of the physical and spiritual danger that Yishmoel posed until she had him banished from their home.

It is fair to assume therefore, that the bond that existed between Soroh and Yitzchok was a particularly strong one, even more so bearing in mind that she was unable to have children by natural means and that Yitzchok's very birth was a miracle. In view of that bond, comments Rabeinu Bachye, it is particularly difficult to understand why the Torah speaks only of Avrohom burying Soroh, crying for her and eulogizing her. Why did Yitzchok, whose obligation to mourn for his mother was stronger than that of Avrohom, not participate in the mourning?


There are various explanations as to what exactly happened to Yitzchok after the Akeidoh. These are based on the posuk at the end of Vayeiro, which records that Avrohom returned to his servants, implying that Yitzchok did not.

According to Targum Yonoson (22:19), angels whisked him away to the Yeshivah of Shem and Eiver (presumably to protect him from an ayin ho'ra - see Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos). Whereas Rabeinu Bachye explains that Yitzchok simply remained on Har ha'Mori'ah for another three years (worshipping Hashem on the spot where he had just become 'a blemishless burnt-offering), before, aged forty, married Rifkah.


According to both of these explanations, Yitzchok was not living with his parents at the time of his mother's death, which might explain why he was unable to participate in the mourning. Yet the problem remains only partially solved. Firstly, whether he was on Har ha'Mori'ah or in the Yeshivah of Shem and Eiver, neither of which was far from Chevron, where (according to the opinion of Rashi) his parents' home was located, what prevented word of his mother's death from reaching him? And what is perhaps even more puzzling, why did G-d not make a point of informing him of her death, granting him the opportunity of performing this final chesed to a mother with whom, as we explained earlier, he must have been particularly close?

Rabeinu Bachye therefore explains that the information was deliberately withheld from him by Divine design, because Soroh died on account of the Akeidoh, as is well-known. And Hashem wanted to spare Yitzchok the anguish of mourning for his beloved mother in the knowledge that he had been responsible (albeit indirectly) for her death.

In fact, the question that we posed is really the answer. It is not in spite of the close relationship between Yitzchok and his mother, that Yitzchok was prevented from participating in Soroh's funeral and in mourning for her, but because of it.


The basis of what we just wrote is the well-known Medrash (cited by Rashi) which, commenting on the juxtaposition of the death of Soroh to the Akeidoh, explains that Soroh died upon hearing from the Sotton that her son Yitzchok was about to be slaughtered.

It is hard to understand as to why the Akeidoh should serve as a means to punish Soroh. What did she do to die such a sad death?


The Chacham Zvi explains that when the Sotton sees that he has not succeeded in preventing a person from performing a good deed, he proceeds to attack him after he has performed it (sometimes), in an attempt to make him regret having performed it (and sometimes by filling him with pride over his achievement). This is hinted in the words 'and remove the Sotton from in front of us and from behind us' that we say in Ma'ariv every night. And it was to this end that the Sotton brought about Soroh's death through the news of the Akeidoh. He hoped that, upon discovering that Soroh's death had been caused by the Akeidoh, Avrohom would retroactively regret having gone through with it, thereby forfeiting all the reward that he had been promised. But in vain, concludes the Chacham Tzvi. Avrohom's response was to cut down his crying to the barest minimum (hence the small 'veis' in "ve'livkosoh"), so so as to dispel the above notion.


In a nutshell, Soroh was destined to die then anyway, and the Sotton (forever an opportunist) took advantage of her death to try and deprive Avrohom of the merit of the Akeidoh, but to no avail.


But why should Soroh need to die in order that Avrohom should be put to the test, one may ask? Soroh was anyway destined to die at that time, as we already pointed out, so it was not a matter of dying prematurely, but of dying a sad death. And in that regard, we do find tzadikim suffering - even as they die (take for example, Rochel, who died extremely young whilst giving birth). We do not necessarily understand the ways of Hashem. But what we do know is that sometimes, Hashem increases the suffering of a tzadik in this world in order to increase his reward in the next (which Chazal refer to as 'Yisurim shel ahavah' - suffering of love). In that case, we can rest assured that Soroh Imeinu was amply compensated for her sad death, in the world of truth, where she also knows the outcome of the Akeidoh and the tremendous benefits that it brought in its wake.


Parshah Pearls
Adapted from the P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'Gro
Chayei Soroh
Crying for Soroh

"And Avrohom came to eulogize Soroh and to cry for her" (23:2)

The 'kaf' in "ve'livkosoh" is written small, explains the Ba'al ha'Turim, to hint that Avrohom did not cry excessively. This is because Soroh was old and his anguish therefore, was minimal. Alternatively, it is because Soroh was responsible for her own death. When she said to Avrohom "Hashem will judge between me and you" (for treating her lightly when Hogor became pregnant, whilst she had no children) - Lech Lecho (16:5), she was inviting Hashem to arbitrate between them, and that is a dangerous thing to do.

Others say that her daughter Bakol died at the same time as she did, and this is hinted in the remaining letters of "ve'livkosoh" - ('ul'levitoh', which means 'and for her daughter').

The Gro however, explains that one normally weeps, not only for the physical loss of the deceased, but also for the amount of good that he might still have achieved, had he lived. With Soroh, this was unnecessary, because Avrohom knew that she achieved everything that she was destined to achieve in her lifetime. So he did not cry as much as he would have done for someone of a lesser calibre. Hence the small 'kaf'.

See also the explanation of the Chacham Tzvi in the main article.


Living a Full Life

"And Avrohom was old, he came with his days" (24:1).

The Medrash states that some people come with their old age, and others, with their days. Avrohom came with both. The Anaf Yosef explains this with a Zohar. The Zohar, commenting on the posuk in Vayechi (47:49) "And the days of Yisroel (Ya'akov) approached to die" explains that all the days of a tzadik's life come before Hashem (to give account) - attesting his righteousness, demonstrating that not one single day went to waste.


And that is what the Medrash means here: There are some people who reach old age, but there are no days to attest their righteousness (because they were filled with sin); and there are others who come with days, but not with old age (because they died young). Avrohom lived to a ripe old age, and each and every day was utilised to the full, which is why the Torah writes about him "And Avrohom was old, he came with his days".


Avrohom in the Sukoh

"And Hashem blessed Avrohom with everything ("ba'kol") - (24:1).

During a Yom-tov celebration one Succos, the Gro asked whether anyone knew of a source that Avrohom observed the mitzvah of Sukoh. When no answer was forthcoming, he pointed out a Medrash which equates "ba'kol" with the mitzvah of Sukoh.

The word "ba'kol" be explained, comprises the first letter of the three consecutive phrases in Emor (23:42-43): "ba'Sukos teishvu shiv'as yomim. Kol ho'ezrach be'Yisroel yeishvu ba'Sukos. Lema'an yeid'u doroseichem ki ba'Sukos hoshavti es B'nei Yisroel ... ".


Eliezer - Captain, Policeman, Supervisor

"And Avrohom said to his servant, the elder of his house, who ruled over all that he had" (24:2).

The posuk in Mishlei lists three categories of leaders. Discussing the ant, Shlomoh writes there (6:7) "who has no captain, policeman or ruler (over it)". These refer to three specific tasks. "Captain" refers to a wise leader, who teaches Torah publicly and issues rulings to the people; "Policeman" to a leader in action, whose job it is to ensure that the rulings of the "Captain" are put into practice and to enforce them if necessary; whereas "Ruler" refers to those who are in charge of weights and measures. Their job is to prevent theft and dishonest dealings from taking place.

Eliezer eved Avrohom it seems, possessed all three qualities. That is why the Torah refers to him as "Avrohom's servant" (policeman), "the elder of his household" (a captain in wisdom) and "who ruled over all that he had" (supervisor over everything).

And that also explains why the Torah writes about him (in Lech Lecho - 15:12) "u'ven meshek beisi (and the manager of my house, he is Damesek Eliezer) hu Demesek Eliezer". "Meshek" is the equivalent of the first letters of the three words "Moshel", "Shoter", "Kotzin" (supervisor, policeman, captain).


Eliezer the Damascan

Incidentally, the Torah Temimah makes a fascinating comment on the above-mentioned posuk "Hu Damesek Eliezer".

He first explains what caused Chazal to interpret Damesek to mean (by way of acronym) "Doleh u'mashkeh" - that he drew from his Rebbe (Avrohom)'s Torah and passed it on to others. Then, after proving that all nouns comprising more than three letters are foreign words, he presents 'Damesek' as a slight distortion of the French word 'domestic' which after all, Eliezer was.


Adapted from the Seifer ha'Mitzvos ha'Kotzer of the Chofetz Chayim.
(The Mitzvos Lo Sa'aseh)

111. Not to commit homosexuality with one's father - as the Torah writes in Acharei-Mos (18:7) "Do not reveal the nakedness of your father". This is an additional la'av to that of homosexuality (with any male), which is forbidden anyway (see la'av 116).

Should someone transgress and have relations with his father in the presence of witnesses and with due warning, both he and his father are due to die by stoning. If there were no witnesses (or no warning) then he is chayav koreis (excision) if he contravened on purpose, and two sin-offerings if he did so by mistake.

This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times.


112. Not to commit incest with one's mother - as the Torah writes in Acharei-Mos (18:7) "Do not reveal the nakedness of your mother."

This la'av applies irrespective of whether she is his father's wife or whether she bore him from an illicit relationship with his father. Nor does it make any difference whether he had relations with her during his father's lifetime or afterwards. The punishment follows the same pattern as the previous la'av. Here too, assuming that she is his father's wife, they will both bring two sin-offerings for contravening unintentionally, one, because she is his mother, and the other, because she is his father's wife.

The sages added a number of 'sh'niyos' (Rabbinical incestuous prohibitions): one's mother's mother (incorporating mother's mother's mother, ad infinitum); one's mother's father's mother, his father's mother (and her mother, ad infinitum), and his father's father's mother. This la'av applies everywhere and at all times.


113. Not to commit incest with one's father's wife - as the Torah writes in Acharei-Mos (18:8) "Do not reveal the nakedness of your father's wife".

This la'av applies irrespective of whether she is his mother or not, neither does it make any difference whether she is married to one's father or only officially betrothed, or whether his father is still alive, whether he is dead or whether he divorced her. And both will receive the same punishment as the previous two sets of sinners, only in this case there is only one sin-offering, and not two.

The Sages added his father's father's wife (incorporating father's father's father's wife, ad infinitum), and his mother's father's wife.

This la'av applies everywhere and at all times.


114. Not to commit homosexuality with one's father's brother - as the Torah writes in Acharei-Mos (18:14) "Do not reveal the nakedness of your father's brother".

The punishment is the same as that of the previous cases, but for transgressing by mistake one brings only one sin-offering.

This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times.


115. Not to commit incest with one's daughter-in-law - as the Torah writes in Acharei-Mos (18:15) "Do not reveal the nakedness of your daughter-in-law". This la'av applies even after the death of one's son.

The punishment is the same as that of the previous case.

The sages added the daughter-in-law of one's son (and of one's grandson, ad infinitum), and his daughter's daughter in law.

This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times.


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