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

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Vol. 9   No. 5

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Parshas Chayei Sarah

Judging Him As He Is
(based on the Torah Temimah)

The Torah Temimah cites a Tosefta in Sotah, which presents a four-point Machlokes as to what the Torah means when it writes that Yishmael the son of the Egyptian maid was "jesting". For this is how the Torah describes the sin of Yishmael, for which Avraham and Sarah expelled him from the house together with his mother,. And it is Rebbi Shimon there who cites the opinion of his Rebbes. Rebbi Akiva, he says, describes 'jesting' as idolatry, Rebbi Eliezer, as adultery, and Rebbi Yehoshua, as murder.

But he disagrees with them all - Chas ve'Shalom, he claims, that in the house of Avraham there would be someone guilty of such terrible sins. Consequently, he explains 'jesting' literally as mocking. Yishmael was mocking Yitzchak, reminding him that he, Yishmael, was the firstborn, and that he would therefore receive a double portion of their father's inheritance. (See also Rashi).


The Torah Temimah explains that, although Rebbi Shimon uses the expression 'Chas ve'Shalom', this is not in fact, the thrust of his argument, particularly in view of the fact that even if Yishmael had been guilty of one of the cardinal sins, he would not have been unique. Eisav committed all of these sins, as well as others, on the day that he turned fifteen, as the Gemara relates in Bava Basra (16b). And what Eisav could do in the house of Yitzchak, Yishmael could do in the house of Avraham.

Rebbi Shimon's real proof, he maintains, lies in Sarah's comment, when she asked Avraham to act and to send Hagar and Yishmael away - 'because', she said, "the son of this maidservant will not inherit with my son with Yitzchak". Now according to the other Tana'im, what does inheritance have to do with the three cardinal sins (refer to the Rashi quoted above, who partially answers this question). Whereas according to Rebbi Shimon, her reply was most appropriate.


The Torah Temimah brings further support for Rebbi Shimon from Rebbi Yitzchak, in Rosh Hashanah (16b). Rebbi Yitzchak, commenting on the Pasuk a little further on "because G-d has heard the voice of the lad where he is", explains that a person is judged by his current level, without taking into account the evil that he will perpetrate in the future.

The Medrash, elaborating on this point, describes the dialogue between G-d and the angels. When they demanded that, due to the terrible cruelty of his children towards the Jewish exiles (see Rashi, Pasuk 17), Yishmael did not deserve to be saved from the clutches of death, G-d replied with the words "ba'Asher Hu Sham". And, at this point in time, they had to admit, Yishmael was innocent.

Now according to the opinions of the Tana'im who describe "metzachek" as one of the three cardinal sins, how could Yishmael be described as innocent, asks the Torah Temimah?


The Tana'im of course, are not obligated to accept Rebbi Yitzchak's interpretation. They could interpret "ba'Asher Hu Sham" like the Ramban, who translates the words literally to mean 'from the place where he is'. In other words, it will not even be necessary to move Yishmael from there, because He will perform a miracle and provide the salvation at the exact spot where Yishmael is lying on the verge of death - as if to say 'here and now' (thereby magnifying the miracle).

Or they could interpret the Pasuk like the Targum Yonasan, who explains that G-d overlooked the sins of Yishmael's children, not because of Rebbi Yitzchak's principle, but on the merit of Avraham.

Or like the Oznayim la'Torah, who has a third interpretation. He gives a Mashal to a great king who was passing through a town one day, when he was approached by a youth who asked him for water. The king ignored the request of the impertinent youth and drove on. On another occasion however, the king was traveling through the desert, when suddenly, he heard the faint cry of the very same youth calling 'Water water'! This time, he stopped his carriage immediately, and gave him water. And this is what is meant by "ba'Asher Hu Sham". It is only because of Yishmael's desperate situation that G-d listened to Yishmael's prayers. In any other situation, he would have ignored him.


These are all feasible alternatives to Rebbi Yitzchak's interpretation of "ba'Asher Hu Sham". However, in view of the fact that Rebbi Yitzchak's principle is deeply ingrained in our liturgy, it is worth bearing in mind that Rebbi Shimon's interpretation of Yishmael's sin concurs with it.


Parshah Pearls
Chayei Sarah
It Was All Her Own Fault

"To eulogize Sarah and to weep for her" ('ve'Livkosoh') (23:2).

The Ba'al ha'Turim offers two explanations for the little 'Kaf' in the word 've'Livkosoh'. Aside from the better-known explanation, that Avraham didn't cry much because of Sarah's advanced age (since it is natural to cry less for an older person), he also explains that it is to do with the fact that she was partially responsible for her own demise.

According to Chazal, Sarah was destined to outlive Avraham. The reason that she died before him was because, in the episode where Hagar became pregnant before her and began to mock her, Sarah gave vent to her frustration by 'handing over her judgement to Hashem', saying "May G-d judge between me and you!" And anyone who hands over his judgement to Hashem, say Chazal, is punished first. That is why the Pasuk writes here "and Avraham came to eulogize Sarah and to cry for her", and that is why he did not cry as much as he would otherwise have done.


The Mayanah shel Torah cites a Medrash which states that Avraham had a daughter called Bakol who died at this time too - because "ve'Livkosoh" without the 'Kaf' spells 'u'le'Vitoh' (and for her daughter).


Respect for the Dead

"And Avraham got up from in front of his deceased, and he spoke to the B'nei Cheis ... " (23:3). From here we learn, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, that one should not speak in front of a dead person.


B'nei Cheis, B'nei Cheis, B'nei Cheis ...

The Torah repeats "B'nei Cheis" no less than ten times, points out the Ba'al ha'Turim. This is because if someone assists a Talmid-Chacham in making a purchase, it is as if he had fulfilled the Ten Commandments, which contain the letter 'Ches' ten times.


Efron Loses Out

"And Avraham weighed out to Efron the money ... " (23:16).

The word Efron is missing a 'Vav', Rashi comments, to demonstrate that he promised big things (to give Avraham the field free of charge), but in the end, he didn't even do a little. Because when it came to the crunch, he demanded from him extra large coins (perhaps Rashi derives this from the Torah's use of the expression "and he weighed out" (rather than 'and he gave' which it would normally have used).


The Ba'al ha'Turim however, explains the missing 'Vav' by refering to the numerical value of Efron without a 'Vav', which is 'ra ayin' (an evil eyed person - a miser, who cherishes his money). And this also hints at the amount of money that he charged (which according to other commentaries was an exorbitant sum), because the numerical value of Efron (without the 'Vav') also comes to four hundred (the amount of Shekalim that he demanded for the field).


Everything In Its Right Time

"And Avraham was old ... and G-d blessed Avraham with everything" (24:1).

The reason that He blessed him at this juncture, explains the Ba'al ha'Turim, is because it is when a person becomes old and can no longer come and go as he used to, that he requires a special Divine blessing. (See also Rashi).


Rifkah's 'Illustrious' Family

"And Rifkah had (u'le'Rifkah) a brother whose name was Lavan" (24:29).

The term "u'le'Rifkah" appears twice in the Torah, here and in Toldos (26:35) "and they were a source of rebellion to Yitzchak and to Rifkah (u'le'Rifkah)", says the Ba'al ha'Turim, one at the beginning of the Pasuk and one at the end.

With regard to the latter Pasuk, the smoke of their idolatrous practices actually caused Yitzchak's eyes to go dim. Not so Rifkah, who certainly detested their deeds too, but who did not suffer to the same degree as Yitzchak, because she was Lavan's sister (she too, grew up in a house where their father was a priest to idolatry). And that is why her name appears in the Pasuk after that of Yitzchak.


Alternatively, this hints at Chazal, who say that before marrying a woman, one should examine her brothers, because in most cases their children will resemble her brothers. It is because she had a brother, a confirmed idolater, that she gave birth to a son called Eisav, who would later cause her anguish with the idolatrous practices of his wives.


Great Expectations

" ... and a place for the camels" (24:31).

The word "and a place" appears only once more in T'nach, in Iyov (28:1) "and a place for gold ... ". This teaches us that Lavan cleared out the house to make way for Eliezer and his camels, only after he saw the jewelry the latter had given his sister. He too, had great expectations. Now that's Hachnasas Orchim at its worst. Certainly not of the standard that Eliezer was used to seeing in the house of Avraham.


The Great Plot

"And there was placed (va'Yusam lefonov) before him to eat" (24:33).

"va'Yusam" is written without a 'Vav', as if to suggest that it should be read 'va'Yisam' (with a 'Sin' instead of a 'Samech'), which means 'and he poisoned'. Because they poisoned Eliezer's food, and then tried to get to him to start eating quickly, before he cottoned on to what they had done.

And this is hinted again, from a different angle, in the word "va'Yusam", which occurs in only one other place in the Torah, in the last Pasuk in Vayechi in connection with Yosef "va'yusam ba'aron be'Mitzrayim". Here too, they wanted to place Eliezer's body in a coffin (by poisoning him).

What was Eliezer's response? ...


The Great Rescue
Saved by the Kos shel B'rachah

"I will not eat before I have spoken my words ... (because) I am the slave of Avraham" (ibid.) ...

... 'and it is customary in his house (even though it may not be in your's) to recite the B'rochos of 'Al Netilas Yodayim' and 'ha'Motzi Lechem min ho'oretz' before eating'.

With that, he hoped to be saved from their plot, for so Chazal have taught 'the cup of B'rachah combines for the good and not for the bad'.

And indeed he was, because the angel came and moved the poisoned plate towards Besuel, so that he was the one to succumb, and not Eliezer.

According to others, the Ba'al ha'Turim adds, they wanted to feed him something that was forbidden, and that is what he was spared.


When Yishmael Falls

" ... in front of all his brothers he will fall ... And these are the generations of Yitzchak" (25:18/19).

A broad hint, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, that when, in the end of days, Yishmael falls, ben David (from the descendants of Yitzchak) will rise to power.

Looks like it's going to happen in the not too distant future.



(based on the Seifer 'Mitzos ha'Teluyos ba'Aratetz' by Rav Kalman Kahana z.l.)
The Mitzvah of Separating
T'rumos and Ma'asros (cont.)

The G'mar Melachah

6. Even with regard to the species which are basically min ha'Torah, there are times when their Ma'asros are mi'de'Rabbanan. These include crops that grew in a pot without a hole, or if the owner did the g'mar melachah (the final task or stage before Ma'asering them) with the intention of selling them. In this latter case however, should the owner have done the g'mar melachah with the intention of eating them, and then changed his mind and decided to sell them, the purchaser is obligated to Ma'aser them min ha'Torah.

The g'mar melachah with regard to grain is 'Miru'ach ha'kri' (flattening the heap of grain after having threshed and winnowed the corn).

And so by each and every species, there is a particular stage which is called 'g'mar melachah' - regarding olives and grapes that have been designated for oil and wine, for example, the 'g'mar melachah' is when they finally become oil and wine. Whereas with olives and grapes that are meant to be eaten, the g'mar melachah is when, after being picked from the tree, they have been placed in their respective receptacles, or tied into bundles for selling or for use in one's house.

And so it is with other species; placing them into a receptacle or tying them into bundles (whichever one is accustomed to doing with that particular species) is the g'mar melachah. The g'mar melachah of grapes that have been designated to make raisins, is when they actually become raisins.

7. Nowadays, even the obligation to ma'aser the five kinds of grain, wine and oil is only mi'de'Rabbanan.

8. It is only human food that is subject to T'rumos and Ma'asros, but not animal fodder. However, the Chachamim obligated the Ma'asering of food that is fit for animal consumption, but which is used by humans as food in time of famine. Food that can be eaten in case of emergency, but which was planted for animals is exempt from Ma'asros, even if the owner later changed his mind and decided to use it as human food.

On the other hand, regular food must be Ma'asered, even if the owner decided to plant it as animal fodder.


The Five Categories of Matanos

9. There are five categories of Matanos: Terumah Gedolah, Ma'aser Rishon, Ma'aser Sheini, Ma'aser Ani and T'rumas Ma'aser.

10. Ma'aser Sheini and Ma'aser Ani never occur simultaneously;

Some years Ma'aser Sheini applies, whilst in other years, it is Ma'aser Ani.

11. The years are divided according to the Sh'mitah-cycle; Ma'aser Sheini applies during the first and second, fourth and fifth years of the cycle, Ma'aser Ani during the third and the sixth. The fruit of the seventh year (the Sh'mitah) is hefker and is exempt from Matanos.

12. T'rumas Ma'aser is taken from Ma'aser Rishon.


How to Separate T'rumos and Ma'asros

13. This is the order of separation: T'rumah Gedolah, Ma'aser Rishon, Ma'aser Sheini or Ani, and it is forbidden to change it. Neither may one separate the latter before the former, nor may one separate them simultaneously.

As we have already explained, T'rumas Ma'aser is taken from Ma'aser Rishon, and this may be done either before or after Ma'aser Sheini.

14. Nowadays, the Shiur of Terumah Gedolah is a minimal amount, that of Ma'aser Rishon, a tenth of what remains, and of Ma'aser Sheini or Ani, a tenth of what remains after having separated Ma'aser Rishon.


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