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Vol. 12 No. 5
Chayim Ezriel ben Yosef z.l.
Parshas Chayei Sarah
Nichush - Eliezer Style
(Adapted from the Torah Temimah)
Any Nichush (divining) that does not resemble that of Eliezer Eved Avraham, the Gemara informs us in Chulin (95a), is not considered Nichush (and is permitted).
What the Gemara means, the Torah Temimah explains, is that the prohibition of divining applies only to somebody who decides with absolute finality, to abide by his conditions, like Eliezer, who decided unequivocally to take the girl that he described in his Tefilah for Yitzchak, irrespective of all other considerations.
On the assumption that the various branches of Kishuf (black magic) are forbidden to the B'nei No'ach (and that Yisrael before the Torah was given, had the Din of B'nei No'ach), Tosfos asks there how the Tzadik Eliezer (who had the same legal status as Sarah) could have contravened something that the Torah prohibits.
Tosfos' question is interesting, in that he takes for granted that if Kishuf is forbidden to the B'nei No'ach, Nichush is too. One wonders whether the two issues might not be unconnected.
Tosfos replies that Rav (the author of the statement in Chulin) maintains that even though the Pasuk describes how Eliezer placed the nose-ring and the bracelets on Rivkah before asking her who she was, this is not in fact, what happened. Based on the principle that the events in the Torah do not necessarily follow their chronological order, he did not rely absolutely on his prior conditions, and only gave her the jewellery after asking her who she was, ascertaining that she was from Avraham's family. Indeed, this is borne out by the fact that this is the order of events that Eliezer presented to Lavan and his family a short while later.
The Torah Temimah considers Tosfos' explanation a dochek (somewhat forced), in addition to the fact that it would require a redefinition of Rav's statement. So he suggests that Nichush is only forbidden there where the conditions that one makes are left purely to chance, but not where one makes a point of enlisting Divine assistance to achieve one's goal. Eliezer prayed to G-d, asking for His help in finding the right match for Yitzchak. Relying implicitly on G-d's response to one's Tefilos is outside the realm of Nichush. Indeed, Chazal have said that 'Kishuf' is the acronym of 'she'Makchishim Pamalya shel Ma'alah' - 'they reverse that what has been decreed in the Heavenly Court'. What Eliezer did was the exact opposite, in that he enlisted their assistance, as we explained.
And the same explanation fits the incident with Yonasan ben Shaul, whom the Gemara there also cites in defining Nichush. He too, decided unequivocally to act in accordance with the P'lishtim's instructions (to go easy if they ordered him and his armour-bearer to wait until they came down to them, but to attack, if they invited them to come up and join them). There too, Tosfos raises the question how Yonasan could contravene a Torah prohibition (and Tosfos' previous answer is not applicable there. See how Tosfos there d.h. 'u'che'Yonasan ben Shaul' actually answer this question).
According to what we just explained, says the Torah Temimah, Yonasan ben Shaul is vindicated in exactly the same way as Eliezer Eved Avraham. He too, decided unequivocally on his plan of action, but he too, like Eliezer, specifically stated that it would be G-d who would deliver the P'lishtim into their hands, removing it from the realm of magic that the Torah prohibits.
It does not follow from what we just said that Eliezer acted correctly. Another Gemara (in Ta'anis 4a) considers his request irresponsible, in that he confined the outcome of his request to the Midah of Chesed. And what if this wonderful Ba'alas Chesed turned out to be lame or blind? Was that the sort of woman Avraham entrusted him to bring back for Yitzchak Avinu? Only, as the Gemara concludes, he was 'lucky', and Rivkah turned out to be healthy (Yiftach ha'Gil'adi, who made a similarly irresponsible condition, was less fortunate).
Nevertheless, it is a far cry between being irresponsible and being a sinner. Eliezer may have put in an irresponsible request, but he did not sin! For if he had, G-d would not have responded positively to his prayers, as the Redak (who deals at length with the above issue) explains.
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Where Did He Come From
"And Avraham came to eulogize her and to cry for her" (23:2).
Rashi explains that, when Avraham heard about Sarah's death, he came from Be'er Sheva to mourn for her. And what was Avraham doing in Be'er Sheva, if Sarah was in Chevron?
At the end of Vayeira, the Torah records that following the Akeidah, Avraham returned to his 'boys' (Yishmael and Eliezer) and they arose and went to Be'er Sheva, where Avraham resided. Rashi there points out that Be'er Sheva was not where Avraham remained. On the contrary, already twelve years before the Akeidah, they had moved to Chevron. So back comes the question, what was he doing there, particularly as Sarah was all alone in Chevron? Why did he not go straight home to Chevron to be with her and to put her mind at rest?
Perhaps he went there to Daven, like Ya'akov went to Be'er Sheva before going to Charan. As the Ramban explains there, he made a point of stopping there before leaving Eretz Yisrael, because Be'er Sheva is a good place to Daven. Yitzchak and Ya'akov went there because of the effect that the place would have on their Tefilos, so it makes sense to say that Avraham went there too, to consolidate the after-effects of the Akeidah.
The Ramban himself however explains that he went to Be'er Sheva to offer thanks to Hashem for His salvation, in the location of his guesthouse.
The Ramban also cites the Medrash (see Targum Yonasan) who explains that Avraham came to Chevron directly from Har ha'Moriyah, immediately after the Akeidah. This explanation is difficult to understand however, since the Torah specifically stated above that Avraham went from Har ha'Moriyah to Be'er Sheva, and not directly to Chevron.
Perhaps the most likely interpretation of all, is that of Rabeinu Bachye, who explains that Avraham did not come from anywhere, "And Avraham came" is simply an expression of getting ready. It even has a precedent in Devarim (1:8), where the Torah writes "Come and possess the land".
See also Ha'amek Davar.
He Who Hates Gifts Will Live
"Let him (Efron) give it to me (Avraham) for its full value" (23:9).
Rashi points out that Avraham offered to pay the full amount. And he cites a Pasuk in Divrei Hayamim, where David said the same to Aravna, when he purchased from him the site on which the Beis-Hamikdash was destined to be built.
Note how, from the outset, both these Tzadikim stressed the fact that they insisted on paying the full price. It is obvious that the more one is willing to pay for an object, the more one demonstrates one's appreciation of its value. And conversely, the less one is willing to pay, the less valuable the object appears in one's eyes.
Consequently, we can learn from the Avos the importance, not only of paying for a Mitzvah, but of paying the full price. This is in stark contrast to those people who look for free Mitzvos, or who at best, haggle over the price, to pay as little for the Mitzvah as possible, downgrading its value in the process.
Rabeinu Bachye explains the issue a little differently. He simply describes Avraham and David as 'Sonei matanos' (people who hated gifts), based on the Pasuk in Mishlei "Sonei Matanos yichyeh" (He who hates gifts will live long).
It is the way of Tzadikim to refuse gifts, he explains, and he too cites David Hamelech, whom Aravnah offered the site for the Beis-Hamikdash, but who refused to accept the offer, insisting on paying for the ground in full. It is not however clear, according to Rabeinu Bachye, as to why Avraham and David insisted on paying the value of the respective properties in full.
Eliezer and the Angel
"And he had not yet finished speaking and behold Rivkah came out ... " (24:15).
The Pasuk opens with the words "Vayehi hu ... ", and the question arises why the Torah inserts the word "hu", seeing as it adds nothing to the Pasuk?
Rabeinu Bachye interprets the word as one of the Names of Hashem (like the Pasuk in Tehilim Kapitel 100 "Hu os'onu ve'lo anachnu"), and the Pasuk here is teaching us that G-d was with Eliezer, and had made sure that one of His angels accompanied him, to assist him on his mission, as Avraham had said He would. And this corresponds to Avraham's prayer on his behalf "Hu yishlach mal'ocho lefonecho". What we now see is G-d's response to that prayer.
In fact, the Pasuk teaches us that, following Avraham's Tefilah, the angel preceded him to the well, and was ready to carry out his request immediately (as the words "ve'hinei Rivkah yotzeis" demonstrate, as "ve'hinei" is an expression of being prepared). Indeed, Eliezer ran towards Rivkah when he saw the water rise to meet her, not because he wanted to witness this unusual phenomenon, but because he realized that the angel of G-d was indeed at his side. And he was eager to proceed with the next stage of his mission.
And this explanation clears up something else too ...
When the Slave Became a Man
... "And the man (ho'Ish) watched in amazement ... " (24:21).
From the moment that Avraham called Eliezer to go to Charan, up to this point, Eliezer is referred to as "ha'Eved" (the slave). What happened to suddenly transform him from a slave into "ho'Ish"?
The answer, Rabeinu Bachye explains, lies in what we just explained. It was at this juncture that he realized that the angel of G-d was working for him, and that is why he now became "ho'Ish" (a title to which the angels themselves are sometimes referred). And it is the title "ha'Ish" that Eliezer continues to enjoy, until the completion of his mission (in Pasuk 61), at which point he becomes "ha'Eved" once again (see however, Pasuk 53).
Running Away from Evil
"And he said to them 'Don't delay me ... and they called Rivkah ... and she said 'I will go' ... And they sent Rivkah away" (24:56).
The question arises how Eliezer could insist on leaving immediately, when Rivkah was in mourning, how Rivkah herself agreed to go and how her family allowed her to. (They did after all, observe seven days of Sheva B'rachos, so it is safe to assume that they also kept the laws of seven days of mourning)?
My wife suggested that according to Rashi at least, she was only three at the time, and a three year old is not bound by the laws of mourning.
It seems to me however, that bearing in mind that Rivkah's family were idolaters (see Rashi Pasuk 31), the sooner she got away from there the better (the laws of mourning notwithstanding).
Yitzchak and Tefilas Minchah
"And Yitzchak went to 'meditate' in the field towards evening, and he raised his eyes and behold ... " (24:64).
The K'li Yakar refers to the Gemara in B'rachos (26b), which extrapolates from here that Yitzchak instituted Minchah, as 'towards evening' is the time when Minchah should be Davened. And the fact that Yitzchak had barely concluded his Tefilah, when Rivkah appeared, supports the Gemara there (6b) which stresses the importance of Tefilas Minchah (though the Gemara bases its statement on Eliyahu, who was answered specifically at Minchah-time). True, Avraham instituted Shachris, and Ya'akov, Ma'ariv, but nowhere do we find that their prayers were answered immediately. Yitzchak's was, and as the Pasuk writes in Tehilim "For this, every Chasid shall Daven at the time when he finds ... " (with reference to a wife, as the Gemara there explains [ibid. 8a]). And besides, from the juxtaposition of the Pesukim, it is fair to assume that he was Davenning for his Zivug (partner) at the time that Rivkah appeared.
And seeing as Chazal have said that when a person Davens his eyes should look downwards, observes the K'li Yakar, it is now clear why, as he finished Davening, the Torah records that "he looked up" and saw Rivkah coming.
Perhaps we can infer from here that when the Pasuk continues "And Rivkah raised her eyes and she saw Yitzchak", it implies that Rivkah too, was Davenning for her Zivug at the very same moment that Yitzchak was Davenning for his, though admittedly looking down may merely have been a sign of Rivkah's modesty (which other commentaries cite from the end of the Pasuk - see for example, Rashbam).
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AND THEIR MEANING
(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)
Not to Believe in the
Existence of Any god
Other than Hashem (cont.)
The reason for this Mitzvah is self-evident. Its details ... such as somebody who accepts any of the creations as a god, even if he admits that G-d is Master over both himself and his god, has transgressed "Lo Yih'yeh" ... What is considered conventional worship and what is considered non-conventional worship ... Or what if one worships another idol in a demeaning way, assuming that it is the conventional manner of worship, ... The four Avodos, on the other hand, are prohibited across the board (whether it is normal to serve them in that way or not) ... The extent of their application (such as breaking a stick in front of them, which is a branch of Shechitah) ... How the Chachamim forbade reading books on Avodah-Zarah, such as manuals on how to serve them, or on topics that encourage placing one's faith in them ... The prohibition of thinking about idolaty, and what happens to an Avodah-Zarah that a Jew worshipped, even just once ... That someone who accepts the jurisdiction of a god over himself has transgressed, even if he then retracts within the official time-period known as 'toch k'dei dibur' (the time it takes to declare 'Shalom Alecha Rebbi'), even though such a retraction is officially recognized with regard to other areas of Halachah (and incidentally, the same applies to someone who betrothes a woman and then wants to retract 'toch k'dei dibur') ... If one worships an idol out of love (i.e. because of its beauty) or out of fear (because he was afraid what it might do to him), and not because he believed in its powers ... And what is the Din of someone who demonstrates his adulation by kissing it, hugging it, anointing it, dressing it or putting on its shoes ... The Din of Bitul Avodah-Zarah (nullifying it), and the distinction in this regard between an Avodah-Zarah belonging to a Jew and one belonging to a gentile ... The extent of Isur Hana'ah (the prohibition of deriving benefit from an Avodah-Zarah) ... The difference between an Avodah-Zarah that is worshipped after it has been attached and something that was attached from its inception (which is not subject to an Isur Hana'ah) ... From which point an image becomes an Avodah-Zarah ... The Din of Tashmishei Avodah-Zarah (something that was used for Avodah-Zarah purposes), and what happens to the Tashmishin if the Avodah-Zarah itself becomes nullified ... The Din pertaining to something that has been sacrificed to Avodah-Zarah ... and one whose adherents have forsaken it ... The Din of keeping away from those who worship Avodah-Zarah on the day that it is worshipped and the days before and after ... And things that one is permanently forbidden to sell to them because of the suspicion that they will use them to honour their gods ... The Din of distancing oneself from a city which contains Avodah-Zarah ... together with the remaining details, are to be found in Maseches Avodah-Zarah.
This Mitzvah applies to men and women everywhere and at all times. Someone who contravenes it on purpose, by worshiping it in the conventional manner or by means of one of the four kinds of avodah, even if it is not worshipped in that way, if there are witnesses and warning, is sentenced to stoning. Whereas if he worships it be'Shogeg, he has to bring a fixed Chatas.
This is one of the seven Mitzvos that the entire world has been commanded. There are however, specific differences between the Mitzvah vis-a-vis a Yisrael and vis-a-vis a gentile, as is explained in Avodah-Zarah. For instance, whereas a Yisrael is never sentenced to death without witnesses and warning, a gentile does not require warning, because in his regard, there is no difference between Meizid and Shogeg. And similarly, he is Chayav by his own admission, whereas a Yisrael requires witnesses, as we explained. Another distinction is that a gentile always receives the death-penalty irrespective of how he sinned. For so Chazal have said 'Their warning is their death-warrant'; whereas a Yisrael is sometimes Chayav a Korban, sometimes Malkos, sometimes Miysah, and sometimes none of these, but having contravened the law of the King, he bears his sin (and receives Kareis at the Hand of the King Himself).
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