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

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Vol. 13   No. 5

This issue is co-sponsored
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Parshas Chayei-Sarah

No Cana'ani Please!

Avraham was insistent that Eliezer take a wife for his son Yitzchak from the land of his birthplace, and not from the daughters of Cana'an.

But surely, asks the Avnei Neizer (and many other commentaries), Avraham's family, who were idolaters, were no better than the Cana'anim, so what made him reject the one and accept the other?

That may well be true, he answers. Yet Avraham's family possessed an advantage over the latter, whose evil character-traits were legendary, as the Torah stresses on many occasions, and evil Midos are generally transmitted to one's children and grandchildren, who then follow in their parents' footsteps. Not so idolatry, which is based on false Hashkofos (outlook), and which is not something that thinking children automatically inherit from their parents.

That explains, he says, why Avraham was far less concerned about the latter than he was about the former. It was not the past deeds that worried him, but whether future generations - his own grandchildren - would adopt the evil practices of their evil ancestors.


Yet in light of Lavan's greedy, murderous tendencies, ability to lie, natural aptitude to swindle, and reluctance to perform a Chesed even for his own kin, free of charge (all of which emerge from his dealings with Eliezer [in the current Parshah] and with Ya'akov [in Vayeitzei]), one wonders in what way the Midos of Avraham's family were any better than those of the Cana'anim, particularly those of Aner, Eshkol and Mamrei, who certainly gave Avraham a better run for his money than Lavan did. Granted, Avraham was willing to waive his objections regarding them, should the need arise (see Rashi 24:8), yet the question remains as to why initially, he gave priority to his family in Charan over these three Tzadikim and the rest of the Cana'anim? And what's more, we need to understand why he was willing to waive the objections in their case, but not in the case of Eliezer his slave, whom he categorically refused to consider as a potential son-in-law (in spite of his superlative character and sterling Midos [see Rashi 24:39])?

In answer to the last question, the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos explains that it was precisely because the curse of slavery ("Eved la'Avadim Yih'yeh le'Echav") had been actualized with regard to Eliezer, who, he says, was the son of Cham, that Avraham gave the daughters of Aner, Eshkol and Mamrei precedence over his daughter, should it come to the crunch. In any case, the Da'as Zekeinim clearly attributes Avraham's reluctance to allow Yitzchak to marry a woman from Cana'an to the curse of slavery. It is therefore safe to assume that it is for the same reason that he gave preference to his own family, who, irrespective of what sort of Midos they may or may not have possessed, were not cursed.

Perhaps we can add that Avraham, who, as we know, knew and kept the entire Torah, would have been loathe to marry off his son into a nation which the Torah would later order us to exterminate, man, woman and child.


Here is what R. Bachye writes regarding Avraham's command to Eliezer ...

That warning he conjectures, was based on a woman's tendency to share whatever punishment she earns with her husband, like we find with Chavah (when she ate the forbidden fruit and then handed some to Avraham), and like the Torah attests with regard to the wives of Shlomoh (regarding the Amoni, Mo'ovi and other foreign women that he married), when it writes in Melachim (11:1) "His wives turned his heart away ... ". Likewise, he claims, a woman from Cana'an would have been sure to share her curse with her husband.

And he cites the custom (of that time) to read the current Parshah for a Chasan on the day of his wedding, as a reminder not to marry for beauty, money or greatness, which only lead a person to sin and to punishment. But rather to marry le'Shem Shamayim into a decent family, since children tend to be drawn after the Midos of their mother's family, just as the taste of wine is affected by the vessel in which it stands.

And furthermore, this Parshah teaches us to make a point of finding a wife from among one's own close family, for that is what Avraham commanded Eliezer to do when he sent him to find a Shiduch for Yitzchak. And Amram, the father of Moshe, did the same, as the Pasuk writes in Sh'mos (2:1) "And a man from the house of Levi went and married a daughter of Levi". Because when people marry one of their own kin, peace reigns and spreads throughout the world.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
Adapted from the Ma'ayanah shel Torah


"And I will make you swear that you will not take a woman for my son from the daughters of Cana'an" (24:3).

See main article.

Other commentaries explain that for Yitzchak to marry a woman from Cana'an would have defeated Avraham's own plans.

Avraham wanted the decree of "for your children will be strangers in a land that is not theirs" to begin immediately with the birth of Yitzchak (either to hasten the termination of the exile or because, as the commentaries explain, the slight inconvenience of not living in their own land, which was considered part of the decree for the Avos, would not have been considered exile for their children). In that case, to have married a Cana'anis and to inherit her, which would have rendered him a native, would have been self-defeating, as it would have meant that the Galus would only start when Ya'akov's children went down to Egypt many years later.



"I am a sojourner and a native with you" (23:4).

'If you wish', Rashi explains, 'I will be(-have like) a sojourner, but if not, I will be a native and take it (a burial place for Sarah) by right'.

The Ohel Ya'akov explains that Avraham Avinu was merely guarding his tongue from speaking falsely. He could not say that he was a sojourner, since G-d had promised him the land. On the other hand, he did not want to say that he was a native, so as not to anger the B'nei Cheis. So what did he do? He used a double expression that was deliberately ambiguous "I am a sojourner and a native with you". This might mean that he was a sojourner and they were natives (which is what they would believe he meant); or it might mean that they were the sojourners and he was the native (which he knew to be the truth).


And More Diplomacy

" ... four hundred Shekel of silver in currency that was negotiable (or handed over to a merchant)" (23:16).

Initially, Reb Efrayim Zalman Margolies explains, Efron offered Avraham the field free of charge. Then when Avraham insisted on paying in full, he not only charged him a high price, but demanded way above its value, as the commentaries explain. Even Efron realized that that this was going too far, and instead of suffering the embarrassment of confronting Avraham directly, he decided to hand over the deal to a third party to conclude ("o'ver la'socher"). The merchant, who was merely arbitrating on behalf of Efron, would feel no qualms in informing Avraham of the new price of the sale and finalizing the details.


Getting One's Priorities Right

"And Avraham said to his servant, the elder of his house, who was in charge of all that he owned, place your hand below my thigh. And I will make you swear that you will not take a woman for my son from the daughters of Cana'an" (24:2/3).

See main article.

In the ways of the world, when Reuven asks Shimon to lend him money, Shimon tends to make careful enquiries as to whether Reuven has the means to repay the loan, and whether he is a man of integrity, whom one can trust to do so, before granting the loan.

On the other hand, when it comes to matters of religion, such as purchasing meat and ordering Tefilin and Mezuzos, the same Shimon will go to the nearest shop and make his purchase without the same careful scrutiny to ascertain the standard of the people involved in the manufacture and the sale of the food that he is purchasing.

Shimon would do well however, to take his cue from Avraham Avinu, who entrusted his entire wealth into the hands of Eliezer his servant. Yet when it came to finding the right Shiduch for his son Yitzchak, he made him swear that he would follow his instructions. Gone was the trust, when it came to spiritual matters that would affect his descendants to the end of time. Avraham realized that money can be replaced, whereas spiritual decadence resulting from a bad Shiduch cannot! (Yalkut ha'D'rush).


Who Wants to Marry a Gaon?

"And you will take a wife for my son Yitzchak" (24:4).

When Eliezer related the entire episode, one of the many changes he made here from the original version of events was the omission of the word "Yitzchak".

The Beis Halevi explains it with a Mashal ... A millionaire once sought a Shiduch for his daughter with the son of an eminent Talmid-Chacham, for which he was prepared to pay any sum that they asked of him. When somebody suggested a better Shiduch inasmuch as the Chasan himself was a Gaon (and not just the son of one), his reply was 'Oh no! I don't want my daughter to live a life of deprivation' (as one generally expects of the wife of a Rosh Yeshivah). What the father clearly wanted was for his daughter to have the Kavod of being the daughter-in-law of a Ga'on without the responsibilities of having a husband who was himself one.

Avraham gave instructions to Eliezer to present his future Mechutanim, not only with details of his own household, but to also inform them that Yitzchak was a Ga'on in his own right.

However, when Eliezer saw Lavan and Besuel and sized them up, he realized that the last thing they would want was for their daughter to marry a Ga'on, which would have meant 'poor Rivkah' having to restrict her standard of living and to rise her level of observnce. So he omitted mention of who Yitzchak was, confining his praises of their potential Mechutan to Avraham's wealth, and that was something he figured, to which they would not raise too many objections.


Bringing Merit to the Community

"Hashem, G-d of the Heaven who took me from the house of my father ... and who swore to me saying 'to you I will give this land', He will send His angel before you ... " (24:7).

Above, comments Rashi, Avraham said "and I will make you swear by Hashem, G-d of the heaven and G-d of the earth". 'Now', he was saying to him, 'He is also

G-d of the earth, only because I trained the people to acknowledge Him. But when He took me from the house of my father He was only G-d of the heaven'.

Why, asks the M'lo ha'Omer, did Avraham find it necessary to tell Eliezer this here?

However, he explains, Tzadikim are often uncertain as to whether G-d will keep the promises He made to them, on account of their own sins that negate them, like we find by Ya'akov, who cited this very fear that perhaps he had sinned (see Rashi Vayishlach 32:11).

Consequently, when Eliezer expressed doubts as to whether the girl would follow him to Eretz Cana'an (and he would fail in his mission), Avraham replied that G-d, who had promised him children who would merit inheriting Eretz Cana'an, was bound to bless his mission with success, since a righteous wife was perhaps the most important precondition to having righteous children. And as for the possibility of the promise being negated due to his having sinned, that was highly unlikely, since he was responsible for the entire generation acknowledging Hashem, and as the Mishnah says in Pirkei Avos (5:18) 'When someone brings merit to the community, no sin will come about through him'.


A Mitzvah Requires Effort

"And the slave ran to meet her" (24:17).

Because he saw the water rise towards her, explains Rashi.

The Ramban adds that the proof for this lies in the fact that whereas a few Pesukim later (in Pasuk 20), when Rivkah watered the camels, the Torah records that she drew water from the well, here (in Pasuk 16) the Torah writes "and she filled her pitcher", with nothing said about drawing water.

The question arises however, that if, due to her righteousness, the water rose to fill her pitcher when she arrived at the well, why did the same thing not happen when she came to water the camels?

Simple, says the Kedushas Levi.

Drawing water for oneself is not a Mitzvah, and there was no particular reason why Rivkah should have to exert herself to do so.

Filling her pitcher for Eliezer and the camels, on the other hand, was an extreme act of Gemilus Chasadim. It was a Mitzvah, and not only does a Mitzvah require effort, but the more effort, the greater the reward. Consequently, G-d preferred not to perform a miracle on her behalf whilst she drew water for Eliezer and the camels, in order not to decrease her merit for the incredible feat of watering ten camels.


Torah, Avodah and Gemilus Chasadim

"And the man took a golden nose-ring weighing half a Shekel and two bracelets on her arms, weighing ten golden Shekalim" (24:22).

Rashi explains that the golden nose-rings hinted at the half-Shekel that Yisrael gave in the Desert; The two Tzemidim (bracelets), to the two Tablets of stone, and "Asarah Zahav Mishkalam" (weighing ten golden Shekalim), hinted at the Ten Commandments that they contained.

When Eliezer saw the extent of Rivkah's Gemilus Chasadim, he decided to add hints that corresponded to the other two pillars on which the world stands ... Torah and Avodah, says the Gur Aryeh - the half Shekel was a symbol of Avodah, for with it they purchased the animals for the Korbanos; whereas the Two Luchos was symbolical of Torah.

* * *

(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Please bear in mind that the rulings in this article reflect the opinion of the Seifer ha'Chinuch and are not necessarily Halachah.

Mitzvah 38:
Not to Covet what Somebody Else Has

One may not even consider making the least effort to obtain an object that a fellow-Jew owns, as the Torah writes in Yisro (20:14) "Do not covet the house of a fellow-Jew", and Chazal learn from another Pasuk "Do not covet ... and take it for yourself " that the La'av of "Lo Sachmod" is not complete until one performs an act in addition to the initial thought. The transgression applies even if one has paid money for the article, since, as long as one obtains it 'by force' (i.e. without the basic wishes of the owner) payment does not remove the La'av.

A reason for the Mitzvah is ...because the initial thought itself, which is evil, brings much evil in its wake. For once someone sets his mind to obtain something that belongs to somebody else, which in itself, is the result of an evil desire, nothing will stand in his way to obtain it. Once the owner declines to sell it to him, he will force his hand, and if he sees that the owner refuses point-blank to part with it, he will, in all likelihood, even kill him in order to obtain what he is determined to own, like we find in the case of King Achav, who killed Navos when he refused to sell him the field that he so coveted (see Rambam Hilchos Gezeilah 1:11).

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah ... such as the extent to which one should keep away from this evil Midah, are dealt with in various places in the Gemara and in the Medrash.

This Mitzvah applies everywhere, to men and to women. Someone who contravenes it and covets something that somebody else owns is not however subject to Malkos (even if he performed some sort of act in the process), because the object can be returned to the owner, even if somebody took it away from him by force. Nevertheless, he is still guilty of transgressing a Mitzvah of the King, who, he should remember, is fully capable of punishing him, should he see fit to do so.


Mitzvah 39:
Not to Make a Replica of a Man

It is forbidden to make a replica of a man out of any material, metal, wood, stone or anything else, even if it is meant purely as an ornament, as the Torah writes in Yisro (20:20) "Do not make with Me (Iti) gods of silver or gods of gold", which Chazal interpret as "Osi", in which case it means 'Do not make Me'. In other words, the Torah is forbidding us to make a replica of that figure about which the Torah wrote in Bereishis "Let us make man in our image ... " (1:26), even though that Pasuk refers specifically to man's Seichel (which stems from the Neshamah and) which is the one part of man that he has in common with G-d, for there is no other comparison between G-d and any of His creations (Chalilah). The prohibition of not making any image (Mitzvah 27) that precedes it, refers to that of reproducing any image with the intention of worshipping it; whereas this La'av refers to reproducing specifically the image of man, which is forbidden even if it is not with the intention of worshipping it. The reason for this is in order to distance oneself from Avodah-Zarah as much as possible.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah ... Such as the Din of an image missing one or more limbs, and other details, are discussed in the third Perek of Avodah-Zarah. The Gemara in Sanhedrin (7b) explains that this La'av actually incorporates other issues too. However the basic prohibition is as we explained it.

This Mitzvah applies everywhere, to men and women. Anyone who contravenes it and manufactures a human image has transgressed a Mitzvah of the King, though he does not receive Malkos (because it is a 'La'av she'bi'K'lalus' [a general La'av which incorporates a number of issues], as we explained).

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