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

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Vol. 18   No. 5

This issue is sponsored by
Shabsi and Leah Rubin n"y
on the occasion of the Bar Mitzvah
of their dear grandson Shmuli Perkal n"y.
May he be a source of nachas to his family
and all of K'lal Yisrael.

Parshas Chayei Sarah

Eliezer Eved Avraham
(Adapted from the 'Otzar Ishei ha'T'nach')

Targum Yonasan maintains that Eliezer was the son of Nimrod (according to others, he was the brother of Par'oh, uncle of Hagar); and he adds that he possessed the combined strength of the other three hundred and eighteen men who comprised Avraham Avinu's household (see para. 'The Medrash explains').


According to Pirkei de'R. Eliezer, when Avraham came out alive from Ur Kasdim, all the world's leaders presented him with gifts. Nimrod, a mighty king already then, gave him his personal slave Eliezer. Subsequently, when Eliezer faithfully performed Chesed with Yitzchak by arranging the Shiduch with Rivkah, Avraham rewarded him by setting him free. G-d too, paid him in this world - He set him up as a king, and he became known as 'Og Melech ha'Bashan'. The Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos maintains that this was not the infamous Rasha that we know about. Indeed, the same commentary cites a Medrash which lists Eliezer as one of nine people who entered Gan Eden alive. Rashi too, who explains that Og was the fugitive who informed Avraham that Lot had been captured, certainly concurs with the Da'as Zekeinim in this point. The Yalkut however, describing Og's gigantic measurements, clearly equates the two. He even relates that Eliezer would carry Avraham in the palm of his hand. He describes an incident where Avraham once scolded his slave. Eliezer held his master in such awe that the shock caused one of his teeth to fall out. Avraham took the tooth and formed it into a bed (or a chair) which he subsequently used.


The Torah refers to Eliezer as 'Damesek Eliezer', because he drew and watered ('doleh u'mashkeh' - the acronym of 'Damesek' [i.e. taught others]) from his master's Torah (Yuma 28b). Indeed, the same Gemara describes him as 'an elder who sat in Yeshivah', a description that could be said about few - very few - contemporaries of his who lived at that time. The Medrash even goes so far as to say that he resembled Avraham in looks - which explains why, as the Medrash explains, when Lavan first set eyes on Eliezer, he mistook him for Avraham, and greeted him with the words 'Bo b'ruch Hashem!' (see final piece)


The Medrash explains that when Avraham mobilized all his three-hundred and eighteen servants to fight against the four kings, he told them that they were about to go to war. As the Torah prescribes, he announced that whoever had sinned and was afraid to go into battle should leave the battle-front and go home. When as a result, all his men went home, leaving only Eliezer, his loyal servant, ready to accompany his master, Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu responded by granting him the strength of all three hundred and eighteen men.


Eliezer Eved Avraham once met Shem, the son of No'ach, and he asked him how they had managed in the Teivah during the time of the flood, to which the latter replied that they had had a tough time caring for all the animals. And when Shem in return, wanted to know how he with his master Avraham had fared when they fought against the kings of the east and the west, he replied that G-d had taken Avraham and placed him on His right side, and how they had begun throwing earth at the enemy, which turned into swords, and stubble that had turned into arrows.


Contrary to the prevalent assumption that the two servants (Yishmael and Eliezer), when told to wait for Avraham and Yitzchak's return from the Akeidah, did not know where the two were going, the Medrash presents the following dialogue … Yishmael to Eliezer: 'Now that my father is about to sacrifice Yitzchak as an Olah, I, in my capacity as his firstborn son, stand to inherit him!' Eliezer's reply: 'Not at all! Did your father not drive you out like a woman? Surely, I, his servant, who serves him faithfully day and night, will inherit him!'

But Ru'ach ha'Kodesh offered a third opinion: 'Not this one and not that one will inherit!'


Because Eliezer fulfilled his mission faithfully, says the Zohar, the Torah writes in connection with him "Baruch Hashem". And that is why an angel put into Lavan's mouth the seemingly inappropriate words "Bo b'ruch Hashem" ('Come, blessed one of Hashem!') - bearing in mind that slaves generally fall under the category of 'cursed'. Indeed, the Medrash explains, due to his extreme loyalty, he was transformed from 'Arur' to 'Baruch'. And presumably, it is on account of that very loyalty that he went alive into Gan Eden, as we explained earlier.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Rivo)

Beautiful or Pretty

"And the life of Sarah was …" (23:1).

Rashi explains that Sarah was as beautiful when she was twenty as she was when she was seven.

The Chizkuni explains that this cannot be taken literally, but that just as a seven-year old's pretty looks are natural, and do not require make-up to enhance them, so too, was Sarah naturally beautiful at twenty, and needed no make-up to display her beauty.

The Riva also explains that, according to what he heard that at that time, it was common for girls to give birth at the age of seven (like we find Rivkah, who married at three) Rashi's statement makes good sense, too. Let us explain why.

What clearly bothers the Riva is the fact that a three-year old may be pretty, but to compare her beauty to that of a twenty-year old woman seems exaggerated. Hence he presents two answers. The first answer explains beauty in this context in a different light; the second, taking 'beauty' literally, points out that a girl attained womanhood at a much younger age, and that, if she was able to have children at the age of seven, one can assume that she had also attained physical beauty by then.


First One Cries

"And Avraham came to eulogize Sarah and to cry for her" (23:2).

According to the Gemara in Mo'ed Katan, the first three days are for crying, and the remaining days of the Sheloshim are for eulogizing. Why, asks the Riva, did Avraham switch the order?

No problem, he explains. When Avraham returned from the Akeidah, three days had already elapsed, and he found the members of his household eulogizing Sarah. So he joined them in their grief, and when they finished, he wept.

Other commentaries explain that generally, when a person dies, one feels the loss so deeply, that one inevitably breaks into tears there and then, and it is only when the tears run dry that one is ready to eulogize the deceased. Sarah however, died at a ripe old age, and the pain was perhaps not so acute. Consequently, it was necessary to eulogize her first, to bring on the tears.


The Cave

"And he will give me the Cave of Machpeilah … " (23:9).

What prompted Avraham to ask for the cave? Why was the burial spot alone not sufficient?

The answer, the Rive explains, lies in the episode with Avraham and his visitors (in last week's Parshah). When Avraham went to fetch three bulls from his herd, one of them ran away. Avraham gave chase, and the bull led him to the Cave of Machpeilah, where he actually saw Adam and Chavah.

Now that he realized the significance of that cave, he made efforts to secure it for his own family - and succeeded.


Going Back

" … only my son (Yitzchak) do not return there" (24:8).

How could Yitzchak return to a place where he had never set foot, asks the Riva?

Quoting the Pasuk in Lech-L'cha (15:16)"And the fourth generation shall return here", he proves that it is possible to use the term 'return' based on the fact that one's ancestors have been there, even though one has not been there oneself. Alternatively, he explains, it is possible to say 'return' here, because of Eliezer, whom Avraham includes in the statement. Since he would have already have travelled to Charan to find the wife, and was now returning there with Eliezer, the term "return" is appropriate.

And there too, he cites a precedent, taken from Megilas Rus, which refers to Rus' return to Beis-Lechem, even though she had never been there before, on account of Naomi, whom Rus was accompanying, who had.


Sibling Jealousy?

"And the man took out a golden nose-ring … " (24:22).

In one of his explanations, the Riva cites the B'chor Shor, who explains that Eliezer gave Rivkah the jewellery before asking her about her family, as a reward for watering his camels. And the moment Lavan heard about that, he came running out with the news that he had cleared the house for Eliezer, and to see what else he could do for him. He hoped that he too, might earn himself a handsome reward like his sister.

We will write on this Pasuk in 'Highlights from the Da'as Zekeinim' that he only gave her the jewellery after ascertaining that she was from Avraham's family. The Riva too, cites this opinion in the name of Rabeinu Tam, and he uses it to answer the Kashya how Eliezer could perform an act of Nichush (divining) which entails relying on one's predictions in the way that Eliezer did here, seeing as the Gemara in Sanhedrin forbids a ben-No'ach to indulge in any form of witchcraft?

And he answers that Eliezer acted not upon his predictions, but rather on the hard facts. Hence he did not present Rivkah with the gifts until he knew for sure that she was a member of Avraham's family, as the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos explains.

* * *


"And the life of Sarah was (vayi'hyu) a hundred and twenty-seven years … " (23:1).

The Da'as Zekeinim comments that Sarah was ninety years old when she gave birth to Yitzchak. As is well-known, a person who has no children is in a sense, considered as if he was dead. In that case, Sarah really lived thirty-seven years (from the age of ninety till a hundred and twenty-seven) the Gematriyah of the word "vayi'hyu'".


" … the years of the life of Sarah" (Ibid.)

The Pasuk is coming to tell us, Rashi explains, that all of the years of Sarah's life were equally good.

But the Torah uses the same expression ("the years of the life of … ") in connection with Yishmael, asks the Da'as Zekeinim, and although he did Teshuvah, it can hardly be said that all his years were equally good?

The Da'as Zekeinim explains that Yishmael converted, and someone who converts, Chazal say, is like a new-born baby.

Consequently, we can discount anything that he did prior to the conversion.

It is unclear what he means however, as he himself cites Rashi in Chayei-Sarah (25:9) with regard to Yishmael having done Teshuvah, and Rashi says nothing about his having converted.

To answer the initial Kashya, the Riva quoting R. Elyakim, explains that Yishmael did Teshuvah out of love, and, as Chazal have taught, when someone does Teshuvah out of love (as opposed to doing Teshuvah out of fear), all his sins become merits. Consequently, it can truly be said that all the years of his life were equally good.

Alternatively, says the Da'as Zekeinim … , we cannot explain "sh'nei chayei Yishmael" in the same way as we do "sh'nei chayei Sarah", seeing as, in contrast to the latter, the former is written before the Pasuk has specified the number of years that Yishmael lived.


"And G-d blessed Avraham with everything (ba'Kol) 24:1.

This is on the merit, says the Da'as Zekeinim, of the Ma'aser that he gave to Malki-Tzedek, as the Torah hints by using the same word (and he gave him Ma'aser from everything (mi'Kol).


" …if the woman will not agree to follow you then you will be released from this oath … " (24:8).

This implies, says the Da'as Zekeinim, that the second oath, not to take a wife from the daughters of the Cana'anim, remained intact.

Yet Rashi comments - 'and take a wife from the daughters of Aner, Eshkol and Mamrei'.

In that case, the Da'as Zekeinim observes, we must conclude that Aner, Eshkol and Mamrei were not Cana'anim.


"And the man took a golden nose-ring … (24:22).

The Da'as Zekeinim citing the Chacham R. Moshe explains that the man took out a golden nose-ring and two bracelets which he held in his hand ready to place on Rivkah if she would turn out to be the right one; Then, when she told him the name of her family, he placed them on her. This is a 'short Pasuk', as we find fairly often.

And this tallies with what Eliezer later told Rivkah's parents.

(See also Rashi, Pasuk 23 & Pasuk 47).

* * *

(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 462:
Not to Entice Someone to Worship Avodah-Zarah

We are prohibited from enticing a fellow Jew to worship Avodah-Zarah. Someone who does so is called a Meisis. It is in this connection that the Torah writes at the end of Parshah of Meisis in Parshas Re'ei (13:12) "And they shall not continue to do the likes of this evil thing in your midst!".

The Reason for the Mitzvah is self-understood.

The Dinim of the Mitzvah … Chazal define Hasosoh as a case where one man says to another 'Let us go and worship (Shecht an animal to burn incense to, pour out wine to or prostrate ourselves to) such-and-such an Avodah-Zarah!' or if he says the same thing in the singular 'I will go and worship (Shecht an animal to burn incense to, pour out wine to or prostrate myself to) such-and-such an Avodah-Zarah!'. And he is called a Meisis, irrespective of whether both of them or either of them actually carried out the act or not. He is a Meisis for what he said, not for what he did … If a Meisis entices two people to worship Avodah-Zarah, they can serve as the two witnesses who bring him to trial, who testify against him and who are responsible for his receiving the death-sentence … A Meisis does not require warning, on account of the evil character of the sin, in the same way as Eidim Zomemin, who do not require warning for the same reason (as the author will explain in Parshas Shoftim, when discussing the Mitzvah of doing to Eidim Zomemin what they planned to do to others) … Chazal have also said that one person who is being enticed by a Meisis, is obligated to invite him to make the same offer to his friends who are interested. And the reason that he does this is in order to get two witnesses to listen to him, to ensure that his case is brought to the Beis-Din. Furthermore they said that if the Meisis refuses to say his words in the presence of two people, it is a Mitzvah to hide two witnesses in a place where they can see him, but he cannot see them, following which he gets him to repeat what he told him earlier. Should he comply, he (the Musas) responds 'But how can we forsake our G-d who is in Heaven and worship wood and stones?!" If the Meisis then retracts or remains silent, he is Patur; But if he insists that what he suggested is the right thing to do, then the witnesses take him to Beis-Din to be judged. This is the only case in the Torah where hidden witnesses are permitted. And the reason for this is in order to distance idolatry … It is a Mitzvah for the Musas himself to carry out the death sentence after Beis-Din pronounce the death-sentence. That is why the Torah writes "Your hand shall be the first to put him to death". The Mitzvah to kill him is part of the general Mitzvah currently under discussion, and is not an independent one … and the details connected with this Mitzvah are to be found in Maseches Sanhedrin.

This Isur applies everywhere and at all times to both men and women. Whoever contravenes it, irrespective of whether he is an ordinary layman, a Chacham or a Navi, and entices a fellow-Jew, man or woman, to worship Avodah-Zarah in the way that we explained, is Chayav Sekilah.

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