This issue is sponsored for the רפואה שלמה for
Vol. 21 No. 5
אליעזר בן רות Chrysler
author of Midei Shabbos Beshabbato.
May be continue to inspire Torah learning
for many years to come.
Sarah Imeinu & Esther ha'Malkah
(Adapted from the Oznayim la'Torah)
"And (the duration of) Sarah's life was one hundred and twenty-seven years, were the years of the life of Sarah" (23:1).
Why did Esther merit ruling over a hundred and twenty-seven countries, asks the Medrash?
And it answers 'Let Esther, the granddaughter of Sarah, who lived to the age of a hundred and twenty-seven, come and rule over a hundred and twenty-seven countries!'
Sarah had many granddaughters, comments the Oznayim la'Torah. Why was specifically Esther chosen to enjoy this unique privilege?
The answer, he explains, lies in the fact that out of all Sarah's descendants, Esther was the one who followed in her footsteps. She, more than all the others, inherited Sarah's beautiful qualities. She like her illustrious grandmother, was faced with one of the most difficult tests that a woman can face - a test that deeply affected her femininity, the test of beauty. And, like her grandmother Sarah, she passed the test with flying colours.
One of the most powerful kings in the world, who ruled over a hundred and twenty-seven countries, dazzled by her beauty, places the crown upon her head and appoints her queen of Persia. A life of luxury, wealth and honour are hers, yet when, in order to save her people from annihilation, she is forced to choose between the two lifestyles, she says to Mord'chai - " … If I perish, I perish" (Just as I am lost from my father's house, so too am I lost from you" [Rashi, Esther, 4:16])." Because, as Chazal explain, the moment she went willingly to Achashverosh as a wife, Esther would no longer be permitted to return to her husband, Mord'chai.
She could see nothing positive in being the world's first lady. From now on, then, she would live in the royal palace as the Queen of Persia, cut off from her past; to her, that was total destruction! Indeed, she continued to live as she had before, scorning the luxurious lifestyle that surrounded her, subsisting the simple diet of Kasher food that she herself arranged. She may well have been the Queen of Persia in body, but in spirit, she remained the simple orphan girl who had been brought up in the home of her righteous uncle. And even then, she continued to follow his instructions as she had done previously.
And from whom did Esther learn this? From Sarah Imeinu! When Avraham and Sarah went down to Egypt, the Torah describes how the princes saw Sarah, who, Chazal tell us, was (after Chavah - who was created by the Hand of G-d) the most beautiful woman the world has ever seen, and , enamoured by her beauty, they informed the king. Par'oh lost no time. He brought her to the royal palace and crowned her queen. Sarah, however, like Esther later in history, was unfazed by the prospect of becoming queen of one of the most powerful kingdoms in the world of that time. She spent the entire first night in prayer, asking G-d to free her from 'the prison' (Medrash) in which she now found herself. And when G-d responded by sending an angel to assist her, she did not hesitate to order him to strike Par'oh whenever he tried to lay a hand on her, as Rashi points out. And the same story repeated itself when Avimelech, King of the P'lishtim, went the way of Par'oh, King of Egypt.
Once again, she preferred by far, to join Avraham in his efforts to convert people to believe in G-d and to serve Him, than to be 'incarcerated' in the royal palace of Avimelech, King of the P'lishtim.
Yes, Esther of all Sarah's descendents, was the one to commemorate Sarah's hundred and twenty-seven years by ruling over a hundred and twenty-seven countries. She was the spiritual heir of Sarah Imeinu, and followed in her footsteps.
* * *
(Adapted from the Oznayim la'Torah)
Life after Death
"And (the duration of) Sarah's life was one hundred and twenty-seven years" (23:1).
Interestingly, the Parshah is recording Sarah's death, yet it refers to it as 'Sarah's life'.
In the same vein, the Parshah of Vay'chi in recording Ya'akov's death, says "And Ya'akov lived … ".
From here we can learn that real life is not the temporary life that we live in this world, but the eternal life that we will experience in the life after death (Oznayim la'Torah).
It seems to me that it also hints at what Chazal say 'Tzadikim, even after they die, are still called alive', because they may well have died, but their legacy lives on.
Sarah's Timely Death
"The years of the life of Sarah" (Ibid.).
The Medrash relates how Sarah died when the Satan revealed to her that her son Yitzchak was about to be slaughtered. This might lead us to think, says the Oznayim la'Torah, that she was destined to live longer, and that her life was curtailed by the news of the Akeidah.
The Torah therefore adds he words "The years of the life of Sarah", to inform us that she served her full term in this world, and that, if not for the Satan's advent at that moment, she would have died by some other means - for, as the old saying goes 'G-d has many emissaries at His disposal'.
Burial Place of the Mothers
"And Sarah died in Kiryas Arba, alias Chevron …" (23:2).
The Oznayim la'Torah cites two opinions in the Medrash, as to whether it was called by that name ('the Town of Four'), on account of the four fathers (Adam, Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya'akov) who were buried there, or on account of the four mothers (Chavah, Sarah, Rivkah and Le'ah [Rashi writes simply 'the four pairs']). And he asks why the mothers?
Because, he answers, the word "Arba" is feminine.
Alternatively, he says, citing the Y'fas To'ar, the four mothers all died before their husbands.
The latter comments on this that Le'ah died before Ya'akov, and is also borne out by the fact that her name is not included among the seventy souls who went down to Egypt.
The Oznayim la'Torah wonders why it is necessary to say this, however, since in Parshas Vay'chi Ya'akov Avinu specifically tells Yosef that he buried Le'ah in the Me'oras ha'Machpeilah.
"And Lavan and Besu'el answered and said 'This matter stems from Hashem, we cannot say to you either bad or good' " (24:50).
This was a prophesy, the Oznayim la'Torah points out, though little did they realize it.
Twenty years later when Ya'akov fled and Lavan chased after him, Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu warned him not to speak with Ya'akov 'either good or bad!' Only G-d placed good before bad, whereas these evil men placed bad before good (as evil men tend to do).
A Change of Heart
"Let us call the girl and ask her what she thinks" (24:57).
Lavan and Besu'el already gave their consent to the union, indeed, the engagement (Kidushin) already took place, the Oznayim la'Torah comments, and it never occurred to them to ask Rivkah for her consent (although, according to Chazal, it would have been the correct thing to do, assuming she was three, imperative, according to those who maintain that she was fourteen).
What prompted them suddenly to change their minds?
Simple, says the Oznayim la'Torah. They had changed their minds and now decided that, even though the betrothal had already taken place, the wedding would not.
It is remarkable how before the meal, Lavan and Besu'el, having heard from Eliezer about the series of miracles that he had just experienced, were so overawed with what was clearly G-d's hand in the proceedings, that they capitulated to Eliezer's request - unconditionally. Yet, barely had they finished eating, Lavan and his mother (Besu'el, as Rashi explains, had since died) were already making plans to negate the Shiduch.
Searching for an excuse to prevent Rivkah from leaving, they therefore asked Rivkah what she thought about the idea, in the hope that she would, for some reason, reject Eliezer's offer. In fact, the Oznayim la'Torah explains the words in the following Pasuk "Will you go with this man", in a rhetorical sense 'Will you really go with this (stranger?').
And that is why Rivkah replied "I certainly will!" (whether you like it or not!)
Marriage & Love
"Yitzchak brought her to the tent of Sarah his mother; he took Rivkah and she became his wife; and he loved her …" (24:67).
It seems from here that love is a result of marriage, and not the other way round.
Avraham's Gift to Yitzchak
"And Avraham gave all that he possessed to Yitzchak" (25:5).
Rashi cites Rebbi Nechemyah, who explains this with reference to the ability to bless whoever he wanted.
The Pasuk cannot be understood literally (with reference to his property), since he had already bequeathed to Yitzchak via Eliezer, when the latter went to Charan to find a wife for Yitzchak (Refer to Rashi, 24:10).
* * *