This issue is sponsored jointly
Vol. 22 No. 5
with Refuah Shleimo wishes
for Rabbi Eliezer Chrysler
אך טוב וחסד ירדפוני כל ימי חיי,
ושבתי בבית ה' לאורך ימים.
Parshas Chayei Sarah
What Was Sarah Doing in Chevron?
(Adapted from the Ramban)
" … Sarah died in Kiryas Arba - that is Chevron, in the land of Cana'an, and Avraham came to eulogize her and to mourn for her" (23:2).
The question arises that, if, as it would appear from the previous Parshah, Avraham and Sarah, at the time of the Akeidah, resided in Be'er Sheva (a town in the land of the P'lishtim), which is borne out by Rashi, who comments on "he came", that Avraham came from Be'er Sheva, why did Sarah die in Chevron?
In his first explanation - and it needs to be stressed that he is not averse to presenting commentaries that do not necessarily conform with Chazal ('The Torah has seventy faces') - the Ramban does indeed assume that all the Parshiyos dealing with Hagar, the birth of Yitzchak and the Akeidah, from the time that Avraham went down to Avimelech, took place in Be'er Sheva.
That will explain, he says, why the journey to the Akeidah took three days; had he lived in Chevron, he points out, it would not have taken him so long.
Consequently, says the Ramban, Sarah's death took place some years later, after they had moved to Chevron, and was unconnected to the Akeidah. That being the case, Yitzchak, who was thirty-seven when his mother died, would have been some years younger than that at the time of the Akeidah.
And when the Torah writes that "Avraham came" says the author, it means simply that he came to her tent to mourn for her, not that he arrived from another town.
In his second explanation, based on Chazal, which connects Sarah's death with the Akeidah, as Rashi explains, he concedes that the Akeidah must have taken place after they moved to Chevron (See final paragraph). In that case, he explains, Avraham wandered around the area between Chevron and Yehudah for three days until G-d revealed to him the mountain on which the Akeidah would take place. And when Rashi comments that he came from Be'er Sheva to bury Sarah, this is not because that was where he resided, but because that was where he went after the Akeidah to give thanks to Hashem for the miracle that he had just experienced. Indeed, the Ramban equates this with the Medrash which explains that Avraham came from the Akeidah to bury Sarah.
Rashi in Vayeira agrees with the Ramban's second explanation (21:34). Based on the Pasuk there, he concludes that Avraham spent his first twenty-five years (from age seventy-five to ninety-nine) in Chevron, and twenty-six years in the land of the P'lishtim, till the age of a hundred and twenty-five, before returning to live in Chevron, when Yitzchak was twenty-five, twelve years before the Akeidah was destined to take place.
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(Adapted from the Ramban)
Why All the Details?
" … after that, Avrahan buried Sarah his wife in the Cave of the Field of Machpeilah, in the area of Mamre, alias Chevron, in the land of Cana'an" (23:20).
Over the years, Avraham and Sarah moved backwards and forwards from Chevron (in Eretz Cana'an) to Be'er Sheva (in the land of the P'lishtim) and from Be'er Sheva to Chevron (See main article). That is why, says the Ramban, the Torah keeps on stressing that Sarah died in Chevron- in the holy land of Eretz Cana'an, and not in the land of the P'lishtim.
And the reason that it stresses her burial in the Me'aras ha'Machpeilah is so that we should treat the burial place of our holy ancestors with the due respect that it deserves (and that we should pour out our hearts there in Tefilah).
Moreover, he explains, we can learn from the Parshah the great Chesed that G-d did to Avraham, in that he fulfilled the promise he made to him when he left Charan "to aggrandize his name". See how the men of Cheis referred to him as 'my master' and conferred upon him the title 'Prince of G-d', even though he was a solitary stranger who had come to sojourn with them.
"Hashem, G-d of the Heaven, who took me from the house of my father and from the land of my birthplace …" (24:6).
On the words "from the house of my father" and on "from the land of my birthplace", respectively, Rashi comments 'from Charan' and 'from Ur Kasdim'.
Reiterating what he said at the end of No'ach, the Ramban writes that, under no circumstances, could Avraham have been born in Ur Kasdim. Ur Kasdim was situated in Bavel, and belonged to the territory of Cham, whereas Avraham's family hailed from the other side of the River P'ras, from Aram Naharayim, which belonged to Shem - which is why he was known as Avraham ha'Ivri.
Moreover, he points out, if Avraham's family originated from Ur Kasdim, how come that Avraham's brother Nachor, who did not accompany Terach on his travels, lived in Charan and not in Aram Naaharayim?
Clearly then, Terach and family initially moved from Charan (in Aram Naharayim) to Ur Kasdim, where his son Haran was born and where the episode with Nimrod and the furnace took place. At a later stage he left Ur Kasdim to go to Eretz Cana'an, but only made it as far as Charan, and that was when G-d ordered Avraham to complete the journey to the Land of Cana'an.
In any event, says the Ramban, Eliezer went to Charan and not to Ur Kasdim, so he wonders why Rashi mentions Ur Kasdim at all, even if, as he suggests, he (Rashi) interprets 'Moladti', not as birthplace, but as the location where he had family.
The Two Oaths
"In the event that the woman will not agree to follow you (Eliezer), then you will be free from this oath …" (24:8).
In which case, Rashi comments, he will be permitted to take a wife from the daughters of Aner, Eshkol and Mamrei (Avraham's friends),
The Ramban objects to Rashi's comment however, since Aner, Eshkol and Mamrei were Cana'anim and Avraham specifically instructed Eliezer not to take a wife from the daughters of the Cana'anim "in whose midst I dwell" with reference to his three friends - how much more so the daughters of other Cana'anim, who were not on the same level as them.
Moreover, he explains, the words "from this oath" imply that Eliezer took two oaths (that he would take a wife from Charan and that he would not take one from Cana'an) and that it was only from the former that he would be absolved should the woman refuse to return with him to Eretz Cana'an. The oath not to take a wife from Cana'an would remain in full force.
Consequently, should the prospective bride refuse to return with him to Cana'an, he would then be required to search for a wife among the daughters of Yishmael and Lot.
Interestingly, Rashi himself cites Eliezer saying this to Lavan and Basuel later in the Parshah (24:49). He makes no mention there of the daughters of Aner, Eshkol and Mamrei.
"And Avraham expired and died at a ripe old age, mature and sati-ated …" (25:8).
He attained everything that his heart desired, the Ramban explains, as is the way of Tzadikim, who have no intrinsic interest in material possessions and who are therefore content with whatever they have. This is not the case of the majority of people, about whom Chazal have said 'A person does not leave this world with half his desires having been attained' (someone who has a hundred wants two hundred and when he obtains two hundred, he wants four) - as the Pasuk writes in Mishlei "Someone who loves money will never be satisfied with money!"
Alternatively, the author cites a Medrash, which attributes the satisfaction of Tzadikim when they die to the fact that Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu shows them their reward in the World to Come prior to their death, causing them to die 'with a smile on their lips'.
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