This issue is sponsored in honour of the bar-mitsva of
Vol. 24 No. 5
Choresh Lopian n"y
eldest son of Moshe and Livnat Lopian,
by his grandparents, Rachelle and R' Eliezer Chrysler.
May he be a credit to G-d and a source of nachat to his family and Am Yisrael.
Parshas Chayei Sarah
Rifkah Imeinu (Part 1)
The parshah opens with the death of Sarah Imeinu and goes on to deal with the search for the woman who was to replace her, Rifkah Imeinu.
Rifkah did not resemble Sarah in character - indeed, the commentaries explain how she was the complete antithesis of her mother-in-law. Sarah, in direct contrast to her husband Avraham, was the epitomy of midas ha'din. In stark contrast, Rifkah, in order to balance the extreme midas ha'din of Yitzchak, was steeped in the midah of chesed, as is evident from the way in which she dealt with Eliezer and the camels.
Yet, when it came to righteousness, she was her mother-in-law's equal, as Rashi points out later in the Parshah (24:67), where he comments on the Pasuk "And he (Yitzchak) brought her (Rifkah) into the tent of Sarah his mother ... and behold she was (the embodiment of) Sarah his mother." Rashi explains that, as long as Sarah was alive, a lamp would burn from Friday to Friday, a blessing was to be found in the dough, and a (protective) cloud covered the tent. When Sarah died, these blessings ceased, only to reappear the moment Rifkah arrived. That is why the Torah, at the end of Va'yeiro announces Rifkah's birth immediately prior to Sarah's death.
The Torah actually gives us a wonderful insight into the many facets of this extraordinary woman's character. What makes her even more remarkable is the fact that, not only was she the daughter of a rosho and the sister of a rosho (see Rashi 25:20), but that she was exceptionally beautiful, a potential asset to be sure, but one that has caused the downfall of many a talented woman (see Mishlei 7).
The first outstanding characteristic that emerges is Rifkah's maturity - who has ever heard of a three-year-old shepherdess? And this trait reasserts itself later (in pasuk 24), where Rifkah replies to Eliezer's questions in the order that he poses them (Rashi) - the mark of a wise person (see Mishnah Pirkei Ovos 5:7).
The next incident does not directly reflect Rifkah's character, but it certainly does demonstrate her righteousness in the eyes of G-d. Why else would He perform the miracle of making the water rise to meet her when she went down to the well to draw water for Eliezer? (see Rashi pasuk 17).
This is followed by the incredible chesed that she performned by running, not only for Eliezer, a total stranger, and his men, but also for his ten camels, for whom he had not even asked her to draw, but for whom she nevertheless ran with equal enthusiasm.
Her impeccable manners and sensitivity towards other emerges from her response to Eliezer's actions and questions - one could highlight as an example the fact that she waited for Eliezer to finish drinking before addressing him a second time, so as not to encourage him to reply whilst drinking and possibly causing him to choke (Seforno, pasuk 19).
From pasuk 19 we see Rifkah's high level of "hachnosas orchim", when, without hesitation, she invited Eliezer and his large retinue to stay the night with her family. This midah of course, was one for which her father-in-law to be, Avraham Avinu, was famous, and the one for which she earned the merit to become his daughter-in-law (Seforno). And her zeal in performing mitzvos, despite her tender age, portrayed in her dealings with Eliezer, and particularly the way in which she constantly ran to serve him, is nothing less than astounding. When Rifkah's mother and brother consulted her about accompanying Eliezer, she replied without hesitation in the affirmative, a sure sign that she had a will of her own and that she knew exactly what she wanted. Consequently, the previous kindness that she had performed was an act of conviction, not a sign of weakness, as is often the case with kind people.
And from the manner in which she reacted upon her first meeting with Yitzchak, we witness both the deep respect that she displayed towards a husband and a talmid-chochom and the profound tzniyus, the hallmark of an eishes chayil and for which all the Imohos were famous. Her tzniyus also emerges from the fact that she was the only girl in Choron to retain her purity through to her marriage (see Rashi 24:16).
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Paying for a Mitzvah
" … let him give it to me for the full price …" (23:9).
The Chofetz Chayim comments that, not only did Avraham Avinu make a point of paying for the Me'oras ha'Machpeilah before burying Sarah, but he insisted on paying in full (as Rashi points out), and what's more, the Torah stresses it by repeating the sale a number of times. As a matter of fact, Efron initially offered it to him as a gift, but he adamantly refused to accept the offer, as Efron had presumably anticipated. And conversely, haggling over the same object suggests that it is not worth the price that is being asked.
Willingness to pay for a specific object demonstrates that the object is valuable in the eyes of the purchaser and that he considers it worth the price that is being asked - and the more he is willing to pay, the more he considers the object to be valued.
One of the biggest Mitzvos is burying a deceased person. To pay the full asking price for the burial site is therefore a Kavod for both the Mitzvah and for the deceased. And to insist on having paid in full before burying one's dead - as Avraham did - enhances the Kavod even further.
And the same idea applies to Mitzvos in general. Whether one is buying a pair of Tefilin or an Esrog, paying in full without haggling indicates that the Mitzvah is worth every penny that he is paying for it and adds to its Kavod.
It's the Effort that Counts
"And the servant ran towards her …" (24:17).
Because he saw how the water rose to meet her, Rashi explained. This dispensed the need for Rivkah to actually lower the pitcher into the well.
The question arises why the Torah then described how she then drew water for Eliezer, his men and the camels? Why did G-d not continue with the miracle with which He began?
The Kedushas Levi explains that G-d performed the miracle for Rivkah's personal benefit. But when it came to performing the Mitzvah of Chesed, the onus lay on Rivkah to exert herself - as Chazal say in Pirkei Avos (5:21) 'the reward is according to the exertion'. G-d declined to perform a miracle, in order not to deprive her of the reward for a Mitzvah performed to perfection.
One can also answer that Eliezer had just Davened for the right girl to turn up who would perform Chesed with him and his camels, a proof that she was worthy of marrying into Avraham's family. The answer to his prayers required that the girl draw the water herself - and not by means of a miracle.
Midos Don't Go Away with Age
"And Lavan ran outside to (greet) the man" (24:29).
This was the young Lavan's reaction to seeing his sister bedecked with the jewels that Eliezer had given her, explains Rashi. He ran out to see what was 'in it for him'.
It was almost a hundred years later, that the Torah once again describes how the aged Lavan ran out to (greet) his latest guest Ya'akov. If the servant of the house had turned up with ten laden camels, he figured, imagine what the master of the house must have brought with him. And when he saw nothing, not believing that he came empty-handed, he proceeded to 'search for the goodies' (See Rashi, 29:13) - to find out what was 'in it for him'.
It seems that bad Midos, such as greed, require a lot of hard work to get rid of. They don't disappear with age.
"And I said to my master 'Perhaps (ulai) the woman will not want to follow me?' " (24:39).
Rashi explains that Eliezer had a daughter, whom he considered a prospective match for Yitzchak, and whom he had hoped he would marry. That is why the word "Ulai" is written without the customary 'Vav' - so that it can be read 'Eilai' (to me).
After dismissing the proof from the missing 'Vav' in "Ulai" ('Ulai' even without a 'Vav' can just as well read 'Ulai' as 'Eilai'), the G'ro attributes Chazal's reading of Eliezer's intentions to his choice of the word "Ulai", as opposed to the 'Pen'- which also means 'perhaps'. Only whereas "Pen" has negative connotations (such as in the Sh'ma - "Hishomru lochem pen" (lest), implying something that one does not want to happen, 'Ulai' has more positive connotations. In this case, the G'ro explains, we would have expected Eliezer to use the word "Pen", since the girl's refusal ought to have been considered a disappointment. The fact that he said "Ulai" therefore suggests that he was hoping that she would refuse.
The note in the Kol Eliyahu queries the G'ro's explanation:
a). from the Pasuk in Toldos, where Ya'akov said to his mother Rivkah "Perhaps (ulai) my father will feel me and discover my identity"
b). from the Pasuk in Iyov, where Iyov said "Perhaps (ulai) my sons sinned". According to the G'ro's explanation, the term "ulai" conveys the idea that Ya'akov actually hoped that his father would discover his act and that Iyov wanted his sons to have sinned?
Indeed, they were, answers the Wurtzberger Rav quoting his father! Ya'akov, who was the epitome of truth ('Titen emes le'Ya'akov') prayed that his father would feel him and put an end to his false act. And Iyov, whose full statement reads "Maybe my sons have sinned in their hearts" - was hoping that his sons had only sinned in their hearts, and not with their mouths.
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