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

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Vol. 7   No. 5

Parshas Chayei Soroh


In a previous article, we discussed Eliezer's seemingly strange strategy in his search for a wife for Yitzchok. He arrived in Horon and promptly placed the task of finding the right wife for Yitzchok in Hashem's court, instead of making the necessary hishtadlus (personal effort) to carry out his charge. We discussed there whether his actions (or lack of them), were based on the high level of bitochon that tzadikim attain, or on Avrohom's promise that Hashem would send His angel before him, in which case there was nothing left for him to do but to pray.

Here is a third explanation.


It is clear from the continuation of the story, that it was not only the consent of Rifkah that Eliezer had to obtain, but also that of her family, particularly if, as Rashi maintains, Rifkah was only three at the time, fully under her father's jurisdiction. This was going to be no easy task, and Eliezer knew it. Why not?

Because although there was the distinct advantage of making a wealthy shiduch, something which the greedy Besu'el and Lovon must have relished, there was the problem of Avrohom's devout belief in the One G-d - and it is doubtful that the idolatrous family faced the prospect of their daughter marrying the 'Chareidi Jew' Yitzchok, whose father was the ardent monotheist, with anything but dismay.

Indeed, the fact that they were keen on the money but not on the shiduch, is borne out by their behaviour later, when they attempted to kill Eliezer and keep the ten camels laden with silver and golden vessels and clothes that he had brought with him.


There was only one way to convince Besu'el and Lovon to give their consent to Rifkah's betrothal to Yitzchok, and that was the method that Eliezer employed: He would have to leave it to Hashem to work out things in such a miraculous way that even they would be forced to admit that the shiduch was made in Heaven, which is precisely what happened. The moment Eliezer concluded his account of the events of that day, they had no option but to declare "This thing came from G-d. It is bashert!"

Incidentally, the Gemoro (Mo'ed Kotton 18b) cites this statement of Lovon and Besu'el as the source in the Torah (there is also a source both in Nevi'im and in Kesuvim) for the principle that shiduchim are made in Heaven.


As we just explained, it required Divine intervention to convince Rifkah's family to give their blessings to the shiduch. Nothing less would have worked and had Eliezer applied any more hishtadlus than he did, he would have returned to Avrohom empty-handed. A proof for this lies in the fact that, even their open admission that this was the Hand of G-d at work, followed by their formal consent, did not deter them from immediately attempting to negate that consent by poisoning Eliezer. And when that backfired, they tried every trick in the book to stop or at least to delay the shiduch. It is not difficult to see what sort of a brick wall Eliezer would have come up against had he not asked G-d to intervene. And the problems that Ya'akov Ovinu would later have to face in his dealings with Lovon should certainly serve to dispel any remaining doubts to that effect.


Eliezer knew that once Lovon and Besu'el had seen the Hand of G-d and given their consent to the shiduch, his mission would succeed, no matter that, like so many others who witness open miracles, the impression was likely to be short-lived. That explains why, no sooner had they given their approval, than he bowed down to Hashem in gratitude. He knew that, once he had secured that approval, the major obstacle of his mission overcome, everything else would fall into place.


Parshah Pearls

Chayei Soroh

Three Couples Plus One

In the dialogue between Avrohom and Ephron, the Torah mentions the term 'burying his dead' in one form or another, seven times (see 23:4-15).

Why, asks the Gro, does the Torah find it necessary to repeat this phrase so many times? And why, on the first six occasions, does the Torah always put the burying before the dead ("I will bury my dead", "Bury your dead", "from burying your dead" ...) and only on the seventh and last occasion does it reverse the order and writes "And your dead you shall bury"?


It is well-known, writes the Gro (quoted in P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'Gro) that when Avrohom Ovinu came to bury Soroh in the Cave of Machpeiloh, Odom and Chavah were already buried there, which means that another three couples were still to follow, six tzadikim, who are hinted in the six times that the Torah refers to 'burying his dead'. This is because, as Chazal said in B'rochos (13b), even after tzadikim die they are called alive, and it is only after they have been buried (one hour before 'techiyas ha'meisim') that they actually die, when they will return to dust, in fulfillment of the posuk "because you are dust and you will return to dust" (Bereishis 3:19).


There was however, one more resident in the Cave of Machpeiloh. Chazal have taught us that when Ya'akov's sons came to bury their father in the Cave of Machpeiloh, Eisov objected. Chushim, the son of Don, then took his sword and decapitated his uncle, whose head rolled into the cave, lodging itself in the bosom of his father Yitzchok. Now Eisov was a rosho, and Resho'im, the Gemoro in B'rochos points out, are called dead, even when they are still alive.

It is now clear that the first six times the Torah mentions 'burying his dead', it refers to the six tzadikim who were first buried there, and who would die only later (before techiyas ha'meisim); whereas the seventh time, when the Torah reverses the order, putting the dead before the burial, hints at Eisov ho'Rosho, who was buried in the Cave only after his death.


The Half-Shekolim and the Two Luchos

"And the man (Eliezer) took a golden nose-ring, one beka (half-a-shekel) its weight, and two bracelets he placed on her hands, weighing ten golden shekolim" (24:22).

The Beka, explains Rashi, hints at the half-shekolim that Yisroel would later give in the desert, and the two bracelets weighing ten golden shekolim, at the two stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments.


When Eliezer saw the extent to which Rifkah excelled in the midoh of chesed, he hinted to her that chesed is but one of the pillars on which the world stands, and that there are two more: Avodah and Torah. So he gave her the nose-ring, signifying the half-shekel, with which they would purchase the korbonos (the pillar of Avodah), and the bracelets, signifying the two Luchos containing the Ten Commandments (the pillar of Torah) - Gur Aryeh, quoted by the Ma'ayonoh shel Torah.


Alternatively, we might explain that both the nose-ring and the bracelets represented the midoh of Avodah (the midoh of Yitzchok). Because not only did the Mishkon symbolise Avodah, but so did Mattan Torah, for so Hashem told Moshe at the Burning Bush: "When you take the people out of Egypt, you will serve (ta'avdun) G-d on this mountain".

Eliezer was, in fact, demonstrating to Rifkah the midoh of her future husband Yitzchak (avodah), the ideal complement to her own midoh of chesed). The reason that he saw fit to give Rifkah two symbols of Yitzchok's midoh, was due to the sin of the Golden Calf, after which the Mishkon replaced Har Sinai.


Concubines and the Name of Hashem

The concubines, writes Rashi (ha'pilagshim) is written without a 'yud', because in reality, there was only one concubine, Hogor alias Keturah. Wives receive a kesubah, concubines do not.


We still need to understand, points out the Gro (quoted in P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'Gro) why the Torah adds a 'mem' at the end of the word 'pilagshim' (transforming it into a plural word)? Besides, the order of Rashi's phraseology is most strange!


The Gro answers these discrepancies with the well-known Gemoro in Sotoh, which explains (on daf 17a) that the Name of G-d rests on a married couple, as is hinted in 'ish' (containing a 'yud') and 'ishoh' (containing a 'hey').

The 'vov' and the 'hey' of Hashem's full Name however, are still missing, which is why the kesubah (= k'sav 'vov' 'hey') is so vitally important, and explains why a man may not live with his wife if she has no kesubah (so as not to break up the full Name of Hashem). A concubine on the other hand, receives no kesubah, because the complete Name of Hashem is not present in such a union.


Now we can understand the sequence of Rashi's statements, and answer our first difficulty at the same time. Rashi first writes that 'pilagshim' is written without a 'yud', to inform us that there was really only one concubine.

But in that case, Rashi asks himself, why does the word end in a 'mem' (as we asked above)? To which he replies that concubines do not receive a kesubah, in which case they are lacking half the Name of Hashem – which the Torah subtly hints here by its use of the word ‘pilagshim’ with a ‘mem’, which can also be read p'lag shem (half the Name).



Adapted from the Seifer ha'Mitzvos ha'Kotzer of the Chofetz Chayim.

(The Mitzvos Lo Sa'aseh)

33. Not to kidnap - as the Torah writes in Yisro (20:13) "Do not steal", which the Gemoro in Sanhedrin (86a) interprets as 'Do not kidnap (a Jew)'.

Someone who sells a Jew too, has contravened a la'av, since it is included in the la'av of "They shall not be sold as slaves" (Vayikro 25:42). The kidnapper is not chayav (misah or koreis) until he steals a Jew, brings him into his own domain and either works with him or sells him.

Should he sell him to his (the kidnapped Jew's) father or brother, he is potur. See also mitzvah 34.

This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike.


34. Not to steal an object or money - as the Torah writes in Kedoshim (19:11) "Do not steal". The la'av pertains to any amount over and above a p'rutah or a p'rutah's worth (though this is not a carte blanche to steal less than a p'rutah - like they used to do in S'dom). And it makes no difference whether one steals from a Jewish grown-up, from a child, or from a gentile; in all cases, he is obligated to return what he stole.

Stealing as a joke, in order to return the article or to pay for it, are all prohibited. It is also forbidden to buy something that is presumed to be stolen.

This mitzvah applies everywhere, and at all times, to men and women alike.


35. Not to rob by force - as the Torah writes in Kedoshim (19:13) " ... and do not rob". The la'av pertains to any amount over and above a p'rutah or a p'rutah's worth. Nevertheless, it is forbidden to rob even less than that (see previous la'av).

Someone who robs a p'rutah from a fellow Jew, it is as if he has taken his soul. Even people whom one is permitted to kill (such as heretics), stealing from them or robbing them is prohibited (see Seifer ha'Chinuch mitzvah 229).

One is obligated to return the article that one stole (and not just its value), unless it has changed its format (e.g. from a piece of wood into a table) or its name (from a lamb into a sheep) in which case the thief or the robber acquires the article and pays only its value.

Someone who steals a beam and builds it into his house, is obligated by Torah-law to pull down his house and return the beam. The Rabbonon however, exempted him from doing so, permitting him to pay the value of the beam instead - in order to encourage the thief to do teshuvah.

This mitzvah applies everywhere, and at all times, to men and women alike.


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