NOVEMBER 9-10, 2001 24 HESHVAN 5762
- Rabbi Reuven Semah
"Land worth 400 silver shekels, between me and you, what is it?"
In our perashah, Abraham Abinu is purchasing a piece of land to bury Sarah, his wife. Upon insisting to pay, Efron, the owner, says, "This land which is worth four hundred shekels, what is it, ma hi, between friends?" Abraham picks up the cue and pays the full amount. The words ma hi, what is it, are found three times in the Torah. The first is here, by the sale of land to Abraham. The second is by the story of the spies (Bemidbar 13:18): "And you will see the land what is it (ma hi)." The third time is in Tehillim (39:5): "Hashem please make known to me my end, what is (ma hi) the measure of my days." The Pardes Yosef makes a beautiful connection between the three times ma hi is mentioned.
We all know that we have a bad advisor that always tries to steer us wrong. He is known as the yeser hara, the bad inclination inside of us. When we are young and foolish he tells us to pursue all the physical gratification we can get, and we will settle down after marriage and study some Torah. However, upon marriage he tells us, "All you have in your pocket is four hundred shekels, ma hi, what is it? It's not enough!" He convinces the young man to throw himself completely into pursuing his livelihood. He says there is no time to study now. Later, after earning success there will be time to study and improve spiritually.
But after the person toils and slaves for many years and he is ready to devote time to spiritual matters, that little voice comes with the verse from Bemidbar. "After all the years of hard work don't you and your wife deserve an extended vacation? You need to see ma hi, what the land is like. Take a cruise around the world! You never know if you will be healthy enough to enjoy it. There is time to study later." On this note comes the third mention in Tehillim. "Please Hashem, let me know my end ma hi, what is the measure of my days?" The Tehillim is reminding you, don't be fooled, study now while you are able. Pursue spirituality while you still can. Shabbat Shalom.
- Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"And Sarah died in Kiryat Arba" (Beresheet 23:2)
The Rabbis tell us that Sarah passed away when she heard that Yitzhak was almost killed. The shock of such drastic news was enough to make Sarah lose her life. However, we also know that Sarah was greater than Abraham in prophecy, so if Abraham was able to perform the act itself without being overwhelmed by his emotions, why could Sarah not bear this trauma, since she is the greater of the two?
The answer is that fulfilling a nisayon, a test, often seems beyond one's capabilities. However, Hashem, Who commands one to be tested, also gives him the strength to bear the challenge. The misvah itself reinforces the person doing it. Abraham was commanded to do the Akedah, the binding of Yitzhak, so he was given the strength to bear the test. Sarah was not herself commanded in this misvah, and so relying only on her natural strength, she passed away merely upon hearing the news of Yitzhak's near death.
We are constantly faced with challenges, and some of them seem so overwhelming to us, even to the point where we feel it's impossible to pass this test. We have to know that if Hashem gives a test, He also gives the wherewithal to pass the challenge. We just have to look deep inside of ourselves and pray for His guidance. There, we will find it! Shabbat Shalom.
- Rabbi Raymond Haber
"And I told my master; perhaps the woman will not want to come with me" (Beresheet 24:5)
Rashi comments that the word oolai - maybe - is written without a "vav" and may also be read elai - to me. Eliezer had a daughter and was looking for a way to get Abraham to ask Eliezer for his daughter to marry Yitzhak. Abraham answered him that Yitzhak is blessed (for he comes from Shem whom Noah blessed) while you are cursed (as Eliezer comes from Ham whom Noah cursed) and a "blessed" does not join with an "accursed".
The question is raised that this unique spelling of elai is written when Eliezer repeats the narrative to Betuel, but when Eliezer originally spoke to Abraham the regular spelling of oolai is used.
A lesson to be learned is that the Torah is showing how strongly a person can be blinded by his ulterior motives. When Eliezer was talking to Abraham, he didn't realize what was motivating him to ask the questions that he was asking, but Abraham was able to see his true intention. It was only after he found Ribkah, and no longer thought of giving his daughter to Yitzhak, did Eliezer realize that his seemingly innocent question of oolai "perhaps" was really deep down, elai -to me. Shabbat Shalom.
"The servant [Eliezer] ran towards her [Ribkah]" (Beresheet 24:17)
Rashi explains that the servant ran to her because he witnessed a miracle: the water in the well rose to her. The Ramban explains that Rashi derives this from the later phrase, "she drew water for all his camels" (24:20). Obviously, in the previous pasuk she did not have to draw the water. Why didn't the water also rise the second time?
At first, when Ribkah came to the well, her intention was to draw water for herself. Hashem didn't want a sadeket to inconvenience herself and therefore caused the well water to rise so that she could fill her jug easily. However, the second time, when she went to the well, it was for a misvah - to feed thirsty animals, and Hashem did not want to take away part of the misvah by making it easier for her. Therefore, the water did not rise and it was necessary for her to draw water for the camels. (Vedibarta Bam)
This Week's Haftarah: Melachim I 1:1
In the beginning of the perashah, Abraham is mentioned as getting old. The rest of the perashah deals primarily with Abraham's desire to secure the future of his lineage. When Yitzhak gets married, Abraham sends the rest of his children away. In doing so, he ensures that Yitzhak will be the sole heir to his "throne."
The Haftarah begins in the same fashion. King David is getting old. He wants to make sure that the right person will inherit the throne after he dies. One of his sons, Adoniyah, decides that he will be king when his father dies. But King David assures Bat Sheba that her son, Shelomo, will be the next Jewish king.
King David, like Abraham, wanted to make sure that the right son ruled when he died. (Tell it from the Torah)
Answer to Pop Quiz: Yitzhak and Yishmael.
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