NOVEMBER 21-22, 2003 27 HESHVAN 5764
"I am an alien resident among you, give me a burial ground among you that I may bury my dead" (Beresheet 23:4)
At the conclusion of last week's perashah, we learned about Akedat Yitzhak, the sacrifice of Yitzhak. This was considered the last and most difficult of the ten tests that Hashem tested Abraham Abinu with. Rabenu Yonah in Abot holds that the Akeda was number nine, and the last test was Abraham having to purchase from Ephron a burial plot for his wife, Sarah, who had just passed away. This seems to be a shocking statement, for how can one compare the test of buying a burial plot to the test of the Akedah?
Rabbi Dessler (as explained by Rabbi Frand) has a true to life explanation. Imagine coming home from work, or after a long day of taking care of the kids, and you get irritated at a loved one and you snap at that person with a harsh word. What is your most readily available excuse? "I had a hard day." Now let us consider Abraham Abinu's circumstances. He has just come back from the Akedah, where he narrowly escaped slaughtering his own son. Can you imagine his mental and emotional state? Then, he comes home to discover Sarah has died and that he has to go through some difficult negotiations in order to secure a burial plot for her. It must have been very frustrating for Abraham to be forced to pay anything at all, let alone an exorbitant sum for land Hashem had promised him as an everlasting birthright. To top it all off he must contend with Ephron, who was no better than a sleazy used-car salesman. This was Abraham's test. Would he treat Ephron with honor? Or would he say he had a very hard day? The Torah shows us how he treated Ephron with the highest respect.
It is easy for us to take the easy way out and say that we had a hard day instead of controlling our emotions and acting politely. And you know what? It's likely that your spouse or your friend had a hard day too! Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
"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 Shmuel Choueka
"And Hashem blessed Abraham with everything" (Beresheet 24:1)
Rashi explains that the word “bakol” alludes to the fact that Abraham was blessed with a son, since the numerical value of “bakol” equals that of "ben,” which means "son." It seems peculiar that the Torah would be so vague, rather than explicitly stating that Abraham was blessed with a son. Harav Nissan Alpert offers two insightful answers to this question. Although parents make every attempt to raise children in an appropriate manner, sometimes it is to no avail. Some children grow up and unfortunately do not see eye to eye with their parents. The type of wife envisioned by the father is not consistent with the son's perspective of a mate or vice versa. In Yitzhak's situation, a harmonious outlook existed between father and son. Abraham had fathered a son whose total outlook was compatible to his own. He was blessed with “bakol” - everything - a son who was his in every sense of the word.
Rav Alpert suggests another thought which is specifically applicable to those fathers who devote so much of their time and energy to communal endeavors. Their lives are totally entwined in community affairs, often at the expense of their own families. These individuals contrast to those who exemplify the "perfect" parents, whose entire lives revolve around their families. Their devotion to family knows no bounds. However, they are not cognizant of the "other" children in the community. Truly blessed is he who can succeed in accomplishing his missions, both at home and in the community. This can occur when parents educate their children to the importance of hesed, kindness to others. When one shares with his children the performance of various communal endeavors, such as charity, visiting the sick, helping the downtrodden, one achieves two objectives. First, one sensitizes his children to the importance of helping a fellow Jew. Second, one actually performs this misvah. Such an educational process will succeed in creating a strong, harmonious family environment, in which parents participate in a meaningful relationship with their children. This was Abraham's blessing: he succeeded “bakol,” in everything. By involving his son in his life's work, he was able to fulfill his obligations to both the community and to his family. (Peninim on the Torah)
Question: Upon opening the ark to take out the Sefer Torah, why do we begin with "Attah horeta" on Shabbat, yet on holidays we skip the verse which begins with these words and the verse following it, consequently beginning with "yehi"?
Answer: "Attah horeta" refers to receiving the Torah, which took place on Shabbat, so it is not said on holidays. (Excerpted from Siddur Abir Yaacob, published by Sephardic Press)
"And Abraham was old, he came with his days." (Beresheet 24:1)
The Torah tells us that Abraham "came with his days." This teaches us that every single day, Abraham accomplished whatever he needed to accomplish on that day. He did not waste a single day of his life.
It is written in Pirkei Abot: If not now, when?" Our Sages explain that a person shouldn't procrastinate, saying, "I'll do it tomorrow" because tomorrow has its own set of accomplishments that need to be done. Every day has its own package of deeds that are waiting to be performed. A person should approach each day with a specific goal of what he intends to achieve on that day. It is also helpful to reflect at the end of the day, to see whether you indeed reached the goals you set for yourself.
Question: What good thing did you accomplish today? Do you feel that your day could have been more productive? What are your goals for tomorrow?
This Week's Haftarah: Melachim I 1:1
In the beginning of the perashah, we are told that Abraham is 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)
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