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NOVEMBER 5-6, 2004 22 HESHVAN 5765

Pop Quiz: Where did Ribkah's family live?


"Swear to me you will not take a Canaanite woman for my son" (Beresheet 24:2-3)

Abraham commanded Eliezer, his servant, to find a wife for Yitzhak, but not from the daughters of Canaan. He made him swear with G-d's Name that he would be faithful to his word. It is amazing to realize that Eliezer was the trusted servant of Abraham, who ran the entire household of Abraham and who was the one who faithfully transmitted all the teachings of Abraham to others. Yet when it came to finding a wife for Yitzhak, Abraham had to make Eliezer swear, and not just swear but also to use Hashem's Name in his oath.

The lesson to be derived is that when it comes to physical things, Abraham trusted Eliezer, but regarding something as important as a wife for Yitzhak, which will impact upon the future of the Jewish people, one must take any precaution possible.

When we enter business relationships or involve ourselves with any financial endeavors, we are super cautious to protect ourselves. How about if it involves verifying if something is kosher and permitted to eat, or whether one may or may not do something on Shabbat? Are we as concerned or cautious? Do we just "assume" since everyone is eating it or doing it?

Seeing how Abraham put his priorities, maybe we should rearrange ours.

Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

"She replied, 'Drink, my lord.'" (Beresheet 24:18)

The interesting stories of Beresheet are heavily laden with lessons in life. When Eliezer is given the all-important mission to find a wife for Yitzhak, he decides to test her character. He does not test her religious beliefs. Eliezer figured that since she was surrounded by idolaters it would be no surprise if she was part of their religion. However, if she displayed sterling character, it would be an easy task for her to learn and adopt the religion of Abraham. It is usually a character flaw that prevents someone from embracing the complete fulfillment of all of the Torah laws. A hesed (kindly) person easily recognizes Hashem's great hesed and yearns to repay Hashem's kindness by serving Him.

Eliezer asks Ribkah for "a little water," to "sip." She, however, replies, "Drink." At first, she said nothing about the camels. Only after she had completely quenched Eliezer's thirst did she say, "I will also draw water for your camels until they have finished drinking." Rabbi S.R. Hirsch explains that if she had spoken of the camels immediately, this would have shown that she lacked one quality which characterizes the true gomel hesed (doer of good), and the true Jewish woman. She would have been a conceited prattler, one who wants to show off as a "do-gooder."

"And she hurried" (verse 18 and 20), she is not slow to move when given an opportunity to perform an act of human kindness. Note, too, that she empties into the watering trough whatever Eliezer has left in the pitcher. When lavishing kindness on someone, she doesn't waste. A Jew views even the most insignificant things on earth as a means of performing a misvah. He will not waste even an atom of energy or a drop of water. But, at the same time, the Jew sets no limits to his sacrifice of strength and substance when it is for a good cause. Lessons in life. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah


"And [Ribkah] hastened, and emptied her pitcher into the trough, and ran again to the well to draw, and drew for all his camels" (Beresheet 24:20)

Rabbi Moshe Chayim Luzzatto takes note of the swiftness with which Ribkah performed her act of kindness: "She hastened" and "ran again." As the Midrash states, "All of the deeds of the righteous are done quickly. Rabbi Luzzatto writes: "The man whose soul yearns to perform the will of his Creator will not be lazy in the performance of His misvot. His movements will be as the quick movements of fire, and he will not rest or be still until the deed has been completed" (Mesilat Yesharim ch.6).

Rabbi Isaac Sher commented on this that even a seemingly minor action such as giving someone water, can be spiritually elevated when prompted by the proper motivation. When Ribkah gave water to Eliezer and his camels, she did it with a love for hesed which was manifest in her speed. For this deed she was deemed worthy of becoming the mother of the Jewish people. Rabbi Sher encouraged people to elevate the level of their hesed. Most people perform many acts of kindness daily by mere habit. If we were to consider these seemingly insignificant acts not as automatic behavioral responses, but rather as opportunities to do the will of Hashem, we would succeed in transforming the mundane into the sublime. (Love Your Neighbor)


"And Abraham came to eulogize Sarah and to weep for her" (Beresheet 23:2)

Hazal teach that the initial three days of shiva (the mourning period) are to be dedicated to bechi (weeping). The remaining days are designated for hesped (eulogy). First one lets himself go by crying, dramatically demonstrating the feeling of loss he has experienced with the passing of the deceased. This is followed by an intellectual appreciation of the deceased. Therefore, it seems puzzling that Abraham transposed the sequence by first eulogizing and afterwards weeping.

Rav Shach explains this change in the following manner. Situations sometimes occur in which the hesped must precede bechi. Only through profound insight into the character and accomplishments of the deceased is one brought to tears. When Sarah Imenu passed away, the typical person was not quite moved to a dramatic show of mourning. After all, she did live to a ripe old age. She had lived a full life enriched by numerous accomplishments. Her time had come! Abraham responded to this concept with a profound, yet sensitive, portrayal of the "Sarah" that he knew. When the world was given an understanding of Sarah's character, her devotion to Hashem and His creations, and her unparalleled love for people, only then did they become truly cognizant of the irreparable void left by her passing.

With this idea in mind, we may add the following. Whenever someone of advanced age passes on, we do not demonstrate the same degree of grief that we would have if, heaven forbid, this had happened to a younger person.

Regrettably, we tend to forget that this individual had been a husband or wife to someone with whom they had spent a major portion of their life. They were also a loving parent who would surely be missed. Loss is relative, and one must be sensitive to all ramifications.

We may suggest another explanation for the sequence of Abraham's mourning. Rav Lopian once visited Reb Nochum Zev, son of Reb Simcha Sizzel M'Kelm. This incident occurred a short while after Reb Nochum's brother-in-law, Rav Brodie, had passed away. Reb Nochum was still grieving over his brother-in-law's death. Rav Lopian questioned his prolonged grief. Reb Nochum responded, explaining, "The amount of time allotted for weeping, eulogy and mourning are commensurate to one's expressed grief for the deceased. I am mourning for my personal loss and that of Klal Yisrael. For such a loss there is no prescribed measure. As time goes on, the loss becomes greater, actually exacerbating the grief."

Perhaps this is the meaning of the weeping which followed the eulogy.

Abraham followed the prescribed schedule for mourning. He wanted, however, to teach that the loss of Sarah had become more profound and that the weeping, in a sense, should continue. Understandably, one cannot grieve indefinitely. Still, one must reflect upon the tragic losses to our people of the great Torah scholars throughout the generations who have passed away, and the spiritual void which has resulted. (Peninim on the Torah)


Question: Why do we put on the talit before putting on tefillin?

Answer: 1) Sisit are considered equal to all the misvot. This is reflected by the fact that the numerical value of sisit is 613. 2) This follows the rule of "Tadir veshe'eno tadir, tadir kodem - things that are done more often take precedence." Since sisit are worn every day whereas tefillin are not worn on Shabbat and holidays, sisit takes precedence. (Sefer Ta'amei Haminhagim Umkorei Hadinim)


"And Abraham was old, he came with his days." (Beresheet 24:1) The expression "he came with his days" teaches that Abraham's days were complete. He had accomplished everything that he was able to accomplish in each and every one of his days. Not one of his days was wasted.

Every day should be looked at as a new opportunity. No matter what a person had accomplished in previous days, he should make an effort to accomplish something new today. At the end of the day, everyone should be able to look back on the day and point to something that he had achieved. If, for whatever reason, he cannot single out anything, then he should plan ahead for tomorrow and make an extra effort to fulfill his goal. In that way, he will be able to "come with his days" just like our father, Abraham.

Question: What did you accomplish today? In how many of the past seven days would you say you achieved what you were able to achieve?


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)

Answer to Pop Quiz: In Aram Naharayim.

A quick tip to boost the power of your prayer. Hazal tell us (Masechet Baba Kama Daf 92A) that Hashem loves the tefilot of one Jew for another so much that anyone who prays on behalf of a fellow Jew with similar needs will have his prayer answered first. A special service has now begun to provide people with names of others who find themselves in a similar predicament. You can call with complete anonymity and get the name of someone to pray for and give the name of someone that needs our prayers. The name of the service is Kol Hamitpalel. Categories include: Marriage; Income; Health; To have children etc.

Call to 646-279-8712 or email (Privacy of email limited by the email address)

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