NOVEMBER 13-14, 2009 27 HESHVAN 5770
"And Abraham weighed out to Ephron the money." (Beresheet 23:16)
In our perashah Abraham Abinu receives the tragic news that his beloved wife Sarah has passed away. After properly mourning over his wife's passing, he seeks to purchase a burial plot for her from Ephron, the present owner of the cave of Me'arat Hamachpelah. Ephron hints that he wants an exorbitant price of four hundred shekels, a sum to which Abraham agrees. As Abraham weighs out the coins to give to Ephron, the Torah spells Ephron's name in a short manner, missing the letter "vav." Rashi explains: The name Ephron is spelled without a vav because Ephron said much and did not even do a little, for he took from Abraham large shekalim. Ephron originally boasted that the cave is free for the taking but ultimately charged a small fortune; therefore the Torah criticizes him by misspelling his name. The Ba'al Haturim comments further that the numerical value of Ephron without a vav is 400! The Torah therefore is implying that at the end Ephron as a person went down in importance to being merely a bag of money.
Rabbi Meir Bergman wonders why the Torah is critical of Ephron. After all, Abraham asked to buy it and Ephron had a right to charge whatever he wanted. The Rabbi answers his question with a true story of a great Hasidic Rebbe who tells his student to follow him to see an amazing sight. He tells him that he would like to show him a house that does an unbelievable act of hospitality, a house that feeds hundred and thousands of people. The Rebbe takes the student to a huge restaurant in town with hundreds of tables. But, the student doesn't understand because the people are paying. The Rebbe explains that the owner is still doing a misvah because he has to use the money to buy more food, even if he charges more, he has to pay the help and he needs the money to live on, in order to continue this great act of kindness. The lesson here is that if the man is not in it only for the money, but he really intends to help people, he gets a full misvah. The same could be said about a baker or a doctor.
Therefore we can conclude that Ephron had a right to charge what he did because after all he needed to buy another field. The problem was that all Ephron was thinking about was how he was going to be able to extract from Abraham a lot of money. If he had intentions to help Abraham, even if he would sell at a high price, his name would have gone down forever as the one who hosted Abraham in his field of Me'arat Hamachpelah.
Our intentions make a world of a difference. If we go to work only to earn money then that's all it is. However, if we go with intent to help our family and others, but we need a lot of money to do it, it becomes an incredible act of hesed with unimaginable reward. 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
"Is there room in your father's house for us to spend the night?" (Beresheet 24:23)
Eliezer was a rich man. Why didn't he sleep in a hotel?
A poor hasid once came to his Rebbe and asked for a berachah to become rich. He told the Rebbe, "I know and understand the plight of the poor. If you bless me that I should become rich, be assured that all the poor of the city will benefit immensely." The Rebbe bestowed his blessing upon the hasid, and he became wealthy.
The wealthier he became, the stingier he became, and it soon became impossible for a poor man to come to his home to receive charity. A group of poor people went to his Rebbe and complained about the hasid's behavior.
The Rebbe sent notice to the hasid that he planned to visit his city. The hasid was elated and prepared lavish accommodation for the Rebbe.
Upon his arrival, the hasid gave the Rebbe a tour of his villa. They were standing in front of a window, when the Rebbe asked the hasid, "What do you see?" Proudly, the hasid responded, "Out there are my gardens, my recreation area, my maids, and my servants." They continued walking through the house, when suddenly, the Rebbe stopped in front of a mirror and asked, "What do you see?" The hasid responded, "I see myself." The Rebbe asked, "Why is it that when you looked through the glass, you saw other people, and now looking through the other glass you only see yourself?"
"Rebbe, there is a very big difference between the two glasses. The window is simple glass, which you can see through, while the mirror glass has a glazing of silver and therefore reflects the image of the viewer." The Rebbe looked at the hasid intently and asked, "Are you telling me that because of a 'silver backing' you can only see yourself? What if we scrape off a little bit of the silver? Maybe your feelings of generosity will come back!"
In general, poor people are very generous. Often, they discuss how they would help the needy if they had the money of the rich man, but when they become rich, their behavior is frequently disappointing.
Eliezer represented Abraham who was the prototype of hesed. In his home, acts of kindness, hospitality, and generosity were commonplace. Eliezer noticed in Ribkah traits of generosity, but he was not sure if it was because she was from a very poor family or if it was her true nature. He therefore wanted to have a glimpse of her home and see that her family was well-to-do. Thus, he would be confident that she would continue her acts of kindness when living in the wealthy home of Abraham and Yitzhak. (Vedibarta Bam)
Rabbi Tarfon says: 'You are not required to complete the tasků" (Pirkei Abot 2:16).
The job of growing in Torah learning, spiritual perfection, and misvah observance is somewhat overwhelming. Knowing this, the Yeser hara (Evil Inclination) uses his sly wisdom to depress people and make them feel incompetent to complete the task. Just walking into a bet Midrash (study hall) and seeing all the walls lined from floor to ceiling with books is enough to daunt anyone. Going to a class and learning about a myriad of detailed laws that you are required to keep - and realizing that you never heard of them before the lecture - may make you feel like an ignoramus in the spiritual world. But don't fall prey to the Yeser hara's trick!
A Jew is not paid his Heavenly reward for the completion of the task. Like a building, our spiritual self is built one brick at a time - misvah by misvah. We are rewarded for effort, enthusiasm, and other variables that demonstrate our loyalty to Hashem and our willingness to do His bidding with love.
Yet should you feel that something is still missing, take a moment to remember the words of Rabbi Tarfon: "You are not required to complete the task." Draw a deep breath and continue to do your best with all the enthusiasm you can muster. Rabbi Tarfon's teaching can save you from losing hope and falling into a spiritual rut. (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)
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.
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