"And Abraham weighed out to Ephron the silver…four hundred shekels of silver." (Beresheet 23:16)
Our perashah begins with the death of Sarah and Abraham's intense desire to give her a proper burial in a place worthy of her greatness. To acquire the fitting burial plot, he was forced to negotiate with a greedy Ephron and paid an exorbitant price. According to the Ramban (23:9) Ephron quoted a high price, knowing that Abraham had no choice but to accept his terms. The Ramban tells us that Abraham, with the "generosity of his heart," paid Ephron the entire price. In what way was generosity involved? This was a business deal. Ephron was the only one who had what Abraham needed and his price reflected that exclusivity. If Abraham wanted to bury Sarah in Ephron's field, he had no choice but to pay the price. Was Abraham really being generous?
Rabbi A.H. Leibowitz explains, very often people determine that a certain purchase is proper, essential and even profitable. Yet because they cannot bear to part with their money, they choose to manage without it. Sometimes the price may be within reach, but they cannot bear the thought of someone else making a large profit from them. Abraham, however, was unaffected by this small-mindedness. He gave the money to Ephron with a full heart. He knew that the proper burial ground for Sarah was in the Cave of Machpelah alongside Adam and Havah, and once he determined that this transaction was necessary he did it wholeheartedly and joyously.
The Hazon Ish once said, "Money is a gift from Hashem to be used to fulfill His misvot. Therefore, it cannot be frivolously spent nor should we withhold spending it when necessary. If we decide that it is necessary to buy an object, we should part with a million dollars as easily as with one dollar. Similarly, we should be as careful not to lose one dollar which could later be used to perform a misvah." 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 Abraham heard from Efron, and Abraham weighed for Efron the silver which he spoke about in the ears of the B'nei Het, four hundred shekels of silver that merchants used" (Beresheet 23:16)
On the words, "And Abraham heard, "the Rashbam commented, "A hint is sufficient to the wise man."
Efron spoke as if he were a generous man. He spoke to Abraham with the greatest respect, and offered him the burial site free of charge. He mentioned, however, in passing, "The 400 shekels that one might usually pay for this is nothing between friends. Your friendship is more precious than money. Take it without payment."
But Abraham took the hint. He was perceptive and realized that Efron did not really want to give the land for nothing. It might seem to a na?ve bystander that Efron only mentioned the sum of money as an aside, that it was just a passing remark of no significance. But Abraham "heard," and with his well-developed intuition understood Efron's real intentions. He responded to Efron's inner wishes, not to his empty words.
This ability to differentiate between what someone says and what he really means is an attribute that we must develop. For many areas of spiritual growth it is essential.
A few examples: Someone makes a belittling remark about something he just accomplished. The person would really appreciate a kind word. He might be uncertain about the quality of what he did and wants reassurance. This encouragement could be beneficial in motivating him for further accomplishment. If you really "hear" him, you will say those kind words.
A person might be very busy right now. You would like to take up some of his time about a matter that is not really so important. When you ask him if you are disturbing him, he replies, "Not too much. I can always stay up late tonight to finish what needs to be done." Perhaps he can really afford to give you the time. But he might be fervently wishing you wouldn't impose upon him right now. Learn to "hear" with an awareness of what a person is hinting at.
By gaining this sensitivity and perceptiveness, you will be able to reach greater heights in the misvah of "loving your fellow man." (Growth through Torah)
"And she took the veil and covered herself." (Beresheet 24:65)
When Ribkah saw Yitzhak coming towards her, she questioned Eliezer concerning his identity. When Eliezer responded that it was his master, Yitzhak, whom she would soon marry, she immediately covered her face with a veil because of modesty. Rashi states that the word "vatitkas", and she covered, should actually be translated "and she was covered" because it is the reflexive form of the verb. He compares this to two other words, "vatikaber", and she was buried, and "vatishaber", and it was broken.
Rav Yerucham Levovotz z"l suggests that Rashi's choice of examples, i.e. breaking and burial, are deliberate. They emphasize Ribkah's exemplary level of modesty. Ribkah was so imbued with modesty that covering her face was a reflex reaction, as if someone else had covered her face. She didn't even stop momentarily to think.
This is similar to burial and breaking. The act of breaking or burial is not performed by one to himself. It is performed by others, while the subject remains passive. Likewise, Ribkah covered her face in a passive action, as if this was the only appropriate reaction. We should all aspire to attain that exalted level of devotion to Hashem in which the positive and correct response to every situation is reflexive. (Peninim on the Torah)
Which three miracles happened in Sarah's and Ribkah's homes which were similar to the miracles in the Mishkan?
The Shabbat candles of Sarah and Ribkah stayed lit from Friday to Friday, the bread stayed warm and fresh all week, and a cloud was suspended over their tent. So too in the Mishkan, the menorah stayed lit until the next kindling, the Lehem Hapanim stayed warm and fresh, while a Cloud of Glory stayed above it. (Torahific)
It seems as if human beings have to spend more time and effort earning a living than all the other creatures that Hashem created.
Of course, a horse, fish, or tree doesn't have to work at all to earn its sustenance. When you compare a person's life with the simple existence of creatures, you will find that the food chain and environment provide for the continued existence of thousands of species of plant and animal life -fowl, fish and beasts- without them having to commute, meet deadlines, deal with tough customers, and guarantee work performed. The hours spent by humans on e-mails and expense accounts, spreadsheets and reports, are spent by other creatures enjoying all that Hashem provides. It just doesn't seem fair.
Although it may not seem just, there is always a good reason behind the systems according to which Hashem runs the world. Hobot Halebabot suggests that there are two reasons why Hashem made earning a living so time-consuming and so difficult. The first is to test the human being's ability to adhere to all the laws of the Torah while in a business environment. Honesty, morality, and humility are just three of the major areas of personal development that are tested every day in the world of business. Secondly, the Almighty knows that idleness is the Yeser hara's partner. When people have time on their hands, the activities and behaviors that are negative to Torah principles seduce them with greater intensity than when people are busy with mundane, albeit "kosher," activities.
Of course, even after earning a living, we have some free time. Consequently, we should make every effort to fill that free time as well.
Remember: We are not fowl, fish or beasts. We have to do work for a living. That does not seem fair. But it is.
This is not an all-or-nothing proposition; it works in degrees. The more you trust, the less you are required to work. Try it a little and you will see that it works. That might give you the strength to increase your trust and reduce your aggravation. (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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