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Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland


I give the price of the field, (take) accept it from me . (23:13)

The Talmud Kiddushin 2a questions the source for money, kessef, serving as a means for achieving kiddushin, betrothal, of a woman. The Talmud explains that a woman is actually niknis, acquired; thus, the act of kiddushin is essentially a kinyan, act of acquisition. The Talmud asks, "From where do we know that 'money' is a valid method of kiddushin?" "We derive kichah/kichah misdei Efron." (Through the use of a gezeirah shavah, one of the thirteen hermeneutic principles for expounding the Torah, through which a similar word or phrase occurs in two otherwise unrelated passages in the Torah, they are linked to one another, and the laws of one passage are applied to the subject of the other.) The word kichah, take, is found regarding betrothal, Ki yikach ish ishah, "When a man shall take a wife" (Devarim 24:1), and concerning Efron's sale of the Meoras HaMachpelah, Nasati kessef ha'sadeh kach mimeni, "I give the price of the field - take (accept) it from me" (Bereishis 23:13). From here, we derive by process of the gezeirah shavah, that a woman is acquired /betrothed by money.

Horav Aryeh Leib Heyman, zl, observes that the actual creation of woman was performed through the act of taking, Vayikach achas mitzalosav, "And He took one of his ribs" (Bereishis 2:21). Thus, Hashem "took" one of Adam HaRishon's ribs; and now man repairs/fills what is "missing" (has been removed) with ki yikach ish ishah, when a man takes a wife.

While a gezeirah shavah works with two otherwise unrelated subjects, the two subjects must have something in common - as in our case, in which they both refer to acts of acquisition. Furthermore, kiddushin, marriage, and kevurah, burial, are loosely connected by the notion that in marriage, what was "originally" (creation of woman) taken from him (his rib) is returned as a wife; and in burial, man, who was taken (created) from the earth, is returned to his source - the earth.

Rav Heyman wonders why the Torah specifically chose to establish the source of kinyan ishus, the acquisition of a wife (through the word kicha), to the sale of Meoras HaMachpelah. He explains that, although Meoras HaMachpelah had originally been promised to Avraham Avinu, he still chose to pay money for it; likewise, in a marriage, Chazal say, "Forty days before the conception of a child, it is announced in Heaven who will be his spouse." The chosson, groom, must actuate this acquisition with the transference of money to the kallah, bride.

The Rav adds another novel point, one that goes to the very core of the marriage bond. The name Machpelah, doubled, is, according to one exposition of Rashi, used because it was doubled with couples: Adam/Chavah; Avraham/Sarah; Yitzchak/Rivkah; Yaakov/Leah. This is the very first instance that the Torah mentions the concept of internment of one's mortal remains. The idea of burial is not mentioned concerning Adam, Chavah, Hevel and Noach. Included in the concept of burial is the idea that the deceased must be cared for, eulogized, mourned, with seven mourning days observed following the burial. The mere fact that so much is involved surrounding the deceased is an indication that the deceased is not gone forever, but will rise once again during Techiyas HaMeisim, Resurrection of the Dead. Otherwise, why bother with all of this? Gone is gone! Apparently, gone is not gone forever, or the deceased is not really gone; he has only been transferred to another world.

This teaches us a profound principle: When a man marries, when he acquires a wife, it is not a temporary, time-bound deal which culminates in death. No! Marriage has a connotation which supersedes even death. This "place" from which we derive the law of kinyan ishus, marriage acquisition, is called Meoras HaMachpelah, due to the four couples buried therein. Yes, they are together in death as they were in life. The kesher, bond, of ishus, marriage, commences in this world and carries on to the Olam Habba, the World To Come. This is a kinyan olam, eternal acquisition! As the man and woman's neshamos, souls, are eternal, so, too, is their relationship. We now realize the importance of husband and wife being buried near one another.

Immediately following the passing of Sarah Imeinu and the purchase of Meoras HaMachpelah, the Torah relates that Avraham Avinu dispatched Eliezer to seek a wife for Yitzchak Avinu. Marriage is connected to life/death, because one who is married has made a kinyan olam, forever.

When Yaakov Avinu met Rachel Imeinu for the first time, he cried. Rashi explains that he saw through Ruach HaKodesh, Divine Inspiration, that she would not be buried together with him. Let us analyze this statement. When Yaakov stood before Pharaoh he said, Me'at v'raim hayu yemei shnei chayai, "Short and bitter were the days of my life" (Bereishis 47:9). Rashi explains that this is a reference to the various troubles that he had experienced. He went on to enumerate them: tzaras Lavan; tzaras Eisav; tzaras Rachel; tzaras Dinah; tzaras Yosef; tzaras Shimon; tzaras Binyamin. He had undergone seven sources of distress. Yet, not a single one brought him to tears - except the fact that he would not be buried with Rachel! This leads us to believe that not being buried with Rachel was his greatest, most compelling source of torment. It brought the Patriarch to the height of emotional breakdown which he expressed with tears. What made this anguish greater than the rest? The others were physical troubles which affected him only in this world. Being separated from Rachel in death affected him also in the World To Come! Distress that transcends both the here and now and the eternal future is an unbearable anguish. When the bond is eternal - the anguish over the separation is likewise.

Now Avraham was old, well on in years. (24:1)

Did Avraham Avinu suddenly become old? The Midrash Tanchuma teaches that when Sarah Imeinu died, Avraham began to age. Horav Mordechai Eliyahu, zl, explains that as long as Sarah stood by the Patriarch's side, he did not sense that he had aged. She encouraged and spurred him to continue his holy work. When his life's companion, his major source of inspiration, was taken from him, Avraham no longer had by his side that spiritual force that motivated him to maintain his youthful endeavors.

The Rishon L'Tzion adds that this unique ability to galvanize the individual to aspire for greater success and achievement is one of the character traits that Sarah imbued in her descendants - both male and female. The inspiration to achieve greater heights, to climb the mountain of success, is ingrained in the Jewish psyche from our Matriarch. While it is difficult, perhaps impossible, to aspire to Sarah's personal greatness, nothing prevents us from being "like" Sarah.

Horav Aryeh Levine, zl, was known as the Tzaddik of Yerushalayim. When one reads his biography, he gets a true glimpse into the "power behind the throne," the woman who was his Rebbetzin, the individual who took the least credit, but probably was the single most factor in catalyzing his incredible achievements. Indeed, whenever people would recall good deeds that he had carried out, he immediately would respond, "But what am I, considering the things she did? She was a great soul." Rav Aryeh was wont to say that all of his good qualities came to him from her strength: "If not for her, I could not possibly have withstood the days of hunger during the First World War. Her bitachon, trust in the Almighty, was greater than mine."

Perhaps the best description of this holy woman and her devotion to her husband are presented by Rav Aryeh himself in a letter of tribute he wrote following her passing: "My heart grieves, and my spirit mourns. For how shall I find consolation for my great misfortune, when my greatest treasure, my crowning glory, was taken from me?

"My anguish is great, and my woe is awesome. Who could ever describe her devotion and goodness? Another like her is hardly to be found - so pure of spirit, with a heart as wide in generosity as the entrance to a palace, with a sensitivity of kindness and compassion that strove to give and help every step of the way. She had a cheerful smile for everyone, and spread out her compassion to reach each and every living being.

"She was all kindliness and compassion, all holiness. Her entire life was an unbroken, uninterrupted song of praise and service to G-d, the life-giver of the world. Every moment of her life was another stanza, another bar of melody in her song of eternity. But, above all, she watched her tongue, to a most extraordinary degree. Her pure, precious spirit returned to its place of origin on High, as clean and spotless as on the day it descended into the world, but more shining, sparkling and radiant, more grace-filled and pure.

"Old age brought her no cause for shame or disgrace. She never saw sin or evil in any man; she never brought pain to any heart. The spirit of G-d and the spirit of human beings were both pleased with her. Never did she grow haughty or raise her eyes in arrogance - not to the slightest extent. The downtrodden and the wretched were the friends she made. Let them always relate her deeds, chart her ways and make her qualities their own. She ever turned to those left forsaken in the corner, embittered in spirit, impoverished by need; and the poor and the needy turned to her for comfort - to that spirit as pure as the very essence of Heaven. To all those who sought and needed her, she did not leave anyone like her in the world."

The servant ran towards her. (24:17)

Rashi explains that Eliezer ran towards Rivkah Imeinu when he saw the water rising towards her. Clearly, this was an outstanding display of the supernatural. Rivkah must have been an impressive young woman to have merited such "reverence." If this is the case, why did Eliezer feel the need to test her to see how she would react when he asked for water for his camels? What greater indication of her suitability for Yitzchak Avinu did he need than seeing nature altered for her? The well-known explanation, attributed to Horav Yechezkel, zl, m'Kozmir, is that a person is judged according to his middos tovos, positive character traits, not his ability to perform miracles. Delving in the supernatural is not an accurate measure of a man, since it says nothing about his middos.

This explains why Eliezer sought a girl who embodied the middah of chesed, kindness. What about emunah, faith, in Hashem? Surely, this must play a critical role in developing one's spiritual character. Horav Yechezkel Levenstein, zl, teaches us a compelling lesson concerning the middah of chesed. Someone who instinctively performs chesed also recognizes when he is the beneficiary of someone else's kindness. Such a person feels a sense of hakoras hatov, gratitude; thus, he will have a desire to repay the kindness that he has received. Eliezer understood that a girl who possesses such a powerful middah of chesed would ostensibly appreciate everything that Hashem does for her and would naturally gravitate to serving the Almighty.

And it was, when the camels finished drinking, that the man took a nose ring whose weight was a beka, and two bracelets for her hands, whose weight was ten measures. (24:22)

The Torah goes to great lengths in describing Eliezer's journey to Aram Naharayim in search of a suitable wife for Yitzchak Avinu. When Eliezer saw the outstanding display of chesed, loving kindness, manifested by Rivkah Imeinu, he realized that she had the refined character traits that were necessary for the next Matriarch of the Jewish Nation. Eliezer gave her gifts, a nose ring and two bracelets. The Torah underscores the weight of these pieces of jewelry, due to their allusion to the half-shekel collected from the people for the building of the Mishkan, and the ten measures, which allude to the Ten Commandments that were engraved on the two Luchos, Tablets.

The Shem MiShmuel explains the significance of these gifts. He cites the Talmud Yerushalmi Sanhedrin 6:7 which states that Hashem gave three gifts of middos tovos to Yisrael; they are: baishanim, bashful; rachamanim, merciful; gomlei chassadim, performers of acts of loving kindness. These three qualities are of special importance, because of their corresponding to the three basic aspects of our existence. A human being is comprised of three primary components: the guf, the physical body; nefesh, emotional ingredient; seichel, intellect. It can be posited that all human experience, in one way or another, can be characterized by one or more of those categories. This means that everything in life is either an intellectual, emotional or physical experience. In some experiences, more than one of these categories may come into play.

The three above-mentioned gifts of bashfulness, compassion and performance of acts of kindness correspond directly to the three components of human endeavor. The ability to be bashful is a function of the seichel, intellect. One who lacks intellect, such as a baby, has no bushah, is not ashamed. A baby will walk around without a diaper, without shame. The child has no concept of shame, because it lacks intelligence. This same idea applies to adults whose level of shame and embarrassment coincides with their level of intellect. A person who loses his ability to intellectually cogitate, such as through illness or narcotics, will, likewise, lower his standard of embarrassment. In the spiritual dimension, the more we sense G-d's Presence, the greater will be our sense of modesty and constraint. The feeling of mercy is the consequence of emotion, which corresponds with the nefesh. Last is gomel chesed, carrying out acts of kindness, which clearly is a product of our guf, physical being.

In this light, the Shem MiShmuel establishes a connection between Eliezer's gifts to Rivkah and the gifts with which the Jewish People are endowed. Apparently, Eliezer saw in Rivkah a unique personality, a tremendous power, a latent potential that defined her as the perfect mate for Yitzchak Avinu, and , hence, the ideal Matriarch of the Jewish People. He alluded to this covert message by means of the gifts that he gave her.

The nose ring is a piece of jewelry that is attached to the head, the repository of the seichel, the intellect. As the head is sort of detached from the rest of the body, indicating a separation between the intellect and the emotional and physical aspects of a person - so, too, the nose ring was separate from the other two gifts.

The set of two bracelets corresponds to the other two human components which work together - the nefesh and the guf. The bracelets were identical, symbolizing a very close relationship between the emotion of mercy and the act of carrying out one's feeling of compassion with acts of kindness. The emotion behind the mercy and the performance of the act are closely linked to one another.

Perhaps we may add that the intellect must also play a role in the emotion/mercy - physical/carrying out act of kindness experience. One must apply his intellect to draw boundaries on his emotion. Otherwise, the mercy will run wild, with a person acting with unreserved compassion to anyone in need - regardless of the circumstances or nature of the individual. To take pity on a cruel person is wrong. Indeed one who misplaces his mercy can similarly misplace his sense of cruelty. One who is good to bad people can end up being bad to good people. Compassion must be tempered with circumspection and limited to situations that warrant such positive emotion.

The Shem MiShmuel takes the gift of the two bracelets to the next level. When one observes another person in trouble, his natural emotion of mercy is aroused and a feeling of pity fills his heart. This is considered a received feeling derived externally, stimulated by an outside experience. The next stage is acting upon the internal feeling of mercy that strives to alleviate the other person's predicament. This may be referred to as a giving encounter, since it begins within the person and flows from his internal mercy to another person. These two closely related experiences are natural outgrowths of the two hands. The right hand is symbolically viewed as the stronger hand, the hand that motivates and compels mercy for another person. The left hand carries out the act of mercy, actualizing the emotion of mercy flowing to "it" from the right hand.

Eliezer observed Rivkah's behavior in giving him water, then watering the camels. She indicated by her actions that she embodied the fine character traits which exemplify the Jewish People. Who could be more suitable to become the next Matriarch than a young woman who personified the finest qualities of Judaism? The trusted servant indicated his intentions by presenting Rivkah with gifts that underscored her manifestation of the Abrahamitic ideals, thus indicating her suitability to become Avraham's daughter-in-law.

I am the servant of Avraham. (24:34)

Eliezer was entrusted with a mission of the most crucial importance: finding the next Matriarch, the woman who, together with Yitzchak Avinu, would be charged with forming and maintaining the next link in Klal Yisrael. It was no easy task, and, clearly, without Divine manipulation, the success of this mission would not have been realized. Obviously, the selection of Eliezer to execute this mission is indicative of his virtue and sanctity. Avraham Avinu was acutely aware that nothing is achieved without Divine interplay, and Hashem would not interact with a person of base character. Chazal, however, teach us that there was another aspect to Eliezer's personality that played a pivotal role in his success: his wisdom. The Midrash Rabbah states: "It is written, 'The wise servant shall rule over a son who brings shame, and in the midst of brothers divide inheritance.'" This eved maskil, wise servant, is Eliezer. Wherein is Eliezer's wisdom manifest?

The Sefas Emes posits that Eliezer's wisdom was in understanding that the curse which Noach placed on the offspring of Canaan (as a result of his participation with Cham in debasing Noach) had doomed him to a life of servitude. He was a scion of this unholy family lineage. He had before himself two reactions: either rebel, or work with the situation and make every attempt at repairing the damage, perhaps emerging from the muck of his destiny. He understood (as the Midrash indicates) that he could become a slave to pagans, which would permit him to live a base life of indecency and immoral character. He said, "I am better off in the house of Avraham." If he was destined to be a slave, he may as well be a slave to Avraham Avinu, the preeminent spiritual leader of the generation, a man from whom he could learn to better himself.

Eliezer recognized his limitations; thus, by attempting to better himself, he was able to realize his full potential. Therefore, when asked to identify himself, he proudly replied, "I am the servant of Avraham!" As the Mesillas Yesharim says: "A person is obligated to know what his duty is in his (individual) world." One's goal in life must be to perfect himself according to his own level - and not search for areas that are foreign and unsuited to him. This is the reason that Eliezer is considered a wise man.

Judaism asserts that every soul enters this world with its own unique, positive purpose in life. Indeed, the Arizal writes that no two people have the same mission. The light that "Reuven" is meant to shine belongs to him alone, and "Shimon" cannot infringe upon it. It is very much like a biometric fingerprint; each of us has his own. Two people might have similar goals but each one has his own unique approach which is unlike any other.

When one understands his life's purpose and he executes it, he feels a unique sense of vibrancy and excitement, "I am doing my thing!" To know, realize, acknowledge and carry out one's mission in life is the most satisfying and energizing aspect of life. Otherwise, we go through life "doing," and "acting," but true happiness is achieved only when I am "doing my thing," "acting out my purpose."

When one is clear about his personal mission in life, he has no regrets concerning anything else that he should have done - and did not. Even if his mission is quite simple and, perhaps by some measure, boring, it is his and, through it, he validates his life. This is what Eliezer taught us. I may be a slave, but this is what Hashem wants me to be, so I will be the best!

Yet, despite his wisdom, Chazal say that Eliezer had a vested interest in Yitzchak's shidduch, matrimonial match. He had a daughter whom he had hoped would marry Yitzchak. He alluded to this in his conversation with Avraham - just in case Yitzchak did not find his intended in Aram Naharayim, perhaps they would keep it in the "family."

Regardless of his own interests, however, Eliezer knew that, without Avraham's z'chus, merit, he would not succeed in finding the suitable mate for Yitzchak. He understood that acting in his own self-interest would be self-defeating for his mission. Therefore, he continually introspected to determine that he was acting in good faith, rejecting any personal bias that might have crept in. Eliezer serves as a lesson for all of us to acknowledge that success is based upon the realization that one is acutely aware that he is Hashem's agent and that he is on a holy mission to execute the command of the Almighty. He must constantly make certain that no personal desires meander into the equation.

We derive from the story of Eliezer and Avraham that even a lowly servant, who was not connected to us by birth, made a monumental contribution to the building of Klal Yisrael. The Midrash refers to Yitzchak Avinu as, ben meivish, "the son who brings shame." This is Yitzchak, for he embarrassed the pagan nations when he offered his life on the altar of the Akeidah; yet, Eliezer ruled over Yitzchak, the son who shamed nations. In what way did Eliezer rule over Yitzchak?

Eliezer was as astute as he was righteous. He understood that Yitzchak and Avraham had distinct approaches to serving Hashem. Yitzchak served Hashem through the Middas HaDin, Attribute of Strict Justice, and through intense Yiraas HaRomemus, fear and awe of Hashem. Thus, Yitzchak is referred to as Pachad Yitzchak, the fear of Yitzchak.

Pachad, fear, extreme justice, are wonderful and sublime attributes, but how many people can really aspire to achieve them? The average person would be blown away if he lived under the intense scrutiny involved in Middas HaDin. Eliezer understood that, while the world needed Middas HaDin, it must be tempered with the middah, attribute, of chesed, kindness, personified by Avraham. Thus, he had to create a partnership of chesed and din in order to balance the relationship. He prayed for a woman who exemplified chesed, so that she could "sweeten" Yitzchak's din, for the ultimate good of their offspring - Klal Yisrael. We now understand the rationale for Eliezer's actions: by combining Yitzchak's din with Rivkah's chesed, Eliezer ruled over Yitzchak, thus meriting a share in Klal Yisrael's future.

Va'ani Tefillah

Ani Hashem Elokeichem asher hotzeisi eschem mei'eretz Mitzrayim.
I am Hashem, your G-d, Who took you out of the land of Egypt.

The Talmud Bava Metzia 61b asks why the exodus from Egypt is included as part of the exhortation to wear Tzitzis. They respond, Hashem says: "I, Who was able to discern in Egypt between he who was a firstborn and he who was not; I will, likewise in the future, exact punishment from he who dyes his Tzitzis kala ilan (a dye whose coloring is similar to techeiles) and claims that he is wearing techeiles." We wonder why this action is considered so egregious. Basically, the person who counterfeits his techeiles is fooling none other than himself. The people who see him wearing what purports to be Techeiles really do not care. The loser at the end of the day is the wearer. Is it such a terrible sin to fool oneself?

Horav Asher Kalman Baron, zl, explains that the mitzvah of Tzitzis is unique in the fact that it serves as a link between Heaven and earth. By gazing upon the Tzitzis, one is reminded of Heaven, which, in turn, inspires him to act appropriately and serve Hashem. Thus Tzitzis is a medium which is a segue for attaining greater spirituality. One who takes this medium and manipulates it for unsavory and false pretenses is acting egregiously and deserves to be punished commensurate with his behavior.

In Memory of
our beloved parents, grandparents,
and great grandparents:
Rabbi Justin Hofmann
Harav Yekusiel ben Yosef z"l
niftar 25 Cheshcan 5770
Sofie Hofmann
Tzipora bas Hachaver Avraham Yosef Simcha Hacohen a"h
niftara 13 Kislev 5773
From the Elzas, Greenfeld and Levine families

Peninim on the Torah is in its 20th year of publication. The first fifteen years have been published in book form.

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