פ’ חיי שרה – תשע”ה
Volume 6, Issue 5
INSIGHTS from the SEDRA
Insights from the Sedra is a project of the Scholar’s Kollel of Great Neck. It aims to provide several questions and answers about the Sedra, culled from various commentaries, including the following: Baal Haturim, Darash Moshe, Vedebarta Bam by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky, Torah Treasures by Dov Furer, Wellsprings of Torah by Alexander Friedman, and Kol Dodi by Rabbi Dovid Feinstein, Great Torah Lights by Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Goodman, Something To Say by Dov Wasserman, The Vilna Gaon, and Growth Through Torah by Zelig Pliskin.
לאברהם למקנה לעיני בני חת
“To Avraham for a possession in the presence of the sons of Ches…” (23:18)
Why the particular stress on the words “in the presence of the sons of Ches”? The Meshech Chochmah offers the following enlightening explanation: The Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 190) rules that land can be acquired by means of either payment (kesef), a deed (shtar), or a physical act of possession (chazakah). However, according to Rav Hai Gaon, a Jew can acquire land from a non-Jew only by transfer of a deed or a physical act of possession (as cited in the commentary of the Vilna Gaon, note 194); he cannot establish ownership by payment only. Because of this, our Sages decreed that if a Jew buys a house from a non-Jew in Eretz Yisrael, a deed must be written (by the non-Jew), even on Shabbos, since such an acquisition cannot be affected by payment.
Now it becomes clear why the emphasis is on “in the presence of the sons of Ches”. These words, literally translated, mean in the eyes of the sons of Ches. In other words, by paying 400 silver shekels he acquired the field only “in the eyes of the sons of Ches”, according to their view, but according to Jewish law, he would acquire ownership to the field and the cave only through the physical act of possession of burying his wife Sarah there. Accordingly, we read in verse 20 that after the burial “the field and the cave were established to Avraham as an ancestral burial site by the sons of Ches.” Only then was the legal acquisition accomplished. (Meshech Chochmah)
ואברהם זקן בא בימים וה’ ברך את אברהם בכל
“And Avraham was old, advanced in age, and Hashem blessed Avraham in all things.” (24:1)
Surely the Torah is not apprising us of Avraham’s success in amassing material wealth. The Torah intends to teach us the true meaning of wealth. Success is not measured by quantity, but rather by quality. Everything Avraham Avinu possessed was worthy of blessing. To possess a fortune means nothing if that fortune is not blessed. Everything that Avraham has was a source of blessing to him. Why?
Harav Moshe Swift z.l. suggests that the answer lies in the fact that Avraham controlled his possessions, rather than the possessions dominating him. He had his business dealings with various people; he was even compelled to bargain for a small plot of land to be used as a burial site. Yet, he never employed any form of unethical behavior. He was never submissive to whims and passions. On the contrary, he always ruled over them. This was the greatest tribute to the Patriarch.
This is a remarkable difference between the man who permits oneself to be driven by his material ambitions and the man who holds the reins controlling his moral integrity. To reach the end of one’s life-span, able to look back with pride at a life of self-discipline and honor, is truly a significant achievement and a most notable epitaph.
QUESTION: Why does the Torah add the words, “ba bayamim” – “advanced in age” [literally “days”]?
ANSWER: A Jew comes in to this world with a mission to study Torah and do good deeds. Often, days and years go by and in retrospect, he realizes that he has accomplished very little and wasted precious time. The Torah attests that Avraham was able to account for what he accomplished each and every day of his life. Not only did he age in years, but “ba bayamim” – he was able to recall each day and say what he had achieved in it. (Zohar)
QUESTION: The word “bakol” (בכל) has the numerical value of 52, which is also the same value as the word “ben” (בן) – “son” – thus alluding that Avraham had a son (Rashi). What is the connection between Avraham’s becoming old and his having everything – a son?
ANSWER: There is an old adage, “A father or mother can manage their ten children, but ten children cannot take care of one father or mother.” Often as parents grow older, their children consider them a burden and find caring for them difficult.
As a dutiful son, Yitzchak, however, was profoundly grateful for the love and concern provided by Avraham and Sarah. The Torah tells us that Avraham was blessed with “everything” to say that though he remained alone and was advanced in age, his son Yitzchak stood at his side and was totally dedicated to his welfare. He took care of everything Avraham needed to make his old age pleasant and comfortable. Such a child is indeed a blessing to a parent. (Vedebarta Bam)
QUESTION: What was the “everything”?
ANSWER: When the letters of the word בכל are spelled out the way they are pronounced, i.e. ב = בית, כ = כף, ל = למד, the total numerical value is 586. This is the same numerical value as the word “shofar” (שופר).
Yitzchak was originally destined to be brought up on the altar as a sacrifice. When the angel intervened, he was spared, and instead Avraham sacrificed a ram which suddenly appeared. From the horn of this ram, a shofar was made which was sounded when Hashem gave the Torah to the Jewish people (Rashi 19:3). This shofar will also be sounded to announce the revelation of Mashiach (Isaiah 27:13). Thus Yitzchak plays an important role in the giving of the Torah and the coming of Mashiach. To the Jewish people, Torah and Mashiach are “everything,” and Avraham was blessed with a son who will be involved in the delivery of “everything” to Klal Yisrael. (Chasam Sofer)
ותלד שרה אשת אדני בן לאדני אחרי זקנתה
“Sarah, my master’s wife, bore a son to my master after her old age.” (24:36)
Of what relevance was the fact that Sarah bore Yitzchak in her old age to Eliezer’s search for a mate for him? Eliezer wished to intimate to Betuel and Lavan that Yitzchak’s entire existence and essence belonged to the realm of the miraculous, and the events of his life were governed by direct Divine intervention. His very birth took place under supernatural circumstances. Hence, it would be pointless to try to obstruct Eliezer in his effort to take Rivkah as a wife for Yitzchak. (Brisker Rav)
ויברכו את רבקה ויאמרו לה אחתנו את היי לאלפי רבבה
“They blessed Rivkah and said to her, ‘Our sister, be the mother of thousands of ten thousands.’” (24:60)
QUESTION: Before a chuppah, when the chatan covers the kallah’s face with a veil, it is customary to recite this blessing. What do we mean that the kallah should have a family of tens of thousands of children?
ANSWER: When Hashem blesses a person with financial success, it is proper to give a portion to tzedakah. When one supports yeshivot the children who are learning Torah there, due to his generosity, are considered as his children. Years later, the students of those yeshivah students are also considered as the benefactors children.
The beracha to the kallah is that in her marriage she should be blessed with wealth and be imbued with the good sense to give tzedakah to Torah institutions. Through helping children receive a Torah education, she in turn becomes a mother of thousands of children. (Vedebarta Bam)
ויגוע וימת אברהם בשיבה טובה זקן ושבע
“And Avraham expired and died at a good old age, mature and content…” (25:8)
The Talmud (Bava Basra 91a) states: The day Avraham departed from this world, all the great leaders of the nations joined the funeral procession and exclaimed, “Woe to the world, which has lost its leader; and woe to the ship that has lost its captain.”
What does the imagery of a ship and its captain add to the idea of a leaderless world?
What is the difference between a leader and a captain? Parents are the “captains” of their families, steering their children through the sea of life and struggling to survive all the storms and setbacks of their hazardous journey. As the father of the Jewish people, Avraham was responsible for hundreds of thousands of “passengers”. On land, a leader is readily replaceable, but if a captain passes away at sea, the crisis is much greater.
Thus, while some of Avraham’s contemporaries simply mourned the passing of this powerful military and spiritual leader, others recognized that their world was in great spiritual crisis; Paganism was still widespread, and people had not learned the lessons of the flood and the subsequent dispersion. In this turbulent sea, only one captain could chart a straight course – and now he was gone. (R. Yitzchak Yehudah Shmelkis, Beis Yitzchak Al HaTor
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