Chayei Sarah

Dvar Torah - By Michael Zaroovabeli

This week’s Torah reading begins by eulogizing the life of Sarah, who died at the age of 127 (Bereishit 23:1). Avraham had the task of burying Sarah, and he knew the ideal place where she was to be buried, the Cave of Machpela. We learn that Adam and Chava were buried there, and Avraham wanted to purchase this burial plot of land so that Sarah, and later on he could be buried there. In fact Yitzchak and Rivka along with Yaakov and Leah would also be buried there (Eruvin 53a).

Despite the fact that Avraham had been told the whole of the land of Israel would be his (Bereishit 15:7), he still had to purchase the plot from a man named Ephron the Hittie. Prior to purchasing the land, Ephron had promised to give the plot for free as a generous gift. However his greed prevailed and he said to Avraham in front of many people, you can have the entire plot of land for ‘400 silver shekels’ (Bereishit 23:15) which many of the sages say was an enormous sum of money. Nonetheless, Avraham was prepared to buy the plot. Just as we learned last week how the righteous 'say little and do a lot,' we see that 'the wicked say much and do little,' Ephron boasted that he would give the plot to Avraham as a gift, but as it turned out he charged a huge sum of money  (Bava Metzia 87a).

Much of the rest of the Parshah is dedicated to relating the task of Eliezer (Avraham’s faithful servant) of finding Yitzchak a wife. The first ever so called ‘Shidduch’ in Biblical history was being set up. After Avraham made Eliezer swear to find the girl from Avraham’s family (Bereishit 24:3). Eliezer travelled to Aram Naharaim, and prayed for a sign to find the right girl at a water spring.. Providentially, Rivka appeared (Bereishit 24:15). When Eliezer asked her for water, not only did she give him water, but she drew water for all ten of his thirsty camels, around 140 gallons (Bereishit 24:19/ Rav Hirsch)! This act of kindness marked her as the suitable wife for Yitzchak and a suitable Mother of the Jewish People. We witness from this episode the enormous power of praying, when one prays they are capable of elevating themselves to supreme levels. Prayer may or may not be accepted or granted, however one needs to pray ideally from the heart and not see prayers as a regular chore.

Once Eliezer realized that G-d had provided him with the correct girl for Yitzchak (Taanit 4a), he showered her with gifts and went to the house of her father, Betuel, to finalize the marriage negotiations. Betuel and his son, Lavan accepted the marriage arrangements realizing when Eliezer told them what happened at the ‘well’ that the potential marriage was made from Hashem (Bereishit 24:50). In fact the great sages see this as a biblical proof that it is G-d that decides a man's partner in life (Moed Katan 18b).

In the interim, as Betuel had agreed to give his daughter in marriage to Yitzchak, Eliezer excitingly adorned Rivka with more gold, silver and lavish gifts, however he gave some delicious fruits to Lavan (Bereishit 24:53), this was much less than the greedy Lavan was hoping for, in fact Betuel, the father of Rivkah, wanted to take some sort of revenge against Eliezer for only giving fruits as a present, which in its own right was generous of Eliezer, he tried to poison Eliezer, however G-d sent an angel to kill Betuel instead (Bereishit Rabba 60:12/ Rashi).

As Eliezer brought Rivka to Yitzchak toward the evening, he had just finished davening the Mincha prayer at the time Rivka appeared to him, and it is from here that we derive that Yitzchak instituted the Mincha prayer (Berachot 26b). Yitzchak then married Rivkah (Bereishit 24:67) and Eliezer was seen to be one of the most faithful servants of any of the leaders ever had throughout Biblical history.

The Torah reading concludes as Avraham marries a woman named Keturah (Bereishit 25:1) (many say this was his former wife, Hager (Rashi)) and the death of Ishmael at the age of 137 years old (Bereishit 25:17/Yevamot 64a).

The Haftorah this week is from the first chapter in the first book of Kings, which narrates how Shlomo was the successor to King David, after King David’s death at the age of 70 years (Kings I 1:1-31).

This Dvar Torah is dedicated to the Refuah Shelaima of Yosef Ben Edna.

Have a great Shabbat, Shabbat Shalom!