Chayei Sarah

A Student Publication of the Torah Academy of Bergen County
Parshat Chayei Sarah          27 Cheshvan 5764              November 22, 2003              Vol.13 No.11

In This Issue:

Rabbi Joel Grossman
Ari Selevan
Avi Stiefel
Ari Ginsberg
Moshe Schaffer
Food For Thought
Halacha of the Week
Rabbi Chaim Jachter

On this Parsha describing the passing of one of the Nashim Tzidkaniyot, we dedicate this issue of Kol Torah to the memory of one of the Nashim   Tzidkaniyot of Teaneck, Rivkah Rosenwein, A”H.

Torah Academy of Bergen County


Know Before Whom You Stand
by Rabbi Joel Grossman

This week’s parsha opens with a Pasuk teaching us about the life of Sarah.  We are told that Sarah lived for “700 years, and 20 years, and 7 years.”  Rashi is bothered why did the Torah write this way and not simply “127 years”?  He answers that when Sarah was 100, she was like a woman of 20 in regard to punishment for sin, since she had never sinned.  Rashi continues that when Sarah was 20, she was like a girl of 7 in regard to beauty.  Rav Moshe Feinstein in Darash Moshe asks a question on this comment of Rashi.  Usually a woman of 20 is more beautiful than a girl of 7, so what does Rashi mean by his explanation?  He answers, that no matter what a 7-year-old girl does, others will only see the beauty in it.  They will say that the reason for her actions are because she is so young.  This is the great tribute which the Torah is teaching us by breaking up her lifetime the way it does.  When Sarah was 20, everyone saw all of her actions as beutiful.  It is not a physical description of a 20 year old compared to a 7 year old; rather, it is a description of her actions.
How can we work on ourselves so that our actions also should be viewed as proper and correct?  I believe the answer can be found in a story I once heard from Rabbi Joseph Stavsky.  He relates that there were two rabbis who lived in a certain city.  One was very successful; whenever he spoke the synagogue was packed with people who anticipated his every word.  During the week, people would be speaking about his speech.  The other rabbi, who prepared very diligently for his speeches and Shiurim, was not as fortunate.  When he spoke, hardly anyone ever attended and even those who did never gave his words any thought.  One day the two rabbis met and the unsuccessful one asked his counterpart for his secret to all of his success.  He replied that he could read minds.  The other responded, “That is impossible-no one can read minds!”  The first rabbi said, “It is true-I really can read minds.  You think of something and I’ll tell you what you’re thinking about.”  The unsuccessful rabbi decided to go along with this so he thought of something and then said, “tell me what I am thinking.”  The other rabbi responded, “You are thinking of the Pasuk in Tehillim “Shiviti Hashem Linegdi Tamid”.  The unsuccessful rabbi screamed out “I knew you where a fake.  I am not thinking that at all.”  The successful rabbi said, “That is my point the reason for my success is that I put Hashem before me at all times.”  We, too, must keep this message with us constantly, realizing that whatever we do, wherever we go, we are constantly in front of Hashem and we must make the correct choices in life.  If we have this thought, hopefully, people will only see the beauty in our actions.

Human Nature
by Ari Selevan

When Avraham originally confronts Efron about buying Maarat Hamachpelah, Efron says, “Hasadeh Natati Lach Vehamearah Asher Bo Lecha Nitateha…Kivor Maitecha,” “I have given you the field, and as for the cave that is in it, I have given it to you… bury your dead” (23:11).  Four Pesukim later, Efron says, “Eretz Arba Maot Shekel Kesef Baini Uvainecha Mah He Veet Maitecha Kvor,” “Land worth four hundred silver shekels; between me and you what is it?  Bury your dead” (23:15).
Why did Efron change his mind so easily? At first he appears to be a wonderful gentleman who opened his land to Avraham as a place to bury Sarah without asking for any compensation. Suddenly, out of nowhere, Efron shows a different side to himself as he acts as though he would give the property to Avraham for a mere four hundred silver shekels, a huge amount of money. Something must have happened to cause this sudden change. What was it?
There is a famous story told concerning the Rambam. The Rambam had an argument with a group of secular philosophers who believed that cats could be trained to act as humans. They felt that with the proper training and environment that the animals could be transformed. The Rambam argued that it was impossible to change the nature of an animal. Therefore, they established a test date when the philosophers’ cats would be put to a test.
It happened that the Sultan would be visiting on that day and that he would observe the cats and judge their humanness. The day came and many people came to watch as the cats set the table for the Sultan and his entourage. Each dignitary was assigned a specific seat as the Sultan was put at the head of the table. Word was spreading that the Rambam’s theory was wrong. However, the Rambam sat there undisturbed by what was happening. The meal began and the cats came out of the kitchen carrying large pots with hot soup. Everyone was impressed by the poise with which the cats carried the soup. However, as soon as the cats neared the table the Rambam took out a little bag that he had in his pocket. He opened it up and a mouse came out. As soon as the cats saw the mouse they dropped the pots to chase the mouse. This caused the soup to spill all over the guests.
Everyone at the meal was now fully aware of the Rambam's lesson.  The philosophers succeeded in superficially training the cats but their nature could not be changed. A cat will always be a cat.

Likewise, as long as Efron did not see the money he could act dignified. However, as soon as Avraham offered him money Efron reverted to his usual ways. Human nature is difficult enough to change when we try so what can we expect from Efron who was comfortable with himself?

Lavan's Greed
by Avi Stiefel

In this week's Parasha, Eliezer travels to Aram Naharayim, the home of Nachor, to find a wife for Yitzchak. After the story at the well, Rivkah runs to her house to tell her family what has occurred. The Torah then writes something that is extremely difficult to understand.  (24:29-30) “Vayaratz Lavan Ell Haish, Hachutzah Ell Haain. Vayehi Kirot Et Hanezem. Vayavo Ell Haish. ...”  These 2 Pesukim seem to be redundant. Why would the Torah write that Lavan ran to Eliezer, and then that Lavan came to Eliezer, after seeing the jewelry?
Rashi explains that Vayaratz means that Lavan ran to greet Eliezer after he saw the jewels because he realized that Eliezer was rich. The Or Hachayim questions this approach and asks how it is possible to interpret the Pasuk according to Rashi; Rashi’s explanation makes the Torah even more redundant than before. The Seforno explains Vayaratz as Lavan ran out to see how rich Eliezer was, instead of inviting Eliezer into his home.
The Seforno's explanation of the Pesukim describes Lavan as greedy. However, one can read these Pesukim to show something even darker than simple greed. One may suggest that Lavan had only heard that a stranger came to the well, and begged Rivkah for a drink. Lavan assumed that Eliezer was a wandering beggar who had come to beg for food and shelter. Therefore, Lavan ran out to chase Eliezer out of the village, in order that Eliezer would come to Lavan for money. However, when Lavan saw all the jewelry, and heard that Eliezer was looking for a wife for Yitzchak, Lavan knew that Eliezer had a lot of money, and would be able to gain a lot of money out of the proposed marriage. Immediately, Lavan changed tactics. Instead of running out to throw Eliezer out of the village, Lavan approached Eliezer kindly, hoping to get some money out of Eliezer.
These Pesukim show that Lavan was not just greedy, but rather he was willing to even marry off his sister to a stranger just for money. We should try to act differently than Lavan, by acting with kindness and generosity, instead of greed and cruelty.

Do the Right Thing
by Ari Ginsberg

In this week’s Parsha, Avraham sends his servant Eliezer to Charan to find a wife for his son Yitzchak.  After Avraham gives Eliezer his command, Eliezer asks, “Ulai Lo Toveh Haisha Lalechet Acharai El Haaretz Hazot,” “Perhaps the woman will not be willing to come back with me to this land,” (Bereshit 24:5).  When Eliezer is invited into Rivkah’s home, he retells the entire story.  However, when the Torah records the conversation, a few words are changed.  When Eliezer had asked Avraham what he was supposed to do if the girl refused to come to Canaan with him, the Torah uses the word “Ulai,” meaning “perhaps.”  It is spelled Aleph-Vav-Lamed-Yud.  But when Eliezer has a conversation with Rivkah’s family, the Torah doesn’t write it with a Vav, which can be read “Eilay,” meaning “to me.”  Rashi explains that the Vav is not written because Eliezer was thinking about himself.  When Eliezer asked the question, his intentions were to find a hole in Avraham’s plan.  This way he would not be able to bring home any wife for Yitzchak, who would then have to marry Eliezer’s daughter.  There is an important lesson to be learned from this.  Even though Eliezer would rather have had Yitzchak marry his daughter, he was faithful to Avraham and did as he was told.  Rabbi Dessler notes that many times, when we have selfish interests, we force ourselves to believe that it is the right thing to do.   We see from Eliezer’s statement to Rivkah’s family that his own self-interest makes it hard for him to accept that Rivkah, not his daughter, is the proper choice for Yitzchak.  However, we must overcome our own interests and do the right thing.

Pour Your Heart Out - It Works!
by Moshe Schaffer

Vayetzei Yitzchak Lasuach Basadeh,”  “Yitzchak went out to supplicate in the field” (24:63).  Chazal believe that this refers to Yitzchak going out to the field to pray.  The Sefer Lekutei Amarim asks, if Yitzchak’s intentions were to go out in the field and pray why does the Torah not just simply use the word Lehitpallel, “to pray,” instead of Lasuach?
Rashi answers his question by saying that the good deeds of righteous people are done with modesty.  When Yitzchak went out in the field his intentions were to have a conversation with someone.  Anyone who would have walked by Yitzchak while he was in the field would have thought that Yitzchak was just going for a walk. However, because of Yitzchak’s modesty the stranger would have missed the point that Yitzchak was having a conversation with the King of Kings.  The Gemara in Berachot 26b and the Midrash learn from this Pasuk that Yitzchak established the custom of Minchah.  The Seforno states that Yitzchak went to the field, which was away from everyone else, to pray so that he would not interrupt anyone walking by.  In addition, because Yitzchak prayed in the location from where Hagar was sent away, Avraham and Yitzchak did not think that Hashem would accept Yitzchak’s prayer. Nevertheless, Yitzchak was still able to pour out his heart to Hashem.  This shows just how holy and special Yitzchak was; he really had a conversation with Hashem.

Even though Yitzchak was on such a high spiritual level, we can still learn that if a person pours out his heart to Hashem, Hashem will listen.

Food For Thought
by Jerry M. Karp

1) Why are the four hundred shekel given by Avraham to Ephron described as “Over Lasocher”?  What was special about this purchase to cause the Torah to use this terminology?
Why does the Torah switch off between the words Ayin and Be’er in chapter 24?
3) Why are the children of Yishmael mentioned after Avraham’s death, while Keturah’s children and grandchildren are mentioned beforehand?

Halacha of the Week
Men should be certain that their Tefillin Shel Rosh be fastened tightly (Mishnah Brura 27:35).  Tefillin that hang loose often rest too low on the forehead (see Mishnah Brura 27:33 where the Chafetz Chaim urges great vigilance regarding this matter).

Staff at time of publication:
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