For the week ending 15 November 2014 / 22 Heshvan 5775

Parshat Chayei Sara

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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Sarah, Mother of the Jewish People, passes on at age 127. After mourning and eulogizing her, Avraham seeks to bury her in the Cave of Machpela. As this is the burial place of Adam and Chava, Avraham pays its owner, Ephron the Hittite, an exorbitant sum. Avraham sends his faithful servant Eliezer to find a suitable wife for his son Yitzchak, making him swear to choose a wife only from among Avrahams family. Eliezer travels to Aram Naharaim and prays for a sign. Providentially, Rivka appears. Eliezer asks for water. Not only does she give him water, but she draws water for all 10 of his thirsty camels. (Some 140 gallons!) This extreme kindness marks her as the right wife for Yitzchak and a suitable Mother of the Jewish People. Negotiations with Rivka's father and her brother Lavan result in her leaving with Eliezer. Yitzchak brings Rivka into his mother Sarahs tent, marries her and loves her. He is then consoled for the loss of his mother. Avraham remarries Hagar who is renamed Ketura to indicate her improved ways. Six children are born to them. After giving them gifts, Avraham sends them to the East. Avraham passes away at the age of 175 and is buried next to Sarah in the Cave of Machpela.


Cover Up

“...she then took the veil and covered herself.” (24:65)

Not too long ago, in Victorian times, no lady would be seen on the street with a centimeter of flesh visible lower than her chin. Victorian women were covered quite literally from "head to toe."

Not that secular society in Victorian times was demonstrably any more moral than it is today. Just there was some kind of a concept of discretion. You may call it hypocrisy; others might call it guilt. At any rate, even secular society had some kind of an idea of what is called in Hebrew: tzniut.

Tzniut is often mistranslated as "modesty." But really it means inwardness. As the verse says, "All the honor of the daughter of the king is inwardness" (Tehillim 45:14). Every Jewish girl is a “daughter of the king” (not a ‘Jewish Princess’) and her greatest glory is her inner world.

One of the greatest challenges to Jewish life in our generation is tzniut. A woman's nature is to want to look attractive. When this desire is to be beautiful in her husband's eyes, a woman in the total privacy of her home may go to great lengths.

However, if this instinct does not find its intended home in family life and wanders out onto the street, it becomes a highly destructive force. Especially as the current standards of what is called 'decently dressed' would more correctly befit the animals in a zoo.

“...she then took the veil and covered herself."

Rashi comments that the phrase "...and (she) covered herself," is grammatically passive rather than reflexive and literally translated would read, “and she was covered." He goes on to cite two examples of this syntax: as in, "and she was buried, and "...and it was broken."

Of all the grammatical examples that Rashi could have given, why did he chose burial and breakage?

'Being buried' and 'breaking' are two things that a person can never do to himself. They are two of the most involuntary things that can happen to you.

When Rivka covered herself, it was with such immediacy and so automatic and with such control of herself that it was as though someone else was covering her.

"...and she was covered."

  • Source: In the name of the Mirrer Mashgiach as seen in Lekach Tov

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