For the week ending 3 November 2018 / 25 Heshvan 5779

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.


Three Relationships

“Beware not to return my son to there…” (24:6)

Why didn’t Avraham want Yitzchak to go to Charan? Surely it would have been preferable for him to see his future wife than Eliezer to act as an agent?

As a result of Avraham’s bringing Yitzchak up on an altar as a korban (offering), Yitzchak became infused with a special sanctity. He became an Olah temima, a ‘pure elevation-offering.’ Avraham did not want Yitzchak to lose that elevated status by Eliezer’s taking him out of the Land of Israel.

The first of our Holy Temples was destroyed as a result of the Jewish People’s transgressing the three cardinal sins: murder, idol worship and sexual immorality. These three sins represent a breakdown in the three relationships that a person has in this world: with his fellow, with G-d, and with himself.

Murder is the ultimate breakdown of man’s relationship with his neighbor. Idol worship is the breakdown of man’s relationship with G-d, and immorality is the breakdown of man’s relationship with himself: He loses his tzurat Adam – his elevated human status - and becomes more like an animal.

It occurred to me that these three relationships are mirrored in the Avot – the Patriarchs. Avraham is ultimate antidote to murder: He is the pillar of Chessed, of kindness, the ultimate expression of love for one’s fellow. It was Avraham whose tent was open to the four compass points ready to receive guests.

Yitzchak is the ultimate antidote for idol worship as we saw above. He is the Olah temima, the ultimate expression of mesirut nefesh, of being prepared to give up one’s life for G-d.

Which leaves Yaakov. I thought for a while how Yaakov was the ultimate antidote to immorality, and then I remembered a Midrash that describes the ladder in Yaakov’s dream, and how the malachim (angels) were ascending and descending on it. Their reason was to compare the visage engraved on the Kisei HaKavod — the mystical Throne on which Hashem sits — with the likeness of Yaakov. In other words, Yaakov is the tzurat Adam, the true picture of Man and all that makes him holy and elevated above the beasts.

  • Sources: Pesikta Zutresa, Radak, Maharal

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