Friday, November 23, 2007

Parshas Chayei Sarah - "Be All That You Can Be"

This time last year I was in Chevron for Shabbos...if anyone has a leftover ticket to me....I'll take one way also.

Just in case you need something to say at your Shabbos table...

Breishis 23:2 "Sarah died in Kiriat Araba which is Chevron in the land of Canaan; Avraham came to eulogize Sarah and to bewail her."

At the beginning of this week's Parsha we hear of the death of our foremother Sarah. In response to the death of his wife of many years, Avraham lets out a cry.

(Fun Fact) It is written in the Medrish Tanchuma, that Avraham Avinu's cry consisted of the words of Eishes Chayil. Only from here do we have the beautiful and sweet words that we sing at our Shabbos tables every Friday night.

A question that one may ask from the simple reading of this pasuk is, why is there such an emphasis on "bewailing HER", everyone cries when they have a loss their family?

Putting this question aside for a moment….

Fast forwarding in the Parsha, Eliezer has been sent on a mission by his master Avraham to find a wife for his son, Yitzchok. Avraham gives Eliezer 2 primary guidelines for finding the appropriate spouse for his son. The guidelines are simple; Yes Haranites (if that is what they are called) and NO Caananites!

What is it about the women of Haran that differs from women of Canaan? And why did Eliezer make up a test for the girl?

It is written in Hadrashas Haran that a person's middos are genetic; Avraham avinu knew that the middos of Haran were faultless. Avraham, however, wanted to test their middos so he devised a test. He did not only want a girl who was going to simply abide by the law, which was characteristic of the girls of Haran, but he wanted a girl who without ever being asked would make herself acquiescent to the klal, someone out of the norm.

When Rivka gave water to Eliezer, she gave it wholeheartedly and enthusiastically almost as if the entire reason why she had drawn it in the first place was for Eliezer. Before Eliezer could offer her the nose ring and bracelets and say, "will you marry Yitchak", Rachel goes another step further and does something that only maybe a Veterinarian would do; she sensitively and appropriately feeds the animals.

(Gemara Shabbos 33b) When R' Shimon Bar Yochai was coming out of the cave he saw that a man was carrying myrtle braches. Upon inquiring as to why he was carrying these branches, the man answered proudly, that the branches were for Shabbos. Only at this point was R' Shimon bar Yochai able to re-reenter society.

Nowhere in the 4 books of the Shulchan Aruch does it say that we have an obligation to buy flowers for Shabbos. R' Shimon bar Yochai was elated to hear that this Jew was going out of his way just to glorify Shabbos. Avraham Avinu was telling Eliezer, the only person who would be fitting for Yitchak is someone who goes above the norm; someone who is modest and has middos.

Now we can answer the question as to why the Torah puts emphasis on Avraham specifically bewailing HER:

When most people lose a loved one, they tend to cry because THEY have lost. Avraham however was crying because SHE had lost. No longer did Sarah have the ability to practice Hachnasas Orchim with vigor and love as she used to. Avraham forgot about himself and his own needs. All that he wanted to do was care for the person who was lacking. Again, a trait, that was atypical.

At the beginning of Parshas Bereishis, Rashi answers the reason for why the Torah starts with Parshas Breishis and not the mitzvah of Rosh Chodesh. He says that it is because Hashem wanted to give us a deed to the land of Israel.

As a follow up question to this, many commentators ask, beautiful, we now have a deed to Eretz Yisrael! But why do we need all of the "stories" of Avraham, Yitzchak, the Shivatim and Moshe this is all seemingly extraneous? The answer is simple. We are supposed to learn from our forefathers that living our lives strictly by the book is unacceptable. The key is to go beyond the call of duty.


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