Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Shaleeakh Chayei Sarah / B'reisheet (Genesis) 23:1-25:18

Abraham went to mourn for his helpmate.  He needs to have a place to bury his dead, but he is a foreigner and owns no land.  There is nowhere to bury his dead, so he goes to the people of the land, the sons of Heth, and requests a portion of land for which he is willing to purchase.  Through the procedures of coming to an agreement (usually including bargaining/haggling over value), he purchases a piece of property from Ephron though the price is much steeper than the value of the property.

Bargaining was a task at which Abraham was adept.  All we need do is consider his bargaining for the lives of the people of the area of Sodom and Gomorrah.  The Lord heeded his every request.  Why did he not bargain here?

In Genesis 18:23-32 Abraham is bargaining for the souls of the living; in this week’s portion he is merely bargaining for a piece of property on which to bury his dead.  Which is of greater eternal importance?  Does this not correlate with David’s fasting and praying to the Lord for the life of his and Bathsheba’s firstborn, but upon the child’s passing (one day before being circumcised and named) David broke his fast and ceased his petitions for the child’s life (II Samuel 12:15-23).

Out of respect for the dead, Abraham does not haggle.  However, what has also occurred is that this field and cave of Machpelah have become the first legally owned possession of the Promised Land by the Abraham and his descendants.

Let us also recall that Isaac never set foot outside of what is to be the Promised Land, hence Eliezer had to go to find a wife for Isaac.  Abraham was told to get out of the land of his fathers and go to the land that the Lord would show him (Gen. 12:1).  There is no suggestion at all that he is ever to return to the land of his forebearers, and he will not permit his son, his only son, to do so either.

“Go,” is what was spoken to Abraham, and he and Sarah went.  “Take her,” were the words of Laban and Bethuel to Eliezer regarding Rebecca (Gen 24:51).  They apparently realized that God’s hand had orchestrated the whole situation.  Nevertheless, Rebecca could have gone out of obedience to her father and brother but possess bitterness in her heart had she not wanted to go.  Circumstances moved so that it was necessary to give her a choice.  Upon being asked if she is ready to leave immediately she replied, “I will go” (Gen. 24:58).  In choosing to go as Abraham and his family did, she showed herself worthy to be the second matriarch of the Chosen People.  That Isaac came to “know” her in his mother’s tent further shows her assumption of the matriarchal position.

Abraham married again, but that is not mentioned until after the marriage of Isaac and Rebecca.  Why was it mentioned following the marriage?  Perhaps it is an indication that Keturah was not Sarah’s heir, so to speak, but that Rebecca was.  The same could be said regarding all of Abraham’s descendants mentioned in Genesis 25 with the exception of Isaac.  Isaac can be excepted because none of his descendants are mentioned, though the rest of Abraham’s lineage is presented.

The final two verses of this parashah are regarding Ishmael’s end of days.  He is the firstborn of Abraham, but he is not The Firstborn of Abraham.  Regardless, he was loved by his father, the Lord promised to make him a great nation (Gen. 17:20), and he apparently merited a special mention in the listing of Abraham’s children.

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