© 2011 About Torah
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Shaleeakh Chayei Sarah
B'reisheet (Genesis) 23:1-25:18
By Rabbi Yaakov benYosef ABOUT Torah
© 2011 About Torah
Every culture on the face of the earth understands what it is to live and to die. However, not every culture treats life and death with the same significance. Throughout, history some cultures believed that worldly goods could be taken into the afterlife Another belief was that after death the soul was reincarnated. However, in the Torah the focus is not on death, but instead on a life dedicated to serve HaShem. Through serving HaShem with our life we are prepared to receive His kingdom.
Chayei Sarah displays how HaShem prepares people to receive his kingdom. Even though Chayei Sarah begins with the death of Sarah, and ends with the death of Avraham, the portion is not about their dying. It is about how they lived. For example, the portion starts with the phrase Sarah lived. One explanation for this could stem from the fact that Sarah and Avraham had more influence in changing the way people lived than anyone that lived before their time. Sarah and Avraham's influence continued long after their deaths. This was accomplished through their son Yitzhak. Most of the portion explains how Sarah and Avraham's commitment to HaShem was passed onto their son. Chayei Sarah explains how Avraham prepared Yitzhak to receive the covenant that was promised to Avraham's descendants. One-way Yitzhak was prepared to receive the covenant was by taking a wife that was a godly woman. Therefore, Avraham sent his servant to find such a woman. HaShem's miraculous involvement in the search for Yitzhak's wife assured that the servant would find the woman HaShem wanted for Yitzhak. The union between Yitzhak and Rivkah would not have taken place without HaShem's supernatural involvement.
The first supernatural involvement of HaShem can be seen in the wisdom Avraham demonstrates by not sending his son. B'reisheet 24:5-6 states, "And the servant said unto him, Peradventure the woman will not be willing to follow me unto this land: must I needs bring thy son again unto the land from whence thou camest? And Abraham said unto him, Beware thou that thou bring not my son thither again." Avraham realized that if he had allowed Yitzhak to return to the land of his ancestors to select his own wife, he would expose Yitzhak to temptations that could interfere with the promised blessing. For example, Yitzhak may have been tempted by the pleasures of his ancestral lands. As a result, Yitzhak might have stayed in his ancestral homeland and not returned to the land HaShem had promised to Avraham and his descendents. This would have led Yitzhak away from fulfilling the plan HaShem had for Avraham and his descendents. Avraham had the wisdom and discernment to know that if Yitzhak were to succumb to the temptation of the world, his descendants would not inherit the promises of HaShem.
The supernatural involvement of HaShem can also be seen in HaShem's desire to work through Avraham's servant. The servant was totally dedicated to Avraham's command. The servant's dedication to Avraham made it possible for HaShem to use the servant to fulfill His will. This is because the servant's dedication required him to possess the attributes of trust and loyalty. Avraham needed an individual that possessed these attributes. Trust and loyalty were required because they were the foundations that gave Avraham complete faith his servant. B'reisheet, 24:2 states, "Avraham said unto his eldest servant of his house, that ruled over all that he had, Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh." Avraham's eldest and most trusted servant was the only individual who had proven he could be trusted and was loyal in all the matters of Avraham's household. Avraham had to place his faith in the servant's steadfastness, to not to be tempted by the wealth of jewels, silver and gold that Avraham was sending as the bride price. Avraham knew his oldest and most trusted servant proved himself worthy of finding Yitzhak a bride who would meet all the qualifications Avraham required. Avraham's servant was under an oath to perform Avraham's request, just as if Avraham himself were present. Avraham's servant was trusted completely because of the servant's desire to serve his master.
Avraham's servant also needed to be loyal. Loyalty guaranteed that the servant would continue serving Avraham even when Avraham was not present. As a result, the servant did not need Avraham's direct involvement, to realize he was still under Avraham's authority. Avraham knew his servant would not be deceived into believing that he did not need to obey Avraham, when Avraham was not there. Therefore, Avraham was assured his servant would not settle for less then finding Yitzhak a bride that was descended from Avraham's relatives. The servant's loyalty to Avraham also required him to be loyal to Avraham's God. B'reisheet 24:2-4 states, "I will make thee swear by the L-RD, the God of heaven, and the God of the earth, that thou shall not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell: But thou shall go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac." Only a servant truly loyal to his master would become loyal to his master's God. Clearly Avraham's servant had previously proven himself trustworthy and loyal. Therefore, he was the type of individual dedicated to serve Avraham no matter what the request was. As a result, HaShem was able to use the servant supernaturally in the fulfillment of Avraham's request to find a wife from Avraham's relatives.
HaShem would have been capable of finding a wife for Yitzhak without any assistance. However, He chose to work supernaturally through Avraham and his servant. When HaShem works through people supernaturally, HaShem is testifying to others that He prefers to use people to fulfill His will. HaShem desires to work through willing participants.Therefore, HaShem seeks individuals who are dedicated, wise, and willing. Eventually all people will serve HaShem, whether willing or not. Isaiah 45:23 and Romans 14:11 which both state, "every knee will bow and every tongue confess". Like Avraham's servant, we need to be loyal and trustworthy by serving HaShem voluntarily. So that others can see that HaShem supernaturally works through His people.
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