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Chayei Sara Q & A

Chayei Sara Q & A


"ויהיו חיי שרה מאה שנה ועשרים שנה ושבע שנים שני חיי שרה"
“And Sarah lived one hundred years, twenty years and seven years, the years of Sarah’s life.” (23:1)

QUESTION: Rashi explains that the Torah repeats the words “the years of Sarah’s life” to let us know that "כולם שוין לטובה" — “they were all equal in goodness.” How could we say that all her years were equally good if during her life she was barren for many years and was held in captivity by Pharaoh and Avimelech?

ANSWER: In the Gemara (Ta’anit 21a) there is a story of the Tanna who was known as “Nachum Ish Gamzu.” Regardless of what happened to him, even apparently negative things, he always said, “Gam zu letovah” — “this is also for the good.”

Once, the Jews selected Nachum to deliver to the king of Rome a box full of valuable stones and gems. While on his journey he slept at an inn, where some thieves emptied the box and filled it with sand. In the morning, when he realized what happened, he said, “Gam zu letovah.”

Upon arriving at the king’s palace, he presented the gift. The king became very angry and wanted to kill the entire Jewish people for making fun of him. Suddenly, the prohet Eliyahu appeared looking like one of the king’s advisors and said, “Perhaps this is the same type of sand which Avraham used during his war against the kings, sand that turned into ammunition.” The king was then at war with a country he was unable to conquer. It was decided to test the sand against the enemy. The king’s forces were amazed when indeed, thanks to the sand, they were victorious. Upon hearing this, the king had the gift box filled with valuable stones and gems and sent Nachum off with great honors.

Rashi’s statement that all the years of Sarah’s life were “shavin letovah” — “equal in goodness” — means that, even when confronted with difficult and unpleasant situations, she would also always say, “Gam zu letovah.”

(פון אונזער אלטען אוצר)

"ויהיו חיי שרה...ותמת שרה"
“And Sarah lived...And Sarah died.” (23:1-2)

QUESTION: The parshah starts with the passing away of Sarah and her burial. Why then is the parshah called “Chayei Sarah” — “the life of Sarah” — and not “mitat Sarah” — “the death of Sarah”?

ANSWER: The notion that the name of the parshah is the first significant word of the parshah is inaccurate. For instance, the second parshah of the Torah is named Noach and the sixth parshah is called Toldot. Parshat Noach starts with the words "אלה תולדות נח" — “These are the offspring of Noach.” Parshat Toldot starts with the words, "ואלה תולדות יצחק בן אברהם" — “These are the offspring of Yitzchak son of Avraham.” If the theory is correct, then the second parshah of Chumash Bereishit should be titled “Toldot,” and the sixth called “Yitzchak.”

The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that the name of the parshah is not arbitrary, but a one-word description of the essence and primary concepts discussed in the parshah. Thus, in the second parshah, though “Noach” is the third word, it is the name of the parshah because the entire parshah revolves primarily around the life of Noah. The sixth parshah is named “Toldot” because the entire parshah discusses Yaakov and Eisav, who were the “Toldot” — “offspring” — of Yitzchak son of Avraham.

“Chayei Sarah” — “the life of Sarah” — was focused on one goal and ideal, that Yitzchak should reach spiritual greatness. Our parshah discusses the life of Yitzchak, who was the realization of Sarah’s spiritual dream. Although in this parshah we read of her demise and burial, through Yitzchak her ideals were fulfilled. Although physically Sarah was no longer here, she continued to live on through her son Yitzchak. In actuality “Chayei Sarah” was the righteous life of Yitzchak.

(מיוסד על לקוטי שיחות ח"ה ע' 58)

"ויבא אברהם לספד לשרה ולבכתה"
“And Avraham came to eulogize Sarah and weep for her.” (23:2)

QUESTION: Rashi comments: “The narratives of Sarah’s death and the Binding of Yitzchak follow one another, for through the announcement of the Binding, that her son had been prepared for slaughter and had almost been slaughtered, her soul fled from her and she died.”

Why would a righteous woman like Sarah expire upon hearing that her son was prepared for slaughter for the sake of Hashem? On the contrary, she should have been proud!

ANSWER: When Sarah heard of Avraham’s mission to Mount Moriah, she marveled at his spiritual heroism. Had she been told that Yitzchak was sacrificed, she would have been filled with joy at the fact that her son was accepted by Hashem. She, however, was told that he had almost been slaughtered.

Upon hearing this, she was terribly saddened, because she presumed that at the last moment her son was found unsuitable. Sarah feared that perhaps her influence was in some way inadequate and her education of Yitzchak imperfect. This was so profoundly saddening that her soul departed.

"ויבא אברהם לספד לשרה ולבכתה"
“Avraham came to eulogize Sarah and weep for her.” (23:2)

QUESTION: Why is the word "ולבכתה" — “and weep for her” written with a small "כ"?

ANSWER: Avraham in addition to having a son, Yitzchak, also had a daughter named “Bakol” (Bava Batra 16b). When Avraham went with Yitzchak to Mount Moriah, she remained home with her mother. When Sarah died upon hearing about Yitzchak and the Akeidah, her daughter, Bakol, also died.

The word "ולבכתה" alludes to the above. Without the "כ" it is "וּלְבִּתָּה" (and for her daughter) and with the "כ" it is "וְלִבְכֹּתָה" which means to “cry over her.” Avraham did both: He wept for her (Sarah) and also "וּלְבִּתָּה" (for her daughter who died at the same time).

(זכרון ישראל בשם לב אבי)

According to Ba’al Haturim, the small "כ" is to emphasize that Avraham did not cry very much. The opinion that the Akeidah took place on Yom Kippur (Rakanti and see Vayikra Rabbah 29:9) may explain his restraint.

From Avraham’s house it took three days to reach Mount Moriah, as stated, “on the third day he saw the place from afar” (22:4). Thus, when Avraham returned from the Akeidah, he traveled the 11th, 12th and 13th days of Tishrei, and Sarah’s funeral took place on Erev Succot, the 14th day of Tishrei. Since he was able to observe mourning only one day (until Succot), he was unable to cry for very long.

(עיטורי תורה בשם דבש וחלב)

"וידבר אל בני חת לאמר גר ותושב אנכי עמכם תנו לי אחזת קבר עמכם.... שמעוני ופגעו לי בעפרון...וישקל אברהם לעפרון...ארבע מאות שקל כסף עובר לסוחר"
“And he spoke to the children of Cheit, ‘I am an immigrant and a resident among you. Sell me a property for a burial place... Speak on my behalf to Efron to sell me the Cave of Machpeilah....’ He weighed out for Efron 400 shekels of the best quality.” (23:3-4,8,16)

QUESTION: If Avraham was interested in buying a piece of land from Efron, why did he talk to the children of Cheit and not with Efron directly?

ANSWER: There is a halachah known as bar metzra” (Choshen Mishpat 175). When one wants to sell a field, one’s neighbors have the right to purchase before anyone else. Avraham was afraid that if he dealt directly with Efron, the neighbors might object to the sale and decide to purchase it. He, therefore, took a number of measures in order to make sure that the law of bar metzra should not apply.

1) When one sells a field back to its original owners, the law of bar metzra does not apply. Originally, Eretz Yisrael was the property of the children of Shem, Avraham’s ancestor. Afterwards, Canaan, of whom the children of Cheit were descendants, took the land (Rashi 12:5).

Therefore, Avraham said “I am ‘geir vetoshav’ — ‘an immigrant and resident among you.’ ” Though I am now an immigrant in the country, I am really a full-fledged resident. Since my ancestors were the original owners, I have priority and nobody can object to the sale.”

2) Concerned that the children of Cheit might still not agree, he asked them to speak to Efron on his behalf. This would remove any doubt that they all agreed to the sale.

3) Fearing that, at the last minute, they might decide to buy the land after all, Avraham made sure to use currency of a better quality. According to halachah when the buyer gives better quality money than the neighbors, they no longer have any rights to oppose the sale.

(פנים יפות)

"ויתן לי את מערת המכפלה...בכסף מלא יתננה לי"
“Let him sell me the Machpeilah Cave...for its full price.” (23:9)

QUESTION: Efron was originally willing to give the land as a gift. Why didn’t Avraham agree to take it as a gift or at a discounted price?

ANSWER: Avraham knew that in the Cave of Machpeilah Adam and Chavah were already buried and that another six holy people would be buried there. Avraham wanted to make sure that Efron should have absolutely no zechut whatsoever or be able to take pride that he helped a tzaddik in any way. Therefore, he insisted on paying the full price without any discounts.

(לקוטי שיחות ח"י ע' 62, וחל"ה ע' 85)

"בכסף מלא יתננה לי בתוככם לאחזת קבר"
“For the full price let him give it to me in the midst of you for a burial place.” (23:9)

QUESTION: What did he mean with the word “betochechem” — “in the midst of you”?

ANSWER: Many years ago there was a decree against the Jewish community in Russia. The previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yoseph Yitzchak Schneersohn, went to Moscow to plead with the minister in charge. The minister asked the Rebbe, “Did you bring along money for a bribe?” To which the Rebbe responded, “What the Jews are worth to you I can easily give you. What they are worth to me is more than all the money in the entire world.”

Avraham wanted the Cave of Machpeilah very much because Adam and Chavah were buried there. To him, this piece of land was priceless.

However, to Efron it was just another piece of land, without any significance. Therefore, he offered to pay Efron the “full price,” what it was worth to him to have the Cave of Machpeilah — “betochechem” — “in your midst.”

(ישמח משה)

"אדני ישמעני ארץ ארבע מאות שקל כסף ביני ובינך מה הוא"
“My lord, listen to me; a piece of land worth four hundred shekels of silver, what is that between me and you?” (23:15)

QUESTION: How did Efron calculate the amount of 400 shekels?

ANSWER: The name “Avraham” (אברהם) has five letters and the middle letter is a "ר". The name “Efron” (עפרון) also has five letters and the middle is also a "ר". The numerical value of "ר" is 200.

Efron, therefore, said to Avraham, “Since you insist on paying for the land, I arbitrarily decided that you should give me 400 shekels because: 'ביני ובינך' — ‘the [middle] between my name and your name’ — 'מה הוא' — ‘what does it add up to? 400.’ ”

(אונזער אלטען אוצר)

"אדני שמעני ארץ ארבע מאת שקל כסף ביני ובינך מה הוא"
“My lord, listen to me; a piece of land worth four hundred shekels of silver, what is that between me and you?” (23:15)

QUESTION: Rashi explains: “Between two loving friends as we are, what is its value? Nothing.”

Were Avraham and Efron loving friends?

ANSWER: Efron said to Avraham: “You love Eretz Yisrael and particularly you love this plot of land because of the righteous people buried there. Thus, you are prepared to pay a fortune. While I do not share your values, I ‘love’ money and have a lust for large amounts. So between two ‘lovers’ — you who ‘love’ the land, and I who ‘love’ money — 400 shekels of silver is a minimal amount.”

"וישקל אברהם לעפרן...ארבע מאות שקל כסף עבר לסחר"
“Avraham weighed to Efron... 400 shekels which are current (money) with the merchant.” (23:16)

QUESTION: The text could have read that the money was good currency. Why is it necessary to emphasize that it was currency accepted by “the merchant”?

ANSWER: The words “oveir lasocheir” — “current (money) with the merchant” — could mean that the money was indeed passed to Efron through a merchant. Avraham made his payment through a merchant for the following reason: During the course of the negotiations, Efron affected great generosity. Publicly, he offered Avraham the land for nothing. However, in his heart he was money-hungry, and wanted the full price in the best money.

Efron deviously thought to himself, “How will my people view me if originally I spoke so generously to Avraham and now request money?” He, therefore, devised the following scheme: He went to a merchant and told him, “I have to do some business with Avraham, and I want him to pay me 400 shekels. I do not feel comfortable asking Avraham directly for payment and especially to ask for the most negotiable currency.

“Therefore, when he offers to pay on, I will say: ‘I do not wish any money. However, if you insist, you can give money to a merchant to whom I am in debt.’ You in turn should demand from him 400 shekels of best quality and later give it to me.”

(פון אונזער אלטען אוצר)

"ואברהם זקן בא בימים"
“And Avraham was old and advanced in age.” (24:1)

QUESTION: Why does the Torah add the words “ba bayamim” — “advanced in age” [literally “days”]?

ANSWER: A Jew comes into this world with a mission to study Torah and to do good deeds. Often, days and years go by in which one accomplished very little and wasted precious time. The Torah attests that Avraham was able to account for what he accomplished each and every day of his life. Not only did he age in years, but “ba bayamim” — he was able to recall each day and say what he achieved in it.


"ואברהם זקן בא בימים וה' ברך את אברהם בכל"
“And Avraham was old and advanced in age and G‑d blessed Avraham with everything.” (24:1)

QUESTION: The word “bakol” (בכל) has the numerical value of 52, which is also the same value as the word ben (בן) — “son” — alluding to the fact that Avraham had a son (Rashi).

What is the connection between Avraham’s becoming old and his having everything — a son?

ANSWER: There is an old adage, “A father or a mother can manage their ten children, but ten children cannot take care of one father or mother.” Often as parents grow older, their children consider them a burden and find caring for them difficult.

As a dutiful son, Yitzchak, however, was profoundly grateful for the love and concern provided by Avraham and Sarah. The Torah tells us that Avraham was blessed with “everything” to say that though he remained alone and was advanced in age, his son Yitzchak stood at his side and was totally dedicated to his welfare. He took care of everything Avraham needed to make his old age pleasant and comfortable. Such a child is indeed a blessing to a parent.

"וה' ברך את אברהם בכל"
“G‑d blessed Avraham with everything.” (24:1)

QUESTION: What was the “everything?”

ANSWER: When the letters of the word "בכל" are spelled out the way they are pronounced, i.e. ב=בית ,כ=כף ,ל=למד, the total numerical value is 586. This is the same numerical value as the word “shofar (שופר).

Yitzchak was originally destined to be brought up on the altar as a sacrifice. When the angel intervened, he was spared, and instead Avraham sacrificed a ram which suddenly appeared. From the horn of this ram, a shofar was made which was sounded when Hashem gave the Torah to the Jewish people (Pirkei De’Rebbi Eliezer, 31). This shofar will also be sounded to announce the revelation of Mashiach (Isaiah 27:13). Thus Yitzchak plays an important role in the giving of Torah and coming of Mashiach. To the Jewish people, Torah and Mashiach are “everything,” and Avraham was blessed with a son who will be involved in the delivery of “everything” to Klal Yisrael.

(חתם סופר)

"וה' ברך את אברהם בכל"
“G‑d blessed Avraham with everything” (24:1)

QUESTION: In the Gemara (Bava Batra 16b) some Rabbis explain the pasuk to mean that he had a daughter whose name was “Bakol.” Why is it important for us to know the name of Avraham’s daughter?

ANSWER: It is not the name of the daughter that they are telling us, but the type of daughter he had. Hashem blessed him with a daughter who excelled in “everything.” Her modesty, intelligence, and beauty were all unsurpassed.

"ויאמר אברהם אל עבדו זקן ביתו המושל בכל אשר לו...ואשביעך"
“And Avraham said to Eliezer, the eldest servant of his house who ruled over all that he had... ‘Promise that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of Canaan.’” (24:2)

QUESTION: Why does the Torah emphasize at this point that Eliezer was the eldest servant and ruled over all of Avraham’s possessions?

ANSWER: Once a man was traveling through a city and spent all his money. He went to a kosher butcher and asked for a loan, promising that when he returned home, he would send him back a check as payment. The butcher very apologetically explained that since he never met him before and knew nothing about him, he could not take the risk.

A few minutes later the butcher received a telephone call, and the visitor noticed that the butcher was very distressed. He asked the butcher, “What is wrong? Perhaps I can help you?” The butcher told the visitor, “I was just informed that the shochet is very sick and will not be able to work for the next two weeks. Without the shochet, I will not have any kosher meat to sell and it will be a grave setback for my business.”

The visitor told the butcher, “You need not worry, because I happen to be a shochet by profession.” The butcher’s face began to shine and he exclaimed, “Baruch Hashem, you saved me. Are you ready to start immediately?”

Upon hearing this the stranger said, “You really surprise me. When I asked for a loan which was a matter of a few dollars, you refused me by saying you did not know if I could be trusted. Now, when it comes to a shochet preparing kosher meat, which has to do with the ‘soul’ of the Jewish people, you do not ask any questions and you are ready to accept me?!”

Avraham was teaching us a very important lesson. In money matters he trusted many different people and especially Eliezer his faithful servant. However, when it came to matters of Yiddishkeit such as choosing a wife for Yitzchak, he would not rely on anyone, unless he was absolutely sure. Therefore, he made even his faithful servant promise that he would follow his instructions carefully.

(ילקוט הדרוש)

"והיה הנערה אשר אמר אליה הטי נא כדך ואשתה ואמרה שתה וגם גמליך אשקה"
“Let it be that the maiden to whom I shall say, ‘Please tip over your jug so I may drink.’ and who replies ‘Drink, and I will even water your camels....’” (24:14)

QUESTION: Why did Eliezer test her in this way?

ANSWER: Eliezer wanted to verify two basic things about the girl. 1) Was she good natured? 2) Would she be resourceful in difficult situations?

Therefore, Eliezer asked her to tilt the jug so that he could drink from the jug itself. If she was good-natured, she would have pity on a thirsty man and let him drink. However, he was curious to see what she would do with the leftover water. If she would take it home or drink it herself, she would appear to be foolish because Eliezer was a stranger and might have been sick, contaminating the water. On the other hand, if she would spill it out on the ground, this would be disrespectful to Eliezer.

When Eliezer saw that after letting him drink, Rivkah took the remainder of the jug and gave it to the camels, he knew that not only was she good-natured but also very bright and of refined character.

(בית הלוי)

"וירץ העבד לקראתה"
“The servant [Eliezer] ran towards her [Rivkah].” (24:17)

QUESTION: Rashi explains that the servant ran to her because he witnessed a miracle: The water in the well rose to her. The Ramban explains that Rashi derives this from the later phrase “she drew water for all his camels” (24:20). Obviously, in the previous pasuk, she did not have to draw the water. Why didn’t the water rise the second time?

ANSWER: At first, when Rivkah came to the well, her intention was to draw water for herself. Hashem didn’t want a tzaddeikit to inconvenience herself and, therefore, caused the well water to rise so that she could fill her jug easily. However, the second time, when she went to the well, it was for a mitzvah — to feed thirsty animals — and Hashem did not want to take away part of the mitzvah by making it easier for her. Therefore, the water did not rise and it was necessary for her to “draw water for the camels.”

(מעינה של תורה)

"היש בית אביך מקום לנו ללין"
“Is there room in your father’s house for us to spend the night?” (24:23)

QUESTION: Eliezer was a rich man. Why didn’t he sleep in a hotel?

ANSWER: A poor chassid once came to his Rebbe and asked for a berachah to become rich. He told the Rebbe: “I know and understand the plight of the poor. If you bless me that I should become rich, be assured that all the poor of the city will benefit immensely.” The Rebbe bestowed his blessing upon the chassid, and he became wealthy.

The wealthier he became, the stingier he became, and it soon became impossible for a poor man to come to his home to receive charity. A group of poor people went to his Rebbe and complained about the chassid’s behavior.

The Rebbe sent notice to the chassid that he planned to visit his city and would like to stay over at his home. The chassid was elated and prepared lavish accommodations for the Rebbe.

Upon his arrival, the Rebbe asked the chassid to give him a tour of his villa. While they happened to be standing in front of a large window, the Rebbe asked the chassid: “What do you see?” Proudly, the chassid responded: “Out there are my gardens, my recreation area, my maids, and my servants.” They continued walking through the house, when suddenly, the Rebbe stopped in front of a large mirror and asked the chassid: “What do you see?” The chassid responded: “I see myself.” In puzzlement, the Rebbe asked: “Why is it that before, when you looked through the glass, you saw other people, and now, looking through the other glass, you only see yourself?”

“Rebbe, there is a very big difference between the two glasses. The window is simple glass, which you can see through, while the mirror glass has a glazing of silver and therefore reflects the image of the viewer.” The Rebbe looked at the chassid intently and asked: “Are you telling me that because of a ‘silver backing’ you can only see yourself? If we scrape off a little bit of the silver, perhaps your feelings of generosity will come back!”

In general, poor people are very generous. Often, they discuss how they would help the needy if they had the money, but when they become rich, their behavior is frequently disappointing.

Eliezer represented Avraham who was the prototype of chessed. In his home, acts of kindness, hospitality, and generosity were commonplace. Eliezer noticed in Rivkah traits of generosity, but he was not sure if it was because she was from a very poor family or if it was her true nature. He therefore wanted to have a glimpse of her home and see that her family was well-to-do. Thus, he would be confident that she would continue her acts of kindness when living in the wealthy home of Avraham and Yitzchak.

(מיוסד על הדרש והעיון)

"וירץ לבן אל האיש החוצה אל העין: ויהי כראת את הנזם... וכשמעו את דברי רבקה... ויבא אל האיש"
“And Lavan ran out to the man, to the fountain. And it came to pass, when he saw the ring . . . and when he heard the words of Rivkah . . . and he came to the man.” (24:29-30)

QUESTION: Why did he run before he saw the gifts Rivkah received?

ANSWER: After Rivkah met Eliezer, she ran home and told her mother that a shadchan (marriage broker), representing Avraham’s wealthy family, had come to town. Lavan knew that Avraham had a son and a daughter. The first thing that entered his mind was that the man was looking for a groom for Avraham’s daughter and he, therefore, ran immediately.

In the interim he thought that perhaps he was in error and that he was making a fool out of himself. Consequently, he ran back home to ask Rivkah if she knew what the man’s purpose was. Seeing the jewelry she received, and hearing all that Eliezer told her, he realized that the shadchan was seeking a bride for Avraham’s son, and not a groom for Avraham’s daughter.

Thus, he no longer had any reason to run and therefore “vayavo el ha’ish” — “and he came to the man” (hoping he might give him some money, too) — whereas before, “vayaratz” — “he ran.”

(משך חכמה)

"ויאמר בוא ברוך ה'"
“And he said: ‘Come, blessed by G‑d.’” (24:31)

QUESTION: Why did Lavan consider Eliezer “blessed by G‑d”?

ANSWER: Lavan came as a villain, casting His eyes on Eliezer’s money. Eliezer was petrified with fear and concerned about his well-being. Immediately, he uttered Hashem’s holy name, and suddenly Lavan saw him positioned on top of the camels, and the camels on top of the water, and he was unable to reach them.

This is obvious from what the Torah relates that when Lavan came near Eliezer, he noticed that: "והנה עמד על הגמלים על העין" — “behold, he stood on the camels on the fountain” (24:30). Grammatically, it should read, "והנה עמד אצלהגמלים אצל העין" — “and, behold, he stood near the camels near the fountain.”

Lavan knew than water nullifies sorcery. As the Gemara (Sanhedrin 67b) relates about Zeiri who purchased a camel in Alexandria, Egypt. When he wanted to give it water to drink, it turned into a plank of wood of a bridge. After investigating, he found out that this camel was originally made through magic from the bridge plank, and water possesses the power to nullify sorcery.

Hence, when Lavan saw Eliezer standing on the camels which were on the fountain of water, he realizes that Eliezer was not a mere magician who performed acts of sorcery, but was blessed by G‑d with Divine powers.

(ילקוט מעם לועז)

"ויישם לפניו לאכל ויאמר לא אכל עד אם דברתי דברי...ויאמר עבד אברהם"
“And food was set before him, but he said ‘I will not eat until I have spoken my words’....And he said ‘I am Avraham’s servant.’” (24:33)

QUESTION: Why did Eliezer refuse to eat before divulging the purpose of his trip?

ANSWER: Eliezer took people from Avraham’s home with him to assist him and to attend to the camels.

When Lavan heard that Eliezer gave gifts, he invited him to his house and provided straw and oats for the camels and water for Eliezer and his people to wash their feet (24:32). Afterwards, the Torah tells us “vayusam lefanav le’echol” — “food was placed before him.”Eliezer was thinking to himself, “This Lavan must be a very stingy fellow. Water, which is free, he gave for me and all my people. However, food, which costs money, he gave only for me and not to any of my people.”

Therefore, he said, “lo ochal” — “I will not eat alone while my people stay outside with the camels. Let me first tell you the purpose of my visit and I am sure that you will then change your behavior.”

Eliezer told him that the purpose of his trip was to arrange a marriage and that the “chatan and his father were extremely wealthy. When Lavan heard this he said to himself, “If they come home and tell Avraham and Yitzchak how I treated them, they will consider me stingy and call me a ‘miser.’ Immediately, he started acting very hospitably and gave a full meal to Eliezer and his entire company, as the Torah relates, “They ate and drank, he and all the men who were with him” (24:54).

(חתם סופר)

"לא אכל עד אם דברתי דברי"
“I will not eat until I have spoken my words.” (24:33)

QUESTION: Why did Eliezer refuse to eat before negotiating the shidduch (marriage)?

ANSWER: When Rivkah returned home after receiving the presents from Eliezer, Lavan hastened to greet Eliezer. It was obvious to Eliezer that Lavan was greedily seeking to extract money and gifts from him.

Eliezer feared that if he ate a meal and the shidduch negotiations would be unsuccessful, Lavan would make him pay a fortune for the food he ate. Thus, his first concern was to finalize the shidduch and acquire Rivkah. After that was accomplished, he did not care how much he would have to pay Lavan, because he considered Rivkah worth a fortune.

(פון אונזער אלטען אוצר)

"לא אכל עד אם דברתי דברי... עבד אברהם אנכי"
“I will not eat until I have spoken my words...I am Avraham’s servant.” (24:33-34)

QUESTION: Why was it so important to make this statement before eating?

ANSWER: Eliezer was Avraham’s dedicated servant. Spending much time in the home of Avraham, he faithfully observed the laws of kashrut. Aware that Lavan was not trustworthy, he refused to eat till he made it clear to him that, as the servant of Avraham, he observed the laws of kashrut. Only after examining the foods placed before him would he decide what was permissible.

(פון אונזער אלטען אוצר)

"ותלד שרה אשת אדני בן לאדני... ויתן לו את כל אשר לו"
“Sarah bore my master a son and he gave him all that he possesses.” (24:36)

QUESTION: Why did Avraham give everything away to Yitzchak?

ANSWER: According to halachah, one may appoint a shliach (emissary) to betroth a woman for him. However, a non-Jew is precluded from being an emissary. An exception to the rule is when a master sends his own non-Jewish servant to betroth someone for him. In such a case, though the non-Jewish servant cannot be an emissary, he can qualify under the rule of "יד עבד כיד רבו" — “the hand of the servant is considered an extension of the master’s hand.”

Thus, it would be proper for Eliezer to betroth a woman for Avraham, his master, but not for Yitzchak, who was the son of his master. Therefore, Avraham gave over all his possessions including Eliezer, to Yitzchak; and now his hand was an extension of Yitzchak’s and he could betroth a woman for him.

(פני אריה - פנים יפות)

"ויוצא העבד כלי כסף וכלי זהב ובגדים ויתן לרבקה"
“The servant [Eliezer] brought out silver and gold jewelry and clothing and gave it to Rivkah.” (24:53)

QUESTION: All types of jewelry could be worn by anyone regardless of age. However, clothing must fit to size. How did Eliezer know in advance what clothing would fit Rivkah?

ANSWER: In the home of Avraham there was much emphasis on the laws of tzeniut — modesty. The men and women, boys and girls, dressed according to halachah. Eliezer’s mission was to find a suitable wife for Yitzchak. The young lady would undoubtedly prepare a wardrobe of new clothing to wear after her marriage. He therefore carried with him a sample of the type of clothing women were expected to wear in the homes of Avraham and Yitzchak.

(מהרי"ד מבלז זצ"ל)

"ויאמר אחיה ואמה"
“Her brother and mother said...” (24:55)

QUESTION: Why did the brother and mother speak and not the father, Betuel?

ANSWER: According to the law of the Torah, a father has a right to marry off his daughter while she is a ketana (under Bat Mitzvah). She is then considered a married woman and cannot leave her husband unless he gives her a get (divorce). If a girl is an orphan, the Rabbanim gave permission to her mother or brothers to marry her off. Up to the age of 12, if for some reason she does not like her husband, she can perform mi’un (she proclaims that she refuses to be his wife) and has the right to leave him.

Lavan and his mother sensed that, out of greed for money, Betuel might agree to marry off his daughter Rivkah to Yitzchak. They feared that the marriage would not be a good one, and Yitzchak would refuse to give her a get. Not wanting Rivkah to be stuck with him forever, they killed Betuel.

Now that Rivkah was an orphan, the mother and brother married her off. They hoped that when she became a little older and smarter, she would realize that Yitzchak was not a suitable husband for her. Consequently, she would refuse to remain with him, and thus be able to leave him without his consent.

(חנוכת התורה)

"ויקראו לרבקה ויאמרו אליה התלכי עם האיש הזה ותאמר אלך"
“And they called Rivkah, and said to her: ‘Will you go with this man?’ And she said: ‘I will go.’” (24:58)

QUESTION: Rashi adds: “By myself, even if you do not consent.”

Why was the young Rivkah (three years old) so assertive and independent?

ANSWER: Originally, Eliezer met with Betuel, his wife and Lavan. When Betuel tried to interfere with the marriage, an angel poisoned him during the meal and he died. Now it was her brother and her mother who were trying to prevent the marriage from becoming reality.

Rivkah told them, “Open your eyes and see what is happening. This marriage was Divinely destined. If you do not consent to the marriage, undoubtedly you, too, will die as father did. Thus, I will be left all alone, and I will go with Eliezer to join Yitzchak and his family.

(באר מים חיים)

"ויברכו את רבקה ויאמרו לה אחתנו את היי לאלפי רבבה"
“They blessed Rivkah and said to her, ‘Our sister be the mother of thousands of ten thousands.’” (24:60)

QUESTION: Why did Lavan give his sister such a nice blessing?

ANSWER: Lavan really did not want to wish his sister well. All he told her was that, “If you become ‘le’alfei’— the mother of thousands of ten thousands (the wife of a millionaire) — do not forget your family and relatives. You should always remember, ‘revavah’ (רבבה) — which is the acronym for 'רבקה בת בתואל הארמי' — ‘You are the daughter of the crooked Betuel.’ ”

(ארונו של יוסף)

"ויברכו את רבקה ויאמרו לה אחתנו את היי לאלפי רבבה"
“They blessed Rivkah and said to her, ‘Our sister, be the mother of thousands of ten thousands.’” (24:60)

QUESTION: Before a chuppah, when the chatan covers the kallah’s face with a veil (“badekenesh”), it is customary to recite this blessing.

What do we mean that the kallah should have a family of tens of thousands of children?

ANSWER: When Hashem blesses a person with financial success, it is proper to give a portion to tzedakah. When one supports a yeshivah, the children who are learning Torah thanks to his financial assistance are considered his children. Years later, the students of those yeshivah students are also considered his children.

The berachah to the kallah is that in her marriage she should be blessed with wealth and be imbued with the good sense to give tzedakah to Torah institutions. Through helping children receive a Torah education, she in turn becomes a mother of thousands of children.

* * *

Alternatively, the Gemara (Bava Batra 110a) says that when one marries a woman he should investigate her brothers, because most sons resemble the brothers of the mother. Lavan’s berachah on the surface appears to be very nice. In reality, however, he meant that his sister was to be blessed with many children and since most of them should resemble him, the Jewish people would be flooded with people of his character. Therefore, as the kallah is about to enter in marriage, the rabbi and prominent people who escort the chatan to the badekenish declare to the kallah, you are “achoteinu” – “our sister” – and we wish you that you should be blessed with children who will resemble us and thus be a source of Yiddishe nachas to you and K’lal Yisrael.

(שלחן העזר סי' ז')

"אחתנו את היי לאלפי רבבה וירש זרעך את שער שנאיו"
“Our sister, be the mother of thousands of ten thousands and may your offspring inherit the gate of their enemies.” (24:60)

QUESTION: Why didn’t he bless her not to have any enemies at all?

ANSWER: The lack of enemies is not always a good sign. A person who is, G‑d forbid, stricken with poverty or afflicted with troubles usually has no enemies because everyone has mercy on him. On the other hand, it is inevitable for a wealthy man to have enemies. Out of jealousy people become his enemies and criticize him for not giving enough or for exerting too much influence, etc.

Lavan blessed his sister with wealth and success. Knowing that this would bring her enemies, he wished her that she overcome them and that all their criticism of her be of no avail.

(מצאתי בכתבי אבי הרב שמואל פסח ז"ל באגאמילסקי)

"ותאמר אל העבד מי האיש הלזה...ויאמר העבד הוא אדני"
“And she said to the servant, ‘Who is this man’... and the servant answered ‘He is my master.’” (24:65)

QUESTION: Eliezer’s master was Avraham not Yitzchak?

ANSWER: When Avraham sent Eliezer to find a wife for Yitzchak, he also wrote a document in which he conveyed all his possessions as a gift to Yitzchak (Rashi 24:36). Eliezer, as the shliach (emissary), formalized the marriage (kiddushin) between Rivkah and Yitzchak. As soon as the marriage was consummated, the gift took effect and whatever Avraham had was now owned by Yitzchak. Thus, Yitzchak became the master of his father’s servant Eliezer.

(עיטורי תורה)

"מי האיש הלזה ההלך בשדה לקראתנו"
“Who is this man walking in the field toward us?” (24:65)

QUESTION: The word “halazeh” (הלזה) — “this” — is extra. Would it not be sufficient to say, “Who is the man walking in the field?”

ANSWER: Like all the other matriarchs, Rivkah was a prophetess (Bereishit 29:34, Rashi). When she noticed Yitzchak, she became very much impressed because of certain things she saw about him. She saw that he had something special to do with two heis (ה-ה), and that he had a unique connection also with the letters "ל" and "ז". Consequently, she asked Eliezer what is the meaning of the "הלזה" that I see about this man?

Eliezer identified the man as Yitzchak, son of Avraham and Sarah. He went on to explain: for many years they were childless, and when Hashem added a "ה" and changed the name “Avram” to “Avraham” and another "ה" to change the name “Sarai” to “Sarah,” they were able to give birth to him. When this man reached the age of 37, which is the numerical value of ל"ז, his father was ready to bring him up as an offering to Hashem and he fully agreed.

(מגלה עמוקות)

"ויתן אברהם את כל אשר לו ליצחק ולבני הפילגשם אשר לאברהם נתן אברהם מתנות"
“And Avraham gave everything that he had to Yitzchak, and to the children of the concubines...he gave presents.” (25:5-6)

QUESTION: If he gave away everything he had to Yitzchak, where did he get the presents?

ANSWER: Avraham’s wealth consisted of two parts:

1) the money which he earned through his work and business,

2) the presents which were given to him by Pharaoh when he returned Sarah to him (12:16).

Avraham gave everything that he earned and owned to Yitzchak. Hagar was the daughter of Pharaoh and Avraham’s concubine. Not wanting to keep the presents that Pharaoh gave him, he gave them to his concubine’s children who, in reality, were the grandchildren of Pharaoh.

(עולת חודש)

"ואלה ימי שני חיי אברהם אשר חי מאת שנה ושבעים שנה וחמש שנים"
“And these are the years of Avraham, which he lived, a hundred years, seventy years, and five years.” (25:7)

QUESTION: The words “which he lived” seem redundant?

ANSWER: Avraham was really supposed to live 180 years, as his son Yitzchak did. However, his grandson Eisav was not behaving properly, and Hashem knew that Avraham would have much aggravation from seeing his grandson’s behavior. Therefore, He shortened Avraham’s life by five years (Rashi 25:30). Hence, the Torah writes the words “which he lived,” to emphasize that these were the years he lived and not his full allocated lifespan.

(ילקוט הדרוש)

Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky has been a pulpit rabbi for over thirty years, and is author of more than ten highly acclaimed books on the Parshiot and holidays. His Parshah series, Vedibarta Bam, can be purchased here.
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A Jew Woodbury February 1, 2014

Is it possible to write which Miforash each question and answer is from. Reply

Debka Fullington Oakland City, In. November 14, 2009

Rebecca At The Well An interesting side note: One camel can drink a thousand gallons in ten minutes. Ten camels equals how many trips to the well? Rebecca proved not only her beauty and kindness-but her strength as well! Reply

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