VOLUME 68 NUMBER 4 November 14, 2014 CHESHVAN 21, 5775
Bills, Bills and More Billsby Rabbi Raphael Leban
Ahh, the bills. I wish I could get a spam-filter-like device for my regular mailbox to prevent them from getting through. Alas, instead they flow unchecked in a steady, never-ending stream into the house and onto my desk. When one eventually gets paid, there’s another one ready and waiting to take its place.
A little bit like tzaddikim (righteous people). I’ll explain.
At the beginning of this week’s parsha, Abraham’s wife Sarah dies. In his commentary to the verse, Rabbi Ovadia Sforno notes that the mention of Sarah’s death follows immediately upon the heels of the last event mentioned in last week’s parsha, the birth of Rivka.
As it says in Koheles (Ecclesiastes 1:5), “the sun rises and the sun sets.” Our Sages of the Talmud (Yuma 38b) understand this verse to be expressing a basic truth about the way G‑d runs the world: a righteous person doesn’t depart from this world until another such righteous person has been born.
Rivka, who later in the parsha is chosen to be Isaac’s wife, had to be born before Sarah could pass away. The world simply couldn’t go on without the shoulders of at least one of these righteous women to rest on. Rivka was born to fill the shoes of the Matriarch she would replace.
It is tremendously comforting that G‑d insures the permanence of such critical ingredients of life as we know it. Our role models, mentors and leaders are always present in the world, if we only look for them. I just wish the concept didn’t also apply to the bills.
NO MAN IS AN ISLANDBy Rabbi Dovid Nussbaum
Our Matriarch Sarah was so distressed by the news that her son Yitzchak was almost slaughtered by Avraham that she died. Unfortunately, a tragic event orchestrated by the Satan in order to dampen Avraham’s spirit after he successfully withstood the tenth and final test, that of willingly demonstrating his passion to follow Hashem’s will even to the extent of offering his son as a sacrifice. He turns to the local men of Ches and asks to purchase a small plot of land with a cave within its environs. Concerned lest they refuse his request, he adds that he is entitled to the land because it was promised to him and his descendants.
This last piece of his request to them is quite interesting. Earlier, when the shepherds of Avraham were working together with the shepherds of Lot, there was a complaint filed against them that they were grazing their flock on other people’s properties. Even though they actually stated the exact same claim, it was not valid. At that time Avraham did not have any children and Lot, his nephew, was his next of kin. Therefore, Lot stood to inherit the land, and so his shepherds were already positioning their grazing use of the Land of Israel. However, in that case, the shepherds were viewed as stealing the land, since Avraham himself had not yet acquired it.
Many of the commentators resolve this apparent contradiction, by pointing out that when the shepherds of Lot were claiming their rightful portion of the land, Avraham did not yet have any children. Therefore, the guarantee that his children would inherit the land was still yet to be. However, now that Yitzchak was born the land was already set aside for the heir to be. Therefore, Avraham could petition that he truly had a right to the land and the cave within.
This resolution actually is very essential in understanding a fundamental tenet in Judaism. This is not a religion where we keep all the secrets to ourselves, rather our obligation is transmission. As long as Avraham did not have children, he did not have the opportunity to convey his knowledge. However, once he had the prospect of transmitting his legacy to the next generation, he could already witness the ensuing generations even though they might be decades and centuries away.
Perhaps the most vivid display of this attitude was Sarah herself. When she heard about the Akeidah, the uppermost thought in her mind was that we would no longer have stability and permanence. These were the key words reverberating in her mind that disturbed her tranquility the very moment she thought that she had lost Yitzchak.
It is now clear why Avraham made his faithful servant Eliezer swear that he would find only the appropriate wife for Yitzchak. After all, this was the grandiose structure that would one day be called “Klal Yisroel’.
Even the people of Ches were aware of the future of Avraham’s progeny. They told Avraham that nobody would prevent him from claiming his rightful place to bury Sarah. The burning passion with which Avraham sought to further his mission, the spreading of truth to the entire world, was common knowledge to everyone and they recognized the validity of his mission even if they were incapable of joining his cadre of followers and believers. This is the support that those who are charged and committed to raise the awareness of our duty in our lives merit and eventually are successful in their undertaking.
Joke of the Week
Guy says to Mohel, “I remember my bris. It was rough. I didn’t walk for a year.”
A BYTE FOR SHABBOS
Rashi comments that all the days of Sarah’s life were equally good and well spent. Although we encounter many trials and tribulations in life, those who are truly righteous navigate them with such skill and calm that their lives are splendid and majestic.