During the week, no words of Torah hit me on this week’s Torah portion of Chaya Sorah. However, Shabbos morning, I needed a walk, and decided to walk to Anshe Sholem for health reasons and hear the Torah of the Synagogue. I ended up walking 4 miles and decided to go to my regular Synagogue to make sure we had a Minyan. I was able to think about the Torah portion and the following six items is the result.
1) Chapter 23, Verse3:
Abraham in addressing the people of Ches said:
ד גֵּר-וְתוֹשָׁב אָנֹכִי, עִמָּכֶם; תְּנוּ לִי אֲחֻזַּת-קֶבֶר עִמָּכֶם, וְאֶקְבְּרָה מֵתִי מִלְּפָנָי.
4 ‘I am a stranger and an inhabitant with you: give me a possession of a burying-place with you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.’
גר ותושב אנכי עמכם: גר מארץ אחרת ונתישבתי עמכם. ומדרש אגדה אם תרצו הריני גר, ואם לאו אהיה תושב ואטלנה מן הדין שאמר לי הקב”ה (לעיל יב ז) לזרעך אתן את הארץ הזאת:
I am a stranger and an inhabitant with you: [I am] a stranger from another land, and I have settled among you. [Consequently, I have no ancestral burial plot here (Rashbam, Sforno).] And the Midrash Aggadah (Gen. Rabbah 58:6) [states]: If you are willing [to sell me burial property], I am a stranger, but if not, I will be as an inhabitant and will take it legally, for the Holy One, blessed be He, said to me, “To your seed I will give this land” (above 12:7).
Rashi explains the words, “I am a stranger and an inhabitant”. The first explanation is the simple meaning of text. However, in explanation two Rashi brings in a Medresh Rabbah that is very difficult to comprehend. Is this a threat? Did Abraham actually say this to the inhabitants of Ches that if you do not agree, I will take the cave of Hamachpelah by force? This Medresh is inconsistent with the entire dialogue with the inhabitants of Ches in which Abraham treats them with personal humility.
I have no answer for this Medresh, however I would like to suggest that this Medresh is a very Zionistic Medresh. Of course, Abraham never threatened the Bnei Ches. The Medresh is saying to the world, especially to Jews, that Israel belongs to the Jews, now and forever – even when we are not in the land. When Binyamin Ze’ev – Theodore Herzl told world Jewry that Europe is burning, community upon community should have been set up in Israel, as my Zedi wanted, based on this Verse.
2) Every year when I read the words “I am a stranger and an inhabitant”; I always think that this is a message to the children of Israel in the diaspora over the last 2,000 years. Jews always become inhabitants of the land. We grow up in the culture of society around us, we identify with it, we will join the army; however, we must always realize that at the same time we are strangers. We have to be loyal to the Torah, set up Yeshiva’s and Kolleleim, we have to understand that we have to be, collectively, a light to the nations. However, we better have one foot in Israel. We have to understand that nations change, events change, leaders change, and there may come a time when we have to leave. Watch again the last 15 minutes of Fiddler on the Roof. This took place in the 1880s+. It got worse under communism in 1917. I repeat. when Binyamin Ze’ev – Theodore Herzl told world Jewry that Europe is burning, community upon community should have been set up in Israel, as my Zedi wanted.
2) Verses 5 -16:
Verse 9 states:
“That he may give me the Machpelah (double) Cave, which belongs to him, which is at the end of his field; for a full price let him give it to me in your midst for burial property.”
Abraham handled the negotiations skillfully. He was humble; he never said I want to purchase the land. He always called it a gift to appeal to the local’s sense of generosity, meaning it is more than a purchase. Abraham is saying, it is a favor to me, and in return I want to give you a gift of money. Abraham also described the land in verse 9, “ which is in the end of his field” – meaning it really has no use and it does not break up Ephron’s land. The Hebrew word is “Ketz” which implies something of no value. He is telling the people of Ches that they are not giving up anything, it cannot be developed, etc.
3) Chapter 24, Verse 15:
“Now the maiden was very pretty”. Although we believe that the proper beauty is inner beauty – one who has proper manners, kindness, generosity, and has a Neshamah; however, never forget that physical beauty is important. As we know beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so everyone has the ability to make themselves physically beautiful.
4) Chapter 24, Verse 30:
The verse describes Lavan approaching Eliezer and states:
וַיְהִ֣י ׀ כִּרְאֹ֣ת אֶת־הַנֶּ֗זֶם – 23:30.
30. And it came to pass, when he (Lavan) saw the nose ring and the bracelets on his sister’s hands, and when he heard the words of his sister Rebecca, saying, “So did the man speak to me, ” that he came to the man, and behold, he was standing over the camels at the fountain.
Notice, the Torah Trop right after the word, V’Yehi, is a Yisef P’sik, which is a stop. What is this doing here, as the proper reading for the first line of this verse is one thought. The V’yehi goes along with the next word and it should be read as “and it was when he saw”.
I think the answer is that the word “V’yehi” in usage by the Bible means something bad is happening or going to happen. I think the Yisef P’sik is telling you and when Lavan saw the wealth of Abraham, it was not good. V’Yehi – it was bad. There was jealousy. A person should not openly display riches. Evil, jealous, nasty people set their eyes on the wealth and they want to take it away from you. Even not an evil person, it can be interpreted as you are trying to show someone up.
5) Eliezer does a masterful job relating to Rivkah’s family the events and at the end of his narration, both Bethual and Lavan, who are say, this is from God. However, in Chapter 24, Verse 53 it says:
53. And the servant took out silver articles and golden articles and garments, and he gave [them] to Rebecca, and he gave delicacies to her brother and to her mother.
Rivka gets gold and silver and Lavan gets as Rashi says, fruits of Israel. What is Eliezer doing. Lavan gets a few grapes from Israel? It could be that the fruits of Israel have curative powers and were very valuable, however, it seems that Eliezer blew it. In fact I believe the Alshiach says that when Bethual saw that Eliezer was giving them these fruits, he wanted to renege on Rivka marrying Yitzchok and was killed.
The answer as suggested by Rabbi Montel from Sefas that after Eliezer got the agreement from Rivkah’s family and made the Shiddach, Eliezer was rebuking Lavan, trying to impart to him the lesson that it is always not about gold and silver, it is about appreciating life, spirituality, tasting delicious fruits of Israel, things that appeal to the soul.
6) Rashi on Chapter 25, Verse 6 brings down a Medresh to explain the gifts that Abraham gave to the children of Ketura was the gift of Tumah, of uncleanliness, of demons. Abraham, who represented decency to the world and spread the morality of God is giving them uncleanliness. What is the explanation. This I have no answer for this question.