A SUMMARY OF CHAYE SARA- GEN. 23:1-25:18:
Sara dies alone in Chevron at 127; her burial serves as a pretext for Avraham's first Zionist land acquisition- the Cave of Machpala. His insistence upon separate Jewish burial is the law to this day; it reflects the Jew's role in life and society- "a settler and a stranger"- here, yet not here.
Avraham accomplished little after Sara died- her inspiring spirit had been his source of strength. His only major task, after her burial, was to find such a wife for Yitzchak. He sent his servant, Eliezer, to find her in Aram. Divine Providence led him to Rivka- a little ex-idolatress. A sophisticated lass, she falls off her camel in shock when she sees pious unworldly Yitzchak, deep in prayer; she pulls down her veil- symbolic of their profound differences in outlook, despite their love and devotion (all per Rav J. Soloveichik).
Avraham sent his concubine's kids Eastward- he gave them those material and intellectual possessions which were not really fit for him, e.g. Pharoh's compensation for seizing Sara, and Avraham's mastery of the black magic of Babylonia (25:6); their descendants today, may be those Indian gurus, who fascinate and corrupt, alienated young U.S. Jews. All that was truly Avraham's, he gave to Yitzchak (25:5), Yishmael gives Yitzchak precedence at Avraham's funeral, recognizing him as heir to his father's mission (25:9). Someday his descendants will do likewise, when Yitzchak's shape up. Esav, however, insists on precedence over Yakov, at Yitzchak's funeral (35:9); he won't yield until saviors arise on Mt. Zion, the Temple Mount, to judge his descendants' false claims to a new mountain of Revelation- then kingship, power, shall be directed to God (Ovadia 21).
THE HAFTORA, IK1:1-31, contrasts the aging and death of David with that of Avraham; both "came in days" (to eternity) and appointed wonderful successors. Avraham's TENT is filled with love, harmony, and a loyal servant; David's PALACE features an old displaced wife, brothers in conflict, and servants in intrigues (M. Hirsch). Per Y. Leibowitz, this is the fate of even the best of kings- power corrupts. IK1 opens with David constantly cold- perhaps he shivers, fearing impending death. Avishag, a young virgin (allegedly warmer) is brought in by his advisors; he does not sleep with her. David's old true love, Bat Sheva, and his Prophet, Natan, arouse him to quell the rebellion of his oldest surviving son, Adoniyahu- he proclaims Solomon his successor on the spot! This ensures that Dovid's sukka, the Temple, will be built and that Meshiach, the great redeeming Zionist teacher, will eventually come from him. Bat Sheva bows down and proclaims: "MY LORD AND MASTER DOVID SHALL (now) LIVE FOREVER". Bar mitzva celebrants at the Wall joyfully chant- DOVID, KING OF ISRAEL, IS ALIVE AND ENDURING (San. 22a).
SHORT STUDY #2 OF CHAYE SARA, Gen. 23:1-25:18.
The major themes are Sara's death and burial, Y's marriage to Rivka, Av's old age and death, and Yishmael's descendants.
Eliezer must find a wife for pure Y, who must neither leave Canaan nor marry a Canaaniite hussy. God devotes more space to this shidduch (67 verses) than to the entire saga of Creation (31). The quality and productivity of our lives and families depends far more upon whom we marry than our scientific beliefs about Earth's Origins; the Jewish mission of world redemption, the aim of Creation, will fail if Y doesn't marry the right woman, Rivka- Sara II. Modern education, supposedly preparing one for life, is highly lopsided when it gives more time to Darwin's highly questionable theories than to marriage and family.
Eliezer prays to God for help and gives a sign, which will indicate the right lass- she'll give him and his camels water, without asking his help. Some say he sinned, relying on omens, others that it was a reasonable character test (but should kindness be the SOLE grounds for marriage? Should a mate also be fun, not just "good"?). Rivka passes the test. Kindness, which brought God's revelation to Av, is more important than culture or beliefs in shaping a future Jewish leader. God can give the proper Tora training to His kind shephards Moshe and Dovid later. Humanity is more important than erudition in making a good match. Prophets constantly denounce the piety of immoral Jews, who disgrace God's Name; they rarely condemn, however, the good deeds of the non- observant. Rivka is at odds with her idolatrous mercenary environment; she decides to go to this unknown husband, who shares her outlook, tho her family wants her to wait.
Av, the 1st model Jew, proclaims to the Hittites: "I'M A STRANGER AND A RESIDENT WITH YOU (23:4)". Yes, he's a resident- a full-fledged leader in every aspect of Canaanite society; he speaks Hittite well and knows the ropes- when Efron means the opposite of what he says, when witnesses are needed, etc. Yet, Av's a stranger too; he lives in another world, with different values and concerns, transcending time and space. His people will redeem the whole world, so imperfect after Eden. This combination of Torah and the "way of the earth" forever characterizes the ideal Jew (JBS; those great Torah scholars who lack worldly knowledge are not leaders of the entire Jewish people today, only of Orthodoxy).
Av will take the land by force, by his Divine right as SETTLER, if the Hittites will not sell it to him as a STRANGER (Rashi, Mid.); Neturai Karta would denounce Av and Rashi as Zionists!. Yet Av "bows down before the earthy folks, am ha'aretz" (23:7); Torah giants sometimes have to honor and deal with crude materialists to change this world (D. Tamar). The regional council gives a special permit to sell land to an outsider; Av then buys the field at top shekel, duly witnessed. He refuses the choicest Hittite burial plots; he insists upon separate Jewish burial- Zionism is Judaism. Av believes that the soul survives death; he envisions different after-death states, depending on how life itself was lived and experienced. Some militantly secular Israelis invoke democracy for common burial of those with different religious lifeviews; they imply that beliefs do NOT change the nature of a person; yet they ape Western canine racism- purebred dogs ARE important- they sublimate "don't mix your meat & milk" into don't mix your CANAANITE with your COLLIE!
Av's message to the Hittites upon Sara's death, "I'M A STRANGER & A RESIDENT (together) WITH YOU" (23:4), is the tale of Everyman's brief existence between eternities. Live life to the full, but don't forget- it's but a brief transition, to fully develop your Divine Essence, while a mammal. A tourist, seeing the Chofetz Chayim's simple hut, asked: "Where's your furniture, Rebbe?"; he replied: "Where's your's?". The astounded visitor said: "But I'm just here on a short trip!"; the sage retorted: "So am I!". After Sara's burial, the cave is not only called a "purchase" (23:18), but a "true possession (achuza)", a "holding", for a grave (v.20). The holy remains of Sara's life linked to eternity connect this plot to her descendants, beyond all norms- land may remain in a British family for 700 years, but 4000 is unheard of (JBS)!
AVRAHAM- A CONSTANTLY KIND HASSID: From risking his life to save renegade Lot, to his burial of Sara, from his craving to serve others to his raising more children in his old age, Av is the model of tolerant kindness and positive expansion. His leitmotif, "chesed", is considered the holiest trait by many Hassidic leaders. The Dinover Rav noted that we seal our first blessing in the standing prayer with "the shield of Av", tho we mention the unique relation to God of all 3 patriarchs. Av was known for kindness, Y for Divine Service, and Yaakov for Torah study; these are the 3 bases of existence (Avot 1:2). Few today can really study or pray well; yet all can do kindness. It's powerful effects can keep the 3 legged stool standing, even when the other 2 legs are so weak (cf. Ber. 32). Av's trait is a shield when all else fails (Esser Tzachtzochot, 117)- from HASIDIC ANTHOLOGY, Newman, Schoken.
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