Posted on November 17, 2011 (5772) By Rabbi Yochanan Zweig | Series: | Level:


“Yitzchak went out to pray in the field towards evening”(24:63)

Rashi translates “lasu’ach” as “to pray”. This follows the Talmudic tradition that Yitzchak established the Mincha prayer.[1] The Baalei Hatosafos point out an apparent contradiction. The Talmud in Tractate Yoma refers to the afternoon prayer as “Tsilusa d’Avraham” – “the prayer of Avraham”[2]. If Yitzchak established the Mincha prayer, why is it referred to as “the prayer of Avraham”? The Baalei Hatosafos answer that after Yitzchak established the prayer, Avraham accepted it into his daily regimen, and therefore, it is referred to as “the prayer of Avraham”. This answer needs clarification, for even though Avraham recited the afternoon prayer, it was Yitzchak who established it. Why should it not be referred to as Yitzchak’s prayer?

In order to answer the aforementioned question, we must understand why it is that the Patriarchs and Matriarchs disappear from the Torah without any record of the latter portions of their lives.

Generally, we perceive that an “Av” – Patriarch is a title which, once conferred, remains with the individual for the duration of his life. However, this is not correct. Having the title of Av means that the individual’s actions have an impact on the formation and propensities of Klal Yisroel, but this appellation does not last for the duration of the individual’s life. When Yitzchak became the Av, Avraham ceased to function as an Av. The impact for the future was then decided by Yitzchak. Nearly no information concerning the last forty years of Avraham’s life is recorded in the Torah, for at that point, Yitzchak had already become the Av.

The Talmud is teaching us that Yitzchak established the afternoon prayer with the power of an Av. The proof of this is that even Avraham was required to follow his son’s institution. Referring to the afternoon prayer as “the prayer of Avraham” emphasizes that Yitzchak becoming the Av impacted not only on the future generations, but on Avraham as well who was affected by the institution of his son.

1.24:63, Berachos 26b
2.Yoma 28b
3.Tosafos Berachos 26b

Welcome To Ephron Memorial Gardens

“Avraham heeded Ephron, and Avraham weighed out to Ephron the price which he had mentioned in the hearing of the children of Cheis, four hundred silver shekels in negotiable currency” (23:16)

The negotiations between Avraham and Ephron in regards to acquiring the field of the Machpeilah require further elaboration. The children of Cheis offer Avraham the burial plot of his choice in their land. Avraham makes it clear that he has a specific plot in mind, and that he prefers to acquire the field, rather than receive it gratuitously. Ephron then offers the field that Avraham seeks as a gift again, to which Avraham responds that he would rather purchase the field. Ephron then states, “Four hundred shekels between me and you; what is it?” Rashi explains that Ephron, while quoting a price, is labeling that price as insignificant between friends.[1] The negotiations conclude with the verse “Vayishma Avraham el Ephron”. The Targum translates “vayishma” as “vekibel” -“and he accepted”.[2] Similarly, the Sforno explains that Avraham accepts Ephron’s evaluation without a counter offer and the purchase is finalized.[3] Rashi, citing Chazal comments that, in fact, Avraham paid four hundred shekel of international currency which was a much larger sum than the four hundred shekel of local currency originally mentioned by Ephron.[4] Clearly, Rashi is learning that “vayishma Avraham” means that Avraham understands what Ephron is intimating, as the Rashbam comments on the verse “The wise require no more than a hint.”[5] Avraham understands from the fact that Ephron is making light of the four hundred local shekel purchase price, that Ephron still views the transaction as a gift, with the money being a mere token gesture. Ephron is intimating that if this is to be a complete purchase, it will cost Avraham a much higher sum of money. Why is Ephron insistent that the land should be a gift? Why does Avraham refuse to accept the gift, to the extent that he is even willing to pay an exorbitant purchase price?

The Talmud notes that at the completion of the transaction, Ephron’s name is spelled with a letter missing, because “he promised much and did not even perform a little”.[6,7] This notion appears to be clear from the story line. Ephron originally offers the field for free, yet he eventually requires Avraham to pay an excessive purchase price. Why does the Torah have to indicate Ephron’s lack of integrity by recording his name defectively?

The Talmud formulates a rule based upon Ephron’s behavior: The wicked promise much, but fail to perform even a little. This is in stark contrast to Avraham, who offers the angels a little water and a morsel of bread, but serves them a lavish meal, for the righteous “promise a little but perform a lot”.[8] Why does this rule being formulated label a person as wicked? Would not describing this behavior as the actions of a dishonest person be more accurate?

`Chazal must be teaching us that Ehpron truly meant to give Avraham the field as a present. It would be Ephron’s greatest accomplishment to have a family of Avraham’s status buried in his field. Avraham is acknowledged by the children of Cheis as being a “nesi Elokim” – “prince of Hashem”.[9] Bequeathing his field as a gift to Avraham would place Ephron’s name in the annals of history for posterity; the Avos would be buried in the garden donated by Ephron the Hittite. The magnanimity of Ephron was being fueled by his need for self-aggrandizement. When he realizes that Avraham refuses to allow such an occurrence, but would rather pay thereby eliminating any chance for Ephron of name recognition, he requires that Avraham pay an exorbitant price for the field. Commitments made by the wicked are motivated purely by personal gain. Therefore, they may, in fact, be sincere. However, when they realize that there is no benefit to them, they have no compunction in abrogating their commitments.

The Talmud contrasts the actions of Ephron to the actions of Avraham, who is driven to do what is of maximum benefit to his fellow man. There is no self-serving motivation in his actions. Avraham is aware that the more you offer to a person, the greater his discomfort in accepting it. Therefore, Avraham offers less, but gives more. Such is the way of the righteous who are dedicated to helping others.

Whereas the righteous are motivated by benevolence, the wicked are driven by self-aggrandizement. By removing a letter from his name, the Torah teaches us that this was Ephron’s motivation. Since he was driven by what he perceived would promote his name, the Torah records Ephron’s name in a defective manner. On a deeper level, we also understand what motivated a person to pursue a life of self-aggrandizement. A name represents a person’s essence. A defective name indicates that when a person is insecure about who he really is, he will become totally absorbed in attempting to promote himself.

4.Bava Metzia 57a
7.Bava Metzia ibid.

Appreciating Vintage

Avraham was old, well on in years and Hashem blessed Avraham with everything”(24:1)

The Talmud notes that the juxtaposition of the statements “Avraham was old” and “Hashem blessed Avraham with everything” are not coincidental. Until Avraham’s time, there was no concept of aging. Since Yitzchak resembled Avraham, whoever wanted to speak to Avraham, spoke to Yitzchak and vice versa. Therefore, Avraham prayed to Hashem to incorporate aging into a person’s life span in order to prevent this confusion. Hashem acquiesced to Avraham’s request; this is included in Avraham’s being blessed with everything.[1]

The Tosafos Rid comments that we find numerous verses in the Torah which show that aging did exist, even prior to Yitzchak’s birth, such as “and I am old” and “and Avraham and Sarah were old”.[2] The Maharsha adds “and my master is old” and “both young and old” to the list of verses.[3] Some commentaries suggest that, although people became old, it was not physically recognizable, and Avraham requested that one’s age should be physically discernible.[4]

This answer, however, is difficult to understand. Following the sin of Adam, man’s physical existence became finite; the body was doomed to a state of decline. Why would this state of decline not be visible? Additionally, from the verses themselves, we find that age had a visible affect on one’s body. Sarah, upon hearing that she would give birth, commented “After I am all wrinkled, should I again have delicate skin?”[5] Clearly, even prior to Avraham’s request, aging was visible upon a person.

Perhaps Avraham’s request was not related to a person’s physical state. What Avraham noticed was that people would speak to him as they would speak to Yitzchak. This meant that no one had an appreciation for the sagacity of old age. Avraham wanted a person to be appreciated for his life experiences. The Talmud states that even non-scholars who are aged, must be respected for the experience that they have endured in their lifetime.[6] It was this appreciation that Avraham requested of Hashem to instill in mankind, to which the verse attests that he was answered: Avraham was old and Hashem had blessed him with everything.

4.See Maharsha, Torah Temimah
5.18:12 The translation follows the Rashbam which is based on the Talmud ibid.Kiddushin 33a