Parshas Chayei Sarah
Test, Kindness, and Faith
By Shlomo Katz
Hamaayan / The Torah Spring
Volume 22, No. 5
22 Marcheshvan 5768
November 3, 2007
The Parness family
in memory of Max Parness a”h
Rabbi and Mrs. Sam Vogel and family
in memory of father and grandfather
Aharon Yehuda ben Yisroel a”h (Leon Vogel)
Mrs. Rochelle Dimont and family
on the yahrzeits of
grandmother and great-grandmother, Chaya Sarah Tarshish a”h
mother-in-law and grandmother, Chana Dimont a”h
father and grandfather Rabbi Elazar Tarshish a”h
David and Sarah Maslow and family
in memory of his father Archie Maslow a”h (18 Marcheshvan)
and her father Samuel Holstein a”h (25 Marcheshvan)
Daf Yomi (Bavli): Ketubot 63
Daf Yomi (Yerushalmi): Ta’anit 24
This week we read of the final years of the life of Avraham Avinu. According to some commentaries, our parashah also describes the last of Avraham’s ten tests – having to negotiate with the local population over a burial place for Sarah.
R’ Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron shlita (former Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel) writes that the story of Avraham’s life consists of three elements: the ten tests, his chessed / kindness, and his emunah / faith. How are these inter-related? R’ Bakshi-Doron explains:
What does it mean when we say that G-d tests a person? G-d, after all, knows what the outcome will be! Ramban z”l explains that G-d tests man in order to cause man to realize his potential. Man may have the spiritual potential to achieve great things, but unless G-d “tests” him, man may never have an opportunity to actualize that potential. Because G-d wants to reward man for doing good, not just for having a good heart, G-d wants man to fulfill his potential.
Avraham’s emunah / faith was sincere and deeply held, but until he acted on it, it existed merely in the form of “potential.” Emunah is not an end in itself, R’ Bakshi-Doron writes. Rather, it is how one’s emunah causes him to act that matters.
Chessed is an expression of emunah. One who believes in G-d and trusts in Him will not hesitate to share his time and his property with others. Such a person knows that all that he has comes from G-d and that G-d ultimately determines how much man receives. On the other hand, one whose belief in G-d is weak tends to adopt an “every man for himself” attitude. Avraham’s ten tests made his emunah a reality. In turn, Avraham’s emunah brought out the trait of chessed. (Binyan Av)
“Hashem had blessed Avraham `bakol’ / with everything.” (24:1)
Rashi comments: The gematria of “bakol” (“with everything”) equals the gematria of “ben” (“son”). Hashem blessed Avraham with a son, and now it was time to find him a wife. [This verse and this comment of Rashi introduce the story of Eliezer’s mission to find a wife for Yitzchak.]
R’ Ben-Zion Rabinowitz shlita (the Biala Rebbe in Yerushalayim) asks the following: Why is the fact that Avraham had a son alluded to in this way? Furthermore, one could infer from our parashah that Sarah’s passing somehow impelled Avraham to look for a wife for Yitzchak. Why was this so?
R’ Rabinowitz explains: We read in last week’s parashah that Sarah recognized before Avraham did that having Yishmael in the house posed a spiritual danger to Yitzchak. Hashem had to tell Avraham (21:12), “Do not be distressed over the youth [Yishmael] or your slavewoman [Hagar] – Everything Sarah tells you, heed her voice, since through Yitzchak will offspring be considered yours.” From this we learn that Sarah had a keener perception regarding matters of child rearing than Avraham did. (Similarly, Rivka had greater insight into the personalities of her children Yaakov and Esav than their father Yitzchak did.) In particular, R’ Rabinowitz writes, when it comes to shidduchim / matchmaking, a woman’s perception is greater than a man’s. Therefore, a mother’s opinion in these matters should be given great weight.
Hashem had told Avraham, “Everything Sarah tells you, heed her voice.” Thus, as long as Sarah was alive, Avraham relied on her to raise and care for Yitzchak. Only after Sarah died did Avraham turn his attention to finding a wife for Yitzchak. [R’ Rabinowitz does not explain why Yitzchak did not marry while Sarah was alive.] This is what our verse means: Once Sarah passed away, “Hashem blessed Avraham with everything.” Through gematria, “with everything” alludes to the fact that Avraham had a son. Now, Avraham alone was responsible for everything having to do with Yitzchak, so now it was time to find him a wife. (Mevaser Tov: Zechut Nashim Tzidkaniyot p.65)
This week we continue to discuss the “Hetter Mechirah” / the sale of the land to a gentile for the duration of the shemittah year. In particular, we discuss one of the halachic objections to the sale and the responses of those who permit the Hetter Mechirah.
The Torah states (Devarim 7:1-2), “When Hashem, your G-d, will bring you to the Land, to which you come to possess it, and many nations will be thrust away from before you — the Hittite, the Girgashite, the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivvite, and the Jebusite . . . and Hashem, your G-d, will deliver them before you, and you will smite them . . . lo techonaim.” What does “lo techonaim” mean? The gemara (Avodah Zarah 20a) interprets, “You shall not give them chaniyah / an encampment or resting place in the Land.” In other words, one is seemingly forbidden to transfer land in Eretz Yisrael to non-Jews.
If so, how can the Land be sold to a non-Jew for the shemittah year? The following are among the answers offered:
(1) The Gemara cited above derives other (seemingly unrelated) laws from the words “lo techonaim.” In connection with one of those laws, the Gemara interprets the word “techonaim” as coming from the root “chinam” / “for no reason” (as in “sinat chinam” / “baseless hatred”). Perhaps, then, only transferring Land to a non-Jew for no reason is prohibited. However, if the Jew obtains a benefit, as here, perhaps it is permitted.
(2) The prohibition applies only when it will result in Jews’ losing control of the Land. Selling the Land to a non-Jew for the duration of the shemittah actually will result in strengthening Jewish control because it will promote farming.
(3) Transferring Land to a non-Jew is prohibited only when there is a Jewish buyer. In this case, it is as if there is no Jewish buyer, since selling the Land to a Jew could not accomplish the same objective.
(4) The Torah does not say, “Do not sell the Land to a non-Jew,” rather it says, “You shall not give them an encampment in the Land.” Here, where the Land effectively remains in Jewish hands, the prohibition is not transgressed.
(5) To whom does this prohibition apply? In context, the verse appears to prohibit transferring land in Eretz Yisrael only to the seven Canaanite nations listed in the verse. However, Tosafot (Avodah Zarah 20a) writes that there is no reason to distinguish between those seven nations and any other idolators. Perhaps, however, the prohibition does not apply to non- Jews who are not idolators. Moslems are not idolators in the eyes of halachah.
(6) The Torah prohibits granting non-Jews a place to encamp in Eretz Yisrael. However, if the non-Jew is already there, e.g., an Arab who lives in the Land already, the prohibition does not apply.
(7) The Land is sold only to the depth of the plants’ roots. Since the buyer’s rights are so limited, for example, he has no right to dig a foundation for a house, the prohibition is not transgressed.
[Sources: R’ Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook z”l, Shabbat Ha’aretz, Introduction, pp. 52-55 and Mishpat Kohen, Nos. 60 & 63; R’ Yechiel Michel Tickochinsky z”l, Sefer Ha’shemittah, Ch. 10; R’ Zvi Pesach Frank z”l, Har Zvi, Yoreh Deah, No. 122; R’ Yitzchak Isaac Halevi Herzog z”l, Pesakim U’chetavim, Vol. III, No. 53; R’ Shlomo Yosef Zevin z”l, L’ohr Ha’halachah, pages 123-125. It should be noted that not all of the authorities cited agree with all of the answers; indeed, each of the answers can be challenged on various grounds, but space considerations will not permit us to present all sides of the arguments.]
R’ Avraham Elkanah Shapira z”l
Last week marked the shloshim of R’ Avraham Elkanah Hakohen Shapira z”l, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Merkaz Harav Kook and former Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Israel. He passed away on the first day of Sukkot.
R’ Shapira was born in Yerushalayim in 1913. He studied in the Etz Chaim Yeshiva, and later in the Chevron Yeshiva. After his marriage he moved to Yeshivat Merkaz Harav, where he later remained as a teacher. In 1956, Israel’s Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi, R’ Yitzhak Halevi Herzog, appointed R’ Shapira to serve as a dayan / rabbinical court judge in the Bet Din Hagadol / Supreme Rabbinical Court in Yerushalayim. In 1971, R’ Shapira was appointed head of the Bet Din Hagadol, and nine years later, he was appointed a member of the Chief Rabbinate Council. Throughout these years, R’ Shapira continued to teach in Yeshivat Merkaz Harav. In 1982, following the passing of R’ Zvi Yehuda Kook, R’ Shapira was appointed rosh yeshiva / dean. The following year, he was elected to serve as Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Israel, a position he held for a decade.
R’ Shapira was recognized as a posek / halachic authority both in Israel and abroad and was considered the spiritual leader of much of the Religious Zionist community. His halachic rulings reflect uncompromising support for the integrity and preservation of Eretz Yisrael and settlements in the Land.
Tens of thousands participated in R’ Shapira’s funeral on the second day of Sukkot (which in Israel is Chol Ha’moed). He was buried on Har Hazeitim.
The editors hope these brief ‘snippets’ will engender further study and discussion of Torah topics (‘lehagdil Torah u’leha’adirah’), and your letters are appreciated. Web archives at Torah.org start with 5758 (1997) and may be retrieved from the Hamaayan page.
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