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Posted on November 9, 2023 (5784) By Rabbi Yissocher Frand | Series: | Level:

These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly portion: #1268 – Should Rabbis Be Paid For Performing Weddings? Good Shabbos

In Parshas Chayei Sarah, the pasuk says “v’Hashem beirach es Avraham bakol” (And Hashem blessed Avraham with everything) (Bereshis 24:1). Rashi comments that the word bakol (beis-chaf-lamed) is numerically equivalent to the word Ben (beis-nun). The letters in each word add up to the number 52. The pasuk thus alludes to the fact that Hashem blessed Avraham with a son (ben).

Rashi says very early on in his Chumash commentary (Bereshis 3:8) “And I have come only to provide the simple Scriptural interpretation (p’shuto shel Mikra).” Rashi notes that there are dozens of Medrashim which provide more homiletic readings of Chumash, but he views the job of his commentary to keep it simple and provide the most straightforward reading of the pesukim (the “pashuta p’shat“).

Gematriya is a legitimate mode of Torah explication, but Gematrias are not usually considered “p’shat” (Avos 3:18). The question over here is what motivated Rashi to abandon the p’shuto shel Mikra of this pasuk and replace it with a Gematria? The Radak, who is another commentary that sticks to the simple reading of the Chumash, in fact, interprets the pasuk in a way that seems closer to its simple reading: Avraham Avinu had everything and the only thing left for him to do now was to find the proper match for his son Yitzchak. This is the p’shuto shel Mikra which introduces us to the rest of the parsha.

What forced Rashi, the ‘pashtan,’ to explain this pasuk with a Gematria, when the p’shuto shel Mikra is very obvious?

I found an approach to this question in the writings of the Tolner Rebbe. The following is not exactly what he said, but it is the gist of what he said, at least the way I understand it:

Rashi is answering a question over here. The pasuk states that Avraham is now an old man, he had been blessed with a wonderful life – he had everything! Over the last several weeks, we learned the parshiyos of Lech Lecha and VaYera. Would you consider Avraham Avinu’s life an idyllic, wonderful, peaceful life – such that the pasuk can now say at the end of his days that Hashem blessed him with “everything?”

Let us just list, for instance, aspects of this wonderful life that Avraham Avinu had:

#1 When he was in Ur Kasdim, he was accused of heresy and thrown into a fiery furnace

#2 He experienced the “Ten Tests” (Avos 5:3) of which Chazal speak

#3 He dealt with a wife who was childless until age 90 at which time Avraham was already 100 years old, infertility being one of the most painful of life’s experiences

#4 He dealt with the domestic trauma of Sarah doing battle with Hagar, and needing to very reluctantly banish Hagar from his household

#5 When Hagar finally gives Avraham a son, it is a son who is perhaps the first “off the Derech kid” in Jewish history

#6 Sarah is captured when Avraham went down to Mitzrayim

#7 Sarah is again captured when Avraham went down to Eretz Plishtim

#8 He successfully passed his tenth and final test – the Akeidas Yitzchak – and he returned home to find his beloved wife dead

Does this list really indicate “And Hashem blessed Avraham with ‘everything?'” Is that a wonderful life? It is a life of one trouble after another!

Rashi is answering this question. Rashi is explaining how Avraham Avinu was able to cope with all of this. What was his secret that he never gave up and he never became depressed? The answer is that Avraham Avinu possessed the quality that assures happiness in life. It is a quality that we saw previously in Parshas Lech Lecha: When HaKodosh Baruch Hu tells Avraham that he is going to have a son (Yitzchak), Avraham responds (according to Rashi there): “Halevai that Yishmael should live. I am unworthy to receive such a great reward as this!” (Bereshis 17:18)

This is the key to Avraham Avinu’s success. He does not expect anything from Heaven. Everything is considered a gift. There are only two types of people in the world – those who say “Aynee k’dai” (I am unworthy of this) and those who say “Zeh magiyah li” (I deserve this!).

This is expressed by a Medrash: Rav Levi and Rav Chanina say – On every breath a person takes, he should praise his Creator, as it is written (a play on words) “Kol haneshama te’hallel K-ah” (Every soul (i.e., each breath) should praise G-d) (Tehillim 150:6). Have any of us ever thought to say “Ah! Thank G-d that I can breathe?” Unless a person has asthma, pneumonia or some type of other terrible lung disease, chas v’shalom, a person does not think about rejoicing over the fact that “I can breathe, I can see, I can walk.” We may all say the morning blessings that express gratitude for our basic necessities in life, but who mentally thanks the Ribono shel Olam for all of that? We take it for granted.

“I need to be alive. I need to be healthy. I need to see. I need to be able to walk. I need to be able to do everything.” Now, what are You going to do for me? The rest is a given.

A person that has that first attitude (I am unworthy of this) can experience all the trials and tribulations that Avraham Avinu experienced and still feel “V’Hashem beirach es Avraham ba’kol” (and G-d blessed Avraham with everything). Rashi says that “ba’kol” in Gematria equals “ben” (son). Avraham says “You gave me a son named Yitzchak? Now I have everything. I don’t need anything else. Even Yishmael was enough for me. Now I have a Yitzchak as well! That is literally ‘everything’ (ba’kol).

This is why Rashi invokes the Gematria here. Rashi is trying to explain how the pasuk can make the statement that Hashem blessed Avraham with everything when we know that Avraham had a life full of trials and tribulations. The answer is that this was Avraham’s perspective on life – “I have a son? What more do I need!”

When Avraham Avinu dies, the Torah states: “And Avraham expired and died at a good old age, an old man and content…” (Bereshis 25:8). This is the eulogy that the Ribono shel Olam says on Avraham Avinu. It is the epitaph on his tombstone. It does not say “Avraham Avinu the Ba’al Chessed.” It does not say “Avraham Avinu who was willing to sacrifice his son.” The greatest thing that Hashem says about Avraham Avinu is that he died at a ripe old age full and satisfied with his life. He had no unmet wants in the world. This was his attribute in life: “I am unworthy.”

We are not Avraham Avinus. We don’t go through life repeating the mantra “Aynee k’dai; Aynee k’dai.” But the closer we can get to the attitude of “Aynee k’dai” and the further we can get from the attitude of “Magiya li,” the happier we will be. That should be our goal. That is our mission – to become “Aynee k’dai” people. Then we will be happy people.

Transcribed by David Twersky; Jerusalem [email protected]

Technical Assistance by Dovid Hoffman; Baltimore, MD [email protected]

This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissochar Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly Torah portion. A listing of the halachic portions for Parshas Chayei Sarah is provided below:

  • # 030 – The Shadchan in Halacha
  • # 072 – Superstition in Halacha
  • # 121 – The Jewish Cemetery
  • # 168 – The Laws and Customs of the Hesped
  • # 214 – Pilegesh: An Alternative to Marriage?
  • # 258 – Intrusion on Another’s Shidduch
  • # 304 – The “Mazik” of a Child: Is He Responsible?
  • # 348 – Determining the Salary of the Shadchan
  • # 392 – Purchasing a Burial Plot
  • # 436 – Daughters: Shidduchim & Parental Wishes
  • # 480 – Calling Off an Engagement
  • # 524 – The Badekin
  • # 568 – Feeding Your Animals
  • # 612 – Dating Etiquette
  • # 656 – Getting Paid for Mitzvos
  • # 700 – More Mincha Insight
  • # 744 – Turning 20: A Scary Birthday
  • # 788 – Be Careful What You Ask For
  • # 832 – Burying a Man Next to A Woman – Is This a Problem?
  • # 876 – Kavanah in the First Bracha of Sh’monei Esrei
  • # 920 – Shidduchim – Check Out the Brothers
  • # 963 – Taking a Niftar to Eretz Yisroel: When Does Aveilus Begin…?
  • #1007 – The Obligation to Marry Off Children: How Far Must You Go?
  • #1051 – Fulfilling P’ru U’revu — With Boys or Girls
  • #1094 – Oops! I Already Davened Mincha
  • #1137 – I’ll Buy Your Esrog/Tefillin & Make You An Offer You Can’t Refuse
  • #1180 – Shadchan Shailos
  • #1224 – I Know She is Holding by Getting Engaged to Someone Else, But…
  • #1268 – Should Rabbis Be Paid For Performing Weddings?
  • #1312 – Lying About Someone’s Age When It Comes To Shidduchim
  • #1356 – The Kallah Whose Bridal Veil Was So Thick The Witnesses Couldn’t See Who She Was
  • #1400 – Shadchanus: Who Gets Paid? Person Who Had Idea or Person Who Made It Happen?
  • #1444 – Father-in-Law and Son-in-Law With the Same Name? and Other Marriage Shailos
  • #1488 – Visiting a sick person who has Corona or Other Contagious Diseases
  • #1532 – Looking into a Shidduch – How Important is Family?
  • (2022) – Breaking A Shidduch / Engagement

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