Parshas Chayai Sarah

גֵּר וְתוֹשָׁב אָנֹכִי עִמָּכֶם תְּנוּ לִי אֲחֻזַּת קֶבֶר עִמָּכֶם וְאֶקְבְּרָה מֵתִי מִלְּפָנָי: (בראשית כג/ד)

On the possuk (Braishis 23/4), “I am a foreigner and a resident among you…” Rashi comments, “A Medrash Aggado explains, ‘If you wish I will act like a foreigner (and I will buy the Maaras HaMachpaila from you), but if (you will) not (sell it to me then) I will act as a resident and take it by rights since HaKodesh Baruch Hue said to me, “To your offsprings I will give this land.””

From this medrash we learn that Avraham Avinu was determined to bury Sarah Eimainu in the Maaras HaMachpaila and offered Bnei Chais to choose one of two options how it would become his; either he would buy it from them or he would take it because Hashem promised it to him and therefore it was legally his.

Zera Shimshon asks that if Avraham was really entitled to the land because of Hashem’s promise, then why did he offer to buy it from Efron like a foreigner? Why would Avraham want to pay for the land that is rightfully his?

He answers in light of a machlokos brought in Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 163/2). The halacha is that if a person buys a house in a city he automatically becomes a citizen of that city with all of its obligations and benefits. There is a machlokos, though, in which specific situation does this halacha apply. Some say that this is only if he bought the house in order to permanently live there. Others say that it applies even if he intends to live there for only a short period of time.

According to this, explains Zera Shimshon, Avraham didn’t want to take the Maaras HaMachpaila as a gift but he wanted to buy it. However he didn’t only buy a small plot but the whole field. Because he also wanted to buy the whole field he was concerned that Bnei Chaiss would think that he planned to permanently live next to his wife’s grave. Therefore Avraham was concerned that Bnei Chais did not want him to be a part of their city and because of this they would not let Avraham buy it.

To put them at ease he told them that if the custom in Chevron was like the first opinion in Shulchan Aruch, that only a person who plans to live in a city forever becomes a citizen, then he will buy the field and stipulate that he will continue to be a foreigner. If however the custom in Chevron was like the second opinion, that even one who buys a house to live there for a short period becomes a citizen, then he will take from his legal rights!

2

Zera Shimshon asks a few questions concerning the incident of Avraham’s purchase of Maaras HaMachpaila from Efron HaCheeti.

Firstly, how did Efron have the chutzpah to change the deal so greatly? In the beginning he said he was willing to give him the land for free and in the end he asked an outrageous price!

Secondly, there seems to be a contradiction in pessukim from who did Avraham actually buy the Maaras HaMachpaila. In the end of the parsha it says, “The field that Avraham had bought FROM BENAI CHAIS, there Avraham and his wife Sarah were buried.” This seems to indicate that Avraham didn’t buy the field from Efron but rather he bought it from Benai Chais!

On the other hand in the end of Parshas Vayechi, when Yaakov asked his children to bury him there it says (Braishis 49/30), “in the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mamre in the land of Canaan, which field Avraham bought FROM EFRON HACHEETI for burial property.” How can we reconcile these two pessukim?

A third question is that at the time that Avraham acquired the field it never says that he actually bought it! It only says (Braishis 23/16), “And Avraham listened to Efron, and Avraham weighed out to Efron the silver that he had named … four hundred shekels of silver, accepted by the merchant.”

Zera Shimshon answers these three question in light of a Gemoro in Kidushin (59a). Rav Giddal was negotiating for a certain field, and R. Abba went and bought it. Thereupon R. Giddal went and complained about him to R. Zera, who went [in turn] and complained to R. Yitzchak Nappaha. ‘Wait until he comes up to us for the Festival,’ he said to him. When he (R. Zera) came up he (R. Yitzchak Nappaha) met and asked him, ‘If a poor man is examining a cake and another comes and takes it away from him, what then?’ ‘He is called a wicked man,’ was his answer: ‘Then why did you, Sir, act so?’ he questioned him. ‘I did not know [that he was negotiating for it],’ he answered. ‘Then let him have it now,’ he suggested. ‘I will not sell it to him,’ he answered, ‘because it is the first field [which I have ever bought]. and it is not a [good] omen; but if he wants it as a gift, let him take it.’

Now, R. Giddal would not take possession, because it is written: “But he that hates gifts shall live”, nor would R. Abba, because R. Giddal had negotiated for it; and so neither took possession, and it was called ‘The Rabbis’ field’.

From this incident we learn a few things.

Firstly that it is a bad omen to sell one’s first field.

Secondly, that it is praiseworthy not to take gifts.

And thirdly, that when a person relinquishes rights to a field in order that a second person will take, if the second person does not take it, the land remains in limbo and neither of them own it.

According to this Zera Shimshon explains the incident of Avraham Avinu buying the Maaras HaMachpaila.

In the beginning Efron didn’t want to sell the field to Avraham but he wanted to give it to him because it was his first field he ever bought and to sell it would be a bad omen.

However after he heard that Avraham did not want to take presents he said that the price the field is worth four hundred silver sheckel. He didn’t tell him this in order to sell him the land for this price but rather in order that it wouldn’t be considered that Avraham was was getting a present.

This is the reason that at the time of acquisition it doesn’t say that he bought if from him. It only says that he “weighed out the money”.

Since Efron relinquished his rights on the field and Avraham didn’t want to take it, it became hefker and it became the property of all of Benei Chais.

Therefore it is as if he got it from them. On the other hand since it was originally Efron’s field and only relinquished his rights in order to give it Avraham it is also considered like Avraham bought it from him!

3

Concerning Avraham’s burial of Sarah the Medrash comments: This is the meaning of the verse “Whoever runs after righteousness and kindness finds life, prosperity and honor.” (The possuk is referring to Avrohom)…Whoever runs after righteousness” … “and kindness” (is referring to when Avrohom) was kind to Sarah (at the time of her funeral).

The Zera Shimshon asks why is Avrohom described as someone who “runs after kindness” for burying Sarah? The halocho requires every husband to bury his wife! What then was so special about what Avrohom did?

He answers this question by first asking another question.

Right after Sarah passed away Avrohom spoke to B’nei Chais and asked them to approach Effron to ask him to sell Maaros HaMachpaila to him to bury Sarah. The Zera Shimshon asks why didn’t Avrohom speak to Effron directly? The normal reason that a person doesn’t directly negotiate is either to convince the seller, who is hesitant to sell, to sell or to bargain for a good price.

Concerning Avrohom, however, these two reasons weren’t relevant. Firstly, Avorohm specifically said that he didn’t care how much it cost. And secondly, we don’t find anywhere that Effron was hesitant to sell!

And even if he wanted a middle man for some other reason, why did he need a whole nation to be present? Why wasn’t it enough that only one person would speak to him?

He answers that the reason he called of B’nei Chais was not to mediate a good deal. Rather he felt that Sarah deserved a big funeral. The way he orchestrated this was by calling B’nei Chais to mediate the selling of the burial plot. Like this, Avrohom reasoned, since they were there, they would stay for the funeral and Sarah would have a big funeral that she deserved.

This, concludes the Zera Shimshon, is why the Medrash praises Avrohom for burying Sarah. Even though a husband is obliged to bury his wife he certainly isn’t required to go to great lengths to insure that a lot of people will attend. The only reason that Avrohom did do it was because he ran after kindness!

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Parshas Lech Lecha

וַיֹּאמֶר יְדֹוָד אֶל אַבְרָם לֶךְ לְךָ מֵאַרְצְךָ וּמִמּוֹלַדְתְּךָ וּמִבֵּית אָבִיךָ אֶל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אַרְאֶךָּ:(בראשית יב/א)

Our parshas opens with the possuk, “Go forth from your land…. to the land asher arehko (usually translated- that I will show you).

Zera Shimshon asks two questions. Firstly, asher arehko means “that I will show you”, like it usually does, then it is more fitting to write “asher ereh lecha“.

Secondly, in truth we never find that Hashem showed Avraham he should go to Eretz Yisroel! It is only written (possuk 5), “And Avram took Sarah his wife….and they left to go to the Land of Kanaan“. The possuk doesn’t mention that Hashem told him to go there and it implies that Avraham understood this by himself. How did Avraham realize that this was the land that Hashem intended for him to to?

Zera Shimshon explains in light of the Medrash (Yalkut Shimoni Vayairo remmez 102) that explains the origin of the name “Yerushaliyim“. The medrash explains that Avraham called it “Har Yayroeh” and Shaim (the son of Noach) called it “Shalaim“. Hashem combined both of these names, contracted them, and called it Yerushaliyim.

The commentator on the Yalkut asks why did Shaim and Avraham call it two different names? What is the depth in each of these names?

He explains that Shaim called it Shalaim, which means complete, because he was able to perceive the completeness of Hashem’s physical world, health, strength, and prosperity that manifested itself in Yerushaliyim. However he wasn’t on such a high level of spirituality to bring out the spirituality that also exits in Yerushaliyim. Avraham on the other hand, who was on a much greater level of spirituality, also brought out the tremendous spiritual beauty of Eretz Yisroel in general, and specifically Yerushaliyim. Therefore he called it Har Yeiroeh, which has the same root as yiras Hashem.

Hashem called it both of these names because in truth both exist there; great spirituality, for those who can be aware of it, and also great plenty for those who are not at that level.

From here, continues Zera Shimshon, we see that Eretz Yisroel is different from other lands. The quality, beauty and splendor of all lands are independent of the character and conduct of its inhabitants. However the spiritual and physical beauty of Eretz Yisroel is connected and proportionate with its inhabitants conduct. When there are tzaddikim there, for instance Shaim, then its physical beauty is seen. And when there are even greater tzaddikim there, like Avraham Avinu, then even its spiritual glory can be felt.

According to this, concludes Zera Shimshon, when Hashem told Avraham to go to the land asher arehko, which means to the land in which I (Hashem) will show your greatness to others, Avraham understood that Hashem was referring to Eretz Kannan. It is only in Eretz Yisroel that a persons greatness is reflected in the beauty of the land.

2

וַיֹּאמֶר יְדֹוָד אֶל אַבְרָם לֶךְ לְךָ מֵאַרְצְךָ וּמִמּוֹלַדְתְּךָ וּמִבֵּית אָבִיךָ אֶל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אַרְאֶךָּ:(בראשית יב/א)Our parsha begins with the possuk, “And Hashem said to Avram, “Go out from your land and from your birthplace and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you”. Rashi explains, “Go out -for your benefit and for your good, and there I will make you into a great nation, but here you will not merit to have children.”

Rashi teaches us here that Avram’s being in his birthplace and in his father’s house prevented him from having children.

The Rashi on the next possuk, however, seems to contradict this. In that possuk (possuk 2) Hashem promises Avram that H. will make him into a big nation. Rashi explains the reason for this promise is because “being on the road” usually diminishes the chances of having children. Therefore Hashem promised Avram that in his case this will not happen but rather he will become a great nation.

From this Rashi it seems that it is the fact that Avram was traveling is the reason that Avram will not have children and not just being in his birthplace!

How do we reconcile these two statements?

Zera Shimshon explains in light of a dispute in the Gemorro (Rosh HaShana 16b). “Rebbi Yitzchak further said: Four things annul a person’s (bad) verdict; tzedakah, prayer, change of name and change of conduct. … Some add, relocating [also helps], as it is written, Now Hashem said to Avram, Go out of your country, and it proceeds, and I will make you a great nation. And the other [ — Rebbi Yitzchak, why does he not reckon this]? — In that case (the case of Avram’s moving to Eretz Kenaan) it was the merit of Eretz Yisrael which helped him.

In other words, according to Reb Yitzhak only moving to Eretz Yisroel changes the decree of a person and according to the other opinion moving anywhere helps.

In light of these two opinions Zera Shimshon reconciles the seeming contraction in Rashi.

It was clear that in order for Avram to become a great nation he had to leave his birthplace. According to the opinion who argues with Rebbi Yitzhak, it would be enough for Avram to move to a place that is close to his birthplace. It would be farther enough away to be considered that he relocated, so he could annul the decree that he can’t have children, and there would be no problem that traveling diminishes the chance of having children. (This is what the first Rashi is referring to.)

However, Rebbi Yitzchak argues and he holds that simply relocating is not enough to annul a bad decree. Therefore Avram couldn’t rely that the decree to be childless would be nullified if he only moved closed to home. He had to move to Eretz Yisroel so that the merit of living there would help him have children. However there is a problem to travel so far because “being on the road” diminishes the chance of having children.Therefore Hashem promised him that in his case this would not be but he will become a great nation.

3

וַיֹּאמֶר יְדֹוָד אֶל אַבְרָם לֶךְ לְךָ מֵאַרְצְךָ וּמִמּוֹלַדְתְּךָ וּמִבֵּית אָבִיךָ אֶל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אַרְאֶךָּ:(בראשית יב/א)The Medrash Raba on the opening possuk of our parsha, points out that even though it says in the last parsha that Terach died he really didn’t die then. He actually died  maby years after Hashem commanded Avraham, “Lech lecha“.  Therefore, the Medrash  interprets “Terach died” not that he physically died but he was considered dead because wicked people, even when they are living, are considered dead.

The Medrash continues that Avraham was afraid to leave his father. He said to himself that if he leaves his father, he will cause Hashem’s name to be disgraced. People will attack and “bad mouth” Avraham (and Hashem) for leaving his elderly father. Hashem therefore told Avraham, “I will exempt you from honoring your father and mother. However I will not exempt others from honoring their parents…”

Zera Shimshon asks what does the Medrash mean that Hashem exempted only Avraham from honoring his father and not other people. Terach was a rosho and worshipped idols. The halacha is that NO ONE  is commanded to honor a parent who is a rosho! It would seem, then, that anyone in Avraham’s situation is exempt from honoring their parents and not only Avraham.

Zera Shimshon explains by first asking a very basic question: Why did the Torah write Terach’s death out of order, before Hashem told Avrahamlech lecha” and not when it actually happened?  True, the Medrash explains  that “and Terach died” is not to be understood literally but that he was a rosho. However, why didn’t the Torah just write about his death in the proper chronological order, after Hashem told Avraham, “Lech Lecha” and we will understand the posuk literally?

The answer to this question, Zera Shimshon reasons, is that his wickedness (his death) is the REASON that Hashem told Avraham to leave Ur Kasdim. Therefore, it was written before the command of “Lech Lecha“.

However, it wasn’t so simple! Terach, even though that initially he was wicked, he began to do teshuva! We learn this from the possuk, “And Terach took Avram his son and they left Ur Kasdim…”.

Therefore Avraham was in a dilemma. On the one hand his father was wicked and to stay close to him would affect him negatively. On the other hand, if he leaves him, he will cause a chillul Hashem. People will look down and find fault with  Avraham leaving his father and not help him in his path of teshuva.

Even more than this. Avraham reasoned that if he takes him with him to Eretz Yisroel, the merit of living in Eretz Yisooel will actually help his father in the teshuva process just like it helped Avraham to have children!

The Medrash concludes that Hashem told Avraham, your concern is valid and other people in your situation, whose parents have began to go on the proper path,  should honor their parents and stay with them to help them along. However things are different in your case. In the Bris Bein HaBessarim I promised you that Terach will do teshuva (ref. to Rashi on the possuk, “and you will go to your fathers in peace”) so there is no reason for you to stay with him to help him along. He will do ex teshuva even without your being close to him.
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