Chayei Sarah 5771 – Gilayon #674


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Parshat Chaye Sara

And he said, "Whose

daughter are you? Please tell me. Is there place for us for lodging in your

father's house?"(Bereishit

24:23)

 

For lodging: lodging

[lin] means one night’s lodging. – lin is a noun. But she replied,

laloon, meaning many lodgings. [That you can sleep by us for many

nights.]

(Rashi ad loc)

 

And she said to him, "Both straw and fodder are

plentiful with us; [there is] also a place to lodge." He

only asked for lodgings but her answer also mentioned straw and hay. It should

also be understood that she said laloon in her answer – referring to

lodgings for many nights – while he only needed one night's lodgings. It should

further be understood that she knew her father and brother were stingy towards

guests and that she had no authority regarding their [home and property]. It

seems to me that she hinted to him with her words that they did not take in

guests as good-hearted people do, who take guests into their homes for a while,

leaving themselves and their household members cramped for space for a night or

two for the guest's sake. Rather, Bethuel ran an inn for travelers, with rooms

ready for lodging, and straw and hay available for the camels – for all of

which the guests paid money. Eliezer had asked whether there was room to sleep

in her father's house for one night, meaning that they would be taken in out of

hospitality. She answered saying they had much straw and hay, as well as a

place to sleep several nights, in the manner of innkeepers who do it for money.

So it appears to me.

(Ktav Sofer Bereishit 24:25)

 

The Silence following the Akedah

as a Model for Intergenerational Transmission

Yaron Schur

The

story of Akedat Yitzhak [the Binding of Isaac] is usually exploited for

the clarification of the relationship between humans and God. This time I chose

to focus on the relationships within Abraham's family following this

foundational event. Beyond the human-God relationship, which is severely tested

by the Akedah, something serious also occurs within the small family consisting

of Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac, and it leaves its mark on future generations. Following

the Akedah, all lines of communication close down in the family and the

relationships between its members are grievously harmed.

We

are given a description of Abraham's activities following the Akedah: And Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and

went together to Beersheva; and Abraham remained in Beersheva (Bereishit 22:19). This

language is very different from the account of the journey to the Akedah; there

the phrase and the two walked together appears twice (22:6;8) and Rashi points out the differences

between the two instances: the first time Isaac did not yet realize to what

fate he was being taken, while in the second instance he continued to accompany

his father "with equanimity" – consensually and with a feeling of

self-sacrifice – even though he knew that "he was going to be

slaughtered." After the Akedah Abraham walks together with his youths, but

Isaac is not mentioned! Furthermore, there is no record of any further

conversations between Isaac and Abraham. Abraham is the only patriarch of the

nation who does not bless his son before dying. As Prof. Asa Kasher wrote (Sippurei Reishit p. 310): "He who

reaches out to the knife to slaughter his son has slaughtered his love for his

son in his heart, even if the son is not actually slaughtered!… To put it

succinctly: He has no love for his son."

Sarah,

the mother of the family appears nowhere in the chapter. While she had often

taken the initiative during the course of her life together with Abraham, now

her opinion is not sought and her voice is unheard. Following the Akedah,

Abraham returns to Beersheva, while Sarah dies in Kiryat Arba, which is Hebron. Rashi follows the

midrash in attributing her death to the shock of the Akedah (23:2, s.v. to eulogize Sarah and to bewail her):

"The account of Sarah’s demise was juxtaposed to

the binding of Isaac because as a result of the news of the “binding,” that her

son was prepared for slaughter and was almost slaughtered, her soul flew out of

her, and she died" (Judaica Press translation). Thus Rashi explains why Abraham and

Sarah lived in different towns (only for a short time, since Sarah died

immediately after the Akedah). There is an alternative plain reading of

Scripture according to which Abraham did not return to the place his

wife lived after the Akedah and they remained separated until her death. The

Akedah kept Abraham from returning home, and Sarah died without any family

members by her side.

Scripture

tells us what happened immediately after Sarah's death: …and Abraham came to eulogize Sarah and to bewail her.

And Abraham arose from before his dead

(23:2-3). The failure to mention

Isaac is salient here. Isaac goes unmentioned throughout the long story about

his mother's death and burial that begins parashat Chaiye Sarah. Scripture only

relates conversations between Isaac and Abraham on their way to the Akedah; the

silence following the Akedah sounds worse than the silence preceding it. Apparently,

Isaac is missing from chapter 23 because it is difficult for him to be with his

father after the Akedah. Their names will appear together again only in the

account of Abraham's own burial. Prof. Barton Wissotzky writes (Sippurei Reishit p. 309) that

"This gives some testimony to the horror the father caused his son to

experience." In an untitled poem, Yehudah Amichai writes that "Isaac

will never laugh again" (Op. cit. p. 331).

It is interesting that Prof. Mordechai Rotenberg

chooses the story of the Akedah as a positive model for relations between

fathers and sons. In his book Rewriting the Self: Psychotherapy and Midrash,

Rotenberg claims that intergenerational models are based upon myths involving

traumas. In contrast to the standard Christian model in which the son kills the

father, Rotenberg gives us the Akedah model, which allows for communication

between father and son. The fact that Isaac emerged alive from the Akedah

teaches us that the intergenerational transition was achieved without violence

but rather via dialogue. The father stopped himself a moment before killing his

son. The point of this deliverance was to ensure Isaac would not abandon faith

in the biblical promise, "Even when a sharp sword rests upon one's neck"

(Berakhot 10a), as Rotenberg quotes from

the Talmud. It is possible for the heritage to be transmitted from father to

son even when relations between them are difficult, even when the father does

not transmit what the son wants. Rotenberg's description of intergenerational

transition illustrates the older generation's profound difficulty in transmitting

its heritage to the younger generation. The father is in need of very powerful

means – even setting out to kill his son and stopping at the last moment – in

order to bring the son to continue in his path. In the Akedah's model of

intergenerational transition the father is dominant and the son agrees to

continue in his father's path.

In

his book, Rotenberg describes a second model of intergeneration transition, one

which he opposes. This model is based upon the story of Oedipus, in which the

son kills the father; it describes a situation of constant conflict between the

generations, a conflict that cannot be ended peacefully. The young man thinks

he must reign instead of the old king. He seeks to destroy the father's

cultural heritage and replace it with his own. He is driven by the idea that

the world belongs to the young and that they intend to take over the world and

install their culture as quickly as possible. There is a profound conflict

between generations, and the young refuse to accept their elders' world. Rotenberg

quotes the American sociologist Peter Berger in this connection: "Many

Americans seemingly spend years of their life…retelling over and over again

(to themselves and to others) the story of what they have been and what they

have become… and in this process killing their parents in a sacrificial

ritual of the mind" (p. 106). The

younger generation lacks patience to wait for its parents to leave stage in a

natural fashion. They also lack interest to accept their parents' heritage. When

reality is in flux, children feel that they possess better solutions which

should be put into practice immediately.

The

Akedah model of intergenerational relations is concerned with the relations

between Abraham and Isaac. Scripture emphasizes the transmission of heritage to

the next generation. Abraham is concerned for the future of his son and of his

heritage which is to be transmitted to Isaac. Following Abraham's death, God blesses

Isaac directly and hands over the promise to him, making him his father's heir.

Abraham saw to the continuation of his descendants by sending his chief servant

to find Isaac a wife. Concerning the words after

these matters (Bereishit

22:20), Rashi writes: "When he

returned from Mount Moriah,

Abraham was thinking and saying, 'Had my son been slaughtered, he would have

died without children. I should have married him to a woman of the daughters of

Aner, Eshkol, or Mamre.' The Holy One, blessed be He, announced to him that Rebecca,

his mate, had been born, and that is the meaning of after these matters,

i.e., after the thoughts of the matter that came about as a result of the

Akedah" (based on Judaica Press translation). Abraham's actions allowed

Isaac to find love; Isaac is the only person in Scripture of whom it is said

that he loved his wife after marrying her.

The biblical narrative following the Akedah describes the

steep price paid by families and individuals for inculcating the parental

heritage in younger generations. The trauma of the Akedah allowed for

continuity but also prevented intimacy or dialogue within Abraham's family;

they were replaced by a lasting silence. Abraham's absolute commitment

to his faith exacted a continuing price; it made communication between family members

difficult. However, Isaac's path was influenced by his father's. He took

his father's heritage upon himself as a foundational element in his life. The

transmission of heritage finds expression in Rotenberg's dialogical model,

which relates to the pressure applied by Abraham in order to powerfully

transmit the significant themes of his life and his uncompromising faith to

future generations.

If

the Akedah is, indeed, a paradigm for intergenerational ties, we must also

relate to the difficulties suffered by Abraham's family after the Akedah as the

price paid by Jewish families for the inculcation of their heritage. They must

contend with the constant pressure of fathers upon sons, and for them the

Akedah represents the model for action whose goal is the transmission of the

heritage at any cost. The Akedah illustrates the notion that the inculcation of

an idea can also come at the price of sacrificing one's humanity.

Prof. Yaron Schur teaches in the Hebrew University

and in the Lander Institute.

 

 

His loving-kindness and His truth

What love is in feelings, hessed – loving-kindness

is in deeds, love translated into action. Truth is, to a certain extent,

a restricting, or at lease a limiting addition. Hessed v’emet – loving-kindness

and truth is an act of love where the love does not run too close to

overlooking the truth. Human love is blind. It is inclined to accede to the

wishes of the beloved one without considering the true worth of these wishes.

God's love is hessed v’emet, it only grants such wishes in which

the truth is conserved, which truly does lead to happiness. Thus with Jacob,

the care for his burial in general is an act of hessed, the limitation,

the observing the condition but not in Egypt, is the emet. So,

too, what the spies were to do by Rehab was a hessed v’emet, a

conditional act of kindness. Truth is the spice, which guards the loving-kindness,

so that he not lose with his own hands the main ingredient: the truth.

So perhaps here too. To see their children

married is the dearest wish of parents. If they try to accomplish it at all

costs, without consideration of the true essentials (if it is not with a girl

with an Abrahamitic disposition, well then we will take one from Aner, Eshkol,

or Mamreh, or from Aram)

then they are endeavoring to do hessed without emet. But Abraham

wanted only hessed together with emet, and both were granted to

him by God.

(Rabbi S.

R. Hirsch, Bereishit 24:27, translated by Isaac Levy)

 

You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress

him, for you were strangers in the Land of Egypt.

Do not wrong him with words, and do not oppress him… strangers are

beloved, for everywhere He calls them as He calls Israel: the Children of

Israel were called servants, as is written For it is to Me that the

Israelites are servants and the strangers were called servants, as is

written, To love the name of the Lord, to be servants unto Him …The

Children of Israel were called "friends," as is written, And you,

Israel, Jacob my servant, etc., the seed of Abraham My friend and the

strangers were also termed "friends," as is written, And befriends

the stranger …Abraham called himself an alien, as is written, I

am a resident alien among you; David called himself an alien, as is

written, I am an alien in the land and For we are sojourners with

You, mere transients like our fathers, our day on earth is like a shadow, with

nothing in prospect, and it is written For like all my forebears I am an

alien, resident with You. Beloved are aliens, for Abraham circumcised

[himself] at the age of ninety nine years; had he done so at age twenty or

thirty, aliens would have been able to convert only if younger than thirty,

therefore the Omnipresent passed [the time] with him until he reached ninety

nine years, so as not to lock the door before the coming converts, and in order

to reward for the days and years, including reward for doing His bidding, as is

written, The Lord was pleased, because of his righteousness, to render the

Torah great and glorious.

(Mekhilta,

Parashat Mishpatim, Massekhet Nezikin,18)

 

Is It Permissible to Criticize the Actions

of Tzaddikim?

Rabbi Shmuel bar Nahmani said in the name of

Rabbi Yohanan: Three made improper requests, two were answered properly, and

one was answered improperly – Eliezer servant of Abraham, and Saul son of Kish, and Jephthah the

Gileadite. Eliezer, servant of Abraham, as is written (Bereishit 24) May it be that the maiden to whom I say: Pray

lower your pitcher etc. Even if she were to be crippled, even blind!?

Nonetheless, he was answered properly, and Rebecca appeared.

(Taanit

4a)

 

One may not practice divination as do the

idolaters, as is written You are not to practice divination. What is

divination? For example, those who say, "Because my bread fell from my

mouth or my staff from my hand, I will not go to such and such a place today

because if I do go, I will not succeed in my affairs" or "Because a

fox passed on my right, I will not leave my house today, for if I go out a

scoundrel will harm me." Or those who hear a bird chirp and say: "It

will be so and not so," "It will be advantageous to so and bad to do

otherwise," and those who say "Slaughter this chicken who crowed at

night", "Slaughter this hen who crowed like a rooster," and so

one who devises omens for himself, "If such and such will happen to me, I

will do so and so, and I will not be harmed," or "I will not do as Eliezer

servant of Abraham," and all similar cases, all this is forbidden, and

whoever acts in accordance with any of the above, is to be flogged.

(RaMBaM,

Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Avoda Zara 11:4)

 

Critique (of above RaMBaM) by RA'aVaD: "…and

so one who devises omens for himself, "If such and such will happen to

me…" Avraham (RA'aVaD) said: This is a great mistake. This is

permissible, yea, permissible. It is possible that he (RaMBaM) was misled by

what he read "Every divination which is not like that of Eliezer and Jonathan

is not considered divination," and he construed this as constituting a

prohibition, but such is not the case. This is what was meant: One

should not depend on this, and how could he attribute this sin to such

tzaddikim?! If they were present, they would have conducted a pulsa

d'nura [fiery lashes] against him.

 

The Burial of Sarah,

Isaac and Rebecca, Abraham and Keturah-Hagar as the Closing of a Circle

Isaac had just

come back from the vicinity of Beer-lahai-roi – For he had gone to

bring Hagar to his father Abraham, so that he should wed her.

(Rashi, Bereishit 24:62, as per Bereishit Rabbah)

 

From the vicinity

of Beer-lahai-roi… and he took Rebecca as his wife, and he loved her, and

thus found comfort after his mother's death… Abraham took another wife, whose

name was Keturah

In the opinion of Rabbi

Yehuda (Bereishit Rabbah 61:4), Keturah

was Hagar, the very same woman that Sarah, in her time, had brought to Abraham.

How pure and humane was this attitude in the eyes of our Sages, even though the

denouement was unfortunate and saddening. Isaac, they said, went to the well in

the desert, and brought Hagar from there to Abraham; he himself brought his

"stepmother". And he had so loved his mother! And he went there, even

though he had not yet been comforted over the loss of his mother! Be these

words understood as historical fact or as an instructive derasha, in

either case we learn about the weltanschauung which characterized our sages. In

contrast to them, how much has our generation declined; tension – if not

outright hatred – exists between adult progeny and their fathers as a result of

second marriage!

(Rabbi S.R.Hirsch, Bereishit 25:1)

 

…The midrash says

that after the demise of his mother Sara, Isaac went to return his stepmother

to his father. He went to Be'er-lahai-roi to bring Hagar, who had been banished

by his mother, to return her to his father and to correct the injustice.

Aggadic narrative is replete with praise of Hagar, who is identified with

Keturah: "Why is she called Keturah? Because her actions were as pleasing as

incense (ketoret)". This flowery explication testifies to the

degree which our great thinkers reflected upon the actions of our fathers,

noting every blemish and fault they had, and considered their repair. The

generations have much to learn from this. It is wrong to idealize all that

occurred; we should see things as they were, trying to understand them, judging

them and pondering their rectification.

(Y. Leibowitz: He'arot LeParshiyot HaShavu'a,

p. 23)

 

 

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