Chayei Sarah 5772 – Gilayon #725

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Parshat Chaye Sara

And ephron's field at machpelah by mamre, the field and the cave that was in it and every tree

in the field, within its boundaries all around, passed over to abraham as a possession, in the full view of the hittites, all the assembled in the gate of his town

(Bereishit 23;17)


And the field of ephron passed – This is the explanation: After he [Abraham]

transferred the silver, it came into his ownership, but he had yet to perform

an act of possession [hazakah] for it to serve

as a burial ground. Therefore it later says (verse

20) "and the field and the cave which was in it passed… for a

burial-holding"; for afterwards he performed an act of possession in order

to establish it as a cemetery. And this is reason it later states "from

the Hittites", for even though he purchased it from its owner, Ephron, it was not proper to make it a burial ground

without the assent of all the town's inhabitants.

(R' Yosef Bechor Shor, Bereishit 23;17)


And Ephron's

field passed [Translator's note – The Hebrew original for "and Ephron's field passed" is "va'yakam

sedeh Ephron" .The

reverse acrostic of these three words forms the name "Esav"

– twin brother of Jacob]

And Ephron's

field passed – the reverse acrostic forms "Esav".

This is to allude to Esav who will rise up to contest

ownership of the cave.

(Baal HaTurim, ibid.,



And Ephron's

field passed – reverse acrostic forms "Esav".this

alludes to the fact that Esav's head would be buried

in the cave. [Targum Yehonatan,

a midrashic expansion of Scripture, has Hushim, son of Dan, severing the head of Esav, which fell to the ground and rolled to the Machpelah cave, finally resting alongside the bones of his

father Yitzchak].

(R' Zvi Elimelech Shapira of Dinov, Iggeret D'kallah, p.




The parasha of "chayey sarah":

Two ascents of fate and destiny




you forth from your land and your birthplace and your father's house to the

land which I will show you." – so the Holy One commands Abraham and

promises him that upon his arrival in the promised land he will become "a

great nation" and that all the nations of the earth will be blessed by

virtue of him. The journey leads Abraham to Canaan

where he receives the additional promise that "to your seed will I give

this land" – assuming that Sara, his barren wife, will yet be privileged

to bear children who will carry on his legacy.

Our Sages

understood Abraham's departure from Ur Casdim and his

journey to Canaan not only as the realization

of a divine order, but as a truly existential need. According to the Midrash, Abraham, following his rebellion against idolatry,

is a 'wanted' and persecuted figure in Ur Casdim; he

had even set fire to the house of idols, razing it with all its contents (For

example, see Sefer Hayovlim,

Chap. 12) Many stories describe Abraham being flung into a fiery furnace by

Nimrod and being miraculously saved. The Yalkut Shimoni compilation of midrashim has a plastic description of the attempt to

kill Abraham: "They tied him, binding him hand and foot, throwing him to

the ground, and they surrounded him from all sides with five amot of branches". Abraham escapes his

pursuers, leaving his land, his birthplace and his father's house; God's command

imparts the journey with a dimension of hope, of faith in the future, of



tribulations do not end with his arrival in the Land of Canaan.

Throughout his sojournings he repeatedly withstands

tests and challenges. Famine drives him to Egypt. There, concern for his fate

almost results in loss of his wife, forcibly taken by Pharaoh. Upon his return

to the Land of Canaan,

adjacent kings draw him into a war, and he is compelled to free Lot from his captors. Even within the family circle there

is no quiet… Hagar and Ishmael are expelled… Abraham is commanded to offer

his son, Yitzchak, as a sacrifice. Abraham barely has a moment of calm in the promised land to which he escaped.

It seems to me

that Abraham's journey is not determined by his conscious decisions, but by

his fate. To fully understand this point, we turn to the writings of Rabbi Yosef Dov Soleveichik,

who, in his essay "Kol Dodi

Dofek", explains the significance of fate:

In the life

the nation, as in the life of the individual, fate indicates an existence by

compulsion. A strange necessity binds the individual components into a single

whole. The individual, against his will, is subject and subservient to a

national-fateful reality; he cannot escape from it and become assimilated into

some other external reality. The environment ejects the Jew who flees from God.

He is awoken from his slumber as was the prophet Jonah aroused by the captain's

request for his personal and his national-religious identification.

The Rav describes Abraham's life of fate:

With the

appearance of the first Jew – our father, Abraham – loneliness descended to our

world. Abraham the Hebrew lived the life of a loner; the entire world on one

side, he on the other side. [The word 'Hebrew' – 'Ivri;- means 'on the other side").

But Rabbi Soleveitchik bases the existence of the Jewish people not

only upon fate; destiny is also a factor:

In the life of

a nation – as in the life of the individual – there is also volitional

existence which the nation chooses of its own free will and in which it

finds the full realization of its historic existence. Instead of existence as

factual, immutable experience into which the nation is forced, there appears

existence as an active experience with purposeful dimensions, dynamism, ascent,

aspiration and realization. The nation is involved in the destiny because of

its yearnings for a more perfect existence full of content and direction.

Destiny is the bubbling fountain of the unique spiritual elevation of the

nation and the ceaseless flow of divine inspiration which does not ebb as long

the nation's path is charted by Divine Law. A life of destiny is a life of

direction, the result of compulsory alertness and freedom of choice. (Kol Dodi

Dofek, p.92)


ascent to The Land, the First Aliyah, is

accompanied by many difficulties and fears. When, as we read in the parasha of "Chayey

Sarah", he wants to find a bride for his son, he dispatches his servant

back to his land of origin into order to lead the second aliyah

to The Land, the aliyah of Rebecca. This aliya is of a completely different nature

than that of Abraham. Instead of a journey of fate, Rebecca's aliya is one of goal.

Abraham is commanded

"Lech Lecha – "go forth", Rebecca's

reaction to "Lech lecha"

is based upon her decision. Her family insists on hearing her opinion: "Will

you go with this man?" She succinctly replies: "I will go".


story begins in a fiery furnace that destroys life; Rebecca's story begins at a

well of water that provides life. In contrast to Abraham's fleeing, Rebecca

leaves a warm and loving home which is reluctant to let her go.

"Let the

girl remain with us ten days or so, then she may go," her brother and

mother request of Abraham's servant. Then they bless her: "Our sister,

become hence myriads teeming. May your seed take hold of the gate of its foes."

Abraham goes

forth to the unknown, "to the land which I will show you"; Rebecca,

accompanied by her maids, goes to an established and stable location where

there await her "sheep and cattle and silver and gold and male and female slaves

and camels and donkeys."

Abraham goes

to The Land in the hope of progeny, continuity, future.

Rebecca goes with expectations of love. "Yitzchak brought her into the

tent of Sarah his mother and took Rebecca as wife. And he loved her, and

Yitzchak was consoled after his mother's death." So is described the

meeting between Yitzchak and Rebecca. The meeting between


product of fate, and Rebecca, messenger of destiny, leads to the birth of the

Jewish people.

"How does destiny differ

from fate?" asks Rav Soleveitchik.

He answers:

In two respects. Fate means necessary existence, Destiny

is will-based existence. Destiny is created by man himself, who chooses and

delineates his way in life. Secondly, Fate, in the

teleological sense, is expressed by undefined

existence. Destiny has purpose and goal.

Now it is our turn, the turn of Israel, "the son". We

recall our father Yitzhak, who was born in The Land, after his parents had

escaped from persecution, in the hope for a future and continuity in The Land.

A grain of fear will always accompany us, a sense of flight from the Diaspora's

fiery furnaces and coping with Fate. However, we will not grow through fear. We

will again return to alien lands and again ascend with Mother, with Rebecca,

who sets out on a journey which began at a well and followed love, with a sense

of destiny and mission.

Whereas a

generation of Fate feels the need to struggle for its existence, the generation

of Destiny does not fear for its future. The new reality reaches expression

with the closing of the parasha. When Abraham dies in

ripe old age, Yitzchak again bonds with Ishmael–the son expelled because Sarah

feared lest "the son of this maidservant inherit together with my son,

with Yitzchak" – in a common goal, the interment of their father. The

connection between Fate and Destiny remembers the fears of the past, but knows

how to create a new reality of love and of peace.


Kaplan writes the weekly "Parasha B'chakira" column for Nana10


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