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Chaye Sara 5769

By: Rav Yonatan Horovitz

Chayei Sarah - A Story of Jewish Continuity Rav Yonatan Horovitz On reading any parsha a question arises as to whether there is significance to the division into weekly parshiot that we employ today. It is well known that the original system used in Eretz Yisrael was based on a three year cycle of reading the Torah and the one year cycle with which we are familiar finds its origins in Bavel. Despite this, often there appears to be a common theme found in the various sections of one parsha or sedra which lends credence to the theory that the division is not random but conveys a particular message. This week's parsha, Chayei Sarah is an example of such and we will try to demonstrate its' theme by focusing on a few key episodes in the parsha. The opening section deals with the acquisition by Avraham of Me'arat Hamachpela in order to bury his wife, Sarah. On close examination of the discussion between Avraham and the population of the city of Chevron, it is clear that any one of the locals would have been happy to provide Avraham with a burial plot. Avraham goes out of his way to purchase the piece of land and to ensure that the title deeds are written in his name. We also notice that the Torah describes the transfer of ownership of the land twice: Vayakam seday Efron . LeAvraham lemikna, the field of Efron moved.. to Avraham as a possession (Bereishit 23: 17-18 it is worth reading the whole verse) AND two pesukim later in verse 20, we are told: Vayakam hasadeh vehame'ara asher bo leavraham leachuzat kaver me'et bnei Chet, the field with its cave passed from the Hittites to Avraham as an "achuza" for burial. It is possible that there were two forms of purchase taking place here as the first stipulates Efron as the original owner of the field whilst the second indicates that it is the Hittites who sold the field and cave to Avraham. We will focus on a different point, the description of the acquisition made. In the first instance Avraham attains a "mikna", in the second an "achuza". What is the difference between these two terms? "Mikna" stems from the word "kinyan" and refers to acquiring something thereby taking ownership. It is also used to mean cattle as the assumption is made that one who owns cattle has a large amount of objects that he owns, his possessions. "Achuza" stems from the root "achaz" which means to hold. However, "achuza" when used in the context of land refers to one's personal connection with this terrain. It is used in the context of Brit Mila to describe the nature of the hold Avraham's descendants will have on Eretz Yisrael (Bereishit 17:8) and it is used by the tribes Reuven and Gad as they discuss their request for an inheritance on the east side of the Jordan river (Bamidbar 32). What is the significance of the use of this term here? It would appear that Avraham does not merely wish to find a suitable place to bury Sarah. He wishes to begin the fulfillment of the covenant made with him by Hashem in regards to Eretz Yisrael. If his children are to have a personal connection with Eretz Yisrael, it is up to him to begin that process and purchase a piece of land on which his family will settle. He begins this process after Sarah has died because it is at this point that he feels his own mortality and elects to prepare for future generations. He may also know that burial spots are a source of emotional bond which will help ensure that this piece of land remains in Avraham's family for years to come. Let us turn to the next episode in the parsha, the process by which Avraham's trusty servant is sent on a mission to find a wife for Yitzchak. On first broaching the subject we encounter a strange exchange between Avraham and his servant. Avraham summons his servant and makes him swear that he will not take a wife for his son, Yitzchak , from the daughters of Cana'an. Why is this the first thing he tells his servant? Surely, he should first inform him of his mission, to find a wife for Yitzchak and only then go on to discuss for what sort of girl should he look. Yet this is not the case. Avraham begins his description of the task with the clear statement that on no account may he even consider a Cana'anite daughter for Yizchak. We could suggest that Avraham, apart from looking for a suitable spouse for his son, is concerned about the value system he is imparting to the next generation. It is crucial that Yitzchak and all those following in the path of Avraham comprehend that his outlook in life is not that of the local Can'anite population. The derech of Avraham Avinu, the message that he spreads to mankind is antithetical to that of Cana'an. As we see from both their forefather Cham and the description of their behavior in the Torah, the Cana'anites were infamous for their indecent, immoral and inhumane actions. Their lives were built on the exact principles against which Avraham fought. Kindness, decency, belief in God are the pillars of Avraham's legacy and very different to the ideas prevalent until then in the ancient Middle East. More important than even finding a wife for Yitzchak was the decision of who and what was not to enter the house of Avraham. Cana'an and all that it represents must under no circumstances be allowed to affect the mission of Avraham and his children. With Cana'an there can be no compromise, only an outright war about the values on which human society is based. The third section of the parsha describes Avraham's marriage to Ketura, identified by some midrashim as Hagar. She gives birth to several children who are subsequently sent away from the household of Avraham much as Yishmael was sent away in last week's parsha. The Torah also tells us that Hashem gave everything he owned to Yitzchak (Bereishit 25:5). Furthermore we are informed that following Avraham's death, Hashem blesses his son, Yitzchak (25:11). The theme of this week's parsha thus emerges as one of Jewish continuity. Any parent would wish to leave his children with both a place to live and a set of values by which they should lead their lives. Avraham does both of these. He ensures that Yitzchak, already chosen by Hashem to be the son through whom the covenant will continue, has the tools he needs to consolidate and further the work of his father. He acquires not just a burial spot but an achuza. He arranges the marriage of his son but in so doing sets out clearly the parameters by which Yitzchak should lead his life. We could also add that the ability to keep hold of the "achuza" purchased by Avraham and subsequently the entire land of Israel is dependant on the very same value system that Avraham bequeaths to his son. If we should, God forbid stoop to the levels of behavior exhibited by the Cana'anites, then our existence on this land is jeopardized. If, on the other hand, we adhere to the derech of Avraham Avinu, then we too will claim the land of Israel to be not a mere place on which we live but an achuzat olam. Shabbat shalom, Rav Yonatan

 

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