Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Chaye Sarah

The following is a brief summary of a thought said over by R' Frand on the parsha this evening. I have attempted to reproduce this vort to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistency is the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Frand.

This week's parsha discusses the first burial in the Torah. Although we know that Adam and Chava are buried in Ma'aras HaMachpeila, this week's parsha is the first time that the concept of burial is discussed.

R' Frand asked a question - why do we show respect for the body after death? The body is only holy while the person is alive, when the body possesses a neshama. After the person dies, the body is an empty vessel - so why do we care about the niftar? However, the halacha requires that the deceased be treated respectfully.

R' Frand quoted a sefer called Machat Shel Yad which answered the question by drawing a distinction between tashmishei kedusha and tashmishei mitzva. Tashmishei kedusha are items which have holiness due to their proximity or use in conjunction with holiness. These are items like the mantel on the sefer torah or the boxes of the tefillin.

On the other hand there are tashmishei mitzva such as a lulav or esrog or tzizis. These items are used to accomplish a mitzva, but do not retain holiness. We may have minhagim to destroy them in conjunction with another mitzva (such as using the lulav to burn the chametz) but there is no obligation to destroy them respectfully.

What is the difference between these two items? Since the tashmishei kedusha were used in conjunction with Torah, they are forever imbued with Torah, even after they are no longer being used to support Torah. In contrast, the esrog was only used to accomplish a mitzva and when the mitzva is done, it can be disposed.

The body of a Jew has the same holiness. At one point it was used to speak words of Torah and say words of praise to Hashem. Although the soul has left the body, the body still has holiness because it was previously used for Torah.

R' Frand then connected this concept with a gemara in Sotah which asks - why are women zoche to reward? The gemara answers - because they assisted their husbands to learn Torah and brought their children to yeshiva to learn.

The Chafetz Chaim asks on this gemara - don't women have merits on their own? Women give tzedakah, and daven and do many other mitzvos - why is their reward only from the acts in support of their husband or children?

The Chafetz Chaim answers that the gemara is not talking about olam haba. Women will absolutely merit olam haba based on their own actions. However, the gemara was talking about Techiyas Hameisim. In order to merit Techias Hameisim one needs Torah. Lulav and esrog will get a person to olam haba, but to get to Techias Hameisim one needs Torah.

With this insight we can ask - what is the gemara's question? The gemara is really asking how can women get olam haba if they don't sit and learn. The gemara answers that the women get olam haba because they are enablers of Torah and as such they should receive a greater reward. R' Frand remarked that the men learning Torah and the kids in school are enjoying, but there is no enjoyment in driving car pool or staying up late to wait for the husband to come home from learning. The reward for their actions is derivative of the Torah learned by their husbands and children and as such they merit olam haba by being a supporter of Torah.

And if you have ever met my aishes chayil, you will know what a true selfless enabler of Torah is. Or in the words of R' Akiva - what is mine and what is yours, is truly because of her...

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