Thursday, October 24, 2013

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Chaye Sarah

The following is a brief summary of some thoughts said over by R' Frand on the parsha this evening. I have attempted to reproduce these vorts 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.

Rabbi Frand started his vort on the parsha by quoting to a Ramban on Parshas Lecha wherein the Ramban writes that the purpose of the book of Bereishis is not merely to recites stories, but are episodes which serve as a templates or guideposts for the generations (ma'asei avos simanim l'banim). He gave the example of the story in Parshas Lech Lecha where Avraham went down to Egypt and Pharaoh abducted Sarah. This story had multiple impacts on the Jewish future as is seen from the stories of Ya'akov going down and the Jews' subsequent exodus from Egypt. I have attempted to list some of these examples below:

Much like Avraham who went down to Egypt because of the famine in the land, Yaakov also went down to Egypt because of the famine. After Avraham went down to Egypt, he was stuck there for a time as Sarah was being held by Pharaoh. After Yaakov went down to Egypt, the Jews were stuck there for a time as Pharaoh did not allow them to leave. When Pharaoh took Sarah he was struck by many nega'im (blemishes). When the Jews were stuck in Egypt, the Egyptians were struck by many plagues. When Avraham left Egypt after the episode with Pharaoh, he left with great wealth. After the Jews left Egypt after having been enslaved there, the Jews left with great wealth. Even the story of Pharaoh taking Sarah foreshadowed the troubles which would befall the Jews in Egypt as Pharaoh's decree was that all the male children would be killed, but the females could be kept alive for the Egyptians.

Rabbi Frand then sought to apply this principle to the story of Avraham buying the Ma'aras Hamachpeilah for the burial of Sarah. Many meforshim explain that the story of the purchase of machpeilah was actually Avraham's final test. A link to this can be found in the gemara in Bava Basra 16, which discusses a conversation between Hashem and the Satan. The Satan comes to Hashem and says that he has searched the entire world and has not found a tzaddik like Avraham. He explains that Avraham had been promised by Hashem that Avraham would have all of the land of Israel. Yet when Sarah died, Avraham could not find a location in his land which was suitable to bury Sarah. Instead, Avraham went and bought the Machpeilah cave from Efron. At this point Avraham could have complained to Hashem that the land was his and why did he need to buy the cave. But he did not do so.

Rabbi Frand linked this to a Medrash quoted by Rashi on Parshas Va'era, wherein Hashem says to Moshe, you are complaining about your role, but look at the trouble that the Avos went through and they never questioned me. I said to Avraham you could have all of the land of Israel and yet when it came time to bury Sarah, he had to buy a plot. Yet, he did not question Me.

Again, the proof to Moshe circles back to a story from Sefer Bereishis.

R' Frand then quoted R' Isaac Bernstein who asked - why did Avraham have to buy the cave of Machpeilah? After all, when Avraham first approached the people of Cheit, he was told that he could bury Sarah there for free. It was only after Avraham insisted that he wanted to buy the cave that Efron began to negotiate the sale for an exorbitant price. But the whole transaction would not even have been necessary, had Avraham accepted their offer of free burial! So why do these medrashim harp on Avraham's purchase of the cave when it is a voluntary act?

R' Frand tied the answer to this question into a Medrash quoted in the Pirkei D'Rabbi Eliezer, which linked the story of the burial of Sarah with the meeting of Avraham and the angels in the beginning of Parshas Vayera. The Medrash states that when the angels came to Avraham, he went to get a cow to slaughter to feed the angels. When he tried to catch the cow, it ran away and sought shelter in the cave of Machpeilah. Avraham chased after the cow and entered the cave where he saw Adam lying peacefully with Chava in a room with nice candles and a pleasant scent. When Avraham saw them lying this way he decided that he needed this place for burial for himself and Sarah.

Acting on this thought, Avraham went to look for someone to buy the cave from. The Medrash states that he went to the people of Yevus and said that he wanted to buy the cave. But why Yevus if the land belonged to the Hittites? The answer was that the city was called Yevus and it was located in the land of the Hittites. 

When Avraham approached the people of Yevus they agreed to sell him the cave, on condition that he would swear to never forcibly take their city. Avraham agreed and there were documents made which memorialized the transaction. These documents were recorded and copper signs containing the promise were hung around the city for all to see. 

The ma'asei avos simanim l'banim aspect of the story took place much later. The city of Yevus was actually Jerusalem. When the Jews later came to the city when they were conquering the land of Israel, they were unable to do so because of the promise. In the end of Sefer Shmuel, David Hamelech had to pay Aram Hayivusi to purchase Jerusalem. This was the only way they could get it.

Now three thousand years later, we are still fighting to own and keep Jerusalem. This is the maasei avos simanim l'banim - we have constantly needed to bargain and work to get Jerusalem. It is even now the subject of "peace talks" which involve negotiations on the status of many things in Israel. 

Finally after thousands of years we finally got some of Jerusalem. Iy'h we will get all of it and keep it, as it is the undivided capitol of Israel.

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