OU Torah Insights ProjectParashat Chayei Sara
Parshas Chayei Sarah provides the blueprint for Jewish marriage, telling generations of Jews what to search for in a proper mate.
The parshah begins with Avraham purchasing ("vayikach") a field from Ephron the Hitite, which contained the cave in which he would bury his beloved wife, Sarah. This verse is used in the Talmud to help define the legal contract of marriage, which is introduced with the phrase, "Ki yikach ish ishaWhen a man takes a wife..."
This word, kicha, establishes a permanence: Just as the money exchanged gave Avraham the field for all times, so too does the gift to the bride create a marriage, hopefully for all times.
Even death does not end the bond between man and wife. Avraham wanted a burial plot big enough for himself and his family. He wanted to be buried next to his wife. As they shared this world, so too they share the next.
Marriage has permanence. Avrahams respect for his wife Sarah is evident in this chessed shel emes, this true kindness he shows her after death. His concern for her eternity is as strong as it was when she was alive.
Fittingly, the next verses details Avrahams search for a wife for his son, Yitzchak. Having experienced life under his parents marriage, Yitzchak is now ready for his own partnership.
What is the obligation of parents in finding a proper match for their children? Alas, so many children think they can do it alone and make horrible blunders because of their personal subjectivity.
When my children were ready for marriage, I asked Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky, zt"l, "Rebbe, what should I look for in a mate for my children?"
His wise and thoughtful answer was, "They should have two qualities, gezunt un gut, health and goodness, for these are the two things we give over to our children."
Reb Yaakov was telling me the lesson of this parshah. Avraham knows the rock from whence he was hewn. His family has the physical strength to endure lifes challenges.
Avraham and Sarah also have the quality of goodness, of embracing and welcoming strangers into their home. They have compassion and pityessential ingredients for building a Jewish home.
Avraham sought the same for his son. Though Rivkahs family worshipped idols, Avraham understood that midos are more important than ideology. Mind-sets can be changed. Ideas can be changed. Philosophies can be changed. Rav Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz, zt"l, often used the phrase "the mind is elastic." The mind can be stretched from one extreme to another.
Midos, however, are another matter. Rav Yisroel Salanter taught that changing one midah is harder that mastering the entire Talmud. It is easier to change ideology than to change midos.
Avraham knew that if Rivkah possessed good midos and would fit the requirements of Jewish marriage, a bond that goes even beyond the grave. The home a couple builds, the children they raise is for eternity.
In our age of semi-permanence, in which there are too many disrupted families, a generation that Dr. Abraham Twerski calls "the throw-away generationif it doesnt work, dont fix it; just throw it away and get a new one," in these times and in this atmosphere, Chayei Sarah comes as a refreshing lesson of endurance.Rabbi Yitzchak Chinn
Rabbi Chinn is rabbi of Congregation Gemilas Chesed in McKeesport, Pennsylvania.
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