By Rabbi Avraham
Fischer. A publication of the Orthodox Union in cooperation with the Seymour
J. Abrams Orthodox Union Jerusalem World Center
Shabbat Parshat Chayei
22 Cheshvan 5765 - November 5, 2004
The Orthodox Union mourns
the passing of Julius B. Fischer, beloved father of “Torah Insights” author
Rabbi Avraham Fischer.
Please learn this week’s dvar Torah l’iluy nishmat Binyamin ben David, z’’l.
As Avraham nears the end of his life, the Torah focuses on
his possessions. First there is the matter of the purchase of the Cave of
Machpelah that becomes Avraham’s family burial plot (Bereishit 23:3-20). The
Patriarch’s wealth is often emphasized:
And Hashem had blessed Avraham with everything (24:1).
And the servant took ten camels from his master’s camels and he went, and all
the goods of his master were in his hand (24:10).
“And Hashem has blessed my master greatly and he has grown wealthy, and He has
given him sheep and cattle, and silver and gold, and servants and
maidservants, and camels and donkeys (24:35).
And the servant took out silver ornaments and gold ornaments, and clothing
which he gave to Rivka, and rare items he gave to her brother and to her
The Torah is also concerned with the transfer of Avraham’s assets exclusively
to Yitzchak. On the words and all the goods of his master were in his hand
(24:10), Rashi says that Avraham had written a deed of gift to Yitzchak for
all that was his, so that people would rush to send him their daughters.
Avraham’s servant, Eliezer, shows this document to Rivka’s
family (Rashi on verse 36). When the time comes to distribute his property:
Avraham gave all that was his to Yitzchak; and to the children of the
concubines who were Avraham’s did Avraham give gifts; and he sent them away
from Yitzchak his son, while he was still alive, eastward to the land of the
By giving part of his estate to his other children,
Avraham’s last will and testament remains valid (see Bava Batra 133b, Rambam,
Laws of Inheritance 6:1-5). Moreover, by sending those other children away, he
actually prevents later conflict between them and his declared heir Yitzchak.
But, is Avraham concerned with bequeathing only his material accomplishments?
Why should the Torah be so interested in reporting on the disbursement of
Avraham’s wealth? What of his spiritual achievements?
In fact, the spiritual blessings are often mentioned together with the
material ones. When Hashem first communicated with Avraham, He promised him
both wealth and the ability to bless others (see Rashi on 12:2-3). This
continued when Hashem promised Avraham the land of Canaan (12:7; 13:14-17;
15:18-21), where the physical and spiritual merge:
And I will give you and your seed after you the land of your sojourning, all
the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession, and I will be for them G-d
These blessings were reconfirmed after the Akeida:
Thus I will surely bless you and surely increase your seed like the stars of
the heavens and like the sand on the shore; and your seed shall take
possession of their enemies’ gate. And all the nations of the earth shall be
blessed by your seed (22:17-18).
It is Hashem’s blessing to Avraham that Yitzchak passes on to Yaakov (when he
knows that it is Yaakov!):
And may He give you the blessing of Avraham, to you and to your seed with you,
for you to take possession of the land of your sojourning which G-d had given
to Avraham (28:4).
This becomes the legacy of all the children of Yaakov.
Much more than material possessions is included in Avraham’s blessing. Various
midrashim indicate that the primogeniture, the priesthood (Bamidbar Rabba
4:8), the secret of fixing the calendar (Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer chapter 8) and
the ability to bless others were also at issue. As Maharzu (R. Zeev Wolf
Einhorn) explains, all these are one: they are all examples of leadership in
the human arena at the bridge that connects mankind with G-d, the material
with the spiritual. Indeed, the midrashim cited trace a chain of blessings
that begins with Adam and is passed down from generation to generation until
it reaches Yaakov’s children.
This is why the link in the chain of blessing from Avraham to Yitzchak is so
Avraham gave all that was his to Yitzchak.
The Midrash (Bereishit Rabba 61:6) discusses which aspects
of Avraham’s possessions he bequeathed to Yitzchak. Rashi quotes the view of
Rabbi Nechemiah from this Midrash, which we shall explain according to Rashi’s
supercommentary Maskil LeDavid (R. David Pardo, 1718-1790).
Before he died, Avraham wrote a deed (diatiki) representing all his goods
(minus those gifts he gave his other children) to Yitzchak. He also imparted
to him the ability to bless others. However,
And it was after the death of Avraham that that G-d blessed Yitzchak his son
This is surprising. Wasn’t Avraham aware that the chain
would be broken? Why didn’t Avraham himself bless Yitzchak, as Yitzchak would
later bless Yaakov, and as Yaakov would bless his children? Why did it have to
fall to G-d to bless Yitzchak?
The Midrash (ibid.) compares Avraham’s situation to a sharecropper entrusted
with caring for the king’s orchard, who finds “a tree of the elixir of life”
entwined with “a tree of deadly poison.” The sharecropper fears to water the
tree of life, for the poison tree will also benefit, yet he cannot ignore his
responsibility. He decides to leave the matter in the king’s hands. Similarly,
Avraham feared to bless Yitzchak, lest he arouse the animosity of Yishmael and
the sons of Ketura who, as Avraham’s children, were inextricably bound with
Yitzchak; so he left the matter to Hashem.
Rashi, in a slightly different version of the Midrash (Tanchuma Buber Lech
Lecha 5), says Avraham foresaw that blessing Yitzchak would have resulted in
blessing Esav. Ironically therefore, although Yitzchak could bless others, he
himself was not blessed by his father. Avraham said, “Let the Master of
blessings come and bless whoever is good in His eyes.”
The chain of blessing that stretches from the origins of mankind to the people
of Israel binds the physical world with its spiritual purpose. And when the
future of that chain seems in doubt, we must, like Avraham, trust in the
Master of blessings.
This week’s parsha opens with the death of Sarah in Hebron and
Avraham’s negotiations to purchase a burial plot for her there. Why does
the Torah describe these negotiations in such great detail? Do we really
need to know that Efron, the owner, was a charlatan, that he at first
offered it as a gift and then demanded an inflated price of 400 silver
Harav Shmuel Mohliver answers that the Torah is teaching us that when it
comes to redeeming the land of Israel, we mustn’t be put off by the price.
We must be prepared to pay even more than the “market value” to obtain
every possible granule of this holy land. That’s how dear it is to us.
Sometimes you can’t appreciate a dvar Torah unless you know a little about
its author. Harav Mohliver was one of the few Rabbanim in 19th-century
Europe to join secular Zionists in founding the Hibbat Zion movement.
Though he certainly didn’t identify with their views on Jewish life, he
was willing to pay any “price” for Eretz Yisrael.
As Rav of Bialystok, he attended a special conference in Lemberg, Galicia,
convened to deal with the fate of the tens of thousands of Jews who had
fled across the Russian border to Galicia following the pogroms of 1881.
He suggested that the refugees be diverted to Eretz Yisrael.
In 1882, he went to Paris to meet the young Baron Edmond de Rothschild and
convinced him to help the struggling settlers in the Holy Land. It
wouldn’t be at all surprising to learn that he shared this dvar Torah, on
paying anything to redeem Eretz Yisrael, with Rothschild.
May we merit to emulate his love of Eretz Yisrael and thus merit its
complete redemption speedily in our days.
Israel news editor for Hamodia’s English-language weekly.
*D’var Torah from Aloh Na'aleh:
an initiative of former North
American Rabbis and laymen who successfully made Aliyah, aimed at
highlighting the centrality of Israel and promoting Aliyah. They send
emissaries – Rabbis, academicians, and others – on speaking-tours
throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Rabbi Yerachmiel Roness ,
Exec. Dir., Aloh Naaleh,
At the OU Center, 22 Keren HaYesod
Tel.(02) 566-7787 ex. 254