A Study in Contrasts
Commentaries suggest that it is to put Rivka in the picture. Concurrent with Sara's death is the emergence of the next Matriarch.
But why name all 8 sons of Nachor, and why tell us about his concubine? What does it mean to us?
Rabbi Macy Gordon suggests that these verses were included in the Torah to give us a point of comparison and contrast. Avraham Avinu had a hard life. A struggle early in life brought him to belief in one G-d. His beliefs got him tossed into a fiery furnace. He was sent away from his homeland to a strange new place. He suffered famine, various trials and tribulations, fought wars, was childless for so very long, had to cope with exiling his first son Yishmael, and even when blessed with Yitzchak, was commanded to offer him up as a sacrifice. And even after this ultimate test of his faith, Avraham returns from the Akeida to find that Sarah hasdied. (This is actually counted as the 10th test of faith by some, although most consider the Akeida to be the final test.)
Meanwhile, his brother Nachor must have had a simple, quiet, normal life. A wife, a bunch of children, a concubine, more kids. The point: "Normal" people have 2.6 children and 1.7 cars. It isn't normal to be subjected to all the experiences that Avraham went through. It's tough to be a Jew. Even so, the rewards far outweighthe problems. This is a critical element in our belief.
It does not follow, however, that life
must be hard for every Jew. Perhaps it had to be that way for Avraham Avinu, so that we
would have a model to emulate if and when things get tough for us.
Nice, but how can we be sure that Rivka did the right thing? (No offense meant, but not every action of the Avot & Imahot is considered correct.) Commentaries point to another unimpeachable source to support Rivka's action: When G-d commanded Moshe to strike the rock so that water would come forth, the Torah tells us thathe did, and the water gushed out for the people to drink, and for their flocks.
If this is so, why cite as the source of this halacha, the story with Rivka, rather than learning from the Torah's straight statement? The answer is that we learn another, important lesson by the way. The seemingly insignificant deeds of our fathers and mothers impact on our own lives. Sometimes in a positive way; occasionallyin a negative way. But there is always a significance (otherwise the Torah wouldn't tell us about them).
And the same can be said of our own children and what they learn - positive or negative - from our own, seemingly insignificant actions and words.
Sometimes, it is not clear whether an episode of the Avot is positive or negative. When confronted with a famine in the Land, Avraham fled to Mitzrayim.
From here we learn that it is permissible to leave Eretz Yisrael when certain severe economic conditions exist here. On the other hand, some commentaries fault Avraham for leaving the Land to which G-d had sent him. They say that because Avraham left the Land, his descendants were destined to leave Eretz Yisrael and spend many "unpleasant" years in Egypt. These two ways of looking at Avraham's actions might not be contradictory - they are "merely" complex.
A Matter of Attitude
A righteous person who truly
appreciates G-d's grace and gifts, will be happy and content and view his lot as
"everything". A "not-so-righteous" person will boast about what he
has, not be completely satisfied with it and always want more. Perhaps that explains the
different terminology as applied to Avraham and Yaakov on one hand, and Eliezer and Eisav
on the other. (Thank you Y.Tz.G. for this insight)
In the Beit HaMikdash, there were two daily sacrifices - one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Correspondingly, we daven Shacharit in the morning and Mincha in the afternoon.
At the end of Chayei Sara, the Torah
tells us that "Yitzchak went out LA'SU'ACH in the field, before evening. LA'SU'ACH
means to converse and has the connotation of prayer - to converse with G-d - based on the
verse in T'hilim
Interestingly, SICHA,in addition to conversation, has the meaning of inner feelings and thoughts that one pours forth. This fits well with the different aspects of davening - the retirement to actually vocalize one's prayers, and that the prayers must be said with KAVANA. SICHA is definitely a worthy synonym for prayer.
The TUR SHULCHAN ARUCH (232) states:
And the reason that Mincha is special is that with Shacharit, there is a fixed time in the morning, shortly after awakening, that a person davens, before he begins his working day. Similarly, with Maariv, one davens when he has finished his day and returns home, and is not distracted by his work. But Mincha - it is in the middle of theday, when a person is occupied with business matters and one has to free his mind of all things except for davening. If one succeeds at this difficult task, his reward is great...
Ironically, great importance is attached to this smallest of the prayer services. We, therefore, should relate to Mincha as a great, rather than a short prayer.
Furthermore, the determination of dawn
and stars-out is
MINCHA G'DOLA (MG) is the earliest time that the afternoon TAMID (daily sacrifice) was ever slaughtered. Although this time was used only on Erev Pesach that fell on Friday, it still represents the earliest time that the Kohanim in the Beit HaMikdash could begin the afternoon sacrifice. THEREFORE, it (MG) is the earliest time (but not necessarily the ideal time - see further) that we may daven Mincha. MG is a half hour after Chatzot, halachic noon. Chatzot is the midpoint between sunrise and sunset, i.e. the midpoint of the day. Some authorities require the addition of a full 30 minutes when the halachic hour is shorter than 60 minutes(in the winter), while requiring half of a halachic hour when the day is longer than 12 clock-hours. The charthere reflects this opinion.
MINCHA K'TANA (MK) is 9.5 hours of the day. It is the time that the afternoon Tamid was actually offered on the Mizbei'ach in the Beit HaMikdash (of course, not IN but outside of) on a regular day. Erev Pesach was the exception. On any day except Friday - including Shabbat - the schedule for the Tamid was advanced to allow more time for the Korban Pesach, which was brought AFTER the daily sacrifice. When Erev Pesach was a Friday, the Tamid was begun earlier still, to allow time for bringing AND roasting the Korban Pesach before Shabbat. The point is, that on a regular day, the afternoon Tamid was placed on the Altar at 9.5 hours, and thereforethat is the best time for us to daven Mincha (all other factors equal - which they rarely are).
PLAG HAMINCHA (Plag) is the midpoint between MK and sunset. Midway between 9.5 hours and 12 hours is 10.75 hours of the day, which is 1.25 hours before sunset. (Remember that the "hours" depend upon the length ofdaytime.) Rabbi Yehuda says that Plag is the deadline for Mincha and the starting point for Maariv The unnamed,first opinion in the Mishna (a.k.a. Tana Kama) is that the day ends at sunset (deadline for Mincha) and night begins a bit later, at stars- out (which we are not discussing now). The Talmud concludes that whichever opinion one follows, a person has acted properly. It's almost "take your pick". Not quite, but almost.
So when should I daven Mincha?
After Plag and before sunset is a fine time for Mincha In fact, it is the most common time in our society for Mincha. This is so for practical reasons - it allows one to daven Mincha, wait a bit and then daven Maariv. Thus, people are not burdened by going to shul at separate times for Mincha and Maariv Waiting for close to sunset has the major drawback of potentially missing Mincha if anything delays one from davening.
Davening at MG is okay, but not ideal - except that there are factors that will make MG a preferred time. Availability of a minyan, how busy your afternoon usually is, the likelihood of forgetting to daven if you wait for late afternoon - these are some of the factors that prompt people to opt for a MG minyan.
The Shulchan Aruch, taking the lead of the Mishna, lists certain functions that may not be begun "near Mincha time". The Mishna B'rura concludes that the most problematic activities are those that tend to take a very long time and would likely lead a person to forget to daven Mincha, or something that can agitate a person mentally, to the point where proper concentration at davening is severely compromised. Opinions vary among Poskim, since the Mishna did not specify which Mincha it was referring to, nor did the Mishna detail how involved the activity must be in order to pose a threat to missing Mincha.
For example, some say that one may not begin a regular meal if it is near Mincha time, until one davens Mincha. Some say that this applies only to a banquet-type meal such as a wedding feast. There is a tendency to be lenient today and allow many activities in the afternoon before one has davened, because - and if - the person has a specific routine of davening Mincha in shul in the late afternoon.
This, ostensibly, will almost eliminate to concern of Shulchan Aruch that the person might miss Mincha. On the other hand, each person must know himself and take steps to avoid the inadvertant missing of Mincha. Often this means davening Mincha before settling down to a long afternoon and early evening of work.
The GR"A says that Avraham intended to give the full 1000 silver shekels he had received from Avimelech in payment for a burial place for Sara. Even the 400 that Efron asked for was a high price, but his greed lost him 600, hence the missing VAV.R. Auerbach z"l adds that Efron's full name also makes an appropriate numeric statement. EFRON B. TZOCHAR = 70+80+200+6+50 (406) + 2+50 (52) + 90+8+200 (298) = 756. Efron's character can be summed up by the expression from Kohelet - HAKESEF YAANEH ET HAKOL, money answers everything = 5+20+60+80 (165) + 10+70+50+5 (135)+ 1+400 (401) + 5+20+30 (55) = 756.
FRIDAY THE 13th
From a halachic perspective, it is forbidden for us to have this fear, and more so to act upon it. It is at least a violation of B'CHUKOTEIHEM LO TEILEICHU (following the ways of other nations), and probably has elements of AVODA ZARA as well.
Besides, for us, the number 13 is a special one. It is the number of Divine Attributes, the age of mitzvot (for boys), the number of Talmudic methods of learning the Oral Torah, the number of Principles of Faith (according to Rambam), the number of Brachot of request in the weekday Amida, gates in the Beit HaMikdash, andthe G'matriya of the word ECHAD and AHAVA, to mention just two of over 25 words in Tanach with a G'matriya of 13. Seven of every 19 years have 13 months each. Although there are officially 12 tribes, if you count Levi and Efraim & Menashe, it makes 13. Counting Dina, Yaakov had 13 children.
Why do I bring all this up? I found the above graphic in a collection of clipart and decided to use it. The rest followed.
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