Aliya-by-Aliya Sedra Summary
Kohen - First Aliya - 16 p'sukim - 23:1-16
SDT With the last theme of Vayeira being the AKEIDA, the juxtaposition of Sara's death supports our Tradition that Sara died as a result of the Akeida. The Midrash says that the Satan informed Sara about what Avraham was intending to do with Yitzchak, when they went towards Har HaMoriah. The shock was too great for an old woman, and she died. Some commentaries give an interesting twist to this episode. They say that Sara expired, not from fear that Avraham was to offer Yitzchak as a Korban, but that he might not! She remembered Avraham's reaction when she told him to banish Yishmael (and Hagar). She was afraid that Avraham's love and kindness towards Yitzchak would prevent him from carrying out G-d's command, and that Avraham would thus fail this ultimate test. When she saw (or heard) that Avraham was returning with Yitzchak still alive, she thought her fears were realized. And she expired.
Avraham comes (some say from the Akeida, that is from Har HaMoriah; some say from Be'er Sheva; either way, it was apparently to Hevron that he came) to eulogize Sara and to cry for her.
SDT VíLIVKOTAH, and to cry for her, is written with a small KAF. Some take this as a reminder that the crying was "small" since Sara had lived such a long life (Baal HaTurim). There is more crying when a person dies young. Some say that the KAF points to the 20 in the way that the Torah tells us how old she was when she died: 100 years and 20 years and 7 years. Others say that the small KAF allows us to reread the word with regular-sized letters only to obtain a different understanding, on a REMEZ (hint) level. And Avraham came to eulogize Sara UL-VITAH, and her daughter. This correlates with the opinions that Avraham and Sara had a daughter, but she died when Sara did. (Some say that her name was BAKOL.) Not everyone agrees.
Avraham next makes the arrangements for providing a suitable place to bury Sara. (There is a Tradition that Avraham was aware of the burial place of Adam and Chava, and that is the piece of land he was interested in.) He turns to the people of CHEIT, one of whom is known as EFRON. They all exchange niceties and the people offer Avraham any land he wants. He insists on paying and that is what he does for the field and cave of Machpela.
Pirkei Avot made famous that Avraham was tested 10 times. But we are not told what the ten tests are. And there different opinions as to which of Avraham's experiences are considered tests of his faith. Most lists of the 10 end with the Akeida, as implied from the p'sukim themselves. Rabeinu Yona finds a test after the Akeida ó Avraham's experience in providing a burial place for Sara. What was so difficult about that, that it should qualify as a test of faith - especially after the Akeida? Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that after the Akeida, Avraham still had a couple of difficult things to go through. Wasn't the Akeida and everything that preceded it enough? No, not finished yet. This can test a person, some- times, more than terrible trials and tribulations.
Surviving the Holocaust did not guarantee a person that he would have an easy life from then on. Some were blessed with trouble-free lives after their terrible ordeals, but most had many more difficulties to face in the years to come.
We do not know how G-d works. Why must we suffer trials and tribulations in this world? It has something to do with making us better people. With challenging us. With testing us. With preparing our souls for the World of Truth. And probably a lot more.
There is another approach to answer the same question. Eulogizing his wife, acquiring a burial place, finding a "shiduch" for Yitzchak - even remarrying Hagar (Ketura) are all "regular", mundane experiences. Can one who spoke repeatedly to G-d, ascended Har HaMori'ah, had a special relationship with G-d - can such a person return to being a "normal" human being? This too is a test, and Avraham passed with flying colors. These commentaries point to the pasuk, "And Avraham return to the lads..." as an indication that he was able to "come back down to earth".
SDT If a father insists that his son marry or not marry a particular woman, the son is not duty- bound to listen to his father. Meshech Chochma says that we learn this from the fact that Avraham gave instructions and administered an oath to Eliezer about a wife for Yitzchak, but did not command Yitzchak himself on the matter.
[S> 24:1 (67)] Avraham is now at an advanced age and has been blessed greatly by G-d.
ďAnd G-d blessed Avraham BAKOLĒ, with everything.
The word BAKOL screams out for explanation. And, sure enough, there are many suggestions as to what this extra blessing of BAKOL is. (Every time we say Birkat HaMazon, we ask G-d to bless us as He blessed our forefathers - BAKOL... Mikol and Kol are terms associated with Yitzchak and Yaakov.)
The numeric value of BAKOL 52, the same as BEN, son. This alludes to the ultimate blessing that Avraham received - his son Yitzchak.
R. Meir says that Avraham was blessed by not having a daughter. In Avraham's time and in his unique circumstances, who would she have married? What would have happened to her? In this case it was a bracha not to have had a daughter.
On the other hand... R. Yehuda says that Avraham's extra blessing was that he DID have a daughter. There is even an opinion that his daughter's name was BAKOL.
Rabbi Eliezer HaModai says that Avraham was blessed with the art/skill/power of astrology and that he was consulted by noblemen from far and wide. (Even when G-d told Avraham that he would still have a child, Avraham resisted because he had seen in the stars that he was not going to have children. G-d "explained" to Avraham that it is possible to rise above one's "mazal", and in fact, that is the special quality of the nation that will come from him. EIN MAZAL L'YISRAEL. Even Ezra says in the name of our Sages z"l, true, as long as they keep the Torah.)
R. Shimon bar Yochai says that Avraham had a precious stone with curative powers that would heal all who gazed upon it.
These last two opinions identify BAKOL as Avraham's prominent position in the world. This fits with his role as "father of many nations".
Some suggest that Eisav's not sinning (until Avraham died) and Yishmael's repentance, both during Avraham's lifetime are the extra blessings.
There are still other explanations.
From the variety of explanations of BAKOL, it is quite clear that Avraham's unique status as the one who restored belief in One G-d to the world did not go unrewarded. We can see in this list of blessings, all the different kinds of blessings that can be ours, the spiritual heirs of Avraham Avinu.
The one major task remaining, which will forge the next vital link in what promises to be a great people and a great Chain of Tradition, is finding a suitable "shidduch" for Yitzchak. Everything now will depend upon Yitzchak. However great Avraham was, unless there is "solid" continuity, all will be lost. To this end, Avraham calls upon Eliezer to swear that he will faithfully carry out his task, that he will return to Avraham's family and hometown, and find a wife for Yitzchak there. And that Yitzchak is not to leave Eretz Yisrael (having been consecrated on the Mizbei'ach during the Akeida).
She immediately gives him his fill and then draws water for his camels. Anxious to find out whether she was "the one", Eliezer waits until the camels have their drink and then presents Rivka with gifts of jewelry. (On the one hand, he has seen her kind nature and tireless act of chesed; on the other hand, he has not even asked her who she is.) When Rivka tells Eliezer that she is indeed from Avraham's family and invites him to stay at her home, he prostrates himself before G-d in grateful acknowledgment.
SDT The Gemara says although Eliezer did not ask properly, G-d answered him properly. Combining the different opinions, let's say that Eliezer's actions were borderline forbidden. Relying on Signs and Omens is forbidden. Yet Eliezer's sign was a reasonable test of the girls. But it could easily have backfired. He was no tB'SEDER, but G-d "sent" Rivka to him. This is viewed as an act of Divine Kindness towards Avraham Avinu.
When one prays to G-d, he/she might include a request that G-d accept our prayers as they should be prayed and meant, and not necessarily as we say and mean them. It is humbling and not a little upsetting that we sometimes mess up the great opportunities we have, every single day, to approach G-d in prayer and then not do a good job of it.
Lavan (filled with ulterior motives, our commentaries tell us) runs to greet Eliezer. The gold jewelry adorning Rivka catches Lavan's eye, and he "graciously" offers Eliezer hospitality. Eliezer is served food but refuses to eat until his "business" is completed.
Eliezer proceeds to tell the story of his mission. He tells of Avraham and Yitzchak and of being sent to find a wife for Yitzchak. When he asks for Rivka's hand on behalf of his master, Lavan and Betu'el (commentaries point to Lavan's pushing himself before his father as an indication of a negative personality trait) accept all as G-d's will.
Eliezer again prostrates himself before G-d in grateful acknowledgment of the success of his mission.
Meanwhile, Yitzchak (having gone to bring Hagar back to Avraham) is in the Negev area and goes "into the field to commune, before evening". (This, we are taught, was the model for Mincha.) As the Rivka-Eliezer caravan approaches from a distance, Rivka sees Yitzchak, jumps down from her camel, and asks Eliezer who that man is. She covers her face with a veil when she is told that the man is her intended husband.
Eliezer tells Yitzchak everything that has occurred. Yitzchak takes Rivka as his wife and she becomes a comfort to him for the loss of his mother. For us, she later becomes Rivka Imeinu.
Rabbi Sholom Gold speculates as to how a girl growing up in the house of Betuel and Lavan can so quickly step into Sara Imeinu's shoes. His answer (beautifully developed in a shiur - to which we cannot to justice in so short a space) is that it was D'vorah, Rivka's nursemaid, who was her teacher and influence in the ways of Sara. D'vorah was left behind for just this purpose.
On the question of the different treatment of Yishmael (banishment) and the children from Ketura (gifts), RZD explains that there was a crucial difference between Yishmael and Ketura's children. Yishmael challenged Yitzchak's heritage. He claimed (and in some ways continues to claim) Avraham's legacy. When G-d told Avraham to listen to Sara, He told him to banish them, BECAUSE in Yitzchak will be called your offspring, your descendants. This point had to be made, and a farewell party and lavish provisions for the journey would not have made the point. No such problem with Ketura's children. They made no such claim. They did not dispute Yitzchak's role. They received gifts.
Avraham dies at the "ripe old age" of 175 (actually, this is 5 years short of the complete 180 that Yitzchak achieved - various reasons are given for the "lost" 5 years). His was a graceful, good, and fulfilling life (despite the tough times he had). He is buried in the Cave of Machpela, where he had buried Sara. Both Yitzchak and Yishmael take care of the burial. The Torah implies that Yishmael had repented his ways and had become righteous. What greater joy for a father!
G-d blesses Yitzchak after Avraham's death.
From the fact that Avraham took Ketura only after Yitzchak was married, the Baal HaTurim says that this is the proper thing to do - Marry off your children, before you yourself remarry.
Yishmael dies at the age of 100 and 30 and 7 years. The wording in the Torah (seemingly) purposely parallels that which was used to describe Sara's lifespan, a further indication (perhaps) of the change for the better in Yishmael. Rashi says that the age of Yishmael is included to help us compute the chronology of Yaakov.The last 3 p'sukim are reread for the Maftir.
Haftara - 31 p'sukim -Melachim Alef - 1:1-31
The Haftara parallels this theme by telling us of the aging King David with many potential heirs, providing that it would be his son Shlomo who would be the next link in the Davidic line. This, fulfillment of a promise made to Shlomo's mother, Batsheva - similar to the promise made to Sara that her son would inherit. The starting points are Avraham Avinu and David Hamelech. But no matter how strong their personalities were, the chain ends with them unless the next generation is as strong as a Yitzchak Avinu and a Shlomo Hamelech.