Parashat Chayei Sarah: On This Day…Two Eulogies

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01 Nov 2007

Parashat Chayei Sarah 5768

Part One – Two Eulogies

The Gemara in Megilla 3a, discusses the important contribution of the illustrious Tana, Yonatan ben Uziel, the most outstanding student of Hillel (Suka 28a), with his Targum (explanatory translation) on Tanach.

As an example the Gemara quotes the problematic pasuk in the Prophet Zacharia 12,11:

“On that day there will be a great eulogy (and funeral) in Yerushalayim, as great as the eulogy of Haddadrimon, in the Valley of Megiddon”.

Problematic because we do not find anywhere in the Tanach a person called Haddadrimon who was eulogized in a place called Megiddon.

Yehonatan b. Uziel explains as follows:

“On that day, there will be a eulogy as great as the one said over Achav ben Om’ree (`g`a, king of the northern tribes), who was killed by Haddadrimon b. Tavrimon on the Gilad Heights, and as great as the eulogy for Yoshi’yahu b. Amon (i`yide, king of the southern tribes, from the family of King David), who was killed by Pharaoh Necha in the valley of Megiddo.

Now, why did these two people merit such impressive funerals and eulogies, which serve as the model for the eulogies in the future of two great men in Yerushalayim?

The problem is especially acute with regard to Achav, who is mentioned in the Mishna in Sanhedrin 90a, as one of the three kings who lost their place in Olam Haba (paradise) – the other two being Yeravam b. Navat and Menashe b. Chizkiyahu?

It would be an understatement to say that Achav did not follow the Torah. He and his gentile (Phoenician) wife, E’zevel (Jezebel), sought out the religious leaders of the northern tribes and killed them all, except for 100, who were hidden in caves by the righteous Ovadia (Melachim 1,18:4).

Achav introduced idolatry into every Jewish home – by the sword, but when he died, he was interred in an astonishingly large and emotional funeral with loving eulogies.

The answer is that Achav, by all accounts, was a beloved leader. He brought great wealth to the land and fought in many wars to protect the independence of his country.

The way he died is indicative of his greatness as a leader who lived for his people. Achav fought his last battle against the Aramians (today’s Syria). While standing in his chariot, an enemy soldier, whose name was Na’aman (Yalkut Shimoni Melachim 1:22), shot an arrow aimlessly into the air. It came down and struck Achav through a small aperture in his armor. Achav could have retreated from the battle in order to obtain medical treatment, or, at least, descend from his strategic position in the command chariot in order to be treated. But since this would entail removing his presence from view of his soldiers, and thereby possibly weaken their resolve to fight, he chose to remain in his lead chariot, and eventually died.

Achav was a highly respected and beloved leader, albeit a man devoid of Torah.

In total contrast, Yoshiyahu, King of Judah and Yerushalayim, was a tzaddik (righteous person). In his lifetime, Yoshiyahu made extensive and costly repairs to the structure of the Bet Hamikdash, he eradicated almost entirely the worship of avoda zara (idolatry) from the land, and put to death the priests of idolatry. He restored the “aliya la’regel” (pilgrimage to Jerusalem). The Tanach relates that Pessach, during his rule, was not practiced in such a glorious manner since the days of Yehoshua b. Nun. Yoshiyahu was, like Achav, a staunch nationalist. He was killed in a battle in Megiddo, attempting to prevent the Egyptian army from using Eretz Yisrael as a land corridor to do battle with the army of Assyria.

The Gemara in Bava Kama relates that when Yoshiyahu’s body was returned home to Yerushalayim, he was held by 36,000 pallbearers on the way to his tomb. In the yeshiva this was questioned, for that honor was also paid to Achav, who was treated in the same manner. The Gemara replies that in the case of King Yoshiyahu, they placed a sefer Torah on his bed, and called out, “This man performed what is written in this Torah”.

The God- fearing Yoshiyahu, and Achav, the denier of Torah – both merited the love of their subjects, for they fought for the honor of the Jewish people and were protectors of Eretz Yisrael.

The prophet Zacharia, as stated above, predicted that in the future, Yerushalayim would be witness to two eulogies as great as those held for King Yoshiyahu and King Achav.

Since the destruction of the Temple and exile of our people, the city of Yerushalayim has not seen funerals as large in attendance and as emotionally charged as the funeral of my brother, Harav Meir Kahana zt”l, and of Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin.

Rabin was no Achav, and Harav Meir was no Yoshiyahu, but both in their time could be compared to those kings of the Tanach.

Rabin denied the Torah, but, like Achav, he was a soldier who defended the country since his youth. He was a beloved leader for many people, and a great many attended his funeral to mourn his death.

Meir was a talmid chacham (Torah scholar) and great leader for many people. He brought the plight of the Jews in the Soviet Union from page 54 of the paper to page one, which eventually brought down the Soviet Union, opening the gates of freedom to all Jews who wished to leave. There were close to two hundred thousand people at his funeral.

Each one represented radically different outlooks, and their deaths testified to their contrasting beliefs.

Rabin was killed on Motzei Shabbat of parshat Lech Lecha, and Meir was killed close to the following Shabbat, parshat Vayeira (in different years).

In parashat Lech Lecha, when Avraham is informed that Sarah will give birth to a son, Avraham replies to God “lu Yishmael yich’ye le’fanecha” – “May Yishmael live before you”. Avraham comes to the defense of Yishmael, and requests equal rights for his son, born from Hagar, the Egyptian woman.

In parshat Vayeira, Sarah demands of Avraham to send Yishmael away, saying, (Bereishit , 21:10)

“Chase away this maidservant and her son, for this son of the maidservant will not inherit together with my son Yitzchak”

Sarah instinctively sees the evil and wildness in the soul of Yishmael, and knows that Yitzchak and Yishmael will never be able to live together. God tells Avraham to abide by the request of Sarah, for she is correct – Yishmael and the future descendants of Yitzchak will never be able to live together.

Rabin, who was killed near Parshat Lech Lecha, adopted Avraham’s position, and believed that the two peoples can live together. Toward this end, he returned to Eretz Yisrael the PLO murderers living in Tunisia, and gave them forty thousand weapons. Harav Meir, whose holy neshama left the world close to parshat Va’ya’ra, adopted the position of Sarah, which was affirmed by God – that the souls of the two are hewn from vastly different worlds – Yitzchak is the ben Torah, worthy to be a korban for God on Mount Moriah, while Yishmael is a “pereh adam”, who prefers death over life.

God tells Avraham that Sarah is correct in her assessment of the two sons of Avraham- Yishmael must be sent away, for he cannot live side by side with Yitzchak.

Harav Meir preached and pleaded that the people of Israel should see the future, and take steps to prevent the tragedies we are witnessing today; Rabin wanted to give them half of Eretz Yisrael, despite the words of our mother, Sarah, “for the son of this maidservant will not inherit with my son Yitzchakt. History has played out in the manner told by God to Avraham, to abide by the wishes of Sarah. May the souls of both these men be united with the living souls in Olam Haba.

Part Two – On this day….

The Parasha describes a surrealistic scene, which befits (le’havdeel) a silent-action movie of the 1920’s rather than a true-life happening.

Avraham Avinu sends his servant, Eliezer of Damascus, on a vital mission to find a suitable wife for his son Yitzchak; thus entrusting him with the future of Klal Yisrael.

Towards evening, Eliezer arrives at Ur Kasdim, Avarham’s birthplace, in record time to, setting his caravan to rest by the town well. He then turns to the God of his master with a request that He “…show kindness to my master Avraham”.

Beraisheet 24: 15-20. From what is written, one gets the impression of absolute impatience. Verse 15 begins with

“And it came to pass, that before He (Eliezer) had done speaking, that Rivka approached…”

The Torah points out that before Eliezer concludes his prayer to God, the selection has already been made.

In verse 17, we are told that Eliezer runs to meet her. He did not walk politely, as befitting one who is approaching a young maiden for the first time. He runs toward her.

In verse 18, we are told that Rivka

“…hastened to put down her pitcher”

and to pour out water for the ‘parched’ Eliezer, who must not have appeared to be dying of thirst for such a person is incapable of ‘running’.

In verse 20, Rivka is once again hurrying, as it states.

“And she hastened and emptied her pitcher into the trough”

and then, “…and she ran again into the well to draw (water)

We find here, once again, that Eliezer runs to meet her, and Rivka runs three times.

There is no parallel in TaNaCh for such conduct. This begs the question. What is happening here?

Let us return to verse 11:

Here we are informed that Eliezer arrives at the city

“…at the time of evening, at the time the women come out to draw water”.

It is not yet night because no one comes out to ‘draw water’ in the darkness. It is not afternoon, because that is too early to draw water for the evening meal. We are told that Eliezer arrives a bit before the sh’ki’a –sun down, when there is still some daylight, but darkness is quickly descending.

At this point, Eliezer says in verse 12:

“Oh Lord, the God of my master Avraham, may you so arrange it for me this day, that You do kindness with my master Avraham.

Eliezer is not just asking for a kind-hearted young lady, of whom there must have been more than one in the entire city. Eliezer is conditioning it to happen only “on this day”, when “this day” is about to conclude in a very short time, for as stated above, Eliezer arrives just before sh’ki’a-sunset.

God is being put to the ‘test’ by Eliezer to resolve everything in just a few minutes. For this reason everyone has to run about in double time. Eliezer runs to Rivka, and Rivka runs three times in her need to bring drink to the entire caravan. When it is over, with barely a few moments to spare, we are told, in verse 21, that Eliezer is in a state of bewilderment at what has just transpired before his unbelieving eyes.

One may conclude from the long trek called ‘Jewish History’, that an essential part of God’s master plan has been to bring His chosen nation to the brink of disaster. Then, just as all is about to end, just a few moments before the ‘sh’ki’a’ of our existence, “on this day” God produces a miracle to save us.

This phenomenon repeats itself throughout the period of the Judges.

And never has it been so evident as in our times, when the “on this day” marvel is so often repeated.

Today the dangers that threaten the Jewish nation have taken a quantum leap. The outbreak of worldwide anti-Semitism and Islamic fanaticism, together with the demographic facts in the country, as well as certain ‘Jews’, whose self-hatred will not be satisfied with anything less than the destruction of our Holy country, are producing a feeling of ‘ before the ‘sh’ki’a’.

The Gemara in Berachot: 12b, tells that in the future there will be miracles “bigger” than those which transpired at the time of the Exodus.

Now, how does one measure how “big” a miracle is relative to another miracle? I submit that the grandeur of a miracle is relative to the danger it comes to avert; the more fierce the danger, the “bigger” the miracle.

The dangers now facing the Jewish nation the world over are unprecedented in scope. But the prophet, Yoel, in chapter 3:5, and Ovadia in 1:17, states that in Eretz Yisrael and in Yerushalayim ” …te’he’ye play’ta”, “there shall be refuge”.

Just as in the precedent of Eliezer, when just before the darkness of the ‘sh’ki’a’, our Father in Heaven, “on this day” guaranteed the future of Am Yisrael, so too, “on this day”, in our time we shall merit to witness and be part of the greatest miracles of all.

The events of last week are consistent with the principle that anything of significance that occurs, is alluded to in the Parasha for that week.

Shabbat Shalom, Nachman Kahana

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.