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Rabbi Krakowski: Parshas Chayei Sarah

This week’s Sedra is replete with stirring episodes. In two of these episodes, Avrohom Avinu’s approach appears somewhat irrational.

                In the first of these, Avrohom comes back from to Beér Sheva to discover that Sarah Imeinu passed away in Kiryas Arba. Avrohom Avinu then travels the 50 km/30 mi journey to Kiryas Arba in order to eulogize and bury Sarah Imeinu. When he reaches Kiryas Arba (Chevron) he seeks out a grave site for Sarah Imeinu. Avrohom has a particular site in mind, Mearas Hamachpeila, that belonged to Ephron Hachiti. Avrohom approaches him and he tells Avrohom Avinu that he may bury Sarah Imeinu on his land for free. Avrohom Avinu insists that he wants to pay for the land itself – not just one particular gravesite, but the entire area surrounding it. Ephron agrees and sells it to Avrohom Avinu for a huge sum of money. There is an obvious question here: If what Avrohom wanted to do was to purchase land, then why didn’t he do so? What does a gravesite have to do with his desire to buy a plot of land? Nobody ever feels it necessary to buy an estate in order to bury a loved one – everybody buries their loved ones in traditional cemeteries in a small spot of land. What made Avrohom Avinu approach the issue of the burial (site) in such a peculiar manner?

                The second incident in which Avrohom Avinu’s approach seems odd is that of finding Yitzchok a wife. Avrohom Avinu is very particular that Eliezer find Yitzchok a wife from Avrohom Avinu’s native land, and more specifically, from Avrohom Avinu’s own kin. Avrohom Avinu also stresses that Yitzchok should not, under any circumstance, marry a Canaanite woman. However particular Avrohom was about the origins of Yitzchok’s wife, he was yet even more concerned that Yitzchok not leave Eretz-Yisroel – even for ‘Miss Right’. Here again, the issue demands a question: if it was so important to Avrohom Avinu that his son marry a woman from the right origins, and if doing so entailed Yitzchok merely crossing over the border into a neighboring country, why could Yitzchok then not do so? Furthermore, since the entire future of Klal-Yisroel depended on who Yitzchok would marry, would this not be all the more reason why Avrohom should have allowed Yitzchok to travel in order to get married?

                In last week’s Sedra the Torah tells us that as Avrohom, Yitzchok, Yishmael, and Eliezer approached Har Hamoriah.  Avrohom instructed Yishmael and Eliezer to wait with, “עם“(pronounced “Im”), the donkeys. However, the Medrash makes a play on words, pronouncing the word as “Am”, meaning people. The Medrash explains that Avrohom and Yitzchok were both able to see Hashem’s Divine Presence upon Har Hamoriah while Yishmael and Eliezer lacked this ability. It was this inability to connect with the Divine Presence that led Avrohom (according to the Medrash) to allude to them as being empty as donkeys – that they were “people the likes of donkeys”.

                Avrohom Avinu saw Eretz Yisroel in a different light—a land in which every aspect of life was different. To Avrohom Avinu, Eretz Yisroel wasn’t a land, but rather a relationship with Hashem. By living in Eretz-Yisroel, one lives with Hashem.

                While Ephron was talking about burial plots, Avrohom was talking about strengthening his bond to Eretz-Yisroel – his bond to Hashem through the act of burying Sarah Imeinu in Eretz Yisroel. He saw finding a burial spot as another opportunity to purchase land in Eretz-Yisroel—the more he could contribute to establish a permanent presence there, the better.

                No matter how crucial finding a wife for Yitzchok was – living with Hashem was yet more important.

                While some of us may not have been presented with the opportunity to live with Hashem, would we take it up if the opportunity arose, or would we not realize it because we don’t realize that we can live with Hashem? Do we realize that there is nothing more crucial than this?

                Our desire to have possession of and live in Eretz-Yisroel, should stem not so much from a desire to have merely a Jewish homeland, but rather from a yearning to cleave to Hashem – to live with Hashem, in His land. A Jew’s homeland is with Hashem.

A very warm Good Shabbos, Rabbi Y. Dov Krakowski

This week’s issue is sponsored as a zechus for a Refuah Shelaima for Perel Shvartzeh Bas Chana, Bsshch”y.

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