Comparing the Chayei Sara to the Vayera

If one compares Parshas Chayei Sarah to the previous Parshah, Vayera, they are very different. Parshas Vayera is filled with extraordinary events, events that people don’t experience throughout their entire life time. First it begins with Avraham Avinu interacting with angels and being promised that he’ll have a son at such an old age. Then it continues with the Sedom, and its surrounding cities, being flipped upside down and destroyed. And then it concludes with the Akeidah, a man willing to sacrifice his only child. However, Chayei Sarah is filled with events that most people experience in their life time such as Avraham Avinu buying land to bury his wife Sarah, and Avraham searching for a Shidduch for his son Yitzchak.

The message could be that in life, both these things need to be dealt with. Sometimes there could be times that are dramatic and extraordinary and sometimes there could be times that are regular and ordinary. A person has to know how to live and serve the Ribbono Shel Oilam in all circumstances.

In a sense, sometimes the Chayei Sarah mode is more challenging than the Vayera mode. When a person is challenged with big and dramatic things, he can push himself to newer heights. The drama and excitement could keep him going. However, when a person deals with the simple day to day events, very often those can be more challenging for a person. According to the Rabbeinu Yonah, buying מערת המכפילה from Efron was the final Nisayon of the עשרה נסיונות. The Nisayon being that he needed to buy it for a large sum of money even though Hashem had promised him the land. This Nisayon was following the Nisayon of the Akeidah. One would think that once Avraham passed the Nisayon of the Akeidah, this small difficulty of buying the land wouldn’t be so challenging and nevertheless we see it is an even greater Nisayon. The reason is because when a person is busy with his daily affairs, he can sometimes be caught off guard. The ability to move forward in the daily grind and not lose that excitement and drive is the challenge.

This idea can also be seen when looking at the difference between the 20th century and the 21st century. The previous century was filled with extraordinary events such as two world wars, the holocaust, and the creation of the state of Israel. As opposed to the current century, the issues and struggles are much smaller. Even something like a large company changing its name is considered front page news (referring to Facebook changing to Meta). But the idea is that being able to stay on guard, alert, alive, and involved when things aren’t dramatic sometimes a greater challenge. Therefore, when the things happening are really big, the effort to stay on guard, be alert and alive is actually small and minimal as opposed to when small things are happening, then it requires more effort to stay on guard, alert, alive, and be involved and shows more about the person.

Ignore in order to not question

The Parshah begins with the death of Sarah and the Pasuk says ויבא אברהם לספד לשרה ולבכתה and then immediately says ויקם אברהם מעל פני מתו וידבר אל בני חת לאמר that Avraham got up and went to deal with the בני חת to buy a burial place. According to the simple reading of the Pasuk, Avraham didn’t actually say a הספד. He came to be מספיד but it immediately says ויקם אברהם מעל פני מתו that he got up. Why did he not give a הספד?

The תפארת שלמה discusses this point and he writes the following:

במד"ר מלמד שהיה רואה מלאך המות מתריס כנגדו, הנראה בביאור המדרש כי לכאו' אין להבין מה היה קשה לו לבעל המדרש הזה ואיך מוכח מן המקרא הזה אכן הנ"ל בכוונת המדרש כי יל"ד בהכתוב שנאמר ויבא אברהם לספוד לשרה ולבכותה ולא נאמר שעשה כן והספידה רק תיכף ומיד כתיב ויקם אברהם מעל פני מתו למה התנחם מלהספידה. לכן בא הבעל המדרש לתרץ שהיה רואם מה"מ מתריס כנגדו כו' והענין הוא ע"ד הכתוב ויסתר משה פניו כי ירא מהביט אל האלהים. ור"ל דהנה זה כלל גדול במעלות הצדיקים המתהלכים לפני אלהים בתמים אף אם חלילה באה אליהם מדה"ד לאיזה יחיד או רבים ח"ו לא יתנו לבם להתבונן מהות הצרה ההיא ר"ל ולא יפול לבבם להקשות מדוע עשה ה' ככה לארץ הזאת כי לבם נכון ובטוח בד' כי צדיק וישר הוא אל אמונה ואין עול ונהפוך הוא כי מפי עליון לא יצאו הרעות רק כולם מכוונים לטובה ולכך באותו הענין כאשר ראה משרע"ה מרא' הסנה המור' על הגלות ולא רצה להתבונן מה זה ועל מה זה. אך ויסתר פניו כי ירא מהביט ולהסתכל אל בחי' האלהים והדינין פן יקשה בעיניו על ככה והא ראיה כאשר הלך בשליחות הזה ושם לבו לצערן של ישראל לא יכול לסבול עוד וצעק ואמר למה הרעות ונענש מיד באמור לו עתה תראה ולא יותר כמאמר חכז"ל. וז"ש הכתוב מי האיש החפץ חיים אוהב ימים לראות טוב. ר"ל מי הצדיק אשר כל הימים רואה כי הכל רק טוב מהש"י כנ"ל. אז ממילא עי"כ ינצור לשונו מרע כי לא ירע בעיניו כלל על הש"י. והנה כן הדבר היה אצל א"אע"ה כשבא לספוד לשרה ראה מה"מ מתריס כנגדו ר"ל כשהתחיל להתבונן על מיתת שרה הצדיקת הראשונה אשר מעולם אשר היתה אם כל בנ"י ותיקון חוה ורוה"ק מדברת מתוך גרונה ועתה פתאום מתה עליו אחרי מעלת העקידה שזכתה לבן צדיק כזה ולא הועיל לה כלום.כל זה היה היצה"ר מכניס בלבו של א"א לבעבור יקשה בעיניו וירע על מעשי אלהים אשר עשה לה. לכן כשראה זה מיד פירש ולא הספידה ויקם מעל פני מתו וידבר דברים אחרים כנ"ל.

The תפארת שלמה explains, as seen by Moshe Rabbeinu and the סנה, that the מעלות הצדיקים is to not question the ways of Hashem, and even when challenges and difficulties present themselves, they don’t pay attention to it nor ask why does Hashem do such things because they are בטוח בד' כי צדיק וישר הוא. That is why Moshe Rabbeinu turned away his face and didn’t want to look at the סנה because maybe if he looks- פן יקשה בעיניו על ככהand even so when he went on this mission and saw the pain of Klal Yisrael, he couldn’t handle it and he said למה הרעות. Similarly, when Avraham Avinu came to be מספיד his wife, the מלאך המות appeared in front of him, meaning he began to think about her death and how could such a thing happen to such a woman who was the תיקון for חוה and רוה"ק מדברת מתוך גרונה. How could it be that she died so suddenly immediate after she had a son such as Yitzchak who reached such a high level by the Akeidah? These Yetzer Hara put these thoughts into his mind when he came to be מספיד Sarah in order to have him question and doubt the ways of Hashem. Therefore, when he saw this, he immediately got up and left and dealt with other things and didn’t give a הספד on his wife.

We see from this that in spite of the fact that Avraham had just performed the Akeidah where he was willing to accept the word of Hashem to sacrifice his son, nevertheless he felt that thinking about the death of Sarah was considered to be dangerous and therefore he refrained from giving the הספד.

But how could it be that someone, who was willing to accept the will of Hashem to sacrifice his own son, found it problematic to think about the death of his wife? One would think that a person who so much so was able to accept the will of Hashem to the point where he was willing to sacrifice his own son wouldn’t have a problem accepting the will of Hashem. How could the difference in behavior between the Akeidah and the death of Sarah be understood?

The explanation could be that it is easier for a person to be מוסר נפש for Hashem when he is actively involved in the מסירת נפש as opposed to when one is passive and must simply accept the will of Hashem with no involvement. When something happens to a person, and something is taken away from him without him giving it, that is more difficult than when called upon to do something. Because Avraham played an active role in the Akeidah, that made it easier for him to accept the will of Hashem. However, by the death of Sarah, he had to accept something being taken away from him in a passive way which can be more challenging.

לא אכל עד אם דברתי דברי

When Eliezer comes to Rivka’s home, the Pasuk says ויושם לפניו לאכל ויאמר לא אכל עד אם דברתי דברי ויאמר דבר. Why was it so necessary for Eliezer to say what he needed to say before eating?

One answer could be based on what the Brisker Rav says on the Pasuk וירץ העבד לקראתה. He explains that Eliezer requested from Hashem that he should be able to fulfil his mission today- ויאמר ה' אלהי אדני אברהם הקרה נא לפני היום. Because it needed to be הקרה נא לפני היום, he ran and there is an emphasis throughout the Psukim that everything was done במהירות. According to this, it could be understood why Eliezer refused to eat before his mission was complete in order that it should be הקרה נא לפני היום.

The Rav heard another answer from his Rebbe Reb Berel Soloveitchik in the name of Reb Binyomin Diskin, the father of the Maharil Diskin. The Gemara in Gittin 23a says that a עבד can’t be a שליח to be מקדש a woman. Tosfos in Ksubos 7b says that Eliezer wasn’t just sent to find a wife for Yitzchak but he was actually a שליח to be מקדש Rivka. Being that the Avos kept the entire Torah, how was it possible for Avraham Avinu to send Eliezer to be מקדש Rivka if a עבד can’t be a שליח to be מקדש a woman?

It must be that Avraham freed Eliezer in order for him to be able to perform his שליחות. But one could ask that there is a איסור to free a slave, as the Pasuk says לעולם בהם תעבודו so how could Avraham free Eliezer. However, according to that which the Gemara in Gittin 41a says that by a חצי עבד חצי חורין we force the master to free him even though there is the עשה of לעולם בהם תעבודו because of the Mitzvah of פריה ורביה which is a מצוה רבה, so too Avraham as well was מדחה the עשה of לעולם בהם תעבודו because the פריה ורביה of Yitzchak was a מצוה רבה. But according to this, Avraham was only משחרר Eliezer על תנאי, that only if Rivka would accept the Kiddushin would he be freed because only then would it not be an issue of לעולם בהם תעבודו.

Lastly, in Shulchan Aruch OH 199 in הלכות זימון it says that עבדים מזמנין לעצמן. So Eliezer didn’t know who he could be מזמן with because he wasn’t sure what his status was, whether he was a עבד or a בן חורין. Therefore, he refused to eat until it was clear whether or not he had fulfilled his שליחות and Rivka accepted the Kiddushin and then it would be clear that he was משוחרר and could be מזמן with the others.

Another answer could be based on the following. The Rama in אבן העזר ס' סא סעיף א brings the Minhag for a Chosson and Kallah to fast the day of the wedding. The Beis Shmuel in ס"ק ו brings from the מהר"ם מינץ two reasons for this. Either because it’s a יום סליחה or שמא ישתכרו ולא תהיה דעתו מיושבת עליהם. He continues that a נפקא מינה between these two reasons is if a father accepts Kiddushin on behalf of his daughter, according to the second reason, he has to fast. According to this logic, the same thing would hold true for a שליח who is doing Kiddushin on someone’s behalf. Therefore it could be understood why Eliezer didn’t eat until Rivka accepted the Kiddushin because he was a שליח for Kiddushin as Tosfos in Ksubos 7a says.

The last answer could be based on the Halacha the Rama brings in אבן העזר ס' נ סע' ג regarding סבלונות that a Chosson gives to a Kallah thatי"א דאפילו בדבר מאכל ומשתה ודברים מועטים דאין חוזרים דוקא כשאכל שם החתן ואז אפילו מה שהוא בעין אינו חוזר, אבל אי לא אכל שם, חוזר הכל that small presents are not given back if the Chosson ate in the Kallahs house. But if the Chosson did not eat in the Kallahs house, then even small presents are returned. If Eliezer would eat a Seudah and the Shidduch would fall through, then he would have to leave the presents so therefore he refrained from eating.

What is really important

When Avraham approaches Eliezer to task him with the mission of finding a wife for Yitzchak, the Pasuk says ויאמר אברהם אל עבדו זקן ביתו המשל בכל אשר לו. Why was it necessary for the Pasuk to say that Eliezer was זקן ביתו המשל בכל אשר לו?

The באר מים חיים (it is said about Reb Chaim Brisker that he would often learn this sefer and say over this particular piece from the sefer) asks this question and answers the following:

צריך להבין למה פרט הכתוב כל סימני עבדו זקן ביתו ומושל בכל אשר לו מה נפקא מינה מזה והיה די לומר ויאמר אל עבדו שים נא וגו', ואמנם הכתוב מגיד בזה צדקת אברהם ידיד ה' אשר בהגיעו לעשות אחת ממצוות ה' עשה בכל התחבולות וחשב בכל המחשבות לעשותו על צד היותר טוב, ופחד ורעד על אחת מני אלף אולי יארע לו דבר תקלה, ולכן עשה כל המעשים בכל יכולתו לראות בכל האופנים שיהיה נעשה המצוה בשלימות שלא יתקלקל ח"ו.

He continues to say that when it comes to Halacha and Mitzvos, people tend to be lax relying on lenience’s and the bare minimum. For example, if a person claims to be a שוחט, we don’t do too much research - רוב מצויין אצל שחיטה מומחין הן and we assume people have חזקת כשרות. But when it comes to a person’s money, lending someone money, we don’t rely on any חזקת כשרות and we go to extreme lengths to research a person before dealing with them regarding money. However we by Avraham Avinu that was not the case. When it came to his money and possessions, he had no issues giving it all over to Eliezer to be in control of. But when it comes to the Mitzvah of getting Yitzchak married, Avraham Avinu goes to extreme lengths to guarantee that it will get done out of extreme fear that maybe something will happen and the Mitzvah won’t be performed. Therefore he does everything in his power, even making Eliezer swear, in order to make sure the Mitzvah will get done. This is why the Torah stresses all these seemingly insignificant details about Eliezer that he was זקן ביתו ומושל בכל אשר לו.


The Rav heard the following from Reb Heshel Ginsburg who came to Eretz Yisrael as a child and he learned in Yeshivas Sfas Emes. He said that the Imrei Emes used to learn every Friday on the porch with his young son the entire Parshah and the Haftorah, the Pnei Menachem. It’s impressive to note that even though the Imrei Emes was a massive Talmid Chacham at that point, he still took the time and had the patience to sit and learn Chumash with a child.

He overheard them learning the Haftorah for Parshas Chayei Sarah which begins with והמלך דוד זקן בא בימים. The Imrei Emes asked his son that Dovid Hamelech only lived until 70 years old which isn’t so old. How could the Pasuk say about him זקן בא בימים? He answered that Chazal say Dovid Hamelech wasn’t supposed to have any life but he got 70 years from Adam HaRishon. Being that he probably got the last 70 years of Adam HaRishon’s extremely long life, Dovid Hamelech started off old and at the end of his life was extremely old. Therefore at the end of his life, the Pasuk could say זקן בא בימים.


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