Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #5 Chai Sarah (Sarah’s life) B’resheit (Genesis 23:1-25:18
Haftarah: M’lakhim Alef (1 Kings) 1:1-31
B’rit Chadashah: Mattityahu (Matthew) 8:19-22; 27:3-10
This parashah emphasizes the concept and importance of not neglecting the past and planning for the future. Sarah had died and Avraham took time to mourn and grieve, but did not let his loss consume him to the point of rendering him a useless vessel for G-d. He honored Sarah by finding a special place in which to bury her, paying an inflated price for the cave set by Ephron, who was clearly a greedy man. After burying Sarah, he turned to the important issue of finding an appropriate wife for Isaac, the son of promise.
Although we do not know the exact cause of Sarah’s death, the Sages teach that it was because of the news of the Akeidah because the narratives of her death and the Akeidah follow one another. The sages teach that Sarah was told by Satan that Avraham had actually killed Isaac, and she died in her grief (Targum Yonasan). This would explain why Avraham and Isaac were not present when she died. In verse 2 we see the terms mourn and weep. This implies that he wept openly for her at the time of her death but carried his grief in his heart and in the privacy of his home. This implication supports the concept of not being afraid to show grief in public, but not letting our grief disable our service to G-d. Note the phrase in verse 3; “then he got up from his dead one…” Even when we are grieved to our core, we must learn to trust in our Creator that He is with us and will encourage and lead us forward (Proverbs 3:5-6).
The cave in which Sarah was buried is called Machpelah because it contained two chambers, an upper and lower level. Throughout the chapter describing the process Avraham went through to obtain the cave for Sara’s burial and the adjacent land, Ephron’s name is spelled with a “reish”, but where the transaction was completed, the “reish” is omitted, illustrating that Ephron’s stature was diminished. At the beginning of the narrative, it seems that he was kind, offering the cave as a gift. But as the narrative progresses, his greed becomes transparent. He demanded large shekels (negotiable currency) which were called centenaria. The Talmud (Bava Metzia 87a) explains that each shekel was worth 2,500 ordinary shekels (Rashi). This means that Avraham paid one million regular shekels for the cave. Avraham did not hesitate in this transaction because of his devotion to Sarah. He honored her memory even when there was no one around to witness this act of love. The purchase of the cave is one of three examples of the Jews incontestable possession of the Holy Land. The cave at Machpelah, the site of the Temple which is not located on the Temple Mount as many believe, and the Tomb of Yosef were purchased without bargaining and with legal tender.
Having laid his beloved Sarah to rest, Avraham turned from the past and looked toward the future. His next mission was to find a suitable wife for Isaac. This meant making sure was from their kinsmen. Avraham chose his most trusted servant, knowing G-d would be with him and guide him to the perfect match because of Eliezer’s love for G-d and his devotion to Avraham. The name Eliezer means “my G-d is help” and this man was named at his birth. It is so interesting that Eliezer would live up to his full potential at this time in his life!
It is usually forbidden to base our actions on omens or signs as Eliezer asked of G-d (24:13-15).The Sages say that this prohibition only applies to omens unrelated to the choice being made, such as saying if the sun shines tomorrow it is a sign that I should marry this woman” (The Chumash, 1993,1994, p. 112). Eliezer was not looking for and omen, but proof of her qualifications as the one G-d would choose for Isaac (Ran, Chullin 95b). G-d’s providence in this situation is demonstrated by the fact that Rivkah had left her house to go to the well before Eliezer finished his supplication to G-d. Rivkah’s kindness was demonstrated by her hospitality toward Eliezer and his camels. She first provided water for him; Eliezer not knowing she was going to water his camels too. Therefore, he was not hurried to drink before he was satisfied. But it takes a lot of physical strength to water camels, drawing water from a well. According to R’ Hirsch’s commentary, ten camels would drink at least 140 gallons of water. This knowledge sheds new light on how difficult this task was for Rivkah. Not only was she kind, but also compassionate. She drew water from the well and poured it into the trough for all the camels to drink at once, rather than allowing each camel to drink individually. If she had provided water in this way, she would have had to make a choice as to which camel was watered first (Kedushas Levi), who was a Hasidic master and Jewish leader in the 18th century. We might ask ourselves why Eliezer didn’t offer to help Rivkah with this difficult task. The Sages teach that this was because he was waiting to see if indeed Rivkah was the woman G-d chose for Isaac. Finally, Eliezer was confident that Rivkah was G-d’s pick for Isaac, and he presented her with gifts for a bride before he even knew her name. According to the Chumash, the gifts alluded to the destiny of Isaac’s future offspring. The beka is a half-shekel that is also the amount every Jew had to contribute to the Sanctuary every year. The two bracelets symbolized the two Tablets, and the weight of ten shekels symbolized the Ten Commandments (Rashi). Although it might seem as if Isaac and Rivkah met each other by chance while Isaac was walking in the field and Rivkah was on her way with Eliezer in the same field, we can rest assured that this timing was the perfect will of G-d. The groom coming from his dwelling place for his bride, and the bride headed up to the groom where they would go to his mother’s tent to become one. Why Sarah’s tent? When tasked with building a home for G-d, Sara’s home or tent was used as a blueprint. Rivkah was to be the next matriarch of the Jewish people; to carry on what Sarah started and established as a G-dly home. Therefore, it was no coincidence that Rivkah and Isaac consummated their relationship in a G-dly home (tent), the home of the first matriarch. Genesis 2:24 provides another parallel between G-d’s plan for men and women, and this narrative: “This is why a man is to leave his father and mother and stick with his wife, and they are to be one flesh.” Isaac left his father and his mother (by leaving her tent since she had passed) and was united with Rivkah to continue G-d’s plan for Israel and mankind.
Haftarah: M’lakhim Alef (1 Kings) 1;1-31
This week’s haftarah describes King David in his elder years, echoing this week’s Torah reading, which mentions that “Abraham was old, advanced in days.”
King David was old. As we age, we lose the insulation provided by fat in some areas of our bodies. David was not exempt from this and he was perpetually cold. A young maiden, Abishag of Shunam, was recruited to serve and provide warmth for the elderly monarch.
Seeing his father advancing in age, Adoniahu, one of King David’s sons, seized the opportunity to prepare the ground for his ascension to his father’s throne upon the latter’s passing — despite King David’s express wishes that his son Solomon succeed him. Adoniahu recruited two influential individuals — the High Priest and the commander of David’s armies — both of whom had fallen out of David’s good graces, to champion his cause. He arranged to be transported in a chariot with fifty people running before him and invited a number of his sympathizers to a festive party where he publicized his royal ambitions.
The prophet Nathan encouraged Bat Sheva, mother of Solomon, to approach King David and plead with him to reaffirm his choice of Solomon as his successor. This she did, mentioning Adoniahu’s recent actions of which the king had been unaware. Nathan later joined the Bat Sheva and the king to express support for Bat Sheva’s request. King David acceded to their request: “Indeed,” he told Bat Sheva, “as I swore to you by the Lord God of Israel saying, ‘Surely Solomon, your son, shall reign after me and he shall sit on my throne in my stead,’ surely, so will I swear this day.”
B’rit Chadashah: Focus on Mattityahu (Matthew) 8:19-22
“A Torah-teacher approached and said to him (Yahshua), ‘Rabbi, I will follow you wherever you go.’ Yahshua said to him, ‘The foxes have holes, and the birds flying about have nests, but the Son of Man has no home of his own.’ Another of the disciples said to him, ‘Sir, first let me go and bury my father.’ But Yahshua replied,’ Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”
Son of Man: One of the titles of the Messiah based on Daniel 7:13-14, where the text has “bar-enosh” (Aramaic). “Bar-enosh,” like Hebrew ben adam, can also mean “son of man,” “typical man,” “one schooled to be a man,” or simply “man.” both heaven and on earth to be a man. Yahshua refers to himself by this title frequently, stressing his full identification with the human condition (Rom.5:12-21, 8:3-39; 1 Cor.15:21-49; Phil. 2:5-11.
In verses 21-22 we learn that IF we consider ourselves true followers, talmidim, disciples of Yahshua and lovers of G-d, we must rearrange our priorities. This disciple’s father is not physically dead. This son wants to return to the comfort of his current existence and remain home until his father dies. It is only after he gains his inheritance that he might consider following Yahshua. On this and other excuses read Luke 9:57-62. Yahshua explicitly refers to those who choose the existence in this world over serving G-d/Yahshua as “the dead.” Let the spiritually dead, those concerned with the benefits of this world, including inheritances, remain with each other in life and eventually bury their own physically dead. The true disciple must get his/her priorities straight. Consequences of not making this choice are discussed in Matthew (13:7,22 ;19:16-26; Luke 14:15-24). May we “run to the well” as did Rivkah to serve our G-d as the opportunities present themselves, and in the meantime grow in our love and obedience to G-d’s Torah.
R. Tamah Davis-Hart