Weekly Reading Insights: 

Chayei Sara


From The Masters Of Kabbalah and Chumash (5 Books of Moses)

13th century - "RambaN" - Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman

14th century - "Bachya" - Rabbi Bachya ben Asher

16th century - "Alsheich" - Rabbi Moshe Alshech of Tsfat

17th century - "Shelah" - Rabbi Yeshaiya Horowitz

18th century - "Ohr HaChayim" - Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar


"...and the Eternal had blessed Avraham in all things" [24:1]

Our Rabbis have a wonderful insight into this verse. They said: [Baba Bathra 16 b.] "..and the Eternal had blessed Avraham 'bakol' (in all things)". Rabbi Meir said that Avraham was blessed in that he did not have a daughter. Rabbi Yehuda said that he did have a daughter. Acheirim say that he did have a daughter and her name was Bakol. The intent of Acheirim and their controversy with Rabbi Yehuda were not merely to inform us of the name of this daughter. However, Acheirim established a new interpretation on this verse, a very profound matter, and they explained with it one of the secrets of the Torah. Thus they said that the word bakol hints at a great matter, namely, that the Holy One, blessed be He, has an attribute called Kol (All), so called because it is the foundation for everything. It is with reference to this attribute that it says "I am the Eternal that makes Kol (all)" [Isaiah 44:24]. And this is also what Scripture says "And the profit of the earth is 'bakol' (in all)" [Ecclesiastes 5:8], that is to say, the profit of the earth and the abundant goodness that is bestowed upon all that come into the world is on account of this attribute Kol. It is the eight attribute of the thirteen attributes. And there is another attribute called bat (literally "daughter") that emanates from it, and with it He moves everything. This is "the Court of the Holy One, blessed be He," that is hinted at in the word, VaHaShem (And the Eternal), in all places. It is called kallah (bride) in the book of The Song of Songs because it is comprised of hakol (the all), and it is this attribute which the Sages have surnamed Knesseth Yisrael (the assembly of Israel) in many places because it is the gathering of hakol (the All). It was this attribute which was to Avraham as a bat because he was a man of kindness, and he conducted himself in accordance with it. This is why Acheirim said that this blessing with which Avraham had been blessed in all things does not allude either to his having begotten a daughter from his wife Sara, as Rabbi Yehuda said, or not, as Rabbi Meir claimed, but instead it hints at a great matter, i.e., that he was blessed with an attribute called bat which is contained in the attribute Kol, and is therefore also called Kol, being analogous to the expression, "For My name is in him" [Exodus 23:21]. Thus Avraham was blessed in heaven and on earth. This is why he said, "By the Eternal, the G-d of heaven and the G-d of the earth". [Verse 3 here]


Rabbeinu Bachya

"Yitschak went out to meditate in the field…." [24:63]

A Midrashic interpretation based on Bereshit Rabbah 60:14: The word lasuach means "to pray", as it does in all instances where it occurs. A well known example is Psalms 102:1- "tefillah le-ani ki ye'atof velivneh HaShem yispoch sicho - A prayer of the lowly man when he is faint and pours forth his plea before the Lord." Our sages in Berachot 26 have derived their view that Yitschak inaugurated the daily Mincha prayer from this verse.
A Kabbalistic approach: The words lasuach besadeh teach that when someone prays to the One and only G-d he employs a kinuy, "a substitute" of G-d's name. In other words, one is not to enunciate the four-lettered name of G-d yud-keh-vav-keh. Having used a substitute name for G-d (out of reverence for the "real" name), one will "find" G-d. This is the mystical dimension of the words lasuach besadeh. We find something similar with Yaakov in Gen. 28:11 where the Torah describes such a prayer as occurring in the evening, veyivgah bamakom, the word bamakom ("the Place") being the substitution for the real name of G-d. We employ this substitute in the Haggadah of Pesach when we recite baruch hamakom, meaning "blessed be the Lord". All the activities of G-d are ascribed to such substitute names, kinu'im, when they are still in the theoretical stage, whereas they are ascribed to the "real" name of G-d when they have reached the operative stage. We find confirmation of this in Jeremiah 8:14, "For the Lord our G-d has doomed us, He has made us drink a bitter draft, for we have sinned against G-d" Significantly, the verse does not end with "for we have sinned against Him," as we would have expected but the prophet says "against G-d." This means that up until the moment G-d actually executed His judgment on us, a "substitute" attribute rather than His Essence was involved. It is worth reflecting on this.



"They blessed Rebecca and said to her,: "Our sister, grow into thousands of myriads....." [24:60]

Their blessing was that Rebeccah and not any other future wife of Isaac should be the one through whom G-d's blessing for Isaac would be fulfilled. The word revavah, ten thousand, occurs 4 times in the Bible. In order that Lavan and his mother should not boast about the effectiveness of their blessing, Rebeccah was denied children until Isaac prayed for her (Bereishit Rabba 60:13). The allegorical meaning of Deut. 32:30 "will 2 put revavah (ten thousand) to flight?" is, that the two, i.e. Lavan and his mother, thwarted the fulfilment of their blessing. On the other hand, the blessing was fulfilled on Avraham, who begat Isaac at the age of 100. This is the meaning of Leviticus 26:8 "...and 100 from you will put 'revavah' to flight" The last instance of the word revavah in Ezekiel 16:7 means, that just as the field will grow after the Jewish people have prayed for rain, so Isaac's seed could not sprout until after his and his wife's prayers.



The Zohar on this portion (page 34, Sulam edition) writes as follows: Rabbi Shimon said that when Abraham entered the cave of Machpela to bury Sarah, Adam and Eve arose as they did not want to remain buried in there. They complained that they had suffered sufficient disgrace in the world beyond the grave where they were now having to face G-d because they had been guilty of bringing sin into the world. Now they should suffer additional shame when constantly having to face a pair of people so much better than they?

Abraham replied that he was prepared to pray to G-d on Adam's behalf so that he would cease to suffer embarrassment before G-d in the future and that G-d would forgive Adam his sin. "After that, Abraham buried Sarah [in Hebrew, 'kavar et Sarah'] his wife." (Gen. 23:19) What is the meaning of the words, "after that"? It means that Abraham proceeded to bury Sarah as soon as the dialogue between him and Adam was over. The Torah writes that Abraham "kavar et Sarah", instead of Abraham "kavar l'Sarah"; this means that he also reburied Eve. After that, the minds of Adam and Eve were put at rest.

Ohr HaChayim

"Sara died at Kiryat Arba" [23:2]

We must not misunderstand that Kiryat Arba was the cause of her death. The reason the town was mentioned and was so named is to tell us that it was built on the four basic elements. Death normally implies a departure from, of disintegration of, the four basic elements that a body is composed of. When the Torah adds that "Kiryat Arba" is also known as Chevron, this is an allusion to the word chibur, something that is joined together. The message is that when the righteous "die", this is not to be viewed as a process of disintegration. The righteous are still called "alive" even when they have ceased to function in regular bodies on this earth. While the righteous are alive in this world, the four basic material elements that every human being is composed of become transformed into something spiritual and attach themselves to their souls by means of the good deeds that such persons perform during their sojourn on earth.

Maimonides illustrates this somewhat in the fourth chapter of Hilchot Yesodei Torah where he describes that one element is capable of becoming transformed into another element which was similar to it, i.e. earth can be transformed into water, When man cleaves to G-d all his elements become transformed into the element fire which forms the basis of the soul. Kabbalists are familiar with this.

The Torah adds (the apparently superfluous words) "in the land of Canaan." This is an allusion to the fact that this present world is called Eretz Canaan, a simile for the evil urge, Satan. This is so because the existence of Satan is the incentive for us to overcome him and to attain holiness and sanctity (Zohar, 1,80).



Ramban - credits
Adapted from the 13th century classic by the illustrious scholar, philosopher and defender of the faith, Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman-known as 'RAMBAN' or 'Nachmanides', a master kabbalist in his own right and a major link in the transmission of Jewish mysticism-based on the excellent annotated English translation, Nachmanides on the Torah, by Rabbi Dr. Charles B. Chavel

Bachya - credits
Selected with permission from the seven-volume English edition of The Torah Commentary of Rebbeinu Bachya, as translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk. Rabbi Bachya ben Asher [1255-1340] of Saragosa, Spain, was the outstanding pupil of Rabbi Shlomo ben Aderet (the "Rashba"), a main disciple of Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman (the "Ramban"). Several books have been written about the Kabballah-based portions of R. Bachya's commentary.

Alsheich - credits
Adapted from Torat Moshe - the 16th commentary of Rabbi Moshe Alshech, the "Preacher of Zefat" on the Torah, as translated and condensed in the English version of Eliyahu Munk)

Shelah - credits
Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz was born in Prague around the year 1565. He served as Rabbi of Cracow and other congregations before he was appointed as the Rabbi of the community of Frankfurt on Main in the year 1610. In 1916, Rabbi Horowitz moved to Prague where he became the Chief Rabbi of the city. He moved to Eretz Yisrael about 1621. He was rabbi in Jerusalem and in Tiberias, where he died in or about 1630. In addition to his magnus opus, Shenei Luchot HaBrit, he also compiled an edition of the prayer-book with a comprehensive commentary. Many of his innovations, including his formulation of the Kol Nidrei prayer, have become part and parcel of the Ashkenazi Siddur.

Ohr HaChayim - credits
Selected with permission from the five-volume English edition of Ohr HaChaim: the Torah Commentary of Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar, as translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk.
The holy Rabbi Chayim ben Moses Attar was born in Sale, Western Morocco, on the Atlantic in 1696. His immortal commentary on the Five Books Of Moses, Or Hachayim, was printed in Venice in 1741, while the author was on his way to the Holy Land. He acquired a reputation as a miracle worker, hence his title "the holy," although some apply this title only to his Torah commentary.

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