Hamaayan / The Torah Spring
Edited by Shlomo Katz
Volume XIII, Number 2
25 Cheshvan 5759
November 14, 1998
Orach Chaim 10:7-9
Yerushalmi Pesachim 57
Most of this week's parashah is taken up by the story of
Eliezer's search for a wife for Yitzchak. Regarding this, R' Dr.
Shlomo Breuer z"l (son-in-law and successor to R' Samson R.
Hirsch z"l) writes:
We note particularly the care with which Avraham defines the
choice of a wife for his son. Above all, he requires Eliezer to
swear not to select a wife for Yitzchak from among the daughters
R' Breuer continues: What a vivid contrast between this action
of Avraham and the manner in which we often relate to matters
which concern our Judaism. The wise King Shlomo says
(paraphrased from Mishlei 2:4): If only you were to seek the
Divine words as you seek money. If only you would devote the
attention to detail given to the acquisition of material goods
and values, also to the most valuable of all possessions, the
Torah. Or, in the words of one Talmudic sage (Berachot 28b),
"Would that you would fear G-d as you fear men."
How careful we are, how conscientious, when our physical well-
being is involved! We try to avoid any action that could be the
least bit damaging to our aspirations and undertakings, and we
are very eager not to endanger that which we have acquired with
such effort. Yet how little attention do we give to the most
sacred matters of life, the practice of the Divine-willed duties?
How careful are we about entrusting our business or credit to our
fellow man? R' Breuer queries rhetorically. Yet, he observes, in
matters of kashrut, how often are we satisfied with any kosher
label or with vague and indecisive information which suffices to
allow us to eat in peace? How easily do we trust unknown dealers
of tefilin or mezuzot with the result that we recite hundreds of
berachot in vain? And, when it comes to marriage of our
children, how careful are we - and rightly so - to investigate
the income and health of the prospective mate, yet when it comes
to investigating his Jewishness - in thought and deed - we often
exhibit an irresponsible attitude.
Let us instead learn from Avraham. (Chochmah U' Mussar p.63)
"Kiryat Arba, which is Chevron . . ." (23:2)
The midrash states that Chevron has four names: "Chevron",
"Kiryat Arba", "Mamre" and "Eshkol." R' Yitzchak of Volozhin z"l
(see page 4) explains that all of these names come from the fact
that Adam is buried there, and he elaborates as follows:
"Kiryat Arba"/"The City of Four" refers to the fact that Adam
was an amalgamation of the four building blocks of the universe:
fire, wind, water and earth.
"Chevron" (from "chibbur"/"connection") refers to the fact that
Adam connected his soul to G-d.
"Mamre" (from "le'hamir"/"to rebel") alludes to Adam's
rebellion against G-d (when he ate from the etz ha'daat).
Finally, the name "Eshkol" recalls that Hashem does not punish
a righteous person for any sinful thoughts if he does not, in
fact, sin. [Adam, however, did sin. Note that R' Yitzchak offers
a lengthy explanation of how the name Eshkol relates to this
Why does our verse mention only two of the four names, "Kiryat
Arba" and "Chevron"? Because only those two relate to Sarah,
whose death and burial are described here. She, like Adam, was
made of the four building blocks and she, like Adam, was close to
G-d. However, she never rebelled against Hashem and she was
perfectly righteous and never had a sinful thought.
Rashi writes that Chevron is called "Kiryat Arba"/"The City of
Four" because of the four giants who lived there and because of
the four couples (Adam/Chava, Avraham/Sarah, Yitzchak/Rivka,
Yaakov/Leah) who are buried there. Maharal (16th century)
The fact that there were four giants living in Chevron
indicates that that place was especially suitable for nurturing
people of physical stature. Since the physical nature of a place
alludes to the spiritual nature of the corresponding place in
Heaven, it is appropriate that four (couples of) spiritual giants
should rest in Chevron.
"Grant me an estate for a burial site with you, that I may
bury my dead from before me." (23:4)
If at first Avraham asked that a burial site be granted to him,
why did he later insist on paying for it? R' Yochanan Luria z"l
(died 1577) explains as follows:
Just as Avraham was pleased to perform kindness for others, he
believed that it would please others if he received kindness from
them. Of course, Avraham's request from them was minimal; he
asked only for a burial place for Sarah - "that I may bury my
dead (singular) from before me."
They answered him, "In the choicest of our burial places
(plural) bury your dead," i.e., they offered him a family plot
for his descendants. However, they immediately followed this my
saying, "Any one (singular) of us will not withhold his burial
place (singular) from you." Seeing the size of their offer
decline, Avraham realized that their kindness was not sincere,
and he offered to pay for Sarah's burial place.
In contrast, R' Luria continues, a person who is sincerely kind
always delivers more than he offered. Thus, in last week's
parashah, Avraham offered the angels bread, but he brought them
also cheese and meat. Similarly, in this week's parashah,
Eliezer asks Rivka for a drink of water and she promptly offers
to water his camels as well.
R' Luria adds: This is why Avraham made very clear (in verse
13) that he was buying the entire field of Efron, not just the
burial cave. The halachah states that a seller is presumed to be
generous, i.e., if a person sells a plot of land which is
surrounded on all sides by the seller's field, we presume that
the seller intends to give the buyer a right-of-way to his plot.
However, this is only a presumption. Where, as here, the seller
has demonstrated his stinginess, the presumption might not apply.
"They called to Rivka and they said to her, 'Will you go
with this man?'
"She said, 'I will go'." (24:58)
The midrash states that because of this response, Bnei Yisrael
merited to leave Egypt with great wealth. Why? R' Moshe
Teitelbaum shlita (the current "Satmar Rebbe") explains as
Why did Rivka agree to go with Eliezer immediately rather than
fulfilling her family's request that she delay? After all, the
gemara (Ketubot 57a) states that a bride is entitled to twelve
months to prepare her trousseau!
The answer is that Rivka heard from Eliezer that he had
miraculously arrived in Charan on the same day that he left Be'er
Sheva. Why had this occurred? The gemara (Yoma 28b) teaches
that Eliezer was an instructor in Avraham's yeshiva; perhaps
this miracle occurred because Eliezer could not bear to be away
from learning and teaching Torah. And, seeing this, Rivka did
not wish to delay Eliezer's return, and she willingly gave up her
trousseau in order to hasten his journey.
Rivka set an example for her descendants when it comes to
setting priorities between material possessions and Torah study.
Because of her example and as a reward for her actions, it was
possible for Bnei Yisrael to have wealth and not be distracted
from Torah study by that wealth. To the contrary, Bnei Yisrael
willingly gave of their wealth to build the mishkan.
"The servant told Yitzchak all the things that he had done.
And Yitzchak brought her into the tent of Sarah his mother,
and he married Rivka . . ." (24:66-67)
Onkelos writes: "And Yitzchak brought her into the tent of
Sarah his mother, and he saw that her deeds were good like those
of his mother Sarah, and he married Rivka." In other words,
comments R' Velvel "Brisker" Soloveitchik z"l (died 1959),
despite hearing of the numerous miracles that Eliezer experienced
- he made the round trip to and from Charan in one day; Rivka's
father, who opposed the match, died, etc. - Yitzchak did not
marry Rivka until he saw that her deeds were like those of his
R' Yitzchak of Volozhin z"l
R' Yitzchak was the son of, and successor to, R' Chaim of
Volozhin, founder and head of the yeshiva of Volozhin. He was
born in 5540 (1879/80) and died in 5609 (1848/9).
In addition to his duties as rabbi and rosh yeshiva, R'
Yitzchak was a leading spokesman for Jewish causes. It is said
that he won the respect of the Russian Czar through the following
The Czar asked R' Yitzchak, "I know that the Jews pray for my
welfare on every Shabbat, and I even asked a Jew to translate the
prayer for me. However, now I have learned that the Jews in
every country recite the identical prayer for their own ruler.
If the Jews in my kingdom pray for my success and the Jews in my
rival's kingdom pray for his success, what will be the outcome?"
R' Yitzchak replied with a smile, "Since your majesty had the
prayer translated, you certainly noticed that it refers to G-d as
'The One Who makes a path in the sea and a lane in the fierce
"The answer is as follows: A ship that wishes to travel
westward needs an east wind to blow. On the other hand, a ship
which must travel eastward needs a west wind. How can both ships
"Hashem's greatness is that He can satisfy both! So, too, we
pray for your success while our brothers in other lands pray for
the success of their king, and Hashem's greatness is such that He
can answer both prayers."
On another occasion, R' Yitzchak presented himself to a Russian
official wearing his Shabbat clothes. The official taunted him,
"Doesn't Mishlei (25:6) say, 'Do not beautify yourself before the
king'? Furthermore, doesn't the Talmud (Chagigah 9b) say,
'Poverty looks nice on Jews'?"
R' Yitzchak responded, "One of your questions answers the
other. Poverty looks nice on the Jews, but when I come before
the king I may not beautify myself. Therefore, I have removed my
poverty and dressed up in fine clothes."
R' Yitzchak was known for avoiding lashon hara and never
speaking ill of another person. Once, when he had no choice but
to say that someone had lied, he refused to say it directly. He
said, "This person has a phenomenal memory. Some people remember
things that happened ten years ago. Others can remember things
that happened fifty years ago. This man's memory is so
phenomenal that he can remember things that never happened."
R' Yitzchak's works include Mili D'Avot on Pirkei Avot and a
Torah commentary entitled Peh Kadosh. Among his sons in law was
R' Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin (the "Netziv"). (Source: Gedolei
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