Hamaayan / The Torah Spring
Edited by Shlomo Katz
Volume XV, No.5
27 Marcheshvan 5761
November 25, 2000
Orach Chaim 336:1-3
Daf Yomi (Bavli): Nazir 39
Daf Yomi (Yerushalmi): Bava Batra 4
The Zohar states that the reason Sarah's death and burial are
described so prominently in the Torah is that Sarah descended to
Egypt, was taken to Pharaoh, and was saved. R' Avraham Bornstein
z"l (see page 4) explains:
Sarah's trial in Egypt was to keep her body pure, which she
did. (Similarly, every person's trial on earth is to keep his
body pure, for the body is easily soiled by sin, unlike the soul,
which is inherently pure.) And, because even Sarah's body was
pure, it is fitting that she be honored by having her burial and
eulogy -- both of which relate only to the body, not to the soul,
which does not die -- described in the Torah.
Rashi writes (near the end of the parashah) that Sarah's
Shabbat candles burned from one Friday to the next. R' Bornstein
explains that this symbolizes Sarah's purity, for the test that
one experiences in going from Shabbat to the workweek is the same
type of test that Sarah experienced by going from her pure home
to Pharaoh's palace. Likewise, it is the same test that the soul
experiences when it leaves G-d's throne to enter this world.
We read in the Torah (Devarim 5:15) that Shabbat commemorates
the Exodus. In light of the above, we can more readily
understand that our leaving behind the impurities of the workweek
is akin to our ancestors' leaving behind the impurities of Egypt.
Based on this explanation, one might think that one who has
slipped during the week cannot merit to experience Shabbat.
However, says R' Bornstein, Hashem's kindness is such that every
person can be elevated by Shabbat. (Neot Desheh)
"Rivka raised her eyes and she saw Yitzchak, and she fell
from on top of the gamal / camel. She said to the servant,
'Who is that man walking in the field toward us?'
"And the servant said, 'He is my master.' [Rivka] then took
the veil and covered herself." (24:64-65)
There are many questions to be asked about these verses, says
R' Shaul Yedidya Elazar Taub z"l (the "Modzhitzer Rebbe"; died
1947). First, why did Rivka fall off of the camel? Second, why
did she say, "Who is that man walking in the field toward us?"
when it would have sufficed to say, "Who is that man walking in
the field?" Third, why did the servant (Eliezer) answer, "He is
my master," whereas, throughout the parashah, he had referred to
Yitzchak as, "the son of my master"?
Also, Rashi comments on the words, "She saw Yitzchak": "She saw
his hadar / splendor and she was astounded." What does this
Finally, we must understand Eliezer's rationale for choosing
Rivka as a wife for Yitzchak. The test that Eliezer used to find
a girl fit to enter Avraham's household -- asking for a drink and
evaluating her response -- related to the attribute of chessed /
kindness, which was the attribute in which Avraham himself
excelled. However, the Sages teach that Yitzchak's own attribute
was not chessed, but gevurah / strength or justice!
R' Taub answers all of these questions as follows: In the High
Holiday prayers, we describe Hashem as: "Garbed in vengeance, His
concealment is uprightness." Hashem sometimes shows us His
"strong" or "vengeful" side, but that is only His outer garment,
so-to-speak. Concealed within all of Hashem's acts is chessed.
Yitzchak, too, exhibited gevurah outwardly, but concealed
within him was the same chessed that his father practiced.
However, when Rivka first saw Yitzchak, she saw his outer garb,
his hadar. ("Hadar" refers to the outer garb; for example, an
etrog is called [Vayikra 23:40], "the fruit of the hadar tree,"
because the outer garb of the etrog is splendorous, while the
inside of the etrog is not particularly tasty.) This caused her
to fall off the gamal, i.e., it caused her to question Yitzchak's
commitment to gemilut chassadim / kindness. She asked Eliezer,
"Who is that man walking in the field _toward_us_?" He is going
in the opposite direction from our own; we practice chessed, but
he practices gevurah!
Eliezer answered, "He is my master." Yitzchak exemplifies the
same chessed as my master, Avraham, and his gevurah is only
outward. Rivka then took the veil and covered herself, i.e., she
concealed her chessed just as Yitzchak's chessed was concealed.
From the haftarah . . .
"King David was old, advanced in years; they covered him
with garments, but he did not become warm." (Melachim I
Chazal explain that King David could not stay warm because he
had once cut off the corner of King Shaul's garment. Since he
had shown disrespect for clothing, they (the clothing) did not
How King David came to cut off a corner of King Shaul's garment
is related in Shmuel I, chapter 24. King Shaul was chasing
David, hoping to kill him, and, unbeknownst to the King, David
was cornered in a cave. Shmuel I, chapter 24, verses 4-5 relate,
"So David arose and stealthily cut off a corner of Shaul's robe.
Afterwards, however, David's conscience troubled him [literally,
'his heart smote him'] for having cut of the corner of Shaul's
Why did David's conscience trouble him? The midrash explains
that David felt guilty for depriving Shaul of the mitzvah of
tzitzit. (After David cut off one corner, Shaul's garment no
longer had four corners, and was exempt from tzitzit.)
R' Baruch Ezrachi shlita comments: This is a lesson regarding
the sensitivity that a person should feel towards mitzvot.
Tzitzit, of all mitzvot, is not mandatory. If a man is wearing a
four-cornered garment, he must wear tzitzit. According to Torah
law, however, no man is obligated to wear a four-cornered
Moreover, under what circumstances did David tear King Shaul's
coat? David had every right to kill King Shaul in self-defense,
yet he touched only the king's garment, in order to show his good
faith. Despite this, he later felt great pangs of conscience for
depriving another Jew of the chance to perform a mitzvah.
(Birkat Mordechai Vol. III p. 408)
Regarding the wearing of tzitzit . . .
R' Yosef Karo z"l (1488-1575) writes: One who is not wearing a
four-cornered garment is not obligated in the mitzvah of tzitzit.
Nevertheless, it is proper for every man to take care to wear a
tallit kattan all day long so that he will remember G-d's
commands at every moment. Each set of tzitzit has five knots,
corresponding to the five books of the Torah. The tzitzit are on
the garment's four corners so that a person will remember the
Torah no matter in which of the four directions he turns.
When one looks at the two tzitzit in front of him, he sees ten
knots, reminiscent of the ten sefirot. Also, each corner has
eight strings. The 16 strings together with the ten knots total
26, the gematria of Hashem's Name.
The punishment of one who disregards the mitzvah of tzitzit is
great, and of him it is written (Iyov 38:13), "To grasp the
corners of the earth [alluding to the corners of the garment],
and shake the wicked from it." One who is meticulous regarding
the mitzvah of tzitzit will merit to see the "face" of the
(Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 24:1, 5 & 6)
Regarding respect for and proper appreciation of clothing . . .
R' Mordechai Schwab z"l (rosh yeshiva of Mesivta Bais Shraga in
Monsey; brother of R' Shimon Schwab z"l) used to wear his suits
until they were so worn that they could not be used again. When
he disposed of a suit, he would fold it neatly, and he would say
to it, "Thank you! You have served me well."
Afterward, he would place the suit carefully in a plastic bag
and seal the bag before placing the whole package in the garbage
- exactly the way one disposes of shaimos / pages containing
words of Torah.
(Heard from his student, R' Raphael Mendlowitz, shlita)
R' Nachum Ze'ev Bornstein z"l
R' Bornstein, the author of a Talmudic commentary entitled
Agudat Ezov, was born in 1821 and died in 1885. One of his sons
was the Sochatchover Rebbe, R' Avraham Bornstein, known as the
"Avnei Naizer," after his collection of halachic responsa. (R'
Avraham's son, in turn, was known as the "Shem M'Shmuel.")
It is related that for many years, the older R' Bornstein used
the following method to select the etrog over which he would
recite the berachah: at the end of Yom Kippur, before havdalah,
he would dip his hand into a box of etrogim, take one out, and
put it away until the morning of the first day of Sukkot without
even looking at it. Remarkably, he always ended up with the
nicest etrog in town.
A few years before his death, R' Bornstein stopped this
practice and began selecting his etrog. When one of his
grandchildren asked the reason for his earlier practice and the
reason that he changed his custom, R' Bornstein explained:
G-d created man inherently good, and a good person is
automatically drawn to that which is good. However,
through his sins, man poisons himself and loses the
ability to find good instinctively.
If one repents on Yom Kippur, he finds himself at the
close of that day in his original perfect state (until he
sins again). Thus, during the first moments after Yom
Kippur, I was instinctively drawn to a perfect etrog.
However, now I am older and feel that my end was nearing,
and I know that on whichever Yom Kippur turns out to be my
last, I will necessarily not be forgiven for all my sins,
for if I am, I will be unable to die that year.
Therefore, I can no longer risk choosing an etrog in my
usual manner. Also, if I continue to choose an etrog in
this way and I end up with an etrog of poor quality, I
will know that my last year has come and I will not be
able to serve Hashem with a clear mind any longer.
R' Bornstein was a chassid of R' Mendel of Kotzk, and the two
later became in-laws. (R' Avraham Bornstein married R' Mendel's
daughter.) R' Mendel said that the reason the elder R' Bornstein
merited to have a son who enlightened the world (i.e., R'
Avraham) was that on one Purim night, R' Bornstein was the only
person in the world studying Torah at a particular moment. The
Sages say that if the world were ever without at least one person
studying Torah, it would cease to exist; thus, in his merit
alone, the world continued to function. (Gedolei Ha'dorot
The Parness family, in memory of Max Parness a"h
Fay Benn and Howard Benn
in memory of her husband and his father, David Benn a"h
on his fourth yahrzeit
Copyright © 2000 by Shlomo Katz
and Project Genesis, Inc.
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