Most of this week's parashah is devoted to the search for a
wife for Yitzchak. At the end of the story we read (Bereishit
24:63-65), "Yitzchak went out la'suach in the field toward
evening and he raised his eyes and saw, and behold! camels were
coming. And Rivka raised her eyes and saw Yitzchak, and she fell
from the camel. She said to the servant, `Who is that man
walking in the field toward us'?" What did Rivka see that
impressed her so much that she fell off the camel and inquired as
to the man's (Yitzchak's) identity? The midrash explains, "She
saw his hands outstretched in prayer, and she said, `This must
certainly be a great man'." Indeed, we find that the word
"sichah" means "prayer," as in the verse (Tehilim 102:1, cited by
Rashi here), "A prayer of the afflicted, when he pours forth
sicho / his supplication."
However, the word la'suach can have another meaning. We read
(Bereishit 2:5), "Now all the siach / trees of the field were not
yet on the earth." Based on this verse, writes Rashbam z"l (12th
century), the word la'suach can mean "to plant" or to engage in
some other agricultural labor. According to this interpretation,
Rivka saw Yitzchak working in the field.
Both interpretations may be correct, writes R' Menachem Ben-
Zion Zaks z"l (rosh yeshiva in Chicago; son-in-law of R' Zvi
Pesach Frank). Rivka saw Yitzchak praying, and she saw him
working in the field. She saw that he was a master of both
pursuits, and that was what impressed her. (Menachem Zion)
[Ed. note: The Sages say that Yitzchak was davening Minchah,
the prayer that he innovated. If Yitzchak had been working in
the field immediately prior to this, it would only highlight the
greatness of his prayer. Specifically, commentaries observe that
Minchah is made special by the fact that it interrupts the
workday and thus requires special commitment to recite.]
"Now Abraham was old, well on in yamim / days . . ." (24:1)
The gemara (Yoma 28b) cites this verse as proof that Avraham
conducted a yeshiva where he taught Torah. Where is this alluded
to in our verse? R' Shlomo Halberstam z"l (the "Bobover Rebbe";
died 2000) explains:
The word "yamim / days" is interesting in that the gematria of
its hidden part is equal to the gematria of its revealed part.
In other words, if the name of each of the letters in yamim were
spelled out [yud = yud (10), vav (6), dalet (4); mem = mem (40),
mem (40); etc.], the sum of the first letters would equal the sum
of the other letters [10 = 6+4; 40 =40, etc.]. Why is this
significant? It alludes to the fact that Avraham's "revealed
days" - his Olam Hazeh / This World - was equal to his "hidden
days" - his Olam Haba / World-to-Come.
How so? The gemara (Sanhedrin 92a) states that one who
teaches Torah in this world will merit to teach Torah in the
World-to-Come. Avraham's Olam Hazeh and his Olam Haba were equal
because he taught Torah. And, this fact is alluded to in our
(Kerem Shlomo Vol. III)
"She said, `Drink, and I will even water your camels'."
R' Yehuda Hachassid z"l (Germany; died 1217) writes: When the
issue is thirst, one should care for a person before an animal,
as it is written [in the above verse]. It also is written
(Bemidbar 20:8), "You shall bring forth for them water from the
rock and give drink to the assembly and to their animals."
However, when it comes to eating, animals come first, as it is
written (Bereishit 24:32-33), "He gave straw and feed for the
camels . . . Food was set before him." It also is written
(Devarim 11:15), "I shall provide grass in your field for your
cattle and you will eat and you will be satisfied."
(Sefer Chassidm, Paragraph 531)
R' Meir Dan Plotzki z"l (1866-1928; prominent Polish rabbi)
writes: There is an opinion that the phrase, "and you will be
satisfied," in the verse (Devarim 8:10), "You will eat and you
will be satisfied, and you shall bless Hashem, your God," refers
to drinking. According to this opinion, one does not fulfill the
mitzvah of birkat hamazon / bentching if he is still thirsty,
even if has eaten to satiation. According to this opinion,
should not the phrase, "You will be satisfied," have the same
meaning in the last verse quoted by R' Yehuda Hachassid, above,
i.e., should it not refer to drinking? Would this not mean,
then, that one must feed his animals before he eats or drinks?
R' Plotzki answers: There are two separate laws when it comes
to drinking. If one is merely thirsty, he may drink before
feeding his animals. However, one may not eat a meal before
feeding his animals, and if he does, even the drinks that he
takes during the meal constitute a transgression of this law.
This explanation is borne out by our parashah itself. We read
(24:17), "The servant ran toward her and said, `Let me sip, if
you please, a little water from your jug'." Only because Eliezer
(the servant) indicated that he was thirsty did Rivka give him to
drink before watering the camels. However, had Eliezer not been
thirsty, she would not have given him water (for example, to wash
down his food) before watering the animals.
From the Midrash . . .
"Sarah's lifetime was . . ." - thus it is written (Tehilim
37:18), "Hashem knows the days of the temimim / wholesome; their
inheritance will be forever." Just as they are wholesome, so
their years are wholesome. . .
Rabbi Akiva was sitting and lecturing and the congregation was
dozing off. He wanted to awaken them, so he said, "Why did
Esther merit to rule over 127 nations? It is fitting that the
descendant of Sarah, who lived 127 years, should rule over 127
(Bereishit Rabbah ch. 68)
R' Moshe Teitelbaum shlita (the "Satmar Rebbe") offers 14
explanations of the above story about Rabbi Akiva. One of these
is as follows:
Another midrash states: "The sacrifice brought by Aharon
[i.e., the twice daily minchah / meal offering of the Kohen
Gadol] is as beloved as the sacrifice of the Princes [i.e., the
gifts they brought at the dedication of the Mishkan]." The
Princes' sacrifices undoubtedly were brought with great fervor as
one would expect in connection with any once-in-a-lifetime
mitzvah. Aharon's mitzvah, bringing exactly the same sacrifice
twice every single day, was a harder one to do with real feeling.
Nevertheless, Aharon rose to the task, and, therefore, his
sacrifices were as beloved to Hashem as the sacrifices of the
Says R' Teitelbaum: This is the way of all spiritually
elevated people. Their mitzvot never feel "old." Rather, such
people serve Hashem with the same fervor every day. (R'
Teitelbaum adds in the names of both his father and his uncle:
This is the meaning of Rashi's comment (to Bemidbar 8:3) that the
Torah praises Aharon for not deviating from G-d's command. Of
course, Aharon would not deviate from Hashem's command! Rather,
Rashi means that Aharon's fervor did not decrease from day to
Rashi in our parashah comments that all of Sarah's days were
equally good. He means, writes R' Teitelbaum, that Sarah, too,
served Hashem with the same feeling every day. This is what the
midrash is teaching as well: Just as tzaddikim are wholesome, so
each of their days is equally wholesome. Not a single day is
lost because of a loss of spiritual fervor.
This will explain, as well, the story about Rabbi Akiva. The
congregation was used to hearing Rabbi Akiva lecture on a regular
basis, and it began to take him for granted. The congregants
began to doze. Therefore, Rabbi Akiva wanted to teach them the
importance of serving Hashem every day with equal excitement and
fervor, and he told them that Sarah served Hashem thus. How do
we know that she did? Because she was rewarded equally for every
year of her life, the proof being that her descendant ruled over
127 nations, one for each year.
R' Yitzchak Chayes z"l
R' Yitzchak ben Avraham Chayes served successively in the
rabbinates of Prossnitz (Prostejov) and Prague, attracting
numerous disciples with his erudition and saintliness. The 16th
century historian, R' David Ganz, writes of him in his Tzemach
David, "The great rabbi whose fame has spread throughout the
Diaspora. He cultivated many disciples and furthered the
knowledge of Torah."
R' Yitzchak was an adherent to the pilpul method of study that
was popular in his time but has been widely rejected since then.
He is best known for his work Pnei Yitzchak which was published
in 1591. The work has two parts: Apei Ravrevei, which sets the
Yoreh Deah section of the Shulchan Aruch to rhyme, and Apei Zuta,
a commentary on the first part. R' Yitzchak's son, R' Monish,
added two elegies to this work, one on the destruction of the
city of Posen by fire in 1590, and the other on the death of his
own 18-year-old son. (R' Monish was rabbi of Vilna.)
R' Yitzchak also wrote Siach Yitzchak, which sets the laws of
Pesach to rhyme, Pachad Yitzchak, a commentary on the passage in
Tractate Gittin which deals with the destruction of the Temple,
and other, as yet unpublished, works.
R' Yitzchak died on the 11th of Tammuz in approximately 1616.
(Several sources state that he died in 1585. This is clearly
wrong, for Tzemach David states: "He came here, to Prague, in the
year 344 [i.e., 1584], and he was the rabbi and rosh yeshiva
here for three-and-a-half years, may Hashem lengthen his days
with pleasantness and may his throne become greater and loftier,
higher and higher." Tzemach David was written in approximately
Among R' Yitzchak's many prominent descendants were: R'
Yitzchak Chayes, author of the Mishnah commentary, Zera Yitzchak;
the 19th century Talmud commentator R' Zvi Hirsch Chayes (the
"Maharitz Chayes"); and R' David Hillel Altshuler, author of the
popular Tanach commentary, Metzudat David.
Correction: We stated in last week's biography of R' Ahron
Soloveitchik z"l that he spend most of his adult life in Chicago.
Several readers have pointed out that he did not move to Chicago
until the mid-1960s. Prior to that time, R' Soloveitchik taught
at Mesivta Tifereth Yerushalyim in Manhattan, at Yeshiva Chaim
Berlin in Brooklyn and at Yeshiva University.
The Parness family, in memory of Max Parness a"h
Yitzchok and Barbara Lehmann Siegel
in memory of father Yaakov ben Zvi Halevi a"h (Jacob Siegel)