By Rabbi Yisroel Ciner
This weeks parsha, Chayei Sarah, begins with the passing of Sarah
Imeinu. Avrohom, needing to find a burial place, approaches the people
of Cheit. He knew that Adam and Chava were buried in Maaros HaMachpela
(what is now called the Cave of the Patriarchs) and wanted to clearly
acquire it for his family.
Ephron, the owner of the land, was a classic example of what chaza"l
call an "omer harbeh v'afilu m'at lo asah" - one who says a lot but
doesn't even do a little. Ephron originally offered Avraham the burial
cave and the entire field for free. He then objected to any payment,
claiming that 400 shekel was nothing between 'such good friends'. In
the end, he collected the inflated price of 400 silver shekel in the
'dollar equivalent' of those times. This is in stark contrast to
Avraham, the epitome of an "omer m'at v'oseh harbeh", one who says a
little but does a lot. This was shown in last weeks parsha when
Avraham offered the travelers a loaf of bread and then brought out a
gala full course meal.
Words are so easy... They don't cost a thing yet make us feel that
we're already there! When a person would approach the Chofetz Chaim
for a letter of approbation, he would never verbally agree to give
one. He would begin to write it immediately. Upon finishing and
handing it to the person he would only then say, "Yes, here it is".
We live in the 'olam ha'asiya' - the world of action - yet, the
completion of our acts are often beyond us. How often is it that a
strong effort doesn't accomplish and a stutter step succeeds. We must
set out to do our best, realizing that Hashem only considers how much
effort went into our part. Anything beyond that, the results that we
can't absolutely influence, are in His hands. We do ours, and then
Hashem works that into his hashgacha pratis, his individualized master
plan. There's no point in speaking about it. Go ahead and do all that
When we do speak of our plans and goals we must really examine our
motives. Our children and students must learn values and priorities
from us, however, our actions speak much louder than our words. When
we tell others of our actions, what are our motives? Do we want to
teach them or are we trying to get acclaim for ourselves? Perhaps we
should try to do some kind acts and not let anyone know about it!
Hashem, this is my 'gift' to you. I don't want praise from anyone, I
don't want renewed respect... I want to follow your commandments
because you have told me to do it. This is purely between the two of
The Vilna Gaon makes a fascinating observation. During the
conversation between Avrohom and Ephron, the term "k'vor meisecha
(23:11)" - burying the dead - is mentioned, with slight variations,
six times. The same words in the reverse order, "meischa k'vor
(23:15)" - the dead, bury - is mentioned once. What do these seven
'burials' refer to?
He explains that there were six individuals who would be buried in
Maaras HaMachpela: Avrohom and Sarah, Yitzchak and Rivka, and Yaakov
and Leah. Additionally, when Esav came to contest Yaakov's burial
there, his head was cut off and it rolled into the Maarah. It too was
buried there. The tzaddikim (righteous) are called alive even in
death. They pass from this world but aren't dead. Their influence is
strongly alive in this world and they are strongly alive in the next.
Their burial precedes their death. In regard to the Patriarchs and
Matriarchs, the passuk stated burying the dead. However, the evil are
considered dead even in their lifetime. There is stagnation - movement
away from the Source of Life. In regard to Esav it says 'the dead they
will bury'. Dead long before burial.
After completing the transaction and the burial, Avrohom turns to
finding the proper wife for his son, Yitzchak. Eliezer, his servant
and messenger, must first swear that he won't bring a woman from the
Cana'anim but rather, will find a wife from the family of Avraham. He
then sends him, with ten laden camels, on his way. Eliezer, realizing
the momentous responsibility of choosing a Matriarch, turns to Hashem
for a sign. "Hashem... do chessed (kindness) with my master, Avrohom.
I'll stand by the well... The girl who, when I ask her tip her pitcher
so that I can drink, will offer me and also my camels to drink, she is
the one chosen for Yitzchak (24:12-14)."
Eliezer, while throwing the burden onto Hashem, was also using much
wisdom in this sign. Such an audacious request to make! Here is a
grown, strong man, accompanied by other men asking a young girl to
draw water for them to drink! It was very clear that only a girl with
an overpowering desire to help others would even consider such a
request. Someone who truly loves chessed will jump at an opportunity
to help, even when the person could even more easily help himself.
Helping is gold! It's life! As long as you're willing to receive, I'm
thrilled to give!
Eliezer, when looking for a wife from the family of Avrohom, needed to
find a girl who had thrown aside the idolatry of her father and had
embraced the philosophy of her relative Avrohom. He needed to find a
kindred spirit of Avrohom, an incredible ba'alas chessed - doer of
The Beis HaLevi shows that there were other considerations also
included in this sign. Once she would give Eliezer to drink from the
pitcher, what would be done with the remaining water? To bring it home
would have been unhygienic. Who knows what sort of disease he might
have! To spill it onto the ground would have shown a lack of
sensitivity for his feelings. What was the best way out of this
predicament? Offer it to his camels! In fact, the passuk states that
Rivka offered to give the camels "od im kilu lishtos (24:19)", until
they would finish drinking. To ensure that Eliezer wouldn't think that
she was only offering the camels in order to finish off the pitcher,
she offered to draw water until the camels would finish!
"Va't'ma'her" - and she rushed. Perhaps Eliezer would recognize the
absurdity of the situation. A young girl drawing water for ten
journey-thirsty camels while grown men watch. Perhaps he might try to
stop her! She didn't want to be deprived of this gift of an
opportunity. She rushed to fulfill (no pun intended) while she still
had the chance. "Va't'ma'her" - and she rushed.
May we rush to do, to help others when such opportunities arise,
strengthening the bonds between us and Avrohom and between us and
Hashem, the Source of eternal life, long after burial.
Copyright © 1997 by Rabbi Yisroel Ciner
and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author teaches at Neveh Tzion in
Telzstone (near Yerushalayim).