Parshas Chayei Sarah
The Power of Chinuch
“Let the girl to whom I say, ‘Please tip your pitcher for me to drink’
who answers, ‘Drink, and let me water your camels as well’ be the one
whom You designate for your servant Yitzchak. Through her I will
know that You have done a kindness for my master.” (Bereishis 18:13-
In last week’s parsha, we saw the power of chinuch — education — at
work. There was Lot, sitting at the gate of S’dom, a place where they
people for performing acts of kindness for strangers, doing exactly that.
entire reason he was sitting there in the first place, as Rashi explains,
because it was his turn to be the judge of the city, and in that capacity,
had gone ahead and broken the very rules he was there to uphold!
It’s as if he couldn’t help himself. As Rashi explains, he was fully aware
of the consequences of taking care of the three strangers who “happened” to
be in S’dom at the time. He had even offered his daughters to the people of
S’dom (that’s where his chinuch seemed to fall short), just to protect his
three guests, when they finally came looking for them. It was such an act
mesirat Nefesh — self-sacrifice — from a person who seemed to be so not
That is how ingrained Hachnasos Orchim — hospitality — had been in
Lot from his years of living with his uncle, Avraham Avinu. The chinuch
Lot had received while living with his uncle, the examples of Hachnasos
Orchim he had witnessed on a daily basis, had been so powerful that they
were able to overcome Lot’s own innate, spiritually-weak personality, and
last week’s parsha, the obvious risk of acting as he had to the three
(This is heartening news for many parents, who repeatedly teach their
children the proper values during the early years, but who also see few
from those same children. Was their time wasted on thickheaded children?
Not necessarily, for the results of early-age chinuch can take 20 years
sometimes before they actually appear, and sometimes not even until after a
child is married and is making a life of his/her own. Then the ingrained
chinuch of the younger years miraculously emerges, and becomes the
young adult’s own approach to life.)
Obviously, it is the ultimate when a person performs a good deed because
he himself realizes how Godly it is to do so. However, not every person
reaches such a level of understanding, and many people who thought
they had failed to prove so during times of difficulty, during moments in
specifically designed to test the person’s commitment to the idea.
the results have been very disappointing, and at times, disastrous.
Thus, sometimes, it helps to have an idea so ingrained within one’s
that we can perform it without having to consider other options.
Sometimes, it helps to have an inner compelling force that drives us to do
the right thing, especially when “outside” circumstances compel us to do
the wrong thing. According to the Midrash, it was Yosef’s ingrained
of his father, Ya’akov Avinu, that assisted him in resisting the advances
of his master’s wife when it become increasingly difficult to do so.
That explains Lot. However, what about Rivka Imeinu? During her formative
years, all she had was bad chinuch, bad examples. Her father had
been Besuel, an evil man, we learn from Parashas Vayaitzai, and her brother
had been Lavan, Ya’akov Avinu’s future father-in-law, and one of the most
deceptive people in all of history. Reincarnating into the evil Bilaam of
Moshe Rabbeinu’s time was, for Lavan, just a spiritual hop-skip-and-jump.
Yet, Rivka, in spite of all the negative vibes she had to live from birth,
not only remained pure and righteous, but exemplified such righteousness
from an early age. Already, while only three years old, she possessed
many righteous people have perfected only after decades or hard work,
even while living in ideal spiritual environments. How is that even
unless, that is, there was something special about Rivka Imeinu from before
birth, something on the level of her very soul.
We get a glimpse of this when Yitzchak brings Rivka, his wife-to-be, into
his mother’s tent. Immediately, the miracles that occurred for Sarah Imeinu
returned for Rivka: the special cloud surrounded the tent, the candles that
burned from week-to-week on their own returned, and there was a blessing
in the challah. Was this because Rivka merely shared the same traits of
Sarah Imeinu, or was it because she was the actual continuation of her
After all, Sarah died at the time of the Akeida, as Rashi explains at the
beginning of the parsha. One of the last things the previous parsha speaks
about is the birth of Rivka. In other words, the Torah flows from the
Rivka to the death of Sarah, as if to juxtapose the two:
“… Besuel has fathered Rivka.” Milkah gave birth to these eight for
the brother of Avraham. His concubine, whose name was Reumah,
also gave birth to Tevach, Gacham, Tachash and Ma’achah. The life of
Sarah was 127 years … (Bereishis 22:23-23:1)
The answer may surface if we approach it from a different angle. For
we know that Avraham Avinu received and perfected the Nefesh of
Adam HaRishon, that Yitzchak Avinu received and perfected his Ruach, and
that Ya’akov Avinu did the same with Adam’s Neshamah. Hence, through
the lives of the Avos, Adam HaRishon achieved his rectification, at least
those three levels of souls.
We also know, according to the Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh, at the end of
Parashas Vayaira, that Sarah Imeinu received and perfected the soul of
Chava. However, the Ohr HaChaim does not mention if she received
Chava’s entire soul to perfect, or like Avraham her husband, only a
perhaps just the Nefesh. If the latter, then, it would make sense that
would have “inherited” the Ruach of Chava, just as Yitzchak had received
the Ruach of Adam, and that, perhaps the level of Neshamah was divided
between Rachel and Leah.1
If so, then we can appreciate the greatness of Rivka from birth, and the
insistence of the Torah to connect the death of Sarah Imeinu to the birth
Rivka Imeinu. The Akeida had somehow helped Sarah to complete her task
in this world, and that meant it was time for Rivka to begin hers.
Furthermore, it would also explain why the same miracles that happened
for Sarah continued for her future daughter-in-law, especially when you
consider that they rectified the three main damages Chava caused: spiritual
impurity because of death, damage to Adam HaRishon who was called the
“challah” of Creation, and darkness due to the sin of eating.
And finally, it is why, perhaps, Yitzchak insisted on bringing his future
wife into his mother’s tent prior to marriage. He wasn’t just seeking
for the loss of his mother; he was also seeking confirmation that the
tikun of Chava would continue through his new wife, just as the tikun of
Adam HaRishon was being continued through him.
For people bent on being partners with God on the completion of the
purpose of Creation, that was the most important point of all.
1 Rachel and Leah were twins, just as Ya’akov and Eisav had
been. However, unlike Leah,
Eisav chose a path of evil, implying that his own soul lacked a high level
of kedusha, as
Ya’akov’s obviously had, making it unlikely that he had any of Adam
within him. But Leah actually became one of the primary Foremothers, and
the bearer of six
of the 12 tribes, indicating that her own soul was quite holy, like that
of Rachel, her sister.
This would imply that the Neshamah of Chava was probably divided between
the two of
Text Copyright © 2008 by Rabbi Pinchas Winston and Torah.org.