November 6-7, 2015 – 25 Marcheshvan 5776
Annual (Genesis 23:1-25:18): Etz Hayim p. 127; Hertz p. 80
Triennial (Genesis 24:53-25:18): Etz Hayim p. 137; Hertz p. 86
Haftarah (1 Kings 1:1-31): Etz Hayim, p. 143; Hertz p. 90
A Tale of Two Shiduchs
By Rabbi Daniel Goldfarb, CY Faculty
The portion of Hayyei Sarah deals in uncharacteristic detail with mundane family affairs: the death and burial of Sarah, Abraham’s arranging a shiduch (marriage) for Isaac, Abraham’s own marriage as an old man to Keturah, and then his death and burial. It presents a much needed respite after the hair-raising events of Parshat Va-Yera – the expulsion and near-death of Ishmael and the binding and near-death of Isaac.
It is not only the reader whom Va-Yera leaves breathless. Our parsha begins noting that Sarah was 127 and continues:
Sarah died in Kiriath-arba – now Hebron – in the land of Canaan; and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah and bewail her. (Gen 23:2)
The Midrash says that the shock of the Akeda story was too much for Sarah: “she could not bear the news of the Akeda; her soul left her and she died.” The text in Va-Yera hints also that the Akeda also impacted Abraham’s relationship with Isaac. Twice as they had approached the mountain, the Torah said that they “went together” (Gen 22:6 & 8), suggesting a close bond. After the Akeda Abrham returns to Beer Sheva “together with the servant lads” (22:19). Isaac is not mentioned again with his father until Abraham’s death (25:9).
So Abraham’s decision (24:1-4) to send his faithful servant to Haran, Abraham’s native land, to seek a wife for his son Isaac, does not happen in a vacuum. The family had been badly shaken; the divine promise is in doubt. And Abraham came… was not just a prosaic detail, but an indication of purpose, determination to give Sarah a burial that would reunite the family and to find Isaac a wife who would restore his faith and confidence.
Abrahams’ servant returns at the end of Chapter 24 accompanied by Rivka, “mission accomplished.” And whom do they meet? Isaac, coming from Beer-lahai-roi (v. 62). That’s the well where the Lord had appeared years before to Hagar (Gen 16:14) after the barren Sarah had banished her for losing respect after she (Hagar) became pregnant from Abraham. This explains the Midrash that Keturah, Abraham’s new wife, was indeed Hagar, the mother of Ishmael. And it suggests that Isaac’s “coming” here was no less purposeful than Abraham’s “coming” at the opening of our parsha. Isaac had gone to that well “to bring Hagar to his father for marriage” (Rashi).
Amazing – according to Rashi two events happened simultaneously. On the main stage Abraham sends his servant to Haran to find a wife for Isaac worthy of Isaac’s deceased mother, Sarah. And in the background (or in the little screen), barely noticed, Isaac goes off to persuade Hagar, after all these years, to return to Abraham, to fill the void left by the death of Abraham’s wife, the selfsame Sarah. We can imagine that Isaac’s task was no easier, though the Torah gives no details. Ironically, though father and son were perhaps rent asunder by the Akeda, each takes initiative to bring comfort to the other for the loss of Sarah, the matriarch of us all.
A Vort for Parshat Hayyei Sarah
By Rabbi Daniel Goldfarb, CY Faculty
Rebecca’s brother and mother said “We will call the maiden, and hear what she says” (Gen 24:57), from which Rashi learns that one may not give a young woman in marriage unless she agrees. And from her response, ”I will go” (v. 58) we learn further that she may marry even without the agreement of her parents. Rabbi Israel from Shkalov (Lita, early 19th Century) cited this when he ruled that a child may move to Eretz Yisrael against the will of the parents. Two important exceptions to the general duty to honor one’s parents.
By Vered Hollander-Goldfarb, CY Faculty
The death of Sarah seems to push Abraham towards two actions that will help the Godly promise of a nation in the land come true. Here are some things to talk about:
1) Abraham seems to use the urgent need to bury Sarah as a catalyst for buying land in Canaan (23:1-20). Why do you think that he did not buy land until now, and why is it so important for him to own a piece of land? (He was given the option to bury her together with the local families.)
2) Abraham knows that the future promised by God depends with Isaac. None the less, it is only now that Abraham takes action to secure Isaac’s marriage. What might be the reasons that he decides to take care of this matter now? (24:1-4 and all that led up to this point.)
3) Abraham chooses to send his senior servant to find a wife for Isaac from ‘his land and his birth place’. The servant takes an oath that he will not take a wife for Isaac from the local women, nor return him to Abraham’s birthplace (24:1-9). Why do you think that Abraham refuses to allow Isaac to marry a local woman? Why does he wants a wife for his son from the land that he left, while not allowing Isaac to return there?