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UPDATE: 10-28-2021 Fixed Audio File
There is a commandment given to Israel that once every 7 years, during the Festival of Sukkot, they should assemble ALL the people to hear the Torah read to them. (Deuteronomy 31:10-12). Chazal (a Hebrew acronym that means, “our sages of blessed memory”) instituted a continuous cycle of reading the Torah. They defined weekly sections so that Jews would be reading and hearing Torah every single week and complete the 5 Books of Moses in a set time. The teachers I learned under taught me to follow the yearly Torah cycle and I discovered that Chabad divides their Torah study into daily aliyot. When the Torah portion is read in its entirety on Shabbat in the synagogue, there are seven sections, seven aliyot. The Chabad tradition is to study one aliyah each day, starting Sunday and going through to Shabbat. One who does this can get a double dose of the same Torah Portion each week.
Additionally, the Ashkenazic and Sepharidc, that is Eastern European and Spanish or Iberian Peninsula communities sometime differ on how they divide the Torah Portions.
It’s time to explore Torah Portion Chayei Sarah, aliyah by aliyah.
Chayei Sarah Genesis 23:1–25:18
Aliyah 1 – Genesis 23:1-16
23:1 Sarah lived to be 127 years old; these were the years of Sarah’s life.
Why did Sarah die? Avraham is 10 year older than her and he is still alive and well. He goes on to marry and have many more children. In fact, he lives 38 more years. So it would seem that Sarah did not die of old age. Why then, did she die?
23:2 Sarah died in Kiryat-Arba, also known as Hevron, in the land of Kena‘an; and Avraham came to mourn Sarah and weep for her.
The field of Mamre in Hevron is the first piece of the Land of Israel Avraham came to possess. HaShem had told him the whole land would become an inheritence to his descendants, but he was only a sojourner for decades. This puchase represents the start of that promise becoming a reality. The wealth HaShem blessed Avraham with, the bride Hashem blessed him with, the one through whom much of the wealth had come to him, the one through whom his heir came: her death was the seed that would sprout into the reality that the Nation of Israel would dwell in their lands.
Below are a couple examples that highlight the importance of Hevron.
Hevron became the inheritance of Kalev son of Yefuneh in Joshua 14:14
King David ruled for 7 years in Hevron, as recorded in 1 Kings 2:11.
2 Chronicles 15:10 tells that Avshalom wanted to be declared King in Hevron as part of his coup.
23:3 Then he got up from his dead one and said to the sons of Het, 4 “I am a foreigner living as an alien with you; let me have a burial site with you, so that I can bury my dead wife.”
Avraham’s humility and deference is laudable and something to be imitated.
23:5 The sons of Het answered Avraham, 6 “Listen to us, my lord. You are a prince of G-d among us, so choose any of our tombs to bury your dead — not one of us would refuse you his tomb for burying your dead.”
Who is Het?
Het was Kena’an’s second born son.
Why would the sons of Het offer Avraham one of their tombs?
Why do they call Avraham a “prince of G-d?”
Esav takes two daughters of Het as wives. I believe they are idolaters, but we’ll see more about them in another Parshah.
23:7 Avraham got up, bowed before the people of the land, the sons of Het, 8 and spoke with them. “If it is your desire to help me bury my dead, then listen to me: ask ‘Efron the son of Tzochar 9 to give me the cave of Makhpelah, which he owns, the one at the end of his field. He should sell it to me in your presence at its full value; then I will have a burial site of my own.” 10 ‘Efron the Hitti was sitting among the sons of Het, and he gave Avraham his answer in the presence of the sons of Het who belonged to the ruling council of the city:
Is this a formal, proper way to make the deal. I understand Avraham wanting witnesses. It seems like the sons of Het know Avraham and that he has made a good impression on them. Why then does he ask of Efron in such a way that seems to imply he doesn’t know the man to pick him out of a crowd? Efron is there and he answers upon Avraham making the request. It seems a bit odd.
23:11 “No, my lord, listen to me: I’m giving you the field, with its cave — I’m giving it to you. In the presence of my people I give it to you.”
What did Avraham do to gain such favor with these people? Is it genuine? Is this some sort of Middle-Eastern negotiation culture on display?
23:12 Avraham bowed before the people of the land 13 and spoke to ‘Efron in their hearing: “Please be good enough to listen to me. I will pay the price of the field; accept it from me, and I will bury my dead there.” 14 But ‘Efron answered Avraham, 15 “My lord, listen to me. A plot of land worth 400 silver shekels — what is that between me and you? Just bury your dead.” 16 Avraham got the point of what ‘Efron had said, so he weighed out for ‘Efron the amount of money he had specified in the presence of the sons of Het, 400 silver shekels of the weight accepted among merchants [ten pounds].
Avraham denies to take anything from the king of Sodom after defeating the Four Kings. Here Avraham refuses to take this gift or charity from Efron. The Torah mentions at least twice here that the sons of Het are witnesses to the deal and sale. Doe this have to do with legitamizing the sale so that no one could say Avraham took the land improperly?
Aliyah 2 – Genesis 23:17-24:9
24:3 because I want you to swear by HaShem, G-d of heaven and G-d of the earth, that you will not choose a wife for my son from among the women of the Kena‘ani, among whom I am living;
The Kena’ani or Cannanites were cursed by Noach after the Flood. They are in this land which will be given to Avraham’s descendants after the cursed people are expelled. Bearing all that in mind, I can see why Issac could not take a wife from them.
Aliyah 3 – Genesis 24:10-26
24:19 When she was through letting him drink, she said, “I will also draw water for your camels until they have drunk their fill.”
Was this prayer meant to help the servant of Avraham find a young woman who would be like Sarah and Avraham, who are known for their hospitality? Rivkah enthusiastically accommodated the servant and his camels, like how Avraham eagerly served the three strangers the day he was foretold of Issac’s birth.
Aliyah 4 – Genesis 24:27-52
24:30 “Come on in,” he said, “you whom HaShem has blessed! Why are you standing outside when I have made room in the house and prepared a place for the camels?”
Did Nachor know HaShem? Does his family know HaShem as HaShem? We will see later that Lavan has household gods of great importance to him. I find it odd how some godless people or idolaters refer to the One True G-d as HaShem in the Bible. Is that an anachronism? Did people pick up on the names of other people’s gods out of deference and respect to them?
Aliyah 5 – Genesis 24:53-67
24:67 Then Yitz’chak brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent and took Rivkah, and she became his wife, and he loved her. Thus was Yitz’chak comforted for the loss of his mother.
This verse is easy to gloss over, but I think there is a lot being said here.
1 Yitz’chak brought her into the tent
Sarah’s tent was still up. I do not think this happened long after Sarah’s death. After Avraham buried his wife, who was 10 years his junior, it is reasonable that his own mortality came into view. Sarah’s death seems like the catalyst that got him to acquire a wife for his son, so that he would ensure the future matriarch of his descendants would be worthy.
2 And Took Rivkah
This feels like a Biblical code. She was already with him, as he had escorted her into the tent, so what else could it mean that he took her?
3 And she became his wife
Consummation is one of the Biblical forms of enacting or starting a marriage and I believe this is telling us that that is exactly what happened.
4 And he loved her
First comes love, then comes marriage is a fairly new concept. It is the ideal progression most Westerners have been taught, but there are so many cultures who have made arranged marriages for so long that it is important to recall that and apply it here. How could this holy man invite some stranger into his life and marry her through being intimate with her? That might cause some people pause, but it is important to remember that as holy as he was, Isaac was a man and Rivkah was a beautiful woman. additionally they were betrothed. The way the ancient Jewish marriages worked had a couple bound to each other before consummation took place. A woman could commit adultery before she had been married.
5 Thus he was comforted
This feels meaningful. There is something here, but I am not sure what. It would be flippant and disrespectful to call Issac a “mama’s boy” or something of that ilk, but the juxtaposititon betweent he loss of Sarah and the gain of Rivkah is there. It must mean something.
Aliyah 6 – Genesis 25:1-11
25:9-10 Yitz’chak and Yishma‘el his sons buried him in the cave of Makhpelah, in the field of ‘Efron the son of Tzochar the Hitti, by Mamre, 10 the field which Avraham purchased from the sons of Het. Avraham was buried there with Sarah his wife.
Seeing the brothers come back together to honor and care for the father in his death is beautiful.
Coming full circle and having Avraham die and be buried in the cave of Machpelah with Sarah whose death spurned him on to buy that land and functionally invest in the Holy Land is beautiful and poetic.
Aliyah 7 – Genesis 25:12-18
25:16 These are the sons of Yishma‘el, and these are their names, according to their settlements and camps, twelve tribal rulers.
Ishmael, Avraham’s son has 12 Tribes descend from him. Esau, Avraham’s grandson has 12 Tribes descend from him. Jacob, Avraham’s grandson has 12 Tribes descend from him. Yeshua, Jacob’s heir called out 12 Disciples and made a fascinating pronouncement over them in Matthew 19:28
Yeshua said to them, “Yes. I tell you that in the regenerated world, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones and judge the twelve tribes of Isra’el. What is the significance of the 12? Does it have to do with the year, the hours of the day? What is so important here? Is this one of the mysteries we can only truly behold ion the world to come?
That concludes my journey through Chayei Sarah for the year 5782.
I hope these words have been a blessing to you.
May our Heavenly Father give you peace and joy.
This is Matthew and I am Walking In Liberty.