Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Parashat Chayei Sarah

Rabbi Aron Tendler

Summary of The Weekly Torah Reading:

Note: The Shabbos Torah Reading is divided into 7 sections. Each section is called an Aliya [literally: Go up] since for each Aliya, one person "goes up" to make a bracha [blessing] on the Torah Reading.

1st Aliya: Avraham negotiates with Ephron the Hitite to purchase the Cave of Machpelah as a burial place for Sarah. Tradition says that this is also the burial place of Adam and Chava.

2nd Aliya: Avraham sends Eliezar, his trusted servant, to Aram Naharayim, (between the Tigris and the Euphrates) to find Yitzchak a shiduch - a bride.

3rd Aliya: Leading a caravan of supplies and riches, Eliezar arrives in Nachor. While resting by "the well", he devises a test to ascertain the worthiness of a potential mate for Yitzchak. Rivkah (Yitzchak's 1st cousin once removed) meets all the criteria and Eliezar presents her with the appropriate gifts.

4th Aliya: Eliezar is invited into Bisuel's home (Rivkah's father) and he rela tes the entire story of his mission and his encounter with Rivkah. Eliezar asks for her hand in marriage to Yitzchak. Bisuel and Lavan (Rivka's brother) agree.

5th Aliya: Rivkah express her desire to depart immediately. Her family blesses her, and Eliezar brings her to Canaan. Yitzchak marries Rivka in the year 2108.

6th & 7th Aliyot: Avraham marries Keturah (some say she was Hagar) and has 6 more sons. Avarham dies in 2123 - 1638 b.c.e. at the age of 175. His two sons Yitzchak and Yishmael bury him in the Cave of Machpelah. Yishmael's 12 sons are listed and Yishmael dies at 137.

Summary of The Haftorah:
Haftorah Chayei Sarah

This week's Haftorah is from the first chapter of Kings 1. Dovid Hamelech (the King) is old and must confront the inevitable succession of the throne. His 40 year reign as King of Israel had been blessed with great success, and he had secured the security and sovereignty of the nation. Yet, in his personal life he had suffered great tragedies and hardships. Having already survived the rebellion of his son Avsholom, he must now confront the rebellion of his son Adoniyahu, and his trusted General, Yoav.

The Haftorah relates the foresight and courage of Batsheva, the mother of Shlomo, and the help of Nasan the Navi, in guaranteeing the succession of Shlomo to become the next King.

The relationship of this story to our Parsha is the planned succession of the throne. Just as Dovid must plan for the next stage of Israel's leadership; so too must Avraham accept the inevitable end and look to Yitzchak's future. Just as Dovid oversees the succession while s till living, and steps aside to guarantee a proper and secure change; so too does Avraham take the necessary steps of securing Jewish national development while he is still alive and in a position to continue teaching and directing.