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Eliezer’s Prayer

Chayei Sarah 3rd aliyah (Genesis 24:10-26)

November 19, 2019 (21 Chesvan 5780)

by Tzvi Schnee

“And the servant took ten camels, of the camels of his master, and departed; having all goodly things of his master’s in his hand.”

– Genesis 24:10, JPS 1917 Tanach

Eliezar, Abraham’s servant set off with ten camels, laden with the dowry that would be shown to the family of the woman who would marry Abraham’s son, Isaac. As of yet, who that woman would be was only known to G-d. It was Abraham’s will to find a wife for Isaac from amongst his own relatives, so that she would exemplify the character traits worthy of the next matriarch.

“And he made the camels to kneel down without the city by the well of the water at the time of evening, the time that women go out to draw water.”

– Genesis 24:11, JPS 1917 Tanach

Eliezar prayed, a prayer to H’Shem, designed to test the character of the woman who would respond: “Let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say: Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink; and she shall say: Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also; let the same be she that Thou hast appointed for thy servant, even for Isaac; and thereby shall I know that Thou hast shown kindness unto thy master” (Genesis 24:24:14).

It should be emphasized that Eliezar was not requesting a sign from G-d; rather, he wanted proof that Isaac’s wife-to-be would demonstrate kindness, consideration, and selflessness; in effect, that her character be one imbued with chesed. Thus requested, thus done; before he was finished with his request to H’Shem, his prayer had already been answered: “Rebekah came out, who was born to Bethuel the son of Milcah, the wife of Nachor, Abraham’s brother, with her pitcher upon her shoulder” (Genesis 24:15).

(reposted from Clear Horizons)

Spiritual Reward

(reposted from Clear Horizons)

Chayei Sarah, 2nd aliyah (Genesis 23:17 – 24:9)

November 18, 2019 (20 Chesvan 5780)

by Tzvi Schnee

“And Abraham was old, well stricken in age; and the L-RD had blessed Abraham in all things.”

– Genesis 24:1, JPS 1917 Tanach

According to the Talmud, where it is written that Abraham was blessed “in all things,” this includes “a taste of Olam Haba” (the World to Come), as mentioned in Bava Batra 17a (sefaria.org). Truly, a blessing only for the sake of this life, albeit a show of G-d’s providence, would only be a partial blessing, if it excluded a blessing in the next life.

This assertion may be substantiated by the Talmudic viewpoint on the subject of rewards for mitzvoth (good deeds). Tractate Shabbos explains, that the principle reward for certain mitzvoth is in Olam Haba (the World to Come), while there is still some reward in this world as well (Shabbat 127a).

Rambam asserts that, concerning the mitzvoth between G-d and man, the reward is in Olam Haba, while there is some reward for mitzvoth between man and man in this world (Olam HaZeh), where the tangible benefits may be received by others (Shabbat 127a, Steinsaltz edition).

Thus, we are given the opportunity to perform mitzvoth in this world, to live a life of righteousness; yet, it is clear that there is a strong expectation for a good place in Olam Haba (the World to Come). May we also be blessed like Abraham, by keeping in mind that our mitzvoth (good deeds) do carry the weight of eternal value.

Sarah’s Life

(reposted from Clear Horizons)

Chayei Sarah, 1st aliyah (Genesis 23:1-16)

November 17, 2019 (19 Chesvan 5780)

by Tzvi Schnee

The parashas begins with the death of Sarah, a seemingly disconnected beginning to a narrative entitled Chayei Sarah – the Life of Sarah. Yet, Torah is always pointing towards significant truths below the surface of the text. Like the ocean, Torah’s depths appear to be unfathomable; yet, let’s take a look at this particular mystery, concerning the apparent incongruity of title and narrative.

The first word of the parashas, vayechi, meaning “life,” according to R. Bachya implies “something that exists permanently,” thereby, it could be inferred that this hints toward the understanding that her soul would “take up permanent residence in the celestial regions” (R. Bachya, commentary on Genesis 23:1, sefaria.org). Therefore, Sarah’s soul lives on, in Olam Haba (the World-to-Come).

In this respect, Chayei Sarah, the Life of Sarah may be understood as an implicit message or remez (hint), concerning Sarah’s continued existence in Olam Haba. Thus the title of the parashas points to the promise of an Afterlife, for the righteous in the World-to-Come.

“So He redeemeth his soul from going into the pit, and his life beholdeth the light.”

– Job 33:28 JPS 1917 Tanach

the First Commandment

B”H

The First Commandment:
from the perspective of Baal Halachos Gedolos –
a Jewish Sage, who lived in the 9th C. in Babylonia.

“I am the L-RD thy G-d, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” – Exodus 20:2, JPS 1917 Tanach

In the most common sense of the commandment, H’Shem’s first utterance at Sinai is understood as the commandment to believe in G-d. Yet, another view, expressed by the Baal Halachos Gedolos, predicates that the commandment is a declarative statement of factual significance.

In his view, the first commandment should be understood as more than a commandment to believe in G-d’s existence. Rather, it should be understood that belief in G-d is required, in order to accept the commandments as having been derived from a divine authority; without making this connection, morals become subject to relativity.

Therefore, it could be said that belief in G-d, within the context of the Revelation at Sinai, may provide an adequate response to the question of how to form values that will stand over time as consistent, universal, and edifying.

Without absolute values, the generations over time would loose their moral perspective, because of the nature of erosion over time. Even other edifices, built upon a secular understanding, such as political, philosophical, or ethical are subject to decay, as a result of the shifting sands of thought amongst mankind. For those, who acknowledge the Revelation at Sinai in earnst, we may say with Dovid HaMelech (King David):

“He is my rock and my salvation, My high tower, I shall not be greatly moved” (Psalm 62:3, JPS 1917 Tanach).

In the beginning

by Tzvi Schnee

In the beginning of my spiritual journey, I relocated from the East Coast to the Southwest. Along the way, I spent some time on Gabriola Island, British Columbia. I left behind me two jobs and a new budding (read: wilting) career. Now, I am transformed, through many defining moments, having taken upon myself the task of acquiring the image that more closely resembles who G-d would like me to be. The journey continues, and progressively brings me closer to G-d. In the ideal sense, this will only occur by staying on the derech (path). Yet, ultimately, I recognize that it is a long and arduous journey.