name of this week’s Parasha means “Sarah’s
life”, it is actually her death and burial which are described in
the opening verses. Verse 1 presents a rather curious rendering of Sarah’s
length of years: “And the life of Sarah was a hundred years, and twenty years,
and seven years, the years of the life of Sarah” (literal translation). It is
as though the life of Sarah is being divided up into time periods, the first
hundred years, then twenty and the last seven. Her place of death is also
‘overly’ specified: “Kiryat Arba, which is Chevron in the
response to Avraham’s description of himself as a “stranger and an alien”
(23:4) by the sons of Het: “Your are a prince of Elohim among us” (v. 6).
Avraham’s humility and lack of pretentiousness and presumptuousness is met by
great respect (cf. Matthew 23:12) and by a truthful pronouncement regarding his
position. Hebrews 12:9 confirms that even though a recipient of great promises,
“he [Abraham] lived in the land of promise as a stranger”, the Hebrew word
being “ger” of the root g.u.r (gimmel, vav, resh) which essentially means
‘fear’, speaking of the vulnerability of a stranger (more on this
of Chapter 23 presents us with some challenges, as it is characterized by on going
repetitions, with every point being reiterated. Here are some examples: In
verse 6, “bury, burial, bury your dead”, are repeated
over and over. In both verses 7 and 12 Avraham is said to be “bowing down to
the people of the land”, with the addition of “the sons of Heth” in the first
citing. The mention of the “sons of Heth” reoccurs so many times to the point
of sounding superfluous. The transaction for the purchase of the cave and its
field is mentioned in vs. 9, 13, 16, and 18, while verse 17 enumerates every
article within the property. The question arises as to the purpose of all this repetitious
information and details, which is capped by “… the
that Avraham made was in hard cash: 400 shekels of silver. The three consonants
that form the root for “shekel”,
sh.k.l (shin, kof, lamed) also form the verb “to weigh”. Thus, the price paid
for the plot was made up of 400 equal units of approximately one half ounce
each. All in all Avraham paid about 200 “weighted” ounces, or
But back to “Chevron”, a name that is made up of the root ch.v.r (chaf, vet/bet, resh), shared by the following: “to tie, bind, join, unite, friend, and company”. Although in the course of its long history this town has not seen much unity and friendship (it served as David's capital during his seven-year rule over the house of Yehuda-Judah, before he united all of Yisrael, and is currently divided between a hostile Muslim population and a small Jewish presence), its name may point to conditions which will prevail in?days?to?come. In addition to these positive meanings, ch.v.r. also acts as the root for “chavura” – wounding, injury, bruises - such as we read in Yisha’yahu (Isaiah) 53:5, regarding that which was to be inflicted upon the Messiah. Only by these “bruises” can the breaches of Chevron be healed, making it a symbol of “friendship and unity”.
Chapter 24 highlights Avraham’s senior servant, who “ruled over all his possessions” (v. 2). The servant is described as a “moshel” (one of the words for “ruler”). “Moshel” shares its root (m.sh.l, mem, shin, lamed) with “proverb, parable, example, to be like, resemble and comparable”. In Tehilim (Psalms) 28:1 the writer cries: “I have become like – “nimshalti” - those who go down to the pit”. The parable in Yechez’kel (Ezekiel) 12:22 is called a “mashal”. In Shmuel Alef (1st Samuel) 10:12 Shaul (Saul) is made a public example of (as a prophet), with the use of “mashal”. The people of Yisrael likewise became a none-too-positive example among the nations, or an object lesson such as described in Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) 24:9 where they are called: “a reproach and a proverb… in all places where I shall drive them” (italics added). There are many more examples of the usage of the verb and noun emanating from m.sh.l, but how is this connected?to?the?elderly?servant?
The servant, as a representative of Avraham, was to carry out the duties that were delegated to him. As such, we see him striving to serve by approaching his assignments in the same manner as his master would have done. This, therefore, is the format for the conduct of a true Godly ruler, or leader, who takes his orders from above, endeavoring to carry them out like his Master, thus becoming a representative ‘sample’, a “mashal” or a likeness of the One whom he follows. The Elohim of Yisrael said: “he who rules over (“moshel”) men, by ruling (“moshel”) in the fear of YHVH, will shine as the light of the sun in the morning….” (2nd Sam. 23:3, 4). One such ruler was Yoseph, whose trials and tests were the purifying work of “the Word of YHVH”. Once he was “conformed” to this Word, he was appointed a “ruler [moshel] over all of the king’s possessions” (Ps. 105:18-21). “What is man…” in the eyes of his Creator? Tehilim (Psalms) 8:6 says, “You have made him to rule”, being the verb “tam’shile’hu”, which may be read also as, “you have made him like…”, or, “you have made of him a proverbial example”. These examples point to a representational form of rule, or leadership. Avraham's servant certainly displayed this characteristic of conforming to his master, so much so that his master’s Elohim became his! Yeshua’s words attest to the fact that he too operated by this principle: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does” (John 5:19). He therefore declared: “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).
Avraham’s representative or delegate is instructed to perform a mission, but is not told how to carry it out. He chooses to present a 'fleece' to "YHVH, the Elohim of my master Avraham" (24:12). The fleece and its fulfillment have to do with water, or the means of obtaining that commodity. Hence we find here “well” (v. 11), “spring” (or source, v.13), and “trough” (v. 20). The first two are “be'er” and “ayin”, and the last one is “shoket” (from the verb “le'ha'shkot” - "to give a drink"). “Ayin” is also the word used for “eye”. Although ‘officially’ no direct link has been established between “spring” (or “source”) and “eye”, Yeshua refers to the latter as a type of a source when He says in Matthew 6:22: “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light”. The root of “be'er” (“well”) is identical to the root “ba'er” (b.a.r, bet, alef, resh), which means to “expound or clarify”, as it appears in Dvarim (Deuteronomy) 1:5, 27:8 and in Chavakook (Habakkuk) 2:2 (where "make it plain" should read "clarify" or "expound"). And thus it is the episode by the well which makes the results of his mission clear to the inquiring servant, as he is "gazing at her [the girl] in silence [and wondering]… whether YHVH had made his journey successful or not” (24:1 italics?added).?But?he?did?not?need to?wonder?for long…
"Success" is “hatzlacha”, from the root tz.l.ch. (tzadi, lamed, chet), which is also “to prosper" and is used a number of times in this Parasha. The primary root means to “advance, or cross" (such as in 2nd Sam. 19:17), and by extension also the “coming of the Spirit” (see Judges 14:6). Whenever its meaning is "success", the verb appears in the active causative form rendering it: “to cause to advance". The verb and noun teach us, therefore, that prosperity and success may be obtained only with the help of an ‘external force’, just as is exemplified here by the servant who is completely dependent on YHVH to “cause him to advance”. The servant's awareness of this fact is also expressed by his prayer in 24:12: "O YHVH Elohim of my master Abraham, please give me success this day, and show kindness to my master Abraham". In this instance the root tz.l.ch for "success" does not show up at all. The literal wording here for "give me success" is, "to bring about" - “hakreh” - literally, “cause to happen”. “Happening, occurrence, incident” are “mikreh”. Avraham’s servant, however, being cognizant of the fact that the Elohim of his master is in control of life’s supposed random happenstances, relies on Him to put together the ‘natural’ circumstances in such a way, so as to make clear His?choice?of?the?sought-for?bride.
The chain of the desired events that were brought about, starts with the appearance of a young maiden named Rivka (Rebecca, 24:15). Her rather curious name originates from the root letters r. v/b. k. (resh, vet/bet, kof), which are also the root letters of “marbek”, that is, “stall”, itself stemming from an Aramaic word meaning "to crouch”. “Marbek” is always used in connection with fatted calves (ref. 1st Sam. 28:24; Jer. 46:21; Amos 6:4; Mal. 4:2). Rivka's name points without question to the importance her family attached to their possessions. By naming her thus, they were also expressing hopes regarding their live?stock.
Later on, upon her departure to the
“Gate” is “sha'ar” in Hebrew (sh.a.r, shin, ayin, resh). Because much of the administration, jurisprudence, and business took place by the city gate, he who possessed the gate also had charge over the entire city (or area). The “gate of the enemy" denotes, therefore, the enemy's area of control and dominion. Earlier on in our Parasha, “gate” has been referred to in Avraham’s business transaction: “And Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the ears of the sons of Heth, of all that went in at the gate of his city, saying… ‘The field of Ephron was certified… to Abraham for a possession in the presence of the sons of Heth, before all that went in at the gate of his city’” (23:10, 18, italics added, cf. Ruth 4:1-11). These transactions by the "gate" have lent that word yet other meanings: "measure, calculate", or "recon," as we shall see in next week's Parasha (Gen. 26:12), where the term used is "one hundred times/fold over”, and in Hebrew, “she’arim” (“gates” plural).
In addition to the themes of dominion and power in Rivka’s blessing, mention is made of "tens of thousands" - “alfey revava” (24:60). “Revava” is “ten thousand”, whereas “a thousand” is “elef”. “Elef” (a.l.f - alef, lamed, fey), which with a slight modification is the name of the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, “alef”, lending it a place of prominence, and by implication pointing also to great numerical value. “Aluf” is "chief", but at times also means “a companion”. A large group of (proverbial) "companions" makes up the number one thousand - “elef”, whereas “revava” (ten thousands) stems from the very common root of r.v/b. (resh, vet/bet) meaning "much, great and chief". In the next Parasha we will meet "the greater [who will serve] the younger", which will also be designated by the term “rav”?(25:23).
The Parasha ends in the same way it had begun: burials are the order of the
day. First Avraham dies "in a ripe old age, an old man satisfied…” (25:8).
or “full” here is “saveh'ah”,
which also means "satisfied" (of the root s.v.a, or sh.v.a), a word
we examined last week when we looked at the figure “seven” and “oath” (notice
the last period in Sarah’s life, in 23:1, is seven – “sheva”). And just as was
mentioned about Sarah, her husband’s life span is also divided up into “a
hundred years, and seventy years, and five years” (v. 7). Avraham too is buried
Multiplicity in various forms, leadership, prosperity, dominion and greatness are some of the terms we encountered in this Parasha, whose main narrative is ‘sandwiched’ in between deaths and burials. These deaths, however, highlight all the more the blessings granted to the progeny left behind, accentuating the abundance of life for which this progeny was destined.
1 The Amorites and Hittites
are both descendants of
*Confirmed by archaeological evidence