Parashat Chayei Sarah
Bereishit 23:1 - 25:18
Haftarah 1Melachim 1:1-31
Life of Sarah
(Picture is burial of Sarah)
Bereishit 23:2 Sarah died in Kiryat-arba which is Chevron in the land of Kena'an; and Avraham came to eulogize Sarah and to bewail her..
Kiryat-arba, the old name for Chevron. Why does Torah give the original name since it immediately adds the name, Chevron, normally used? Rashi explains that the word arba refers either to the four giants living there or to the four couples (Adam & Chavah, Avraham & Sarah, Yitzchak & Rivkah, Ya'akov and Leah) buired there. The Zohar, however, sees in the name kiryat-arba a reference to the four letters of the Divine Name (i.e., the Tetragrammaton). Just as Aharon, Miryam, and Moshe all expired by the Divine kiss, Sarah too died innocent and pure, in "the enclosure (kirat = city, surrounding wall) of the four" letters of the Ineffable Name.
The Torah stresses in verse 19 that Sarah died in the land of Kena'an and was buried there. This detail can give us the explanation of why she died in Chevron. She had lived in Be'er-sheva and no explanation is given for her moving from there. However, one can see why her death and burial should have taken place in Kena'an and not in Be'er-sheva, which was located in Pelishti (Philistine) territory. Indeed, it was essential for the future of the Jewish people that the tombs of the patriarchs be situated in the Promise Land. Throughout the centuries of history, in all the lands of the dispersion, they represented the eternal symbol of the homeland and the rallying point for the whole nation. And so, Sarah's move to Chevron, where she died, was an act of Providence. Avraham would have had no valid reason for wanting to buy the cave of Machpelah from the sons of Chet had Sarah died in Be'er-sheva and not in Chevron.
Mishma Dumah Massa
Bereishit 25:12 These are the descendants of Yishma'el, Avraham's son, whom Hagar the Mitzrian, Sarah's maidservant, bore to Avraham. 13 These are the names of the sons of Yishma'el by their names, in order of their birth: Yishma'el's firstborn Nevayot, Kedar, Adbe'el, and Mivsam, 14 Mishma, and Dumah, and Massa, 15 Chadad and Tema, Yetur, Nafish, and Kedemah. 16 These are the sons of Yishma'el, and these are their names by their open cities and by their strongholds, twelve chieftains for their nations. 17 These were the years of Yishma'el's life: a hundred and thirty-seven years, when he expired and died, and was gathered to his people. 18 They dwelt from Chavilah to Shur - which is near Mitzrayim - toward Ashshur; over all his brothers he dwelt.
It is customary to read the verses containing the names of Yishma'el's sons each day as part of the Ma'amadot.
Each verse teaches us a lesson:
Mishma Dumah Massa
If one hears (mishma) people insult him but remains quit (dumah), all his sins will be lifted away (masa). His reward will be Chadad Tema Yetur Nafish Kedmah - He will become very sharp (chadad) in his knowledge of the Torah, and he will be able to speak of its (tema) mysteries. G-d will keep (yetur) him and make his name as great (nafish) as the sages of old (kedmah). (Imrey Noam)
Rambam speaks of the Moslem oppression of the Jews at the end of his Epistle to Yemen (Igeret Teyman). He quotes this verse containing the names of Yishma'el's children and explains, "Our Sages enjoin us to bear the treachery of the Yishma'eli and their lies with indifference. This they derived from the verse which names the children of Yishma'el. The names mean shema dom vesa (listen, be quiet, and bear it)."
Yishma'el's sons were very famous; they founded great, fortified cities, and dominated the broad area between Chavilah and Shur, and Baghdad, in what was the land of Assyria. Thus, G-d's promise to Avraham regarding Yishma'el (21:13) was fulfilled.
Because Yishma'el went to the trouble of coming from the desert to attend Avraham's funeral, he deserved the names of his sons to be written in the Torah. (Yafeh Toar p. 371)
Yishma'el died in the year 2171 (1590 b.c.e.). According to Rashi, Yishma'el's lifespan is given in order to make a connection with the years which Ya'akov lived. Ramban adds that our Sages gave other reasons as well (Rabbah 62), but that the essential motive is the fact that Yishma'el had repented and became tzaddik. Consequently the Torah gives his lifespan just as it does for other tzaddik.
"Over all his brothers he dwelt"...literally, "he fell." The next verse begins, "And these are the offspring of Yitzchak." This teaches you that when Yishma'el falls at the end of days, only then will the history of Yitzchak commence, under the reign of the Mashiach (Baal HaTurim).
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