Baruch Hashem, Rav Moshe Weinberger has reviewed this write-up of his drasha from the this past Shabbos, parshas Chayei Sara. See here for past write-ups. Also, thousands of Rav Weinberger's shiurim are available online here. You can also go to YUTorah.org's website to hear Rav Weinberger's shiurim as mashgiach/mashpia at YU or click on one of the following links to subscribe to the shiurim: email, rss feed, podcast, or iTunes. Please note that these drashos will only be available online for one month. My son suggested (credit where it is due!) that if you notice any mistakes, please let me know so I can correct it. If you are interested in a particular drasha that is no longer online, you can email me and I'll send it to you IY"H, BL"N.
Our people are still crying, suffering, davening, and dying, in order to acquire Me’aras Hamachpela and Chevron. May all of the tears and davening of all of the generations finally constitute full payment for Eretz Yisroel and Yerushalayim. May Hashem clear away all of the filth so that every street, every alleyway, of Yerushalayim will be ours and ours alone in which we will be able to fully reveal the honor of Heaven with the coming of Moshiach, may he come very soon in our days.
Click here to get Dixie Yid in your e-mail Inbox or here to "follow" me on Twitter.
Rav Moshe Weinberbger
Parshas Chayei Sara 5775
Blood, Sweat, and Tears
It is very difficult to understand why Avraham insisted on paying so much to buy Me’aras Hamachpela, the cave of Machpela, in which to bury Sara. Efron had offered to give it to him as a gift (Bereishis 23:11). The people even called him a “prince of G-d” (ibid. 6) Why not accept their gift? Hashem had already told him (ibid. 15:7) that he would inherit Eretz Yisroel. Avraham knew that Me’aras Hamachpela would ultimately be his in any case. While it is true that “One who hates gifts will live” (Mishlei 15:27), since Me’aras Hamachpela had already been promised to Avraham, it was not truly Efron’s to give. It is especially difficult to understand according to the Gemara (Bava Metzia 87a) which explains that the 400 shekalim paid by Avraham Avinu were not ordinary shekalim. They were large shekalim worth about 100 times the value of regular shekalim. According to this, Avraham paid the equivalent of 40,000 shekalim. Why was this necessary?
Perhaps we can understand Avraham’s motivation based on a teaching by Rav Aharon Soloveitchik, zt”l. Rav Aharon quotes the Mishna (Bava Metzia 38a): “If one deposits his produce with his friend [to guard], even if they will be lost, he may not touch them.” In other words, the Mishna teaches that if someone is guarding another person’s produce, and that produce begins to rot, he may not sell the produce in order to give the proceeds to the owner, nor may he exchange the produce for a fresher replacement in order to return non-rotten produce to the owner. Why is this?
Rav Kahana, in the Gemara, explains: “A person wants one portion of his own [property] more than nine portions of his friend’s [property].” Rashi explains that one wants his own portion more than another’s because “it is more precious to him because he toiled for it. He wants the one portion that remains from it [that did not become rotten] more than nine portions of others that would have been purchased with the proceeds of his produce which would have been sold [before they became rotten].”
What does Rashi’s comment add to Rav Kahana’s explanation of the Mishna? Rav Aharon Soloveitchik explains that Rashi was bothered by the following question: Even if the guardian had exchanged the produce for money or for fresher produce, it would still be his, not another person’s! Whatever produce or money one receives in exchange for his own produce still belongs to him. It would not be considered part of the “nine portions of his friend’s.” Rav Aharon therefore explains that Rashi answers this question by showing that there are two types of ownership: (i) legal title and (ii) emotional ownership.
In the first type of ownership, legal title, it makes no difference whether one has the produce he grew himself, money obtained in exchange for that produce, or fresher produce. It all belongs to the person and is considered “his own portion.” If one assumes that Rav Kahana is discussing this type of ownership, it would be very difficult to understand why a person would distinguish between the produce one grew himself or money/produce one obtained in exchange for such produce.
But Rashi’s explanation of Rav Kahana makes it clear that Rav Kahana was discussing the second type: emotional/spiritual/psychological ownership. This is created when one toils to earn something. After a person has invested months preparing the ground, plowing his soil, planting, watering, and harvesting his crop, the produce he obtains is precious to him became he poured his blood, sweat, and tears into it. A small portion someone worked for with his own effort is worth more to him that nine portions grown by someone else even if he has legal title to it.
That is why Avraham Avinu insisted on purchasing Me’aras Hamachpela himself even though he already had legal title to it. He longed to have a portion in Eretz Yisroel to which he had emotional title, not just legal title. He wanted to ensure that the land of Israel would always be so precious to him, his children, and his grandchildren, that they would never be willing to relinquish it.
This is reflected in the double meanings of the two words for money: damim and kesef. Damim means money, but it also means blood. A person pours his blood, his very life-force, into earning a living. So when he spends that money on something, it is very precious to him. He has emotional title to it. And in addition to meaning “money,” kesef means “longing.” A person feels a stronger longing and connection to the money he worked to earn, and those things he has purchased with that money, than things which are much more valuable that he never purchased himself. Avraham wanted to spend his hard-earned money to acquire Me’aras Hamachpela so that the Jewish people would have an everlasting bond with Eretz Yisroel that is emotional and spiritual, not simply economic.
The Kedushas Levi, zy”a, teaches this same concept in remarkable way, commenting on the pasuk (Bereishis 21:10), “G-d [אלוקים] has made joy for me.” He asks why Sara used the name of G-d which implies strict justice, Elokim, when she said that Hashem gave her joy with the birth of Yitzchak after so many years. She should have said that Hashem (using the four letter name of G-d which implies His attribute of kindness) gave her joy!
The Kedushas Levi answers that normally, when young people have children immediately after marriage, they feel a moderate level of joy. But when a person prays and cries for children year after year and then Hashem finally gives him or her children, the joy is immeasurable. Sara was saying that G-d’s attribute of strict justice, which caused her to wait many years to have children, ultimately caused her to have tremendous joy which she never would have felt if Hashem had originally exhibited His attribute of kindness and given her children at a young age. A person values and rejoices in that which he acquired through great toil, effort, and tears, much more than anything he obtained easily.
When someone has davened for something for years, his stake in it is so much greater. That is why Chana’s prayers for her son Shmuel Hanavi were so powerful. The Gemara (Brachos 31b) teaches that Shmuel became ill because he had shown some level of disrespect to Eli, the Kohein Gadol, by teaching halacha in Eli’s presence. While Shmuel was at death’s door, Chana pled with Eli Hakohein to intervene in the upper worlds to save her son. He told her there was nothing he could do but pray that G-d grant her another child after Shmuel’s death. But she refused to hear of this. She told him (Shmuel I 1:27), “I prayed for this child.” Chana had invested years of prayer and tears into Shmuel Hanavi’s birth. No other child could have possibly acted as a substitute. Chana’s love, prayer, and insistence allowed Eli Hakohein to draw down salvation from above and Shmuel lived. We know Shmuel grew up to anoint Dovid Hamelech as king. So in the end, Moshiach, great-grandson of Dovid Hamelech, will ultimately come into the world in the merit of the prayers and tears of Shmuel’s mother Chana.
A Mother Needs to Cry
A young Gerer chassidic man named Leibish from New York went to study in the Gerer yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel before the Pnei Menachem, zt”l, the previous Gerer Rebbe, had become Rebbe. At that time, he was still the rosh yeshiva in Yerushalayim. Leibish was recognized by everyone as the top boy in the yeshiva. He had exemplary character traits and he was the brightest and most diligent student, a pride to his parents and the yeshiva.
At one point in the year, his parents went to visit the yeshiva and Leibish’s father went to speak to the rosh yeshiva, the Pnei Menachem, looking forward to the praises he would surely hear about his son. When he met the Pnei Menachem, he introduced himself, but the rosh yeshiva simply acknowledged his greeting and said that it was good to meet him. Thinking perhaps that the rosh yeshiva had not realized who his son was, he added that his son was Leibish. The Pnei Menachem responded, “Yes, I know. Very good to meet you.” Brokenhearted, this father was at a loss. He knew how great his son was. Why was the rosh yeshiva not singing Leibish’s praises to him?!
He therefore asked the rosh yeshiva, “Rebbe, please tell me if there is some problem with Leibish. I do not want you to protect me from any negative news. If there are any issues, please tell me what they are and I am happy to speak with Leibish about it.”
But the Pnei Menachem answered: No, do not worry. There are no problems. He is doing very well. But let me tell you a story: I have a step-brother (the Pnei Manachem’s father, the Imrei Emes, zy”a, was widowed several times, so the Pnei Menachem had a number of step-brothers). At one point, he received notice that he would be drafted into the Polish army. This was horrible news, so his mother, my father the Imrei Emes’s Rebbetzin, approached her husband to ask him to intercede on behalf of her son, my step-brother. But the Rebbe simply said, “Nu, what can we do. Hopefully G-d will help.” Dumbfounded, the Rebbetzin left, wondering why the Rebbe would not help her son from the horrible fate that surely awaited him in the Polish army.
The next day, her mother, the Imrei Emes’s mother in law, came to the Rebbe determined not to take “no” for an answer. When she approached the Rebbe, he told her, “Do not worry. Your grandson will not be drafted.” Confused by the difference between what the Rebbe had told her daughter and what she had just heard, she asked, “But why did the Rebbe not tell my daughter the good news yesterday?” The Rebbe answered that “A mother needs to cry.” He did not want to give her too much hope the day before because it was her tears after she spoke with the Imrei Emes that brought down her son’s salvation from Heaven.
When the Pnei Menachem finished telling this story to Leibish’s father, he concluded: Why do you think your son is so successful in everything he does in yeshiva? It is because of your and your wife’s tears and davening for his success. If I told you how well he was doing, you would stop worrying and stop davening. A mother needs to cry. Leibish needs your davening in order to continue succeeding.
Click here to get Dixie Yid in your e-mail Inbox or here to "follow" me on Twitter.