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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Chayei Sara

Parashat Chayei Sara

Presents That Keep the Family Going

This he did by sending away his sons from the concubines to a foreign land during his lifetime, after giving them presents; Yehoshafat, King of Yehuda also gave presents (matanot) to his sons; What is the diffrence between the presents?
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Toward the end of the parasha, we find Avraham's influence broadening as he implements his status as "the father of many nations" (Bereishit 17: 4-5). This is accomplished by marrying Ketura, who gave birth to six children, who were the fathers of nations (ibid. 25: 1-4). On the other hand, Avraham ensured that the blessing of "to your offspring I will give this land" (ibid. 15:18) would be fulfilled only with his offspring from Sarah. This he did by sending away his sons from the concubines to a foreign land during his lifetime, after giving them presents (matanot) (ibid. 25:6). The Torah implies that the marriages, birth of new nations, and their separation from Yitzchak ended well, as this section is followed by the following summary of the end of Avraham's life. "Avraham expired and died at a ripe old age, old and content, and he was gathered to his nation" (ibid.:7).

This scenario reminds us of a different one in Tanach, but one which ended in a very different manner. Yehoshafat, King of Yehuda also gave presents (matanot) to his sons in order to appease them and ensure that his eldest son, Yehoram, would rule after him (Divrei Hayamim II, 21:3). The aftermath of that arrangement was a very bitter one. "Yehoram was established on his father's kingdom, he strengthened his position, and he killed all of his brothers" (ibid.: 4).
Are there any signs that show us what went wrong in Yehoshafat's plan? The p'sukim go on to tell about Yehoram's background. "He went in the way of the Kings of Israel, as the House of Achav did, for he took the daughter of Achav as a wife... and he caused the inhabitants of Yerushalayim and Yehuda to sin" (ibid.: 6-11). The problem did not begin with Yehoram, as his forbears, Assa and Yehoshafat, the Kings of Yehuda, were involved in intermingling with the corrupt offspring of C'na'an, by marriage with princesses of Sidon.

It is now clear what the difference is between the two cases. Avraham married Ketura and became the patriarch of more nations in order to promulgate the belief in monotheism to the fullest extent possible. On the other hand, he distanced these other nations from the Holy Land, which was promised to the children of Yitzchak and Ya'akov, in order that the Chosen Nation would not be threatened by assimilation with their cousins. However, the aforementioned Kings of Yehuda married women who helped fill the Holy Land with the idolatry of Ba'al. This lack of care in choosing proper mates for the kings of Yehuda almost brought about the extinction of the House of David. As Chazal tell us: "Once Assa took the daughter of Omri as a wife for Yehoshafat, a decree was made on the House of David that it should perish along with the House of Achav (Omri's son)" (Seder Olam Rabba 17; Tosefta, Sota 12:3).

Let us all pray that we merit success in the war against assimilation, and that, along with it, we will see the restoration of the House of David to its proper glory.
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