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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Chayei Sara

A Matter Of Death, And Life

Even as Avraham was tending to Sara’s funeral, Hashem was preparing a proper daughter-in-law who would take the reins & carry Am Yisrael forward into the future
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If we take a bird’s eye view of the total picture of our Sedra, we will notice that it begins & ends on a fairly somber note. The "bookends" of the Parsha are the deaths of Sara Imeinu & Avraham Avinu, respectively.
But it is the middle section of Chaye Sara – the 67-verse 24th chapter - that takes up most of its narrative. Here we are told the story of Avraham sending his servant Eliezer out to find a bride for Yitzchak; Eliezer’s successful quest for just the right girl, one who demonstrates both chesed & chutzpa; & the eventual marriage of Rivka to Yitzchak.
Back in Parshat Lech-Lecha, when Hashem promised great rewards to Avraham, he responded by saying: "What good is all You will give me, v’anochi holech ariri?! (seeing that I go "ariri") & my house steward is Eliezer."
The word "ariri" can mean "without an inheritor" (per Rashi), but I suggest it is also related to the word "arur – cursed;" (you simply have to substitute the Alef for the Ayin, a commonly-used homiletic device).
In other words, Avraham is indicating to Hashem that despite his material success, despite the multitudes of people that he has persuaded to believe in the One G-d – who, as his students, qualify as "his children" – he will consider himself cursed unless he is assured that his biological family will carry on his legacy after he is gone.
Waiting in the wings is Rivka. She is a strong woman, in many ways. She shows her physical strength by carrying a large jug of water – enough for Eliezer & his camels – on her shoulder. And she shows her moral strength when she stands up to her corrupt family & leaves with Eliezer; & later when she courageously rejects her own son Esav in favor of his brother Yakov, who she knows is the rightful heir to the family's spiritual legacy. (In this way, Rivka emulates Avraham, who bravely rejected Eliezer’s desire to have his own daughter marry Yitzchak).
Our Sedra began when Avraham arranged for his dear wife’s kivra, grave. But the letters of "kivra" can be rearranged to spell out "Rivka." For even as Avraham was tending to Sara’s funeral, Hashem was preparing a proper daughter-in-law who would take the reins & carry Am Yisrael forward into the future. Death led to Life.
One of the most controversial topics in the Jewish world today is that of "Who is a Jew?" Many answers to this query have been offered, but I prefer that of Rav Riskin: "A Jew is someone whose grandchildren are Jewish!"

That is the ultimate "Teshuva" to this most crucial question.
Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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