Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #5: Chai Sarah (Sarah’s Life) B’resheit (Genesis) 23:1-25:18
Haftarah : M’lakhim Alef (1 Kings) 1:1-31
B’rit Chadashah: Mattityahu (Matthew) 8:19-22
In this parashah we are reminded of G-d’s omniscience and providence, the faith and trust in G-d that Yitz’chak and his senior servant demonstrated by their words and actions, and Rivkah’s character. The beautifully written narrative (Gen. 24:1-67) is the longest chapter in Genesis. This is no coincidence as it recapitulates the promise that compelled Avraham to leave his father’s house and the foreshadowing of events of his grandson Ya’akov (Jacob)/Israel as the ancestor of biological Jews.
Traditional Jewish scholars identify the senior servant as Eli’ezer based on Avraham’s question to G-d about who will be his heir when he had no children at that point “ Avram replied, ‘Adonai, G-d, what good will your gifts be to me if I continue childless; and Eli’ezer from Dammesek inherits my possessions (Gen. 15:2)?
Avraham’s trust and faith in Adonai is demonstrated again as he gives Eli’ezer an oath and a promise of divine guidance, but there is no guarantee of success (Gen. 24:7-8). Eli’ezer’s trust and faith are demonstrated with his request that G-d would allow him to succeed in his master’s request. He asks that G-d’s choice be a woman of consistent character. That is, her level of hospitality would be tested away from her immediate household. Around one’s house, a person may act one way, but once away from the presence of parents or siblings, the individual may act completely different. Eli’ezer asks that G-d’s choice of a mate for his master not only provide him a drink of water, but spontaneously offers to water the camels as well (Gen. 24:14; 18-19). This task was strenuous and time consuming, requiring a deliberate effort. According to the Chumash commentary of this passage based on the translator of R’Hirsch’s commentary, each camel could consume 140 gallons on their first drink!
Eli’ezer is quick to thank G-d on behalf of Avraham for providing Rivkah as a future bride for Yitz’chak (Gen. 24:26-7). His trust in Adonai, G-d is also demonstrated in the sequence of events in this narrative. Rivkah’s actions meet the request Eli’ezer made to G-d for a sign that he picked the right individual for Yitz’chak; then he placed the jewelry on Rivkah; then she identified herself , a woman belonging to Avraham’s kinsmen with her being “the daughter of B’tu’el the son Milkah bore to Nachor” (Gen. 24:24). We may wonder why “The man gazed at her in silence, waiting to find out whether Adonai had made his trip successful or not.” This statement provides us an important lesson in that he did not “jump ahead” of G-d. Although his instinct would probably have been to assist Rivkah in this tedious and strenuous task, he waited to observe the extent of her hospitality and whether she was indeed G-d’s pick for Yitz’chak.
From Rivkah’s actions and character we learn that she is an initiator. When she saw a need such as water for Eli’ezer’s camels, she offered to run and fetch water and pour it in a trough as many times as needed to fill the camels’ thirst. It was common courtesy to give a drink to a stranger, but it took initiative to offer water for the camels as well., especially when she had to run to the well, draw the water, and bring it to the trough each time.
But initiative can be misguided. In later events we see that she was aware that G-d’s plan would be realized through Ya’akov and not Esav (Gen. 25:23). So Ya’akov became her favorite and she actually planned ways to ensure he would receive the blessings of the firstborn that should have been Esav’s by the natural progression of the birthright.
We also often try to justify “jumping ahead” of G-d, adding G-d’s approval to our actions. Although our actions will not change G-d’s plans, we are responsible for what we do and must always be cautious about our motives. When we think about a course of action, do we seek G-d’s guidance through prayer and comparing our plans to G-d’s Torah, or do we execute our plans and only then seek to justify or add G-d’s approval to our actions? Initiative and action are admirable when they are controlled by G-d and not our human wisdom. Thanks to G-d for His grace and mercy, we read throughout G-d’s Word that G-d makes use of our mistakes in his plan. I submit He already knows what mistakes we will make and integrates them into His plan but that they are also “allowed” to teach us more about who we are and where we need to improve!
The dichotomy between generosity and selfishness is again demonstrated between the actions of Rivkah and her brother Lavan. When he sees the nose-ring and bracelets on Rivkah, we have an immediate foresight of his materialistic and selfish character that he displays to his own future son-in-law, Ya’akov (Jacob) borne out through subsequent scripture.
At first, Lavan and B’tu’el respond to Eli’ezer’s request to take Rivkah away from her house by saying “take her and go and let her be a wife to your master’s son, as the L-rd has spoken” (Gen. 24:51). But within 24 hours, they propose that she stay for 10 days. “Days” can mean years (Lev. 25:29) According to the Chumash, 10 days can also mean a year or ten months. This was the period of time given to a young bride in order to prepare for the marriage (Kesubos 57b). However, they relent at Eli’ezer’s request and Rivkah’s consent to leave that morning. This change of heart by Lavan actually provided Rivkah with an opportunity to exercise her faith, and she passed the test. Her quick response to go with Eli’ezer indicates she was going to go with or without her family’s consent.
Rivkah’s modesty and reverence for her soon -to-be husband is described in verse 24:65. Once she learns that the man walking to meet her is Yitz’chak, she covered herself with her veil. She was taken into Sarah’s tent where she and Yitz’chak consummated their relationship as man and wife. Yitz’chak loved her and he was comforted for the loss of his mother.
Haftarah: M’lakhim Alef (1 Kings) 1:1-31
This week’s haftarah describes King David in his elder years, echoing this week’s Torah reading, which mentions that “Abraham was old, advanced in days.”
King David was old. As we age, we lose the insulation provided by fat in some areas of our bodies. David was not exempt from this and he was perpetually cold. A young maiden, Abishag of Shunam, was recruited to serve and provide warmth for the elderly monarch.
Seeing his father advancing in age, Adoniahu, one of King David’s sons, seized the opportunity to prepare the ground for his ascension to his father’s throne upon the latter’s passing — despite King David’s express wishes that his son Solomon succeed him. Adoniahu recruited two influential individuals — the High Priest and the commander of David’s armies — both of whom had fallen out of David’s good graces, to champion his cause. He arranged to be transported in a chariot with fifty people running before him and invited a number of his sympathizers to a festive party where he publicized his royal ambitions.
The prophet Nathan encouraged Bat Sheva, mother of Solomon, to approach King David and plead with him to reaffirm his choice of Solomon as his successor. This she did, mentioning Adoniahu’s recent actions of which the king had been unaware. Nathan later joined the Bat Sheva and the king to express support for Bat Sheva’s request. King David acceded to their request: “Indeed,” he told Bat Sheva, “as I swore to you by the Lord God of Israel saying, ‘Surely Solomon, your son, shall reign after me and he shall sit on my throne in my stead,’ surely, so will I swear this day.”
B’rit Chadashah: Focus on Mattityahu (Matthew) 8:19-22
“A Torah-teacher approached and said to him (Yahshua), ‘Rabbi, I will follow you wherever you go.’ Yahshua said to him, ‘The foxes have holes, and the birds flying about have nests, but the Son of Man has no home of his own.’ Another of the disciples said to him, ‘Sir, first let me go and bury my father.’ But Yahshua replied,’ Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”
Son of Man: One of the titles of the Messiah based on Daniel 7:13-14, where the text has “bar-enosh” (Aramaic). “Bar-enosh,” like Hebrew ben adam, can also mean “son of man,” “typical man,” “one schooled to be a man,” or simply “man.” both heaven and on earth to be a man. Yahshua refers to himself by this title frequently, stressing his full identification with the human condition (Rom.5:12-21, 8:3-39; 1 Cor.15:21-49; Phil. 2:5-11.
In verses 21-22 we learn that IF we consider ourselves true followers, talmidim, disciples of Yahshua and lovers of G-d, we must rearrange our priorities. This disciple’s father is not physically dead. This son wants to return to the comfort of his current existence and remain home until his father dies. It is only after he gains his inheritance that he might consider following Yahshua. On this and other excuses read Luke 9:57-62. Yahshua explicitly refers to those who choose the existence in this world over serving G-d/Yahshua as “the dead.” Let the spiritually dead, those concerned with the benefits of this world, including inheritances, remain with each other in life and eventually bury their own physically dead. The true disciple must get his/her priorities straight. Consequences of not making this choice are discussed in Matthew (13:7,22 ;19:16-26; Luke 14:15-24). May we “run to the well” as did Rivkah to serve our G-d as the opportunities present themselves, and in the meantime grow in our love and obedience to G-d’s Torah.
R. Tamah Davis-Hart