פרשת חיי שרה
With Rav Avigdor Miller
Sanctuary of Sarah
Part I. Sarah’s Life
The First Beis Hamikdash
When we talk about the churban Beis Hamikdash, we’re accustomed to thinking about the Beis Hamikdash of Shlomo HaMelech and the second Beis Hamikdash that was built by the returnees from Bavel. Those more familiar with our history might also look back in longing to the Mishkan Hashem that the Am Yisroel had with them in the midbar for forty years, as well as its replacement, the Mishkan Shilo that stood for three hundred sixty nine years before it’s destruction by the Plishtim.
But the truth is that there was another churban beis hamikdash that took place way back in the beginning of our history: וַתָּמָת שָׂרָה – And Sarah passed away (Chayei Sarah 23:2). The day that Sarah took her last breath in her tent was actually the first churban bayis. The greatest home in our history was no more.
A Glorious Period In History
Now, to many people that seems like an exaggeration, we think that the most important part of our history came later, when we became shishim ribo and left Mitzrayim to accept the Torah on Har Sinai – that’s when we became a nation; that’s when our history began.
But that’s all wrong – that was already the tail end of the glorious period of our history. We must look back at the lives of our Avos as a fundamental part of our history – when the Avos passed away a most important part of our history came to an end. The Ramban says that. He says that when the Avos passed away, the Shechina that was present in their tents went into galus.
So we understand that the first Beis Hamikdash was the tent that Sarah built. Afterwards, when Yitzchak wed Rivka, he tried to restore some of that glory. וַיְבִאֶהָ יִצְחָק הָאֹהֱלָה שָׂרָה אִמּוֹ – And Yitzchok brought her into the tent of his mother, Sarah (ibid. 24:67). It says that for a reason – he “brought her into the tent of Sarah” because he wanted to try and recapture some of that old greatness of his mother, Sarah, who had just passed away (Rashi, ibid.). And Rivka tried her best, absolutely. But it wasn’t the same.
Sarah Imeinu’s Teacher
I should explain something about Sarah. Sarah was ten years younger than Avraham. Now, exactly when they married, I cannot tell you. But I imagine that Avraham probably married very early. Let’s say he was eighteen – it’s just a guess – so Sarah was a little girl of eight. That’s how they married in those days.
Now, Avraham had been a very precocious child; he studied the world around him and already at the age of three he had surmised that there was a Designer. And he never stopped surmising! By day and by night he continued to clarify everything around him and by the time he was eighteen years old he must have been very much advanced in his studies. Avraham Avinu didn’t have to go to school. The whole briyah was a school for him and he saw better than any professors will ever see.
And so we can imagine that he took his young wife out in the fields pointing out to her the wonders of Hashem in nature. “Look Sarala,” he said. “Look at the thorns on this rose bush.” “And watch these bees leaving their hive.” Take a look out there over the horizon at the clouds forming over the water.” He explained to her the deep chochma in all the various processes and phenomena of nature, and Sarah listened. She never tired of listening. She was an apt pupil and she soaked it all in.
A Brilliant Personality Develops
Over time Sarah became a brilliant personality of her own. Sarah looked the fluff seeds of the dandelion plant that are carried by the wind to be planted elsewhere. The fluff is not an accident; it’s a light material, especially made to float in the wind. She studied the seeds of the sycamore tree; she picked one up and saw how the balls were composed of hundreds of little seeds. And each seed had wings attached to the end so that it should blow in the wind and scatter everywhere and plant some more trees. Now isn’t that a remarkable accident, that a seed should have wings it? Sarah didn’t see a seed with wings – she saw Hakodosh Boruch Hu.
When Sarah saw a cow in the field she thought to herself, “The cow is a wonderful machine! It eats inexpensive grass and turns it into valuable milk and meat and leather. And what does it do with the leftovers, the waste? It drops fertilizer in the fields for food to grow. Look at the cow standing there, fertilizing the field.
But from the fertilizer flies develop — all the fields are full of flies and flies bite cows. So the cow has a long tail, and at the end of the tail there’s a little mop, and it swishes the mop from side to side all day long driving the flies off.” That’s how Sarah was thinking all day long. She wasn’t looking at cows – she was seeing the wonders of Hashem’s creation.
Did you ever see a cow? I once sat and watched a cow for a long time. You should watch that one time; it’s wonderful evidence of a Designer. All day long it was swishing, hitting its sides with its tail. Otherwise the flies would draw blood from the cow. And so the cow keeps protecting itself with a flyswatter provided by Hakodosh Boruch Hu. It’s remarkable to see.
Sarah Was Unmatched
For years and years Sarah spent her days and nights seeing these remarkable things and thinking about Hashem. Sarah was ninety years old before she had her child and so she had many years to accomplish tremendous achievements. And of course, she took all that Awareness of Hashem that she gained and she built her house on that ideal – she built a home that nobody could match.
As much as Rivka was a wonderful personality, a tzadeikis, a pure soul – we can speak for a long time about the greatness of Rivka – but it was nowhere near Sarah. When Rivka came into the tent of Sarah, it was only a substitute; it was like a Bayis Sheini after the Bayis Rishon (see Horayos 6a).
And later, Rochel and Leah also walked in the ways of Sarah. And to a great extent they continued the building of the Am Yisroel, but it wasn’t the same – no. They tried, and the spirit of idealism still continued, but on the day of וַתָּמָת שָׂרָה, the first Beis Hamikdash went out of existence. It’s difficult for us to realize what a loss it was to the world; the idealism that was in that tent, there was nothing like it. The kedusha that reigned in that atmosphere was never again repeated – not in the mishkan and not in the building of Shlomo; never again.
The Road To Righteousness
Now, once we know that, we can better understand the the tzivui that Yeshaya Hanavi commands us. It’s in Yeshaya 51, at the beginning. שִׁמְעוּ אֵלַי רֹדְפֵי צֶדֶק מְבַקְשֵׁי הַשֵּׁם – Listen to me you who pursue righteousness, those who seek Hashem. Yeshaya Hanavi is going to tell us now – al pi Hashem – how to achieve this goal of righteousness.
So he tells us, what should you do? הַבִּיטוּ אֶל צוּר חֻצַּבְתֶּם – Look to the rock from which you were hewn out, וְאֶל מַקֶּבֶת בּוֹר נֻקַּרְתֶּם – and to the cistern, that’s a pit, from which you came forth. Now what is the rock from which we were hewn out, and what is the cistern, the well, from which we came forth? הַבִּיטוּ אֶל אַבְרָהָם אֲבִיכֶם – Look to Avraham your father, וְאֶל שָׂרָה תְּחוֹלֶלְכֶם – and to Sarah who gave birth to you.
That’s the way to succeed in attaining tzedek. If you really seek Hashem, look at them, at the home that they built together. Habitu means, keep looking. Study them, over and over. Be mimetic in whatever the Torah tells you about them, or whatever the chachomim add peirushim about them. Put your mind into it. That’s the way for rodfei tzedek and mevakshei Hashem to succeed.
Not only Avraham – “And to Sarah who gave birth to you,” the navi says. Sarah Imeinu! It wasn’t only that she was the wife of Avraham. It was Sarah herself, on her own merit, whom Hashem wanted as our first mother! That’s why when Hakodosh Boruch Hu made a promise that the eternal people would come out of Avraham he stipulated that from no other woman would Avraham beget the seed of promise except through Sarah. And so, when we are commanded to “Look back,” we are charged especially with modeling ourselves after שָׂרָה תְּחוֹלֶלְכֶם.
A Prototype For History
Now, if we are going to be successful in life we must know beforehand what we expect the results to look like. When you plan on building something you must know in advance what is your picture of the finished house – it makes a big difference if it’s going to be a storefront or a cottage or a school. We need a model to follow and therefore we must seek a prototype according to which we will lay our plans. And so the Navi Yeshaya tells us that the very best home in Jewish history should be our model – and that is the home of Avraham and Sarah.
Now as much as I’m going to tell you, you must know that it is not going to approximate what the greatness of that house was. I’m like an ant looking up at a tremendous mountain trying to describe what’s high up on the summit. I’m not capable of fully understanding the greatness of Sarah’s tent. It’s like a blind man speaking of the glory of the sunlight — we never saw it and we have no idea about the splendor that prevailed in that house. But we can try to understand at least a little bit of the idealism that held sway in that noble home and that was effective in creating the final result of a beis hamikdash upon which the Shechina rested.
PART II. Sarah’s Home
The Mother Sets The Tone
Now, I should explain something here before we go further: As much as we’ll say that the Am Yisroel was built by Avraham – and absolutely it was – we understand that it was Sarah who was primarily in the tent. Avraham spent much of his life outside the tent and therefore the chief builder of that home, that beis hamikdash, was Sarah.
Of course, Avraham was a builder too. אַל תִּקְרָא בָּנַיִךְ אֶלָּא בּוֹנָיִךְ – The sages of Torah are builders of the world, absolutely. Avraham made a revolution in the world. וַיִּקְרָא בְּשֵׁם הַשֵּׁם – He went out and made the world aware of Hashem. But as far as the tent, it was Sarah who was in the tent; הָאֹהֱלָה אֶל שָׂרָה, that’s where she was.
It was Sarah who raised Yitzchok; without Sarah’s guidance Yitzchok wouldn’t have achieved everything he did. Of course, Avraham was his father and there was no better father than Avraham, but Sarah had an equal share, even more of a share in raising Yitzchok during his formative years growing up in the tent. Sarah built the beis Yisroel! The mother of the Am Yisroel achieved the everlasting title of Sarah Imeinu because of how she built her home.
Of course, even the wife of an Irishman or a Negro builds a home, and many of them do a fine job of it too. But we’re talking now about something altogether different. Sarah did it on a tremendous scale of spiritual greatness; she built a sanctuary, a place of serving Hakodosh Boruch Hu.
A House Built Around Hashem
The central theme, the pivot on which everything revolved was the Creator of the world. All their thoughts and all their deeds were devoted to the ideal that Hashem is in our house. That’s what made it a beis hamikdash — the kedusha, the Awareness of Hashem, was so dense that it constantly impinged on their awareness in everything they did.
Now don’t think that a Jewish home is lacking cheer and fun. Avraham and Sarah lived very happy lives. They had more fun in their home than we have – much more. But their ideal was to build a beis hamikdash and that requires constant Awareness of Hashem. When they ate, they were eating like people who were eating offerings from the mizbeach. When they slaughtered an animal and prepared food to feed themselves and their guests it was no less than when the kohanim slaughtered and prepared an offering in the beis hamikdash.
You have to know that whatever Sarah did in gashmiyus was ruchniyus. Everything she did in her home was saturated with Hashem. When Sarah was baking, she wasn’t just baking; she was making menachos. She was serving Hashem! The gemara says that the par of Yom Kippur was just an echo of the par that Avraham slaughtered for every visitor. And you can be sure that the challos that Sarah made were a prototype for all the challos that were served in the Beis Hamikdash, the lachmei todah and the lechem hapanim and shtei halechem. Everything Sarah did in the home, was like a kohen serving Hakodosh Boruch Hu in the Beis Hamikdash.
Creating A Holy Space
About Sarah the passuk (Mishlei 31:27) describing the eishes chayil is quoted: צוֹפִיָּה הֲלִיכוֹת בֵּיתָהּ – She oversees, she supervises what goes on in her house. Tzofiyah means she was a mashgiach, looking constantly if everybody is behaving properly in her house. Because Sarah understood that she was building a mikdash, something holy and eternal, so she kept a sharp eye out for anything that would impinge on the kedusha of the home.
Now, to say that she wouldn’t bear the sight of the Ladies Home Journal or a television in her tent, that we don’t have to mention; a home that has in it gentile magazines and television is not a beis hamikdash – it’s not even a decent gentile home. You cannot be decent if you have a television around – you just can’t.
But Sarah Imeinu set her sights on much more than a decent home – she was on the lookout for even the slightest thing that didn’t belong in a beis hamikdash. And so, when וַתֵּרֶא שָׂרָה, when Sarah saw, אֶת בֶּן הָגָר מְצַחֵק – that Yishmael was laughing, she didn’t let it pass so easily. She saw him joking around. Now, the meforshim say all kinds of things about metzachek; that it was avodah zarah, gilui arayos and shfichas damim. But we’ll follow pshuto shel mikra and we’ll understand that this is what the chachamim meant: In the house of Sarah, if somebody is jesting, making leitzanus, saying foolish things – that’s like avodah zarah and gilui arayos and shfichas damim!
A Place For The Shechinah
When Yishmael laughed in that house, Sarah was scandalized; she was stunned by what she saw. Now, I’m sure Sarah smiled in that house all the time; she was a woman of good cheer; always smiling and friendly. But a joker?! A jester?! Such a person, who knows what can happen to him?! To laugh out loud in the house of Sarah was like a kohen gadol who entered the kodesh hakodoshim on Yom Kippur and someone peeked in and saw the kohen gadol give off a big laugh, a guffaw. On Yom Kippur! Such a holy day! It would be a scandal of scandals! And therefore Sarah reacted and said: גָּרֵשׁ – He has to be sent away; he doesn’t belong in this beis hamikdash anymore.
They had spent so many years building up yiras Hashem in that house and so, when she saw that, she told Avraham, “He can’t be here.” And Hakodosh Boruch Hu approved of her words (21:12). כֹּל אֲשֶׁר תֹּאמַר אֵלֶיךָ שָׂרָה שְׁמַע בְּקֹלָהּ. He agreed with her. I understand it sounds uncomfortable to American ears but Sarah was an idealist; that’s the house she wanted. In her house everybody had hadras kodesh and that’s how it became a mikdash. It was due to Sarah, you have to know. עָנָן הָיָה קָשׁוּר עַל אֲהָלָהּ – There was a cloud, a cloud of the Shechina, that remained over her tent as long as she was alive (Bereishis Rabbah 60:16). It was there because of Sarah. She’s the one who built that Beis Hamikdash mamash — more than a Beis Hamikdash.
Sarah’s Many Servants
And make no mistake, Sarah built it with her own hands, she did everything in the home. Sarah was a very wealthy woman with many servants. Avraham had three hundred and eighteen trained men who went to fight when it was necessary, and he had others as well, who were not trained in warfare. And this was still in the good old days — in those days people married and had children and so there were at least a thousand servants in Avraham’s camp. Right away with common calculations we understand that Sarah had many helpers in her home.
And so when Avraham planted orchards and dug wells and invited people to stop in to eat and drink who do you think prepared food for them? Who was the one who baked for them? It wasn’t Sarah’s servants; Sarah herself did the work. Like it states, לוּשִׁי וַעֲשִׂי עֻגוֹת. And they always were having guests – not only these three malachim. Avraham was always busy with hachnosas orchim. He always sought visitors and Sarah was the one who always baked for them because she was doing much more than baking bread – she was baking menachos.
It’s like the woman who has plenty of kosher bakeries to buy challah, but she wants to bake for Shabbos herself. She bakes her Shabbos challos herself and she fulfills the mitzvah of hafroshas challah. It’s a mitzvah — לֹא תֵאָכֵל בָּאֵשׁ תִּשָּׂרֵף, like you burn kodshim psulim; so she burns the piece of challah herself and she has the mitzvah of seeing her challah on the table on Shabbos. The Jewish mother today is still walking in the footsteps of her model Sarah, the idealist who with her own hands baked for her guests.
It’s important to know that among the great qualities of Sarah was that she was a balebusteh – she ran a household. She wasn’t just sitting there and saying Tehillim or learning Chovos Halevovos. She was doing hard work, physical work!
Every Chore Is Idealistic
An idealistic woman shouldn’t think that her idealism is expressed only by looking in seforim. Don’t think her life is wasted if she’s a balebusteh managing the house. If she has spare time, why not – let her look in seforim. But she must be aware that it’s her work in the home that is the best expression of her idealism. When she is sweeping the floor, when she’s washing the clothing, she is serving Hakadosh Baruch Hu. Every chore that people do in that house, if it’s a frum house and they do it l’shem Shamayim, that’s the ingredient – l’shem Shamayim, then they’re building something that’ll last forever.
When a mother is putting clothing into the washer she’s thinking, “I want to maintain a frum Jewish house because Hakodosh Boruch Hu gave me this function. I don’t have to work in an office. I won’t run for elections to be a city councilwoman – it’s a waste of my life. Right here is the place where I achieve.” And children! “The more children that I can have, the bigger the achievement.” A woman like that is building a Beis Hamikdash – she is emulating the avodas Hashem that made Sarah into Sarah Imeinu.
So to sum up – I would say the following, only that immediately it would minimize everything; it would spoil everything. But I have to say it. Whatever Avraham and Sarah did was with kavanah l’sheim shamayim. Today already, that might not mean much because that phrase is overused, it’s bandied about and cheapened. But it’s the truth – it was with the awareness of shamayim that they did everything. And therefore nothing was done unless it was motivated by this awareness.
Now, as I said before, I must repeat the exhortation that you shouldn’t consider this exaggerated. Don’t think it’s being overdone – actually whatever you hear now is only part of the truth. Because I never saw such a home and therefore I’m not able to do justice to it. Everything they did was saturated with Hashem. All their days whatever move they made, it was built on the thought that Hakodosh Boruch Hu is right here – the Shechina is resting on our home and we’re doing our best to live up to such a glorious environment.
Part III. Our Home
Everything For The Sake Of Heaven
And therefore when people today in their own homes plan to emulate the way Sarah and Avraham lived, one of the very first foundations of the home must be l’sheim shamayim, Awareness of Hakodosh Boruch Hu.
Now that doesn’t mean that everything must be done that way or else you don’t do it. We are only human after all and we try our best. And therefore we always try to add an additional intent to what we do in our homes. Let’s say you’re sitting down to eat. Now, you’re not going to be a hypocrite. You’re eating because you’re hungry; the food is delicious and your appetite is good, so you’re not going to say that you’re eating like Avraham and Sarah ate, that you’re eating only l’sheim shamayim. You’re going to eat in a natural manner. But at the same time however you aspire to the intention of l’sheim shamayim.
You might even say something to that effect. You could say, “I’m eating like the Shulchan Aruch commands us.” The Shulchan Aruch in Orach Chaim (231) commands that when you eat you should do it for the purpose of serving Hakodosh Boruch Hu. It’s written in the michaber there in the Shulchan Aruch and nobody there argues. Of course it comes from the mishna, וְיִהְיוּ כָּל מַעֲשֶׂיךָ לְשֵׁם שָׁמַיִם.
It Becomes Part Of Your Personality
So in order to fulfill the Shulchan Aruch, when you sit down to eat you should allow this thought to enter your mind and gradually as you continue to practice it, it begins to take part in all of your actions. It has a share in your thoughts. And after a while you’ll find that part of your intention is l’sheim shamayim. You start speaking about l’sheim shamayim and it’s only external. But after a while it becomes a true intention which participates in your motivations.
That’s number one! The foundation of a home is the Awareness of Hakodosh Boruch Hu. We are marrying, we are moving into a home, לַעֲבֹד אֶת הַשֵּׁם. And whatever we are doing, even gashmiyus sh’bigashmiyus, even the joy, the physical fun in the home is intended to enhance the status of that home as a place of the service of Hashem. And as the years pass by, the ideal grows upon you and it becomes a stronger and stronger part of your personality and your thoughts until finally, before you realize it, it occupies a very big part in all your motivations.
Quality Improves With Age
Someone who does that is emulating Sarah Imeinu because it was with that motivation that Sarah built her home. And that’s why she was worth her weight in diamonds. Like it says in Mishlei, אֵשֶׁת־חַיִל מִי יִמְצָא — Where can you find a woman like this? A woman of valor – so industrious and energetic? וְרָחֹק מִפְּנִינִים מִכְרָהּ – Her price is far beyond the price of diamonds. מִי יִמְצָא – Who can find such a thing?! A woman, an idealist, who is happy to serve Hakodosh Boruch Hu in the home! A woman like that becomes holier and holier every day; every passing day she becomes more valuable
The gemara (Erechin 19b) says, סַבָּא בְּבֵיתָא – an old man in the house, פָּאחָא בְּבֵיתָא he’s a nuisance in the house. An old man can’t work. All he does is complain about his aches and pains. Sometimes he comes into the kitchen where his wife is baking and cooking and he opens the cabinets and refrigerator and he gets in the way. An old man, a retiree, belongs in the kollel all day long. In the home, he’s a constant nuisance. In the yeshiva he’s a treasure, but סַבָּא בְּבֵיתָא, in the house he’s a פָּאחָא, a calamity.
But סַבְתָּא בְּבֵיתָא – an old woman in the house, סִימָא בְּבֵיתָא – she’s a treasure in the house. The older she gets, she becomes more and more devoted, a bigger servant of Hashem. An old woman is more and more competent, a better balebusteh. She gives advice to her children and grandchildren — how to take care of the children; there’s a cold, a fever; she knows what to do. Not only that; other things too. Sarah Imeinu was a treasure in many different ways. The awareness of the Presence of the Shechina in her tent was the overriding consideration in all of her actions until that sad day when וַתָּמָת שָׂרָה, when Sarah Imeinu passed away and her beis hamikdash went out of existence.
Now, I have to explain something al pi dikduk. The word מוּת – to die, is connected in lashon kodesh with the word מוּשׁ, to move away, to depart; like in לֹא יָמוּשׁוּ מִפִּיךָ and לֹא יָמִישׁ מִתּוֹךְ הָאֹהֶל. The words מוּת and מוּשׁ are almost identical because in lashon kodesh, when you say מוּת, a person doesn’t end his existence; he’s just moving out of here to someplace else – he’s מָשׁ. That’s not drush, by the way. It’s not said by me; it’s said by all the writers, all the ba’alei dikduk. מוּת and מוּשׁ mean both to move away.
So וַתָּמָת שָׂרָה means וַתָּמֵשׁ שָׂרָה – Sarah moved out and she took her tent with her. The tent didn’t die – it’s forever and ever. And so when you look at the eishes chayil, the virtuous woman, the woman of valor, it says עֹז וְהָדָר לְבוּשָׁהּ. She is clothed in strength and beauty. It means, she may not spend much money on herself, on jewelry and clothing, but she is clothed in such strength and beauty that will last forever.
עֹז means these are garments that will last forever and הָדָר means that they are the most beautiful garments. The garments of good character, middos tovos, yiras Shamayim, loyalty, idealism, these are the garments with which Sarah clothed herself. And וַתִּשְׂחַק לְיוֹם אַחֲרוֹן – she laughs at the last day, which means, she looks forward with confidence to the last day because death means something; mavess is not death – it’s just a threshold. And so when וַתָּמָת שָׂרָה, what that means is that she stepped over that threshold into the next world and there she found her eternal tent waiting for her with all the glory that she put into it.
We Look Back Forever
But not only does Sarah’s tent exist forever with her in Olam Haba, but it exists forever as a model for us. And so, even though Sarah’s passing is considered the first churban that our people experienced, yet, throughout our history, the Am Yisroel has made it their goal to look back at the glorious tent of Sarah and to emulate what this great mother accomplished in her home; the foundation this noble woman laid down as the model home for us.
Every child who descends from the avos, everyone who wants to emulate the avos, should study this picture of our great ancestors and understand that that’s their function too. On a lesser scale, everybody can build a permanent dwelling for himself or herself – a dwelling that will be forever and ever, if he understands that his function to put all that he has into his house, to learn Torah in his house, to do mitzvos in his house, to have children and bring them up in the house with idealism, Shabbos and Yom Tov, and every day, good character, kindly words, and most important Awareness of Hakodosh Boruch Hu as much as possible in everything you do.
And even if we don’t succeed in reaching the summits of these great people but there’s no question that there is so much greatness to aspire to. It’s beyond our sight; it towers beyond our range of vision how great we could become – but every person who begins the career of building a home has the right, the obligation, to build that home on the same foundation that Avraham and Sarah laid down for their home. And that’s the foundation of the greatest possible loyalty to Hakodosh Boruch Hu and the greatest possible dedication to the ideal of making the very best home that they could make.
Have A Wonderful Shabbos
A Vort on the Parsha
וַיֹּסֶף אַבְרָהָם וַיִּקַּח אִשָּׁה וּשְׁמָהּ קְטוּרָה. וַתֵּלֶד לוֹ אֶת זִמְרָן וְאֶת יָקְשָׁן וְאֶת מְדָן וְאֶת מִדְיָן וְאֶת יִשְׁבָּק וְאֶת שׁוּחַ.
And Avraham again took a wife and she bore him Zimran and Yakshan and Medan and Midian and Yishbak and Shuach.
And Avraham again took a wife…
The Torah is telling us here that Avraham Avinu married again at the age of 137 after the passing of Sarah Imeinu. The Torah here is revealing to us information which no human writer would have ever provided his readers. Avraham Avinu, the father of the chosen people, could have been portrayed as the father of the Am Yisroel alone. Why would anyone writing the history of the Am Yisroel bother with the seemingly unimportant and maybe even degrading fact that Avraham also fathered other children, children who became nations that were subsequently scorned by the Am Yisroel?
As we read this possuk we are reminded that these words are one of many such testimonials to the utter truthfulness of the Torah — and also of the Torah-people that never altered the Torah that was given to Moshe Rabeinu at Har Sinai.
And Avraham again took a wife and she bore to him…
Here we learn a fundamental principle. By now Yitzchok was already married – so Avraham’s hopes were fully realized. Hashem had promised him “For in Yitzchok — that means only through Yitzchok — shall be called your seed” (21:12), and so our possuk seems surprising. The Am Yisroel was already born — Yitzchok was building the future of the Am Yisroel, so it seems to us surprising that any additional children would be desired by Avraham Avinu.
But here we see that no matter how much a person has achieved in his lifetime, there is always opportunity for more greatness, more perfection, as long as one is still alive. Life, every small portion of it, is an opportunity that shouldn’t be wasted. And even when one is not able to accomplish the great things he accomplished in his younger years, it doesn’t detract in the least from the opportunities he has right now – even at the ripe old age of 137.
And she bore to him Zimran and Yakshan and Medan and Midian and Yishbak and Shuach…
These six children are henceforth entirely ignored by the Torah. It is certain that Avraham’s six sons from Keturah were great and righteous men, exemplary personalities, and that before being sent away they were trained by their superlatively great father in all good traits of character and in understanding of Hashem’s ways. We can be certain that they lived great lives of virtue and passed on eventually to their reward in Olam Habo. If we would encounter any one of Avraham’s sons, we would be extremely excited to see the offspring of this giant of giants whom Hashem loved so greatly.
– And yet they are completely forgotten by us.
We see here a most noteworthy principle: Not only does Hashem choose the best; but because of the best, the others recede into the background and are entirely ignored! The Am Yisroel was chosen, and from now on these families of Keturah no longer deserve any mention in the Torah.
וַיְשַׁלְּחֵם מֵעַל יִצְחָק בְּנוֹ
And Avraham sent his six sons away from Yitzchok his son.
The heart aches for these noble sons of Avraham were sent away by Avraham Avinu. Alas, alas! That eventually their posterity was commingled with the Nations and were lost. We may surmise that the loss of Yishmael and now these six sons was a deep sorrow for Avraham.
Avraham to pay a tremendous price when he sent away these six sons for the sake
of Yitzchok. And yet, no price is too great to pay for the emergence of a
superbly righteous personality such as Yitzchok, and for the emergence of the
righteous people who would come from Yitzchok.