Chaye Sorah 3

D'var Torah by Rabbi Jay Spero


Maintaining Trust

Parshas Chaye Sorah

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In the beginning of this week’s portion, Sorah passes away. This happened immediately after the binding of Yitzchok. Avraham had been commanded to offer up his son Yitzchok as a sacrificial offering. Before he actually offered him up, Hashem told Avraham that he had proven his dedication, and a ram was offered in Yitzchok’s stead.

After Avraham returned home he had the difficult task of burying Sorah. Some commentators include this as one of Avraham’s tests. The Mishna in Ethics of the Fathers (Chapter 5 Mishna 3) states that Avraham was tested ten times and passed them all to show how much Avraham loved Hashem.

Avraham, as progenitor of the Jewish people, needed to be tested, as his acts would not only have an effect on himself, but on all future generations after him. Seemingly, the binding of Yitzchok was Avraham’s greatest test. After passing this test, one would think that everything following the binding of Yitzchok would be downhill. The reality, however, was much different.

First Avraham discovers after he arrives home that Sorah has passed away. Then he has to haggle with Ephron to purchase the land on which Ma’aras Hamachpayla — the burial place of Adom and Chava, that was also to become the burial place of our forefathers — is located.  This would seem to be particularly galling due to the fact that Avraham has been promised this land, as Hashem had previously told Avraham: “Arise, walk about the land through its length and width, for to you I shall give it” (Bereshis 13:17). Then Ephron rips Avraham off, forcing Avraham to pay four hundred silver coins for his own land!

It would have been very easy at this point for Avraham to question Hashem, and ask, “Where is the justice? I have just offered to sacrifice my son, see my wife die, now I must haggle for land that has already been promised to me?”

Avraham does not do this. In fact, the following verse after this incident relates: “Now Avraham was old in years, and Hashem had blessed Avraham with everything” (Bereshis 24:1). Rabbi Shamshon Raphael Hirsh explains this by referring to the perspective of Avraham, in that Avraham felt completely blessed by Hashem.

These events show why Avraham was chosen as the first of our forefathers. It is his unswerving devotion to Hashem, his trust that though things may appear difficult and unfair, these things are for the best. It was Avraham’s reaction to these events that shaped his descendants and enabled us to forge ahead and trust in Hashem, even in the darkest of times.

Rabbi Jay Spero is the rabbi of the Saranac Synagogue in Buffalo.

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