Friday, December 2, 2022

A Contrary Wind

 

In my recent reading of Matthew chapter 14, I was particularly struck by that wonderful miracle of feeding the 5,000 men, plus women and children, with only five loaves of bread and two fishes. That is quite an impressive, or even phenomenal, feat! Later, while the crowds were dispersing, Yeshua’s disciples went around, each with his own basket, and filled them up with the leftovers. (Although I can’t imagine having fish and bread mixed together in the same container...).  What they did with those baskets is left untold. They may have had in mind to take them with, them so as to feed the poor in the area (who if need be, could be taken care of by Yeshua in an instant, as He has just proven). Yeshua, for His part, Immediately made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away” (verse 22 emphasis added).

Thus, doing their Master’s bidding, the disciples were in “the boat [which] was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary” (verse 24).  According to the record of this episode, they left the shore in the evening and it was now the fourth watch (i.e. 3 AM in the night). They were exhausted and struggled to manage the boat.  The winds had actually driven them in the opposite direction, to a different destination. They were headed for Bethsaida on the eastern shore but ended up at Gennesaret (verse 34) on the western side. But let me not leave out the most exciting part of this narrative, when Yeshua showed up walking on the water.  And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were frightened, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out for fear.  But immediately Yeshua spoke to them, saying, ‘Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid…’ And when they [Yeshua and Peter] got into the boat, the wind stopped" (Matthew 14:26-27; 32).  When they arrived at Gennesaret, many came to them and were healed.

In the last fifty years or so, incredible moves of the Spirit have taken place during which ministries, congregations, and churches were greatly blessed with success, material wealth, and spiritual abundance. But at the same time, our world has become darker and darker, to the point that we just may be in the fourth watch of the night, and find that the winds are pushing our ship in directions that are against our aimed-at goal.  We may be exhausted trying to get to our destination or accomplish our vision, while the world around us is, literally, going to hell and can’t do anything about it.  We fear that our children or grandchildren will be growing up in a world of iniquity and sin, the likes of which we have never seen before. We also know that the season of impending judgments is going to be full of distress, turmoil, and stress.  But even though the winds and the seas will rage, we must keep in mind that there is One who can walk above those waves and even calm the seas.

There may even be times, during the tempest, when we will not recognize Yeshua’s appearance and will mistake Him for a phantom or for just a figment of our imagination. However, this is not so when it comes to His voice, when He whispers in our hearts, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid…”  Even though we may find ourselves at a different destination, from the one that we set out to reach, we will be relieved knowing that He was faithful to bring us safely to a shore where many can be healed, and restored, including ourselves.

“Elohim is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah…    YHVH of hosts is with us; the Elohim of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah” (Psalm 46:1-3; 7).


Thursday, December 1, 2022


Parashat Va'ye'tze (“and he departed”, literally "and he came out") starts out with Yaacov the fugitive making his way from the land of Yisrael to Cha'ran (Haran). No sooner does he leave Be'er Sheva, “and he came upon a place" (Gen. 28:11). The verb “(va)yifga” indicates that "he happened", or even "stumbled upon" this location, as the sun was setting. That night Yaacov had a dream of “angels” – “mal'a'chim” (ref. v. 12) - ascending and descending a ladder. At the end of the Parasha (and twenty years later), while by himself (although far from being alone), Yaacov once again will "happen”, or "chance" to come across “mal'a'chim” (translated "messengers"), using the same Hebrew verb that we encountered above (“va'yif'ge'u”, ref. 32:1, translated "met" in English). ”Chance" and "messengers of YHVH" are therefore the two elements framing the time capsule of Ya'acov's Diaspora experience. The verb “paga” (root p.g.a., pey, gimmel, ayin), seems to point out that from Yaacov's point of view, or experience, the circumstances and the messengers were just ‘chance occurrences’ that he did not plan for nor anticipate. The ‘master planner’ and ‘conniver’ was no longer in command! In fact, he was more like a pawn, or an actor who was taking part in a great dramatic scheme directed by someone other than himself.

Thus, although the opening verse of the Parasha seems to indicate that Yaacov had in mind a set destiny, his path took him to a less defined and (quite likely) less desired place. We just noted that "he came upon a place…” and that “he stopped over for the night because the sun had set…" (28:11). The circumstances were imposed upon Yaacov, and so he stopped at what was a mere "place" (only later, in verse 19, do we find out that there was a town there). As Yaacov lay down, using a stone for a pillow, he had the aforementioned dream, during which Elohim promised to give him the “a’retz” (“ground, land”) that he was lying upon (v. 13), and to bring him back to this very “adama” (“soil”, v. 15; see Parashot* B’resheet – 2:6, and Toldot – 25:25). But as if to suggest that there was a greater dimension (a ‘heavenly’ one) attached to this plot of land and to the very promise, the word was given in a most awesome manner, with YHVH being described as standing above a ladder that connected heaven and earth (while the angels were ascending and descending). Ya'acov, therefore, deemed this place to be the "house of Elohim and the gate of heaven" (28:17). The "sulam" – ladder – was linking the earthly with the heavenly, mentioned only once in Scripture. The root s.l.l. (samech, lamed, lamed) means to "elevate, raise up" (e.g. Ps. 68:4) and also "paving an ascending path, or "an ascending path" (e.g. Numbers 20:19). The rungs of this ladder certainly symbolized the path destined for Yaacov's future generations, who were to lift up the One who stood above it.  This future is well described by the prophet Yishayahu: "Go through, go through the gates! Prepare the way for the people; Build up, build up the highway [solu, solu, ha'mesila]! Take out the stones, lift up a banner for the peoples!" (Isaiah 62:10 emphasis added). Or put differently, in the words of the Apostle Paul: "I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of Elohim in Messiah Yeshua" (Philippians 3:14 emphasis added), who said of Himself: "…you shall see heaven open, and the angels of Elohim ascending and descending upon the Son of Man" (John 1:51).

Yaacov not only "happened" by this "place", but he also used one of the stones of the "place" for a pillow. He lay down in this "place" and discovered that YHVH was in the "place", and that this "place" was truly awesome! Finally, he named the "place" Bet-El - the "house of Elohim" (28:11,16,17,19). The Hebrew word for "place" is “ma'kom,” of the root k.o.m (kof, vav, mem), meaning to "rise up". This particular “makom” was indeed the location where Yaacov's call to rise up was starting to resound! Almost twenty years from the current scene, Yaacov will be making a demand (addressing his father-in-law), to go back to his “place” (30:25). Being about to leave Lav’han’s estate with his wives, children, and livestock, we read: “Then Jacob rose up…” – va’ya’kam (31:17). We cannot leave Yaacov and “makom” without mentioning “y’kum”, which is translated “all living things”, and is found in B’resheet (Genesis) 7:4, 23, in reference to that which YHVH created (but which He also destroyed).

Needing something tangible to mark his experience, Yaacov picked up the stone on which he had rested his head, lifted it up as a column, and poured oil on top of it (28:18). After naming the place, he made an oath promising to make YHVH his Elohim (providing his conditions are met), adding, "This stone… shall become Elohim's house" (v. 22). Next, we meet the Patriarch-to-be at his desired destination. Upon seeing his beautiful cousin, he mustered up an inordinate amount of vigor, which enabled him to roll a large stone off the "mouth of the well", a feat that ordinarily required several people to accomplish (ref. 29:8-10). Toward the end of the Parasha (in 31:45-47), the covenant made between Ya'acov and his father-in-law, Lah'van (Laban), was also marked by a stone, which he again placed uprightly, as well as by a heap of stones which he named "gal'ed", "a witness heap” (31:45-46). Apparently during that season in Yaacov’s life the "e'vehn" (“stone”) became a marker (‘milestone’) of significant events and experiences.

Many years later, when the elderly Yaacov would pronounce blessings upon his sons on his deathbed, he will give his favorite one, Yosef (Joseph), the longest and most complex of the blessings. In the course of his pronouncement, Yaacov will make mention of the Mighty One of Yaacov, the Shepherd and Stone of Israel - E'vehn Yisrael, all these being titles of YHVH (Gen. 49:24 emphasis and italics added).  This is the only time that specific mention is made of the "Stone of Israel" in the entire Holy Writ, and not surprisingly it was uttered by the mouth of the one who walked a path made up of many stepping stones. Later on in the Word, more stones are uncovered: "the stone which the builders rejected, [and which] has become the chief cornerstone" (Ps. 118:22), as well as the "stone to strike and a rock [tzur] to stumble over" for "the two houses of Israel" (Ya'acov's progeny – Yishayahu/Isaiah 8:14, literal translation). Then there is the stone that was laid in Zion, "a tried stone, a tested stone, a costly cornerstone for the foundation…" about which it is said that "he who believes in it [Him] will not be disturbed" (Is. 28:16). Finally, the stone which hit Nebuchadnezzar’s giant statue shattering it to pieces, “became a great mountain and filled the whole earth” (ref. Daniel 2:31-35). Interestingly, the word "e'vehn", which is spelled alef, bet/vet, noon, if read without vowels can be broken up into two words: "av-ben", that is: "father-son". References to Yeshua as the “shepherd” (cf. Matt. 2:6; John 10:2 ff), as well as to the stone/rock (ref. 1st Cor. 10:4) would make Yaacov’s coinage of the term “Shepherd, Stone of Israel”, quite prophetic.

Being a member of the family of Be'tu'el (Bethuel) and Lah'van, Ra’chel's name, not unlike that of her aunt Rivka, is associated with the family business, as “Ra’chel” means a "ewe." Yaacov mentioned Lah'van's ewes and female goats in 31:38 when he lodged his complaint about the lifestyle and conditions that were imposed on him by his father-in-law during their twenty-year association. Ewes as “ra'chel” (plural “r'che'lim”) are mentioned rather rarely in the Tanach, one of those few instances being Yishayahu 53:7, where the Messiah is described as "a ewe - 'ra'chel' - before its shearers".

Whereas Yaacov’s mother Rivka watered the entourage of Avraham’s servants and livestock, in the present episode by the well, her son is the one watering the flocks of his uncle (ref. 29:10). Next Yaacov proceeds to kiss his cousin. In Hebrew these two actions are described thus: “va’ya’shk et hatzon” (and he watered the flocks); “va’yishak… le’Rachel” (“and he kissed… Rachel”). Noticed the alliteration employed here, hinting at what will soon transpire in Yaacov’s life – “watering” (work) in exchange for “kissing” (marrying the one he loved). Shortly afterward, Yaacov is greeted by his uncle, Lah’van, with a kiss. “He embraced him and kissed him” (29:13) uses “va’ye’na’shek” (the more common form of this verb), with the ending being – neshek – which is also the noun for “weapon/s” or, in biblical Hebrew, also for “battle” (e.g. Ps. 140:7; 2nd Kings 10:2; Ezekiel 39:9,10 etc.). Indeed, Lah’van’s initial greeting, with a hug and a kiss, will soon turn into a relationship that is characterized by battles and struggles (Cf.  Proverbs 27:6, where "he who hates bestows abundant kisses", literal translation).

Prior to being united with his beloved, Yaacov was ‘blinded’ into marrying her older sister, whose eyes are described as “delicate” (“ra’kot” in Hebrew). As we remember Yaacov himself took advantage of his father’s blindness to take away the birthright blessing from Esav (ref. 27:36), the word for birthright being “b’chora” (as we saw last week). Upon Yaacov lodging a complaint with his father-in-law, Lah’van, as to having been cheated, the latter retorts by saying: “It is not the practice in our place, to marry off the younger before the first-born – b’chira” (29:36). These events and the terms used in both episodes form quite a tit-for-tat symmetry. But the theme of blindness and firstborn doesn’t end there. When the time came for Yaacov to bless his progeny, starting with his choice of Ephraim and Mensahe, his son Yoseph was quite taken aback when he saw his, now blind, father switching the places of the grandsons. This time, however, impairment of sight did not get in the way, and the elderly Patriarch knew exactly who was in front of him and what he was about to bequeath to each one (ref. chapter 48).

Eleven of Yaacov's twelve sons were born in Cha'ran. Leh'ah gave birth to the first four, whose names express her attempts at appeasing her husband. The firstborn was therefore named - Re’u’ven - meaning, "behold, a son". Next is Shim'on, whose name stems from the verb "to hear" (indicating that her plea for another son has been heard by Elohim). Following him is Leh'vi, of the root "to accompany", (being sure now that upon his birth her husband will ‘accompany’ her). Leh'ah's fourth son was Yehuda, whose name is related to "giving thanks" or "praise". Ra’chel's maid, Bil’ha, whom the former gave to her husband so that she could be (literally) built through her, is next in line.  Rachel used the same words as Sarah did in relationship to Hagar (ref. Gen. 16:2. As we saw there in “being built” – ebaneh – are also embedded the letters for “ben,” son). Her anguish about being barren came to the fore in the names that she gave the sons that her maid bore to Yaacov. The meaning of the name of the first, Dan, is "judgment", or "dispensing justice/vindication". Bilha's second son was Naphtali, meaning "writhing" or "twisting", and by implication "struggle" (denoting Ra’chel's struggle with her sister). However, Leh'ah was not going to stand by and allow her sister to be "built up" through her maid (30:3). Thus, she too gave her maid, Zilpah, to her husband, hoping to have more sons through her. Zilpah birthed Gad, meaning "fortune" (as in "luck"). However, the pronouncement made then by Leah – “ba-gad” –  as she named this one, may also mean “he betrayed” (perhaps in reference to Yaacov’s relationship with her). Zilpa’s next pregnancy yielded Asher, whose name is of the root "happiness". Leh'ah's words, "I am blessed [or happy], for the daughters shall call me blessed" (30:13), recall the words of Miriam (Mary), Yeshua's mother, upon the birth of her Son (ref. Luke 1:48). Leh’ah herself birthed the next one, and named him Yisas'char, from the root to "hire", since she became pregnant with him upon "hiring" Yaacov from Ra’chel for a 'fee,' in the form of a mandrake plant that was picked by Re'uven. But once the baby was born, Leh'ah recalled the other meaning of the name, which is "wages", saying: "Elohim has given me my wages, because I gave my maid to my husband" (30:18). Leh'ah's sixth son was Z'vulun, whose name stems from the rare “zeved”, which means "endowment or gift”. But Leah did not stop there, she said, “now will my husband dwell with me” (30:20). “Dwell” here is “yizbeleni”, which can also mean “honor me”.  Thus, this son’s name, as is the case with some of his siblings’ names, has a twofold meaning, in spite of the root of the words not being identical.

As we have seen frequently, it is not always the grammatical accuracy that is prominent, as is evident also in this narrative, but rather associative thinking, being so often prevalent in the Biblical text (and the Hebraic mindset).

After Leh’ah gave birth to Dinah (whose name, like Dan’s, means "judgment" or "justice"), Ra’chel's desire was granted her and she too bore a son. "Elohim has taken away (a'saf) my reproach, [and] she named him Yosef, saying, 'may YHVH add (yosef) to me another son'" (v. 23, 24 emphases added). While Ra’chel was contemplating how her shame and disgrace were being removed by giving birth, she was also expressing hope that this one, who opened up her womb, will serve as a signal for more to follow. The two words, “asaf” (a.s.f., alef, samech, fey), here "take away" while literally "to gather", and “yasaf” (y.s.f., yod, samech, fey) "to add" and "to repeat", are related both in sound and meaning. When looking down the road of history these two words become prophetically significant. Yosef certainly was "added to" by his brother Binyamin (Benjamin), and also by receiving a double portion among the tribes of Yisrael when each of his sons became a tribe in his own right. Prophecy predicts the ingathering of the House of Yosef (and "his companions") on a future day, thus fulfilling the second meaning of his name (see Ez. 37:19).

The two 'camps' of Yaacov's descendants are alluded to at the end of the Parasha. In 32:1-2 Yaacov, as we pointed out before, meets the angels or messengers of YHVH, upon whose sight he exclaims: "This is the camp [or encampment] of Elohim’, and he named the place Ma'cha'na'yim". “Ma'cha'na'yim” is indicative of a double form of “ma'cha'neh”, meaning “camp”. What did Yaacov see when he looked at this ‘band of angels’? What was it about them that caused him to refer to a "camp" or to an "encampment", and why a double one?

In next week's Parasha we will see how, for strategic reasons, Yaacov will divide up his family into two companies (literally “camps”), before going to meet his brother Esav. Was the idea already brewing in his mind when he saw the angels/messengers, and thus he projected duality to their "camp"? Or was it the messengers from YHVH who advised him to so divide up his family before the crucial meeting? Perhaps through something they said or did, he learned that in the future his family would divide up into two camps. Is there a direct connection between the angels who were ascending and descending the ladder, when he first departed from the land of Yisrael, and these particular “mal'achim” here, who greeted him upon his return? Was YHVH thus reminding him of His promises?

We cannot leave our Parasha without examining the verb “to steal” – which occurs eight times in chapter 31 and is used (in Hebrew) in a number of ways. In verse 19 we learn that Ra’chel stole the household idols, and immediately following that it says: “and Jacob stole away”, literally “stole the heart” (of Lav’han). The latter accused his nephew of “stealing away”, with once again the literal rendering being “stealing my heart”, then of “stealing away” – literally “stealing me”, and what’s more, of “stealing the household idols” (vs. 26, 27, 30). In Yaacov’s retort against those accusations, he said, among other things: “These twenty years I have been with you; your ewes and your female goats have not miscarried their young, and I have not eaten the rams of your flock.  That which was torn by beasts I did not bring to you; I bore the loss of it. You required it from my hand, whether stolen by day or stolen by night” (vs. 38-39 italics added). However, the Hebrew rendering of the last expression is: “I was stolen by day and stolen by night” – “ganov gnuvti” (g.n.v, gimmel, noon, bet/vet), describing Yaacov’s state of vulnerability while with his employer. Many years later, his favorite son, Yosef, will repeat these very words while in the Egyptian jail: "For indeed I was stolen away – gunov gunavti - from the land of the Hebrews” (Gen. 40:15).  

Stealing and the fear of such are generally connected to the accumulation and protection of wealth and property. Verse 18 in chapter 31 certainly underscores how much the protagonists value their property. Let’s take a closer look at what is being said here: “And he carried away all his livestock and all his possessions which he had gained, his acquired livestock which he had gained in Padan Aram, to go to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan”. “Livestock” is “mikneh” – that which is purchased (k.n.h – to purchase). In both “acquired” and once again in “livestock” the same root of “purchase” is employed. The wording of this sentence, with all of its repetitions, makes up a very vivid picture of the attitude toward the amassed material goods. Yaacov’s fear is also seen in verse 42 when he calls upon the “Elohim of Avraham and the fear of Yitzchak”. This fear is “pachad”, dread, and not the “fear – awe, respect - of YHVH” – which is “yir’ah”. It seems here that Yaacov feels that it is only by the merit of his forefathers that he can address Elohim, while sadly the three-strand cord between himself, his father, and their Elohim is characterized by… fear.

 

*Parashot, plural for “Parasha” (while “Parashat” is

“Parasha of…”)

Friday, November 25, 2022

Hebrew Insights into Parashat Toldot – B’resheet (Genesis) 25:19 - 28:9

Last week's Parashat Cha’yey Sarah ended with the chronicles of Yishma'el's descendants. This week’s portion opens up with the chronicles of his brother, Yitzchak.  But while “toldot” means "begetting" (root y.l.d - “to give birth”), here “toldot” starts out with the barrenness of Yitzchak’s wife. Rivka’s condition, however, is inserted in an almost parenthetical manner and is couched between Yitzchak's intercession on her behalf and YHVH's response to the plea. 

In 25:21 it says that Yitzchak “entreated” - “vaya'a'tor” (a.t.r. - ayin, tav, resh) – YHVH, and "YHVH was entreated “(vaye'ater) of him" (italics added). The very form of the verbs (“entreat” – “entreated”) - both in the original Hebrew and in the English translation - points to the closeness of the “entreatee” to the “entreater”, and the latter’s deep empathy for the former. 

When the request is granted, it takes the form of not one, but two sons, the first of whom comes out red all over (ref. 25: 25). The word for “red” is “adom”, and as we saw in Parashat B’resheet (Genesis 1-4), “adom” is connected to “dam” (“blood”), “adama” (“earth”), and thence to Adam, "the first man" who is "earthy" (ref.1 Cor. 15:47). Esav, the firstborn, illustrates, therefore, the principle that the natural precedes the spiritual (ref 1 Cor. 15:46), despite the fact that his twin turns out to be, for a considerable time period, almost as 'earthy' as ‘Hairy the Red’.

This second boy, who emerged out of Rivka's womb while holding on to the “heel” – “ah'kev” - of his brother was hence named “Ya'acov” (ref. 25:26). Coming in the footsteps of his sibling, his name, which also means "to follow", perfectly matches the order of the births. In Scripture, the image of ‘heel-holding’ or ‘heel-grabbing’ often refers to hindering or trapping someone, as we see in the following examples: 

“Dan shall be a serpent... that bites the horse's heels” (Gen. 49:17); “The trap shall take him by the heel” (Job 18:9); “They mark my steps” (literally “heels” in Ps. 56:6). The following words in T’hilim (Psalms) 41:9 hint at Messiah’s destiny: “My own familiar friend, which did eat of my bread, has lifted his heel against me”.  This type of friend and follower typically steals quietly behind, with a “crafty” intent (as indeed was the case with Messiah’s “familiar friend”). Thus, from the same root of “heel” and “to follow”, (a.k.v. - ayin, kof, vet) stem words like “crafty, cunning and deceptive”, as is illustrated by the alliteration in Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) 9:4: “surely every brother deals craftily (ah'kov ya'akov)” (italics added). 

In the first scene that brings the two siblings together, Ya'acov is busy cooking lentil broth, while his brother happens to be returning, famished and exhausted, from the field. Esav is sorely tempted when his glance strikes what he calls “ha'adom, ha'adom ha'zeh” - "this red, red stuff… therefore his name was called Edom" (25:30) - again from the root “adom” – “red”. The area of Edom, which later was inhabited by Esav's descendants, is indeed noted for its red soil. Everything about this hunter speaks of adom-adama – earth and earthiness. Whether Ya'acov anticipated his brother's famished condition or not, we do not know. Nevertheless, while in English it says, "Jacob cooked a stew", in Hebrew it says: “va'ya'zed Ya'acov na'zid” which, aside from cooking stew can also be read as: "Ya'acov devised an evil plot" (25:29). After all, 'cooking up' such a plan was only consistent with his name! The word “nah’zid” - “broth” - stems from the root z.y.d. (zayin, yod, dalet) which is shared by the verb to “cook”, and more specifically, to “boil up and seethe”. This verb also lends itself to “evil-doing” and “malice” – such as “zed” and “zadon” (e.g. Ex. 21:14, where “a man schemes” is “yazed”).  All of this seems to be at variance with the earlier description (25:27) of Yaacov, as an “eesh tam”, literally “a man of integrity” (although most translations use “peaceful” here), “living in tents” (while Esav’s lifestyle and implied disposition is very different). The inconsistency in the depiction of Yaacov’s character is not surprising in the narrative of this particular Parasha, which is replete with contrasts, masquerades, and pretense.  But as to the above-mentioned “tam” (man of integrity, peaceful), there may be an earlier hint connecting us to this description. When the twins were still in their mother’s womb, the Hebrew word used there is strangely distorted. Rather than te’omim (twins) they are called “tomim” – which can easily be associated with “tom” (the noun for “integrity, completeness or wholesomeness”). Thus, only to one of the brothers were these characteristics attributed (even though it would take many a year before he would display any sign of being “tam”). 

Ya’acov does not waste any time. He proposes right away an exchange: broth for birthright (ref. v. 31). And while in English these words form an alliteration, in Hebrew the verb "sell” (in the imperative form) – “michra”, and "birthright" – “b'chora”, sound alike. (Perhaps this linguistic association is what gave Ya'acov the idea in the first place…). Ya'acov, however, does not provide the goods until he makes his brother swear to him that he will not renege on his “sh'vu'ah” (“oath”, connected, as we have learned in previous Parashot, to being “full and satisfied”). After the deal is struck the two depart, "and he [Esau] ate, and drank, and rose and went on his way, and Esau despised the birthright" (25:34 literal translation). Note the chain of verbs, all reflecting Esav's earthly attitude and his lack of interest in the weightier matters. But until further notice, the brothers seem to be content. 

Now that Ya’acov has the birthright he is on his way to fulfilling the word that Elohim gave his mother when she was pregnant namely, that the “elder will serve the younger” (25:23). However, he has yet to acquire the double portion blessing in order to become the inheritor-redeemer of the family (Deut. 21:17). Thus far Ya’acov has certainly shown his ‘interest’ in taking responsibility as the firstborn of the family. Did Rivka share with her son what YHVH had declared to her, or was he simply ‘choosing to be chosen’, thus proving that he indeed was the one fit for this important position in the family? Additionally, if Esau were to (later) receive the double portion blessing, this role would be divided up, leaving the family without an acting firstborn. 

When the time came for Esav to claim his birthright (the right-hand blessing of the father before death), startled by his brother’s cunning, he “cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry: ... ‘Is not he rightly named, Ya'acov? For he has supplanted (akav) me...?’” (Gen. 27:34, 36).  The prophet Hoshe'ah (Hosea), many centuries later, traces the waywardness of the nation of Yisrael (who in this prophecy is called “Ya'acov”) to their progenitor: “In the womb he took his brother by the heel- akav” (Hos. 12:3). 

In the wake of”, or “as a result of”, or in short “because”, is the Biblical word “ekev “(again deriving from the root a.k.v).  In 26:4-5 of our Parasha, YHVH says to Yitzchak: “I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and will give your descendants all these lands, and by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; because [“ekev”] Abraham obeyed Me and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes and My laws” (italics added). Abraham’s faith, so often mentioned in the New Covenant books, was characterized not by hearing only, but by obedience and observance of YHVH’s commandments (see James 1:22-25). Following Avraham’s implicit obedience, he was told: “And in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because – ekev - you have obeyed My voice” (Gen. 22:18). “Ekev” is found in Dvarim (Deuteronomy 8:20): “So you shall perish because you would not listen”. It is also in David’s self-implicating reply to the prophet Nah'tan (Nathan), who challenged him with a parable following his sin with Bat’sheva (Bathsheba): “He must make restitution for the lamb, because he did this thing and had no compassion” (2nd Sam.12:6, italics added). Thus, this little “ekev” (rooted in heel) - “because” – becomes the fulcrum on which hangs the balance of justice. 

Ya'acov, too, because of (“ekev”) his actions (particularly that of deceiving his father), had to endure the consequences. By the end of the Parasha, he becomes a fugitive, running for his life from his brother, and later (in the next Parasha), is deceived by his father-in-law, Lah'van (Laban). The “heart” of Ya'acov is well described by Yirmiyahu, who says that it is “more deceitful (akov) than all else” (Jer. 17:9). 

In a few weeks' time, in Parashat Vayishlach, we shall see how Ya'acov, while on the road back from Padan Aram to Cna’an (Canaan), will plan once again to use some cunning by walking behind – which also suggests ‘following’ - his entourage, that was to go ahead of him to greet Esav. At this point, he will be met face to face, as he himself testifies in B’resheet (Genesis) 32:30, by YHVH Elohim. Yisrael, according to the name that will be given to him after this encounter at Peniel, will be made to turn around on his heels as it were (and become lame in the process), never to be the same again. Thus, when the “crooked” (“akov”) places become “mishor” – that is “straight” (ref. Is. 40:4b) - Ya'acov will become “Yeshurun” (“yashar” - straight”), true to his name “Yisra’el”, which can also be read as “yashar-el” (“El is upright”). As such, the nation is addressed by their Elohim: “But now listen, O Ya'acov, My servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen; thus says YHVH who made you, and formed you from the womb [as ‘crooked’ Ya'acov], and Who will help you: do not fear, O Ya'acov My servant; and you Yeshurun [who was ‘straightened’ by Elohim] whom I have chosen” (Is. 44:1, 2). Lastly, Ya'acov was to become one of the forefathers of Messiah, of whom it was prophesied that His heel would be “bruised” by the serpent. However, as we know, the “Seed of the woman” was destined to triumph by crushing and trampling down the serpent’s head with His heel (ref. Gen. 3:15; cf. Luke 10:19; Rom. 16:20; Heb.1:13b). 

Back to our narrative:  Following closely on the heels of the oath that Esav took by his brother’s instigation (25:31-33), YHVH reminds Yitzchak of His oath to Avraham, and at the same time cautions him not to go down to Egypt, in spite of the famine in the land (ref. 26:1-5), saying: “Do not go down into Egypt. Dwell in the land which I shall tell you” (v. 2). The imperative “dwell”, “sh’chan” (sh.ch.n, shin, chaf, noon), is also “settle and abide” and it is from this root that “mishkan”, the “tabernacle” in the wilderness, derives its title. On this very issue, David makes an emphatic statement: “Trust in YHVH, and do good; you shall dwell in the land, and you shall be fed on truth” (Ps. 37:3 italics added). Continuing to address Yitzchak, in the next verse (25:3), YHVH says to him: “Dwell in this land…” (italics added), but this time the verb used is “gur”, from which is obtained the term “ger” – sojourner (and “fear”). Notice that above, YHVH exhorts Yitzchak to live in “the land”, whereas the second reference is to “this land”. If Yitzchak abides in the land, “which I [YHVH] shall tell you”, he will have a secure and sure dwelling. But even the usage of “gur”, does not diminish YHVH’s promises: “I will be with you and bless you; for to you and your descendants I give all these lands, and I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham your father, and I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give to your descendants all these lands, and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (26:3-4). 

Immediately after this, we are told that Yitzchak and Rivka settled in Grar (notice the alliteration of “gur” and “Grar”, 26:1, which is probably intended), and when tested, by being asked about his wife, the Patriarch does not resort to the truth. Like his father before him, fear for his life causes him to present his wife as his sister, and thus he fulfills the “sojourning as a fearful stranger in this land” (when told by YHVH to “gur”- reside as an alien), rather than the former option of “abiding (sh’chan)…  where YHVH shows him”. The root g.r.r (gimmel, resh, resh) means to swirl around, stir up or drag down. Is it possible that in the Grar episode Itzchak got somewhat turned around or dragged down? What finds Yitzchak out is his act of (literally) "laughing with his wife" (26:8), translated in English "caressing" (or some other equivalent expression). If nothing else, in this episode Yitzchak remains… at least… true to his name… 

It is in this year of drought that Yitzchak, against all odds, is sowing seed. “Seed” is “zerah” (of the root z.r.a, zayin, resh, ayin, which is also shared by “arm” – “z’ro’ah”), with the yield being "one hundredfold" (26:12). Earlier (in 26:4) YHVH spoke to Yitzchak about his progeny (“zerah”), mentioning its future increase. Is the great harvest that Yitzchak reaps here (during the famine) symbolic of the future fulfillment of YHVH's word to the Patriarch, under all and any conditions? 

Yitzchak's wealth increases tremendously and his neighbors, the Philistines, are jealous of him (26:14), thus Avimelech their king demands, "Go away from us, for you are much mightier than we" (v. 16). “You are much mightier” is “atzam’ta”, from the root a.tz.m (ayin, tazdi, mem). The usage and meaning of this term will prove to be very significant during the Egyptian exile (in Sh’mot – Exodus – chapter 1 it is found in verses 7,9 and 20), and will motivate Par’oh (Pharaoh) to try to annihilate Yisrael. 

In our case, Yitzchak’s jealous neighbors take recourse and fill up all the wells that have been dug by Avraham's servants (ref. 26:15, 18b). In doing this they are "withholding benefits from both themselves and their cattle! But in addition to stopping up the wells, they fill them with earth so as to obliterate their existence altogether and make sure that no water would ever flow out of them again. Why did they wish the land to be desolate?[1]”  The explanation that follows, quoted from Haketav Vehakabala, points out that Yitzchak gave the wells the same names that his father had given them (as we see in v. 18). “These names, such as YHVH Will See, YHVH is My Sign, The Well of Him that Lives and Sees Me mark the kindness of the Lord."[2] This was done in order "to spread abroad the knowledge of the Lord and show the people that idols were valueless. Avraham thought out a wonderful device to help to bring those who were misled, under the wings of the Divine Presence. He called the well by a name that would drive home the lesson of the existence of the One True God. By this, he would arouse in them an awareness of the truth by saying, ‘Let us go and draw water from the well of the eternal God!’ The wells were a public necessity, and in this manner, the people were initiated into the knowledge of the true God. Whilst he was alive his fear was upon them [i.e. the locals], as they left the wells intact with their names, but after his death they reverted to idolatry. In order to erase from their memory the names of these wells, which recalled the very opposite of their false opinions, they stopped them up. With the disappearance of the wells, the names also disappeared…. Isaac followed in his father's footsteps and endeavored to dig out these same wells and resurrect their names in order to restore the crown of the true faith to its former glory."[3]  

The wording in 26:19, where Yitzchak's servants dig "a well of living water" (translated as “running water”), confirms what we have just read regarding the wells of the Patriarchs. The locals fill up the wells, and now they are being re-named, as pointed out, in order to erase the testimony of the Elohim of Yisrael. The name of the first well is “Esek”, “contention” (v. 20). The name of the next, is “Sitna”, “hostility; accusation” (v. 21). It is from the same root, s.t.n (sin, tet, noon), that we get the word “Satan” -  the “accuser”. A closely connected word to “sitna” is “sin'ah” (s.n.a, sin, noon, alef) - “hatred”. This verb is used in Yitzchak’s query in 26:27: “Why do you hate me?” A similar word, both in sound and meaning appears toward the end of our Parasha. In 27:41 it says of Esav that he "bore a grudge against Ya'acov", which is “sotem” (s.t.m. sin/shin, tet, mem). The progressive rate of hostility is seen very clearly by this string of sounds: “soten”, to accuse, “sotem”, to bear a grudge, and “soneh”, to hate”, thus demonstrating accurately how each of these conditions, if left unchecked, will lead to the next one. 

When a third well is dug up, some distance away, “they did not quarrel over it; so he named it Rechovot, for he said, 'at last YHVH has made room for us, and we will be fruitful in the land’” (26:22). “Rechovot” is of the root r.ch.v (resh, chet, vet), meaning, "broad, wide, or making room". Thus, enlarging and broadening the subsistence space brings relief, as we see in T’hilim (Psalms) 4:1, where David cries out: "Answer me when I call, O Elohim of my righteousness, You gave room [“hirchav’ta”] to me in trouble – literally in a place of narrowness” (italics added), words with which in his present situation Yitzchak would certainly have concurred.

 

[1] Studies in Bereshit, Toldot 1, Nechama Leibowitz, trans. Aryeh Newman.  Eliner Library, Department for Torah Education and Culture in the Diaspora. Hemed Books Inc., Brooklyn, N.Y

2 ibid

3 ibid



 

 

 

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Hebrew Insights into Parashat Cha’yey Sarah - B'resheet (Genesis) 23-25:18

 Although the name of this week’s Parasha means “Sarah’s life”, it is actually her death and burial which are described in the opening verses. Verse 1 presents a rather curious rendering of Sarah’s length of years: “And the life of Sarah was a hundred years, and twenty years, and seven years, the years of the life of Sarah” (literal translation). It is as though the life of Sarah is being divided up into time periods, the first hundred years, then twenty, and the last seven. Her place of death is also ‘overly’ specified: “Kiryat Arba, which is Chevron in the land of C’na’an”. It then tells us that, “Avraham came to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her”. Were Avraham and Sarah separated before that? In 22:19 it says that Avraham dwelt at Beer Sheva. Could it be that the couple separated? Some postulate that this indeed was the case, after Avraham’s attempt to sacrifice his son. But now, with Sarah’s departure, Avraham is seen looking to purchase a burial plot for his deceased wife and for his family. He has his eye set on a particular site in Kiryat Arba, opposite Mamre “which is Chevron” (23:19). Notice that both Kiryat Arba and Mamre are mentioned as names of Chevron. The “Oaks of Mamre” is where we met Avraham at the beginning of last week’s Parashat Va’yera. Earlier on, in 14:13, Mamre (and his oaks) is mentioned together with his two brothers who were the Amorite allies of Avram, as he was called then. Hence the Amorites/Canaanites named the place Mamre, whereas Arba was one of the giants (“anak”, e.g. Joshua 14:15). Avraham seeks out Efron (Ephron) the Hittite1, who is the owner of a cave called Machpela. 

Machpela” stems from the root k.f.l (kaf, fey/pey, lamed), which means “double”. In all likelihood, the cave was made up of more than one chamber (thus making it especially suitable for burial purposes).2 Efron’s name, quite appropriately, is derived from the root “ah’far” (a.f.r. ayin, fey, resh) meaning “dust of the ground”. It is the same dust that is mentioned in B’resheet (Genesis) 3:19: “For dust you are and to dust you shall return” - famous words that were pronounced over Adam after he had succumbed to temptation. “Ah’far” is also the term YHVH uses when He makes His promises to the Patriarchs concerning the multiplicity of their seed (see Gen. 13:16; 28:14). Thus, the combination of dust (in Efron’s name) and duplication (in the name of the burial cave) point to this very promise?in?spite?of?the?themes?of?death?and?burial? and?in?their very presence. 

Notice the response to Avraham’s description of himself as a “stranger and an alien” (23:4) by the sons of Het: “You are a prince of Elohim among us” (v. 6). Avraham’s humility and lack of pretentiousness and presumptuousness are met by great respect (cf. Matthew 23:12) and by a truthful pronouncement regarding his position. Hebrews 12:9 confirms that even though a recipient of great promises, “he [Abraham] lived in the land of promise as a stranger”, the Hebrew word being “ger” of the root g.u.r (gimmel, vav, resh) which essentially means ‘fear’, speaking of the vulnerability of a stranger (more on this root will be elaborated in another Parasha down the road).   Avraham pays a “full” amount (v. 9) for his acquisition (in spite of the offer to the contrary, v. 6), as did his grandson Ya’acov when the latter purchased a field in the town of Sh’chem (Shechem, in Gen. 33:19), and likewise David, generations later, when he bought Ornan’s (Araunah) threshing floor in Yerushalayim (2nd Sam. 24:24, upon which the Temple was later built). Not coincidentally, Chevron, Sh’chem (where Joseph is buried), and the Temple Mount are some of the most contested sites in the land of Yisrael

The narrative of Chapter 23 presents us with some challenges, as it is characterized by ongoing repetitions, with every point being reiterated. Here are some examples: In verse 6, “bury, burial, bury your dead”, are repeated over and over. In both verses 7 and 12, Avraham is said to be “bowing down to the people of the land”, with the addition of “the sons of Heth” in the first citing. The mention of the “sons of Heth” reoccurs so many times to the point of sounding superfluous. The transaction for the purchase of the cave and its field is mentioned in vs. 9, 13, 16, and 18, while verse 17 enumerates every article within the property. The question arises as to the purpose of all this repetitious information and details, which is capped by “… the cave of Machpelah, before Mamre, that is Hebron in the land of Canaan. So the field and the cave were deeded to Abraham by the sons of Heth as a property for a burial place” (vs. 19, 20). The writer itemizes the conditions, the details, as well as the individuals involved, not leaving any room for doubt or mistake. All of this leads to the conclusion that B’resheet chapter 23 constitutes a legal document, a contract, or a deed with all of its stipulations ensuring clarity regarding the ownership of the said property, while also citing the many witnesses who were present. Hence, contesting the rights to this land is in direct defiance of the Word of Elohim! 

The payment that Avraham made was in hard cash: 400 shekels of silver. The three consonants that form the root for “shekel,” sh.k.l (shin, kof, lamed) also form the verb “to weigh”. Thus, the price paid for the plot was made up of 400 equal units of an approximately one-half ounce each. All in all, Avraham paid about 200 “weighted” ounces or 12 pounds of silver. Soon, in 24:22, we will read about the “weight” (“mishkal”) of the gold nose rings and bracelets that were given to a young maiden in exchange for water. 

But back to “Chevron”, a name that is made up of the root ch.v.r (chaf, vet/bet, resh), shared by the following: “to tie, bind, join, unite, friend, and company”. Although in the course of its long history this town has not seen much unity and friendship (it served as David's capital during his seven-year rule over the house of Yehuda-Judah, before he united all of Yisrael, and is currently divided between a hostile Muslim population and a small Jewish presence), its name may point to conditions which will prevail in?days?to?come. In addition to these positive meanings, ch.v.r. also acts as the root for “chavura” – wounding, injury, bruises - such as we read in Yisha’yahu (Isaiah) 53:5, regarding what was to be inflicted upon the Messiah. Only these “bruises” can “heal” the breaches of Chevron and transform them into “friendship and unity”. 

Chapter 24 highlights Avraham’s senior servant, who “ruled over all his possessions” (v. 2). The servant is described as a “moshel” (one of the words for “ruler”). “Moshel” shares its root (m.sh.l, mem, shin, lamed) with “proverb, parable, example, to be like, resemble and comparable”. In Tehilim (Psalms) 28:1 the writer cries: “I have become like – “nimshalti” - those who go down to the pit”. The parable in Yechez’kel (Ezekiel) 12:22 is called a “mashal”. In Shmuel Alef (1st Samuel) 10:12 Shaul (Saul) is made a public example of (as a prophet), with the use of “mashal”. The people of Yisrael likewise became a none-too-positive example among the nations, or an object lesson such as described in Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) 24:9 where they are called: “a reproach and a proverb… in all places where I shall drive them” (italics added). There are many more examples of the usage of the verb and n emanating from m.sh.l, but how is this connected?to?the?elderly?servant? 

The servant, as a representative of Avraham, was to carry out the duties that were delegated to him. As such, we see him striving to serve by approaching his assignments in the same manner as his master would have done. This, therefore, is the format for the conduct of a true Godly ruler, or leader, who takes his orders from above, endeavoring to carry them out like his Master, thus becoming a representative ‘sample’, a “mashal” or a likeness of the One whom he follows. The Elohim of Yisrael said: “he who rules over (“moshel”) men, by ruling (“moshel”) in the fear of YHVH, will shine as the light of the sun in the morning….” (2nd Sam. 23:3, 4). One such ruler was Yoseph, whose trials and tests were the purifying work of “the Word of YHVH”. Once he was “conformed” to this Word, he was appointed a “ruler [moshel] over all of the king’s possessions” (Ps. 105:18-21). “What is man…” in the eyes of his Creator? Tehilim (Psalms) 8:6 says, “You have made him to rule”, being the verb “tam’shile’hu”, which may be read also as, “you have made him like…”, or, “you have made of him a proverbial example”. These examples point to a representational form of rule, or leadership. Avraham's servant certainly displayed this characteristic of conforming to his master, so much so that his master’s Elohim became his! Yeshua’s words attest to the fact that he too operated by this principle: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does” (John 5:19). He, therefore, declared: “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). 

Avraham’s representative or delegate is instructed to perform a mission but is not told how to carry it out. He chooses to present a 'fleece' to "YHVH, the Elohim of my master Avraham" (24:12). The fleece and its fulfillment have to do with water, or the means of obtaining that commodity. Hence, we find here “well” (v. 11), “spring (or source, v.13), and trough” (v. 20). The first two are “be'er” and “ayin”, and the last one is “shoket” (from the verb “le'ha'shkot” - "to give a drink"). “Ayin” is also the word used for “eye”. Although ‘officially’ no direct link has been established between “spring” (or “source”) and “eye”, Yeshua refers to the latter as a type of a source when He says in Matthew 6:22: “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light”. The root of “be'er” (“well”) is identical to the root “ba'er” (b.a.r, bet, alef, resh), which means to “expound or clarify”, as it appears in Dvarim (Deuteronomy) 1:5, 27:8, and in Chavakook (Habakkuk) 2:2 (where "make it plain" should read "clarify" or "expound"). And thus it is the episode by the well which makes the results of his mission clear to the inquiring servant, as he is "gazing at her [the girl] in silence [and wondering]… whether YHVH had made his journey successful or not” (24:1 italics?added).?But?he?did?not?need to?wonder?for long… 

"Success" is “hatzlacha,” from the root tz.l.ch. (tzadi, lamed, chet), which is also “to prosper", and is used a number of times in this Parasha. The primary root means to “advance, or cross" (such as in 2nd Sam. 19:17), and by extension also the “coming of the Spirit” (see Judges 14:6). Whenever its meaning is "success" the verb appears in the active causative form rendering it: “to cause to advance". The verb and noun teach us, therefore, that prosperity and success may be obtained only with the help of an ‘external force’, just as is exemplified here by the servant who is completely dependent on YHVH to “cause him to advance”. The servant's awareness of this fact is also expressed by his prayer in 24:12: "O YHVH Elohim of my master Abraham, please give me success this day, and show kindness to my master Abraham". In this instance, the root tz.l.ch for "success" does not show up at all. The literal wording here for "give me success" is, "to bring about" - “hakreh” - literally, “cause to happen”. “Happening, occurrence, incident” are “mikreh”.  Avraham’s servant, however, being cognizant of the fact that the Elohim of his master is in control of life’s supposed random happenstances, relies on Him to put together the ‘natural’ circumstances in such a way, so as to make clear His?choice?of?the?sought-for?bride. 

The chain, of the desired events that were brought about, starts with the appearance of a young maiden named Rivka (Rebecca, 24:15). Her rather curious name originates from the root letters r. v/b. k. (resh, vet/bet, kof), which are also the root letters of “marbek”, that is, “stall”, itself stemming from an Aramaic word meaning "to crouch”. “Marbek” is always used in connection with fatted calves (ref. 1st Sam. 28:24; Jer. 46:21; Amos 6:4; Mal. 4:2). Rivka's name points without question to the importance her family attached to their possessions. By naming her thus, they were also expressing hopes regarding their their?livestock. 

Later on, upon her departure to the land of C’na’an, Rivka's family blesses her saying "...Our sister, you will become [multiply into] thousands of ten thousands and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies" (Gen. 24:60). This blessing is being uttered by Rivka’s family members without being aware that a similar blessing, about the seed possessing the gate of those who hate them, was also pronounced by YHVH's angel over Avraham, when the latter was obedient to the call to offer up Yitzchak (Gen. 22:17). It is quite likely that Avraham’s servant was informed about this blessing. Now, hearing it again in these present circumstances, the "success" of his mission was being?confirmed?to?him?yet?again.e

This/blessing/promise is further magnified, when Yeshua says the following to His disciples, in Caesarea Philippi: “….on this rock I will build My kehila, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18, and continues to elaborate on the Kingdom of Elohim). 

Gate” is “sha'ar” in Hebrew (sh.a.r, shin, ayin, resh). Because much of the administration, jurisprudence, and business took place at the city gate, he who possessed the gate also had charge over the entire city (or area). The “gate of the enemy" denotes, therefore, the enemy's area of control and dominion. Earlier on in our Parasha, “gate” has been referred to in Avraham’s business transaction:  “And Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the ears of the sons of Heth, of all that went in at the gate of his city, saying…  ‘The field of Ephron was certified… to Abraham for a possession in the presence of the sons of Heth, before all that went in at the gate of his city’” (23:10, 18, italics added, cf. Ruth 4:1-11). These transactions by the "gate" have lent that word yet other meanings: "measure, calculate", or "recon," as we shall see in next week's Parasha (Gen. 26:12), where the term used is "one hundred times/fold over”, and in Hebrew, “she’arim” (“gates” plural). 

In addition to the themes of dominion and power in Rivka’s blessing, mention is made of "tens of thousands" - “alfey revava” (24:60). “Revava” is “ten thousand”, whereas “a thousand” is “elef”. “Elef” (a.l.f - alef, lamed, fey), which with a slight modification is the name of the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, “alef”, lending it a place of prominence, and by implication pointing also to a great numerical value. “Aluf” is "chief", but at times also means “a companion”. A large group of (proverbial) "companions" makes up the number one thousand - “elef”, whereas “revava” (ten thousands) stems from the very common root of r.v/b. (resh, vet/bet) meaning "much, great and chief". In the next Parasha we will meet "the greater [who will serve] the younger", which will also be designated by the term “rav”?(25:23). 

The Parasha ends in the same way it had begun: burials are the order of the day. First Avraham dies "in a ripe old age, an old man satisfied…” (25:8). "Ripe" or “full” here is “saveh'ah”, which also means "satisfied" (of the root s.v.a, or sh.v.a), a word we examined last week when we looked at the figure “seven” and “oath” (notice the last period in Sarah’s life, in 23:1, is seven – “sheva”). And just as was mentioned about Sarah, her husband’s life span is also divided up into “a hundred years, and seventy years and five years” (v. 7). Avraham too is buried in the Cave of Machpela (v. 9). Finally, the last verses of the Parasha deal with the death of Yishma'el (v.17)?whose?burial?place/is?not?mentioned. 

Multiplicity in various forms, leadership, prosperity, dominion, and greatness are some of the terms we encountered in this Parasha, whose main narrative is ‘sandwiched’ in between deaths and burials. These deaths, however, highlight all the more the blessings granted to the progeny left behind, accentuating the abundance of life for which this progeny was destined.

 

1 The Amorites and Hittites are both descendants of Canaan the

son of Ham (see Gen. 10:15, 16)

*Confirmed by archaeological evidence