Chayei Sarah – Torah Themes

Parshas Chayei Sarah

Generational Challenges

One of the themes that Yalkut Reuveni quotes often is how the Avos and Imaos fixed the sin of Adam Harishon. We will expound on that and learn some interesting ideas.

Some people ask, how did Adam have the power to bring death to the world? He sinned, but why should that impact all of us? What did we do wrong that warrants punishment? The mikubalim (Sefer Asis Remonim) say that Adam’s soul was comprised of 600,000 neshamos and thus every Jewish soul was really inside him. Had he stood the test, that would have perfected the world and mashiach would have come, but when he sinned, it was like everyone messed up. Thus, really Adam’s choice to sin was made by every soul and so the punishment that followed impacted every single person.

The Fix

Avraham fixed the sin of Adam in his thoughts. Adam rebelled against Hashem intellectually and Avraham combatted this by recognizing Hashem intellectually. Sarah fixed the action of Chava, with her own actions.

We must understand that what is being discussed here is sodos hatorah, but it has a surface level understanding as well. The sin that Adam commited by definition represents the root evil forces that man must content with in this world and thus, the Avos and Imaos came along and by withstanding their tests and overcoming their negative drives, they began the Jewish nation, one that would fight physicality and would instead overcome it and choose spirituality. That is what is being said here on a general level.

Detailed Account

More specifically, the Tikunim explains that Adam’s sin had elements of the three cardinal sins: idolatry, immorality and murder.

Adam rebelled against Hashem and served himself and his own desire instead. This is akin to idolatry. Adam was considered to have been unfaithful to Hashem in disobeying and this is akin to adultery. Adam brought death to the world, which is like murder. Avraham fixed the idolatry part when he refused to worship Nimrod’s idol. Avraham was thrown into the furnace and survived miraculously. Next, Adam’s soul went into Yitzchak and Yitzchak gave up his life on the Altar, to follow Hashem’s will at the akaida, binding. This fixed the sin of murder. Lastly, Yaakov remained faithful to Hashem despite challenges and despite going to Chutz Learetz where he could have succumbed to Lavan and other outside influences. This was a fix for the giloy arayos.

Sarah and Chava

Sarah was a gilgul, reincarnation, of Chava and thus, when she saw the Satan approaching her, she feared that he was coming to seduce her to sin once again. Sarah did not want to sin and perpetuate the sin of Chava and she passed away from this fear (Shach al HaTorah).

We find that three mitzvos cause women to die in labor. The Mishna in Shabbos tells us that the Satan prosecutes at the time of danger and thus women are in danger of losing their lives on account of lack of observance in niddah, challah and hadlakas neiros. (Interestingly, these three mitzvos are the acronym of the name Chana in Hebrew, beyond the scope of this article.)

We find that these three items were found in the tents of the mothers. The candle lit for Shabbos remained lit all week, the dough was blessed and lasted all week and there was a cloud, representing Hashem’s presence, over the tent of the Imaos, in the merit of their sanctity in following the laws of intimacy and niddah. These three items fixed that which Chava destroyed. Adam was considered the light of the world and the challah, choice piece of bread, so to speak, and Chava caused him to sin, thereby extinguishing the light and destroying the challah. Thus, women light candles and take challah off of their bread to fix this sin. The moment that Chava ate from the Eitz Hadaas she was pirshah niddah (Yalkut Reuveni), this was a way that showed that she brought death into the world. (That is literally the niddah process, it represents an opportunity for life that has been lost.) It was specifically the Imaos, who worked to fix Chava’s sin, that had blessings that corresponded to these three aspects of her sin. The Imaos reset the course of the world to be in line with Hashem’s Will.

The connection between Adam and the Avos and Imaos is accentuated by the fact that all of them were buried together in maaras hamachpeila, showing that their life mission was the same in a certain respect.

Wisdom

The Zohar says that the traits of chessed-kindness, gevurah-strength and tiferes-beauty are all called zaken, an elder, as we find that the Torah described Avraham as old (“VaAvraham zaken”), Yitzchak as old (“Vayihi ki zaken Yitzchak”) and Yaakov as old (“viainei yisrael kavdu mizaken”).

The Gemara Kiddushin (32b) says, zaken means (Rashi: it is an acronym for) “zeh kana chochmah, the one who acquired wisdom.” The commentators ask what this means, the letters ‘zaken’ only contain the acronym of ‘zeh kana’, how did the word ‘chochmah, wisdom’ fall into there? The Steipler explains (Chayei Olam) that there is nothing else of substance that is significant to be acquired. Thus, “this one acquired” by default must refer to the only thing that can actually be acquired and made a part of you. That is exactly the wisdom that the zaken, elder, has. They spend their time acquiring things of value.

The Avos and Imahos worked to fix Adam’s sin and to make the world a place of connecting with Hashem. That was the wisdom they instilled in their descendants.

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