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Parshas Chayei Sorah - Cable Satellite Public Affairs Network             23 Cheshvan 5780

11/21/19 14:57:48


Most Americans make decisions and arrive at conclusions based upon information that they hear, read or see through the media. For the average person, the political, religious, or sociological agendas are most profoundly affected through the the media outlets. I, like many Americans listen to soundbites of information from television reporters, internet news sites or the old-fashioned reading the daily newspaper. Perhaps one of the most dominating pieces of news in America today is the Impeachment inquiry of the President of the United States. I came to the realization that Americans are infatuated with instant gratification and will therefore listen to a sound bite or a twenty-second Youtube clip of something that is usually taken out of context rather than focus on reading or viewing an entire segment. Since we live our lives in the fast lane, we can only tolerate a minimum amount of information given over to us in a fast, efficient manner. The claim of not having enough time may or may not be true, but at the end of the day we are not getting a full picture of many things unless we apply ourselves to focus and pay careful attention.

Seeing myself getting caught up in the age of partial information, I decided to get a more wholesome picture of the Impeachment Inquiry of the POTUS. With great pain and consciously applied patience, I began watching the proceedings on C-SPAN. As an aside, if anyone wants to watch something boring and comical at the same time, tune into C-SPAN. I am not characterizing the network, but rather the content of the proceedings in the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee inquiry. I am not going to explain why I see it as comical and boring; I leave that to you to draw your own conclusions. One clear advantage of watching the entire proceeding (as opposed to a clip of someone’s statement) is to hear and see the statements of prosecutors and witnesses in full, from beginning to end, and quite often to hear them repeated. Hearing the full context of someone is eye-opening and refreshing particularly with regard to understanding the manipulation that occurs when words and situations are taken out of context.

Taking things out of context can easily lead to falsehoods, slander, mischaracterization, character assassination and so forth. Basically, nothing good really comes out of it. On the other hand, listening or reading something in its entirety rules out the option of tricking someone because there will be full transparency established through viewing or listening to direct testimony or statements in their entirety.

In Jewish law we know that judges need to hear the testimony directly from the witness. Only rarely, perhaps in cases involving the death of a husband which could allow the wife to re-marry would we ever take hearsay into account. Otherwise, under normal conditions we would need to hear or read first-hand about something. An amazing example of this principle is read about, learned, and reviewed in rare display in the Torah. Generally speaking, the Torah is very careful not only in the quality of words used but also in its quantity. Each and every word the Torah uses is measured and will have a reason which crystalizes why it was used. For the Torah to repeat an entire section, it must have great significance.

In this week’s Parshas Chayei Sorah the Torah relates the story of Avraham instructing Eliezer his servant to find a wife for his son Yitzchok. The Torah relates Eliezer deciding upon the sign that Hashem will show him which would lead him to believe this would be the woman Yitzchok should marry. After these signs become a reality, Eliezer meets Rivka who takes Eliezer back to her home to meet her family. It is at this time that Eliezer reviews the episode of how he came to select Rivka through a sign from God that she was, indeed, the one. In Bereishis 24:13 the Torah states: "הנה אנכי נצב על עין המים ובנות אנשי העיר יצאת לשאב מים": “I am standing here by the well, and the daughters of the townsmen are coming out to draw water.”

Rabbeinu Bachya points out that on the surface this entire passage appears to be merely a repetition of what the Torah has already described to us. The Rabbis in Bereishis Rabbah 60:8 taught that the “small talk of a servant of one of the forefathers was dearer to Hashem than some of the Torah insights of the children of the patriarchs”. This concept is demonstrated in the fact that the Torah goes on to repeat everything Eliezer did, whereas the Torah was brief in discussing very basic laws which would apply to the entire Jewish nation for all generations. There is no question the Torah goes out of its way to repeat the entire encounter, report on Eliezer’s prayer and the side deal Eliezer makes with Hashem, as well as include the dialogue Eliezer has with Rivka without having a specific and unique motive. The Torah is obviously teaching us something of great value and importance. All the details of the story are matters directly related to the success of Eliezer’s mission. Just one example: the Torah mentions the עין המים - the well of water - three times, each time varying the syntax a degree. Here in 24:13 the well is simply described as ‘a fountain of water’. In 24:42 Eliezer says, “I arrived this day at the well”. In 24:16 the Torah says of Rivka that ‘she descended to the well’. The Torah mentions the same well in three slightly different ways: עין, העין, העינה The exact reason is up for interpretation, but according to the Toras Chaim the word Ayin is the actual letter Ayin which has the numerical value of seventy. Taking the first time it is mentioned equals seventy plus two more times it is mentioned, the actual word is repeated giving another two (not 140), totaling seventy-two, representing the Shem HaMeforash, the explicit name of Hashem. Eliezer invoked this attribute in order to secure for Yitzchok the Zivug – the mate who was most appropriate for him.

The repetition of certain words and the repeating of an entire section demonstrates not only an importance and significance but even more importantly, it gives us accuracy. There is no room for us to guess and surmise the clear intention of Eliezer to complete his mission to find a wife for Yitzchok and show the dedication he had to Avraham, his master, to do his bidding. The repetition rules out any suggestion that Eliezer was perhaps acting on his own or not in the best interests of his master, Avraham, and Avraham’s successor, Yitzchok.

This portion presents an immense lesson to us to learn from. When it comes to public affairs, one is obligated to get the entire story, not just the bits and pieces and the attention-getting headlines. With satellite capabilities we are able to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Truth, we must understand, is Emes which is one of the names of Hashem

Wed, August 12 2020 22 Av 5780