Chayei Sarah - Weekly Torah Portion


It cannot be easy to be a son of a king. Sometimes it is not the fault of the son but rather that of the father. We read from the Haftarah about King David's son - “Now Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, ‘I will be king.’ So he prepared for himself chariots and horsemen, with fifty men to run before him. And his father had never rebuked him at any time by asking, ‘Why have you done so?’” The father sees what is going on but chooses to remain silent. He does not reprimand his son, pointing out that his deeds are improper, that they may end badly. It is especially bad as it has an influence not only the royal family but also the royal court. People take sides, “Joab the son of Zeruiah and with Abiathar the priest; and they allied themselves with Adonijah. But Zadok the priest, Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, Nathan the prophet, Shimei, Rei, and the mighty men who belonged to David, were not with Adonijah.” This is exactly how intrigues begin in a royal palace. And for a moment you thought that such intrigue is a 21st century invention…

Let us not forget that there is also a mother who gets involved in the midst of all of this. She hears about what is going on and hurries to the King and demands, “My lord, you yourself swore to your servant by the Lord your God, saying, ‘Your son Solomon certainly shall be king after me, and he shall sit on my throne.’ But now, behold, Adonijah is king; and now, my lord the king, you do not know it.” It is at that time that Nathan the Prophet arrived at the court and brings in his personal feeling of insult, “My lord the king, have you yourself said, ‘Adonijah shall be king after me, and he shall sit on my throne’? For he has gone down today and has sacrificed oxen and fattened steers and sheep in abundance, and has invited all the king’s sons, the commanders of the army, and Abiathar the priest, and behold, they are eating and drinking in his presence; and they say, ‘Long live King Adonijah!’ But me, even me your servant, Zadok the priest, Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and your servant Solomon, he has not invited.” In other words, the prophet announces that the king has lost control over the situation, and that is something that a king does not like hearing. “Then King David responded and said, ‘Summon Bathsheba to me.’ And she came into the king’s presence and stood before the king. Then the king vowed and said, ‘As the Lord lives, who has redeemed my life from all distress, certainly as I vowed to you by the Lord, the God of Israel, saying, ‘Your son Solomon certainly shall be king after me, and he shall sit on my throne in my place’; I will indeed do so this day.’”

From the reading in the Torah we learn about the deaths of Sarah, first, and later of Abraham. Both a buried in the cave of Machpelah, purchased by Abraham after Sarah’s death. Abraham could have had the cave from Ephron the Hittite “the cave of Machpelah which he owns, which is at the end of his field” as he graciously offers, “listen to me; I give you the field, and I give you the cave that is in it. In the presence of the sons of my people I give it to you; bury your dead.” Abraham refuses, “I will give the price of the field, accept it from me so that I may bury my dead there.” He probably well understands the potential risks of a leader taking gifts and the long-term ramifications of such a deed. Even if it is perfectly legitimate to receive the gist, the right thing to do is to pay its worth, even somewhat more, so that there is no badmouthing later. Ephron takes advantage of the situation and asks for what seems to be an excessive price for the property, “Abraham weighed out for Ephron the silver which he had named in the presence of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, currency acceptable to a merchant. So Ephron’s field, which was in Machpelah, which faced Mamre, the field and the cave which was in it, and all the trees which were in the field, that were within all the confines of its border, were deeded over to Abraham as a possession in the presence of the sons of Heth, before all who entered the gate of his city.” He bought the piece of land fair and square, before witnesses and a perfectly legitimate transaction.

Now on this Shabbat we read about a son who is quick to crown himself king, so much so that the reigning king has to take action to make good on his promise. He understands that if he does not do it, the self-proclaimed king will find a way to get rid of him. Abraham is luckier because he cares for his two sons, the one that will be his successor and the one which shall not. In his case he is honored as “his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, facing Mamre”. Both sons were in this parting ceremony honoring their father even though they did have the potential to be at each other’s throat. The conduct of their father prevented that from happening at that time. Any comparison to tales of today is your responsibility only.

We had an easier time this week at the Israel Reform Movement than either David or Abraham had at their time. We celebrated on Thursday the ordination of four rabbis who graduated the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem in a ceremony part physical part virtual but nevertheless moving and uplifting. It is an opportunity to add our blessings to the graduates as well as the graduates of other courses held on and off campus by the HUC. Congratulations also to the Movement’s Mekhina, its premilitary study program in Jaffa and Holon, for their first time ever on-line fund-raising campaign. Find them on JGIVE under the call “Hineine הנני”, or on their Facebook page. We will all benefit if you will see it fit to part take in this fund-raising effort.

Shabbat Shalom, Chodesh Tov and wishes for Good Health.

Reuven Marko, 13 November 2020, 27 Cheshvan, 5781

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