Vol 35.14 - Chayei Sarah 3 Spanish French Audio Video
|Hebrew Text: Rambam-Melachim|
(5750) The miracle that occurred with Avrohom that he bore six additional sons (from Keturah) in his old age, and the miracles that happenned at the birth of Yitzchak (Rashi Vayeira Gen 21:6);
Two ways in affecting the nations of the world which are hinted in the last two chapters of Rambam's sefer: Yad Hachazaka
1.“Avrohom proceeded and took another a wife whose name was K’tura. She bore for him Zimran, etc.” [Chayei Sara 25:1-2]
There is a well-known quandary regarding this verse. Several passages preceding it relate that the birth of Yitzchok, which occurred when Avrohom was 100 years old, was miraculous, (not only with regard to the [advanced] age of Sara but also) for Avrohom (who) was at an age when, according to the natural order, one cannot conceive:
“Avrohom fell upon his face and laughed, saying in his heart, ‘Shall a hundred-year-old conceive? (And shall Sara, a ninety-year-old, give birth?)’” [Lech 17:17]; “Avrohom and Sara were old, well on in years, etc. Sarah laughed at her insides, saying, ‘After I have withered, shall I again have clear skin, and my husband is old!’” [Footnote 3 in the original: VaYeira 18:11-12; see ibid, verse 13]; “She said, ‘Who is the One Who said to Avrohom, etc.’ For I have borne a son in his old age!” [Ibid 21:7]. [It was so incomprehensible that a man of his age should conceive a child that] “the scoffers of the generation were saying that Sara was impregnated by Avimelech [her captor]” [commentary of Rashi at the beginning of Parshas Toldos].
According to the above citations, it needs to be understood why, when Avrohom conceived six more children, 40 years after the birth of Yitzchok, when he was 140 years old [see FN 6], Scripture does not mention that this was miraculous and wondrous and etc. The Ramban writes [Lech 17:17] concerning the birth of Yitzchok that it is not a wonder that a hundred year-old conceives [FN 7: see also Ramban VaYigash 46:15], citing his proof from the aforementioned – that “after these 40 years he begot many children from K’tura.” This interpretation, however, cannot be applied to the approach and opinion of Rashi [the foremost commentator of the literal meaning of Scripture], for the literal reading of the selections quoted above does not suggest this. If Rashi maintains this position he would have mentioned it. In fact, his commentary itself [Lech 17:17] suggests the opposite, as he writes: “Although in the early generations, 500-year-olds would conceive, in the days of Avrohom the life expectancy had already diminished and a weakening of strength was introduced to the world. Go and learn from the [people of the] ten generations from Noach to Avrohom, who hastened their reproduction – 60 year-olds and 70-year-olds.”
Even if one maintains that Avrohom was not subject to a weakening of strength until he was 100 [see FN 10] (or that (after the time of “Avrohom and Sara were old”) he was rejuvenated to his youth and he conceived when he was 100 years old [see FN 12]), it is related (reiterated) in our Torah portion regarding the time following that stage in his life, “Avrohom was old, well on in years” [FN 13: 24:1; see above, pg. 89 ff]. That is, he was subject to additional aging after that period. Therefore, the conception of the children of K’tura at the age of 140 was indeed miraculous.
The latter point finds expression in the words of the Midrash [B’Reishis Rabba 48:16] on the passage, “Avrohom was old” – “Said R. Yochanan: It is already written, ‘Avrohom and Sara were old.’ Why does the Torah reiterate, ‘Avrohom was old’? Since the Holy One Blessed Be He had rejuvenated him to the days of his youth, it had to be written a second time, ‘Avrohom was old.’ Rav Imi said: Here it refers to aging that has moisture and later it refers to aging that has no moisture” [FN 15: see at length the commentaries on the Midrash]. In light of this Midrash, even if one maintains that the birth of Yitzchok was miraculous with respect to Avrohom (that age and the weakening of reproductive strength did not prevail over him), nevertheless, a miracle was required for the conception of the children of K’tura, which occurred after it was again stated, “Avrohom was old, well on years.” [See FN 16]
2. We may propose the following point to explain the matter: In the story of the birth of Yitzchok it is related, “Sara said, ‘G-d has made laughter for me; whoever hears will laugh for me’” [VaYeira 21:6]. Rashi comments, “Many barren were remembered with her; many ill were healed on that day; many prayers were answered with her; there was much laugher in the world.” The miracle of the birth of Yitzchok was in a manner that brought salvation and deliverance throughout the world, to the extent that it brought about that there was much laughter in the world.
With this we will understand the comment of Rashi on the phrase, “(She said, ‘Who is the One Who said to Avrohom) Sara would nurse children’” [Ibid 21:7] – “Why does it say ‘children’ in the plural? On the day of the banquet, the noblewomen brought their children with them and she nursed them, for they had been saying that Sara did not give birth but she merely brought an abandoned child from the marketplace.” So too in Parshas Lech Lecha [17:16] Rashi comments: “Through the suckling of breasts when she was in need of this, on the day of the banquet for Yitzchok. For people were slandering them, saying that they brought in an abandoned infant from the marketplace and claimed, ‘he is our child.’ Each woman [attending the banquet] brought her child with her, leaving behind her wet nurse, and [Sara] nursed them all.” At first glance, if the reason for this was only in order to prove that Sara gave birth to Yitzchok and that it was not an abandoned child from the marketplace, it would have sufficed that they all saw that she nursed Yitzchok, or that she nursed some other infants, but why did she need to nurse “them all”?
The reason is that it conveys something additional. Namely, that the miracle of the birth of Yitzchok brought about many instances of beneficence, to the extent that there was “much laughter in the world.” Therefore, this was expressed also in the fact that she nursed the babies of all the noblewomen.
Accordingly we may assert that just as we find with regard to Sara that the miracle of the birth of Yitzchok precipitated several addition miracles relating to her and in her merit, and miracles that brought salvation and deliverance to the world (“Many barren were remembered with her…were answered with her,” to the extent that she nursed the babies of all the noblewomen), similarly with regard to Avrohom: The miracle of the birth of Yitzchok brought about additional miracles to him, begetting more children in a wondrous and miraculous manner (after mentioning that “Avrohom was old, well on in years”), and these children were not Jewish but of the gentile nations (resembling the situation regarding Sara described above).
3. But what is the reason for this? Why is it that the miracle of the birth of Yitzchok brought about additional miracles that caused there to be “laughter in the world”? It also must be understood the difference in this regard between Avrohom and Sara:
a) In Sara’s case this effect in the world was immediate: “Many barren were remembered with her…on that day,” as well as the fact that Sara nursed [other] children [at the banquet celebrating Yitzchok’s being weaned, at the end of twenty-four months after his birth]. Whereas, with regard to Avrohom, this effect lasted a long time – forty years – after the birth of Yitzchok.
b) In Sara’s case it came about as an automatic consequence of the birth of Yitzchok, without a special action on her part. Whereas, in Avrohom’s case this was a matter unto itself. Namely, begetting children, gentile children (from K’tura), in a miraculous fashion.
We may assert that this [effect on the nations] alludes to a fundamental and foundational principle regarding the influence Jews have on the gentile nations of the world.
For we find that prior to the birth of Yitzchok there needed to be the change of the names of Avrohom and Sara [in order for them to conceive], as Rashi comments: “Avram has no child, but Avrohom has a child [in his destiny]. So too, Sarai does not bear children, but Sara will give birth” [Lech 15:5]. The reason for this is that since “I call you a different name, [your] destiny (mazal) will change.” At the same time, it is logical to say that the birth of Yitzchok is connected to the meaning of the two new names: Avrohom and Sara.
But at first glance, it is perplexing: The meaning of the names “Avrohom” and “Sara” (in connection with “Avram” and “Sarai”) indicate ruling over the world: “I have established you as a father of many nations” [ibid 17:5; Rashi]; not just “Avram” – “Father of [the region of] Aram” – but, “father of the entire world” [ibid]. And “Sara” means (as Rashi comments [ibid 17:15]): “(Not) ‘Sarai’ (which suggests) my [ruler, sar; the Yud at the end of the name making it first person possessive], but not for others. Rather, her name is simply ‘Sara’ [without the suffix], for she shall be the ruler over everyone.” What then is the connection between this change of names to the birth of Yitzchok, who is the originator of [specifically] the Jewish nation, as it says: “For your progeny will be called according to [the lineage of] Yitzchok [not his half-brother Yishmoel]”? [VaYeira 21:12]
The inference from this is that the main concept regarding the birth of Yitzchok (and the Jewish nation) is the effect on (and the domination over) the gentile nations.
Accordingly we may say that this is the meaning of the concept of the miracles that transpired subsequent to the birth of Yitzchok – that they brought about “much laughter in the world,” for this serves to emphasize the concept of the Jewish people ruling over the entire world, insofar as they cause there to be salvation in the world. And in this itself there are two categories: miracles connected with Sara and miracles connected with Avrohom (the birth of the children of K’tura) – corresponding to the distinction between the concepts that Avrohom and Sara represent respectively, as will be discussed below.
4. The above will be understood in light of a preface of the words of the Rambam [Laws of Kings 8:10-11] regarding the obligation of the Seven Mitzvos of the Descendents of Noach: “Moshe Rabbeinu commanded in the name of the Alm-ghty to compel all mankind to accept the Mitzvos that were commanded to the descendants of Noach,” “All those who accept the Seven Mitzvos and are careful to perform them – these are among the pious of the gentile nations and they have a portion in the World to Come. This, however, is the case [only] if they accept them and perform them because so they were commanded by the Holy One Blessed Be He in the Torah and that they were made known to us via Moshe Rabbeinu, etc. However if they are performed because of a rational decision…he is not among the pious of the gentile nations.”
This passage requires analysis, for “Moshe Rabbeinu only bequeathed the Torah and Mitzvos to the Jewish people” [Rambam ibid, Law 10, beg.]. And what is the connection of the descendants of Noach to the Giving of the Torah and to the Jewish people – to the extent that the Jewish people must compel all mankind to accept the Mitzvos that were commanded to the descendants of Noach and that they should perform them because thus did the Holy One Blessed Be He command in the Torah?
It has been explained on many occasions [FN 27: see Likkutei Sichos Vol. 20, pg. 140 ff, where it is discussed] according to the saying of our Sages [cited by Rashi in the beginning of Parshas B’Reishis] that Creation is for the sake of the Jewish people, who are called “reishis” (first, beginning), and for the sake of the Torah, which is called “reishis,” meaning that it is not something additional to Creation’s being, but something connected with it’s essential being [FN 29: see also Rashi’s commentary on ibid 1:31 (from Shabbos 88a, Avoda Zara 3a)]. Therefore, after the birth of the Jewish nation and the giving of the Torah, it is impossible that there should be a commandment of G-d to the world without the intermediary of Torah and the Jewish people. Thus, the fulfillment of the Seven Mitzvos of the Descendents of Noach are dependent on the Torah and the Jewish people.
We may be exact in the latter Rambam with regard to the fact that the following two phrases are codified in two separate paragraphs: 1) “Moshe Rabbeinu commanded in the name of the Alm-ghty to compel all mankind to accept the Mitzvos that were commanded to the descendants of Noach,” 2) that they must be performed “because so they were commanded by the Holy One Blessed Be He in the Torah and that they were made known to us via Moshe Rabbeinu.”
At first glance it is understood from the fact that Rambam does not mention in continuation to the obligation “to compel all mankind to accept the Mitzvos that were commanded” that this obligation includes that the acceptance of their Mitzvos should be because the Holy One Blessed Be He commanded them in the Torah, and Rambam wrote the condition (“This, however, is the case if they accept, etc.”) in a separate paragraph defining “the pious of the gentile nations” – [at first glance it is understood from this detail of his codification] that this ruling (“This…is the case if they accept them…because so they were commanded by the Holy One Blessed Be He in the Torah”) is a law unto itself. (It needs to be determined, however, if there is an obligation incumbent upon the Jewish people to compel all mankind to be pious gentiles.)
However, it is inferred from the fact that the Rambam also brings this condition as a continuation to the obligation of the Jewish people “to compel, etc.” that even if this is not part of the first obligation, nevertheless, the complete acceptance on the part of the Descendant of Noach (which began with the Jew’s compelling) – that he should accept the Mitzvos on account of the commandments of the Holy One Blessed Be He in the Torah – also has a connection with the Jewish people. [FN 30: see a lengthy discussion on all this in Likkutei Sichos Vol. 26, pg. 132 ff.]
Perhaps we may assert that there are two approaches regarding the involvement of the Jewish people with the gentile nations: a) influencing the gentiles to accept their Mitzvos by means of compelling (whether literally [FN 31: when the Jewish people are in a position of authority] or by means of compelling words [FN 32: Tosafos Yom Tov on Avos 3:14; see at length Likkutei Sichos ibid]), b) indirect involvement – that in continuation of this compelling, the gentiles come to a recognition that they must accept the Mitzvos “because so they were commanded by the Holy One Blessed Be He in the Torah and that they were made known to us via Moshe Rabbeinu, etc.” [FN 33: Likewise there are these two approaches with regard to the involvement of the Jewish people with the gentiles throughout the course of history: a) By means of war to conquer their lands – for then their legal status is that “they should be to you as a [[source of extracting] tax and they shall serve you” [Shoftim 20:11] – that they should accept upon themselves the Seven Mitzvos commanded to the Descendants of Noach, and thus they will be taxed (Rambam Laws of Kings Ch. 6, beg.); b) as it was in the days of Shlomo – that “Shlomo sat on the throne of G-d” (Divrei HaYamim I 29:23) – that they did not need to wage war, rather, the Queen of Shva brought, etc., to Shlomo (Kings I 10:1 ff; Divrei HaYamim II 9:1 ff). (In the style of the teachings of chassidus: refining through waging war or refining through resting – see Likkutei Torah BaMidbar 3d ff; see Seifer HaMaamarim 5659, pg. 162 ff; Seifer HaMaamarim 5704, pg. 106 ff, among others.)]
5. We may assert that these two approaches are also alluded to in the conclusion of the final two chapters of Rambam’s work [Mishneh Torah], at the end of Laws of Kings (and their Wars [see FN 36]), as follows.
At the end of Chapter 11, Rambam concludes: “He will gather the dispersed among the Jewish people…and he will fix the entire world to serve G-d together, as it is said, ‘For then I will transform the nations to have a clear language, to all call in the name of G-d, to serve Him as one unit’” [Tz’fania 3:9]. Chapter 12 ends with: “At that time there will be no hunger, etc., for good things will flow in abundance, etc., the sole occupation of the entire world will be to know G-d alone. The Jews will, therefore, be great sages and know the hidden matters, and will attain an understanding of their Creator according to the capacity of man, as it is said [Yeshayahu 11:9], ‘for the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of G-d as water covers the ocean.’”
The end of Chapter 11 thus speaks about the effect of Moshiach and the Jewish people upon the gentile nations – “he will correct the entire world, etc.” [FN 39: see Likkutei Sichos Vol. 24, pg. 127, FN 47] – whereas the end of Chapter 12 speaks about the effect upon the gentile nations that occurs of its own accord. For although the phrase [in Chapter 12], “the sole occupation of the entire world will be to know G-d alone” (referring to the occupation of all humanity, including gentiles [FN 40: see Likkutei Sichos Vol. 27, pg. 246 ff]), does not mean that this pursuit will be in a manner that the Jewish people will be involved with the gentiles [i.e., assisting them in attaining the knowledge of G-d], nevertheless, it will still be something that is connected to the Jewish people, an [indirect] outcome of the service of the Jewish people. This point is supported by the fact that Rambam includes in the same law both the virtue of the Jewish people’s knowledge of G-d as well as that the occupation of the entire world will be to know G-d, indicating that “the sole occupation of the entire world...to know G-d alone” will be connected with and a result of the status of the Jewish people of that time.
With this we will understand Rambam’s precise wording in the preceding law [12:4]: “The Sages and the Prophets did not yearn for the Messianic era in order to rule over the entire world, nor in order that they have dominion over the gentiles, nor in order that they be exalted by them, nor in order that they eat, drink, and celebrate. Rather, [their aspiration was] that they should be free [to involve themselves] in Torah and its wisdom.” For at first glance it is a wonder: How would it come to mind to consider that “The Sages and the Prophets…yearned for the Messianic era in order to rule over the entire world…in order that they have dominion over the gentiles…in order that they be exalted by them”? We find that the main occupation and ideal of even gentile scholars is intellectual in nature and that they have no desire to rule and dominate. How much more so is this the case with the Jewish Sages and Prophets!
Rather, the intent of Rambam here is that it is conceivable that one would surmise that the ultimate virtue for which the Sages and etc. yearned is to correct the world, to teach the world the knowledge of G-d in a manner of having an effect and exerting influence (as discussed in Chapter 11 [of Rambam’s Laws of Kings]), for this is tantamount to true authority and dominion (in a spiritual sense). Thus, Rambam indicates here that the latter is not the full sense of the matter and it was not for this sake that the Sages and Prophets yearned for the Messianic Era. Rather, their aspiration was that they should be free to involve themselves in Torah and its wisdom and that they should be great sages, knowing the hidden matters.
Nevertheless, Rambam continues, as mentioned above, that the Jewish people also bring about this lofty level in the world [albeit indirectly] – that the status of the entire world will of its own accord become extremely elevated, whereby “the sole occupation of the entire world will be to know G-d alone, etc., as it is said, ‘for the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of G-d as water covers the ocean.’”
6. All of the above will also shed light on understanding the significance of the concept that prior to the birth of Yitzchok the names of Sara [Sarai] and Avrohom [Avram] needed to be changed – [to Avrohom, meaning] “father of many nations” and [Sara] “the ruler over everyone.” [The reason for this name change was] to underscore, at the origin of the forming of the Jewish nation, which occurred with the birth of Yitzchok on the part of Avrohom and Sara, that the existence of the Jewish people is (not an aspect and detail of Creation but) the principle motive and purpose for the entirety of Creation.
This is also the reason why the miraculous birth of Yitzchok was in a manner whereby it had the aforementioned effect on the gentile nations. Namely, “Many barren were remembered with her; many ill were healed on that day; many prayers were answered with her; there was much laugher in the world,” as well as Sara’s additional efficaciousness resulting in, “Sara would nurse children.” Likewise with regard to Avrohom – the miracle and kindness extended to Avrohom with the birth of Yitzchok caused him to also beget (six) more children from K’tura. For in order that the Jewish people be able to affect the gentile nations, there was an especial act on the part of the Holy One Blessed Be He that also the gentile nations would perceive this matter itself – that the principle reason for the existence of the world, including the existence of humanity, is the Jewish people.
(As we find with regard to Torah, our Sages said [FN 43: Z’vachim 116a, end; Mechilta beg. of Yisro, among other places]: “When the Torah was given to the Jewish people, His voice traveled from one end of the world to the other and all the kings of the pagans were gripped by dread in their palaces, etc. They all gather around Bilam the Wicked and said to him: What was the blaring sound we heard? Perhaps a flood is coming to the world, etc.? He responded, a goodly treasure He has in His treasury, etc., and He desires to give it to his children, as it is said [T’hillim 29:11], ‘G-d gives strength to His people.’ Immediately they all began to say [ibid], ‘G-d blesses His nation with peace.’” [See FN 45])
Accordingly our quandary is answered simply: It is known that the Holy One Blessed Be He does not do miracles in vain. Thus, it is plainly understood that since the Holy One Blessed Be He established Creation in an ordered and natural manner – “[seed time and harvest...and summer and winter, and day and night] shall not cease” [Noach 8:22] – He does not alter the order of Creation except for a particular need. [FN 47: See Drushos HaRan, Drush 8 first preface and see Likkutei Sichos Vol. 6, pg. 49, FN 16, where it is elucidated.]
The question is, therefore, begged: What is the need and requirement that the miracle of the birth of Yitzchok brings about and precipitates further miracles – “Sara would nurse children,” and etc., as mentioned above – that G-d would perform such a great miracle that “Many barren were remembered, etc.,” the opposite of the nature of Creation?
The answer is that this actually did not entail an additional miracle [see FN 48] but a continuation and result of the general miracle of the birth of Yitzchok. The birth of Yitzchok was from the outset not a particular miracle applicable only to Avrohom and Sara but a general miracle; the birth of Yitzchok was intended to make Avrohom and Sara “father of the entire world” and “the ruler over everyone” respectively, and of consequence, when the miracle occurred, it affected and was drawn into “the entire world” and into “everyone,” and it changed the order of Creation (including the gentile nations).
7. Regarding the effect of the miracle of the birth of Yitzchok on the gentile nations themselves, there were two aspects (corresponding to Avrohom and Sara, as mentioned above). For we may assert that these two aspects are the root of the two approaches mentioned above regarding the effect the Jewish people have on the gentile nations and corresponding to the difference in the nature of the service of Avrohom and Sara, which is emphasized also in their new names that were given to them before the birth of Yitzchok:
Avrohom, meaning “father of many nations,” “father of the entire world,” indicates the connection to “many nations,” “the entire world” [much as a father has an intrinsic connection to his children]. Thus, also the miraculous influence extended to the “many nations” through him was engendered by means of a particular act on the part of Avrohom (to increase in the world): “Avrohom proceeded and took another a wife, etc. She bore for him, etc.” (For this reason it came about (not shortly after the birth of Yitzchok but) after a[n extended] duration, emphasizing that it came about by means of a new act.)
Whereas, with regard to Sara, who was “ruler over everyone,” her status is categorized as one of dominion and monarchy [as opposed to a parent], for a monarch is distinguished from his nation. Therefore, the effect of Sara on the gentile nations – multitudinous blessings extending to the gentile nations – which concurred with the birth of Yitzchok, was manifest in an automatic manner [and not in a manner that affirms a connection between them].
The ultimate expression of this concept will be at the end of the time of Exile, with the coming of our righteous Moshiach, fulfilling the testimony [Yeshayahu 2:2 ff], “And it shall be at the end of days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be firmly established at the top of the mountains, etc., and all the nations shall stream to it. And many peoples shall go, and they shall say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of G-d, to the house of the L-rd of Yaakov, and let Him teach us of His ways, and we will go in His paths, etc.’” – that on account of the fact that the revelation to the Jewish people will be in the ultimate state of completeness, its influence will automatically be extended to many nations and peoples [see FN 51], achieving the status of “the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of G-d as water covers the ocean.’” (From the addresses of Shabbos Parshas Chayei Sara and Shabbos Parshas Toldos of 5745; 19 Kislev 5743)
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