Tag Archives: Chayei Sarah (Parasha)

Blessings You Don’t Say but Really Should

One of the core fundamentals of Judaism is the recitation of berakhot, “blessings”. On the simplest level, a blessing serves as a little bit of gratitude to God for what He bestows upon us. A Jew must be grateful at all times. In fact, it is the very root of the word Yehudi, which comes from lehodot, “to thank”, and from Leah thanking God for blessing her with a fourth child, Yehuda. As is well-known, a Jew is encouraged to make 100 blessings over the course of a single day. This ensures that a Jew remains grateful and positive always, and such a positive attitude is a valuable key to a successful and happy life.

Yet, ironically, the first people who make blessings in the Torah are not Jews at all! The first person to make a blessing with the formula of barukh followed by God’s Name is actually Noah (Genesis 9:26). This was when he blessed his son Shem. In turn, the next mention of barukh in the Torah is when Shem blessed Abraham (Genesis 14:19). However, both of these cases involve a person giving a blessing to another person, which is a little different than reciting a berakhah simply to thank God. And so, we find that the first person to truly recite a berakhah was Eliezer, in this week’s parasha, Chayei Sarah. This is when Eliezer thanked God for helping him succeed in his mission to find a suitable spouse for Isaac (Genesis 24:27).

Our Sages would later institute an actual berakhah with a specific text to recite upon achieving some great success, or hearing wonderful news (Berakhot 54a). The formula for this berakhah begins like every other (Barukh Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melekh haOlam…) and concludes with the words hatov v’hametiv, thanking God “Who is good and bestows goodness”. There is also an opposite blessing to recite upon hearing devastating news: Barukh… dayan ha’emet, affirming that God is the sole True Judge in this world and surely knows what’s best.

In the same pages of the Talmud, we are presented with many other interesting blessings that people today are generally unfamiliar with. While most are careful with blessings before and after eating food, as well as after going to the bathroom, hagomel after perilous situations, and reciting sh’echeyanu on happy occasions, new fruits, and significant new items, there are actually many more wonderful blessings that a Jew can recite throughout the day. With these in mind, it becomes much easier to hit those important 100 blessings a day. Continue reading

How Abraham Was Rectified in Solomon

1896 Illustration of King Solomon Drafting the First Temple

In this week’s parasha, Chayei Sarah, we read about the final years of Abraham’s incredible life. Following this, we read the Haftarah which explores the arrangements made for the ascendance of King Solomon to the throne. We know that the Sages carefully selected the Haftarot due to their intrinsic connection to the parasha. A superficial look might suggest that the Haftarah for Chayei Sarah was chosen because it begins with King David being described as “old, advanced in days” (I Kings 1:1) exactly as Abraham is described in Chayei Sarah (Genesis 24:1). However, the Haftarah is not really about David, it is about Solomon and his status as the rightful heir to the throne.

What does Solomon’s kingship have to do with Abraham’s life? At first glance, they seem to be completely unrelated. Yet when we look carefully, we find some stunning connections between Abraham and Solomon. In fact, it quickly becomes clear that Solomon was the reincarnation of Abraham, and fulfilled the life of the first patriarch. Continue reading

Where Was the Garden of Eden?

This week’s parasha, Chayei Sarah, begins with the passing of Sarah and Abraham’s securing of a burial plot for her. He specifically chooses Me’erat HaMakhpelah, a cave in Hebron, and pays a handsome price for it. Why was this place special and how did Abraham know that this was the right place to lay Sarah? The Zohar (I, 127a) comments that Abraham saw a vision of the Garden of Eden at that spot and, when he entered the cave, found Adam and Eve buried there. The Zohar suggests that this area was once the Garden of Eden!

It would definitely make sense for the Garden of Eden to be in the Holy Land. When Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden, the Torah says they lived east of it (Genesis 3:24). Cain, too, when banished, fled east—and there built the first city (Genesis 4:16-17). Since this city was in Mesopotamia, which is directly east of Israel, the implication is that Eden was in the Holy Land. Israel is called tabur ha’aretz, the “navel of the Earth” (Ezekiel 38:12), and is described in more mystical texts as the very centre of the entire universe, the point of origin of Creation.

Having said that, the Torah also says that Eden was locked up after Adam and Eve’s error, and God placed angels to guard its entrance (Genesis 3:24). What happened between that time and the time that Abraham found it? The only explanation that comes to mind is that Eden was destroyed during the Great Flood. Yet, the Midrash (Beresheet Rabbah 33:6) presents one opinion that the Land of Israel was not affect by the Great Flood! The proof is from Ezekiel 22:24, which says that Israel “was not cleansed, nor rained upon in the day of fury.”

This solves another problem: where did the dove that Noah sent get an olive branch? The Midrash says it got the branch from Israel, which miraculously did not experience the Flood. Some hold that Israel did experience the Flood, just that it did not rain directly upon the Holy Land; water flowed in from surrounding lands. Finally, the Midrash presents an opinion that the dove got the olive branch directly from the Garden of Eden! This suggests Eden was not destroyed by the Flood.

And then there are altogether different opinions regarding the location of Eden. Continue reading