Raboyseyee and Raboyseyettes:
She was how old?
What a difference a week makes. Just last shabbis, Avrohom Oveenu was 99 years old, childless and recovering from surgery. And wasn’t it just last week (17:17) when Avrohom uttered: “Will there be born [a child] to one a hundred-years-old?!” A few Malochim predicted he would yet be a father and so it was at the ripe age of 100. Yitzchok was born, he too had a bris and by the time Vayero was over, he, Yitzchok is 37 and barely escapes with his life as his own father bound him and was ready to sacrifice him under instructions from the RBSO. All’s well that ends well except for the fact that after hearing the news of his near death, his mother Soro dies on the spot, poor woman and so we begin Parshas Chaya Soro. Rashi tells us that her neshomo (soul) just flew out. By the time this parsha comes to an end, another 38 years will pass, as will Avrohom Oveenu. Nu, let’s learn some heylige Toira.
Every parsha in the gantze Toira is heylig but avada these early ones in Sefer B’reishis are especially exciting as we learn the history of the yiddin from day one until they go into slavery in Mitzrayim but let’s not get depressed just yet. And what a history they had; makes the Oisvorfer’s pale by comparison. This week’s parsha has two major stories and one minor one in the epilogue and they are: 1- Soro’s passing and Avrohom’s trials and tribulations in trying to find an adequate burial place. 2- Avrohom’s sharp focus in trying to find a suitable kallah for his favorite son Yitzchok and 3- Avrohom’s new life and family.
Avada you all know that Avrohom’s negotiations and subsequent land purchase are still being challenged today. Thousands of years later the araber (Arabs) continue to have designs on unraveling the entire transaction. Hey, didn’t these guys ever hear of the statute of limitations? Though offered the land and cave free of charge, our hero Avrohom insisted on paying full price; taka shver (difficult) to fully chap. I never questioned him listening to his wife Soro or even his attempt to shecht (slaughter) his beloved son Yitzchok ober to pay retail and full price when offered free? Nu, no one’s perfect. Time won’t allow us to delve further into this sugya (topic), we have other topics to cover. In fact, let’s start by skipping to the very end of the parsha where Avrohom is done mourning for his eishes chayil and ready to move on with his life. This is what we learn.
Avrohom is now a young 140 year old and mistama a shtikel lonely. What to do? He remarries some woman named Kitura and boom boom boom, followed by another three of the same, he knocks out six- yes count ‘em- six more kinderlach. Quite impressive given his slow start and advanced age but hey: he’s Avrohom Oveenu and the RBSO loves him. And let’s not forget that he’s aced every test, all 10 of them.
As you can only imagine, not all the medroshim were happy to hear that Avrohom would marry a woman with a name like Kitura and avada you won’t be surprised to hear that it’s a machloikes among many, as to who this mysterious Kitura really is. Is she or was she Kitura like the toirah tells us, or was she someone else altogether. And since it’s before 9/11, not everyone was required to carry a valid driver’s license or passport and as a result, the medroshim posited different opinions. Nu, who was she? Let’s see.
According to poshit p’shat (basic reading of the text), it would appear that Kitura is Avrohom’s third wife. Avada you recall that he married Soro Emaynu, then with Soro’s blessings (at the time), also Hogor and now, Kitura; Shoin! And so say the Rashbam, Ibn-Ezra, The Radak and the RambaN. Case closed? Not at all!
But who is Kitura? The simplest approach is that she was a local – a shiksa Canaanite woman. Avrohom married a shiksa? 30 years ago, my father was upset that I dated a girl whose parents davened in Young Israel! Avada some Medroshim could not let this slide by. Says the Yalkut Shimoni (Iyov – 903) “Abraham married three women: Sarah, the daughter of Shem; Ketura, the daughter of Japheth; Hagar, the daughter of Ham”. And in fact he married them in the order in which the “fathers” appear in the Bible (6:9) – first the daughter of Shem, then the daughter of Ham, and finally the daughter of Japheth. Towards the end of his life, post-Soro, Avraham fulfills the last piece of the RBSO’s special brocho – through him (Avrohom) the world is blessed and populated. Fatherless for 99 years, Avrohom becomes the father of a multitude of nations.
To bolster this point of view, says the heylige toirah about Avrohom- VA’YIOSEF (he added) and VA’YIKACH (he took) a wife, and her name was Kitura. And take her he did, seemingly many times, if you chap, as she bore him Zimran and Yokshan and Medan and Midian and Yishbak and Shuach. Next and immediately thereafter, meaning after fathering six more, we learn that Avrohom bequeathed all his possessions to his favorite son Yitzchok. Efsher he had guilt feelings about binding him like a sheep and trying to slaughter him? Ver veyst. Sound and feels right by me. In any event, it’s clear that the kinderlach that he fathered from his new eishes chayil got nothing, well almost nothing. The emes is that he gave them each a few parting gifts, much like the losers on Jeopardy. The possik tells us V’LIVNEI HA’PILAGSHM (and for the children of the concubines), Avrohom gave gifts, and then sent them off away from Yitzchok his son while he was still alive, eastward to the land of the East (Bereishis 25:1-6).
Says Reb. Avraham ben HaRambam (the son of the RambaM) that Avrohom fathered all these children when he was well over 140 years old. And when these kids grew up, he sent them all away eastward, back in the direction of his birthplace. From there they become successful traders in spices, gold and precious stones (Yeshaya 60:6; Yechezkel 27:15, 20, 22).
Says the Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 61:4) that Kiturah was not his third wife but the second coming of his second wife. You chap that? In other words: he married her, then chased her away but with his jealous nagging eishes chayil Soro now gone, Avrohom goes back and marries the shiksa one more time. Of course she had no issues giving birth; seemingly the shiksa girlfriends or pilagshim never do.
Says Reb Yehudah: “This is Hogor”. Said Reb Nechemiah to him: But it says “And he continued” [suggesting an additional wife]! Said he to him, “[VA’YIOSEF means] by Divine inspiration he married her. Said he to him, “But it says, and her name was Kiturah!” Their arguments continued, each holding strong to his position. Rav Yehudah argues tenaciously that Hagar, newly named, returned to Avrohom after the death of Soroh. Says Rashi empathically that Kitura was Hogor. Ay… (but) what about all the cogent and logical arguments put forth by Reb Nechemnia? And what’s the bottom line with these two going back and forth? Ver veyst?
Moreover, asks the Gur Aryeh (R. Yehudah Loew ben Betzalel, the Maharal of Prague): the text tells us that Avrohom married Kitura but we get no background on her. Where was her shidduch resume? Who were her parents? Where was she from? Would Avrohom marry just anyone and especially after setting the bar so very high in this week’s parsha when he instructs Eliezer to find a suitable wife for his son Yitzchok? What’s pshat here? Therefore, he concludes that Kitura is not introduced because she previously was: she’s Hogor! Ginig shoin (enough already)! Luz up (leave it alone please)!
And why would Avrohom remarry the wife he once chased out of the house? Say the Zoihar, Chizkuni, Kli Yakar and others azoy: Hogor, was chapped in by one of the early ballas tshuva movements for wayward shiksa concubines thrown out by the boyfriend’s/husband’s wife, got herself back on the right path, gave herself a shtikel name change, cleaned up her Google and presto: good to go, and come. Ok, avada they didn’t mention Google but you chap, yes? Avrohom saw her in a new light and remarried her. Givaldig!
What do we learn here? Seemingly, once he had that shiksa experience it was zicher (of course) hard for Avraham to stay focused on Soroh, despite her beauty – even at her advance age. One medrish suggests that she, Hogor, had taken on the name Kitura because she was closed to other traffic (men) ever since she had experienced Avraham. Di emes is the gantza sugya is shver tzu farsthein (the entire subject is hard to understand) but azoy shtiyt (this is what’s stated) in the Toirah and who am I to argue with the Toirah. It’s avada klur (clear) why Avrohom would think about and miss the shiksa Hogor but farkert?
Ober, says the Radak (R. David Kimchi) that Avrohom taka married Kitura, as he had married Hogor earlier, as a full-fledged wife. However, the children of the concubines mentioned here at the end of our parsha, refer to other unnamed children from other unnamed women Avrohom took as concubines. Well, blow me down! Are we talking about the same Avrohom Oveenu? We must look at him with a whole new set of eyes and admiration; a man mamish! And if you’re now dizzy and wondering how many kinderlach Avrohom had in total, you’re not alone. In fact, some say he also had a daughter and her name was Bakol. And how do we know this? Says the heyige toira that Avrohom got old and the RBSO blessed him Bakol (meaning everything) and from this text, several medroshim concluded that Bakol was his daughter. Shoin! What happened to her? Seemingly she nebech died, much earlier. Avraham didn’t feel the pain for this lost daughter so much until he lost Sarah as well.
Let’s chazir: exactly how many wives he had, we don’t know for sure. Nor do we know with certitude how many kids and concubines he had. What we do know is that he seemingly enjoyed the last 35 years of his life and why not? Er hut a sach mitgimacht (he was tested plenty). He was, as I said earlier, Avrohom Oveenu, need we say more?
And now let’s look in on Yitzchok and his new eishes chayil Rivka, a true love story. A bachelor until 40, he finally meets his bashert after his father gets involved in the shidduch process, sends Eliezer his house boy, to find him a wife and boy does Eliezer deliver. The Toirah tells us that Rivka was also quite beautiful.
How did all this unfold? Let’s chazir with a shtikel overview. Like any father who sees his son unmarried in his 30’s, Avrohom realizes he must get involved. Without consulting Yitzchok, he instructs his house servant whom the Medrish (Bereshis Rabba 59:5) identifies as Eliezer and makes him swear that he’ll bring back a suitable match. So far so good, but Avrohom wants Eliezer to swear; no big deal….until – that is until he hears details of the swearing process and this is how it went down. Want more details? Hold on….and that’s exactly what Eliezer is told to do.
Said Avrohom: Place your hand under my thigh. And I make you swear by Hashem, G-d of the heavens and G-d of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose midst I dwell (Bereshis 24:2-3). Eliezer placed his hand under his master Avrohom’s thigh, and swore to uphold his promise.
Says Rashi: the thigh is a euphemism for the Mila (Penis). Circumcision was the first mitzvah for him, and it came to him through pain, and it was beloved to him. Not much has changed; most men still love their mila and chap it regularly. And, says Rashi, there is indeed a connection between placing the hand under the thigh and to swearing. In fact, the heylige gemoro quotes the incident in our parsha as the source for the ruling that a person swearing must hold onto an item of mitzvah (nekitat chefetz). Toisfes advises that up to this point, Avrohom had not yet been commanded to fulfill any mitzvah other than circumcision.
Says the heylige gemoro (Shavuos 38b) azoy: that one must hold an object of inherent mitzvah, such as a Torah scroll when swearing, and since this incident pre-dated Matan Toirah and there were but limited mitzvois to hold onto. Grabbing the place under the thigh – or the Mila was an accepted method of holding onto an item of mitzvah to do the swearing. Grada I can chap that as I did back in high school (and beyond) and it’s quite logical because if someone grabbed your mila, certainly you’d be swearing, quite loudly.
So he took what and placed it where and held what? Raboyseyee, I believe that we just read that Rashi says that Avraham made Eliezer hold onto his mila (penis) in order to validate the oath. Raboyseyee: in Tanach we find a number of citations for ways one can demonstrate a commitment, including the removal of a shoe and a handshake, but holding onto the member? Another such exciting Mila grabbing incident takes place later in Parshas Vayichi when Yankif makes his son Yoisef swear and also by grabbing his Mila but let’s not jump ahead. Placing his hand under Avraham’s thigh isn’t exactly a modest gesture. Even you disgusting minunuvullim wouldn’t stoop so low, would you? The bottom line: thank the RBSO for delivering the Toira and other ways of swearing.
Ibn Ezra says this practice continues in India ad hayom hazeh. Some say it also exists in a few Yeshivas. It so happens that this tradition also continues daily in your own house but what you didn’t know is that the next time the eishes chayil asks you why you’re holding on to your mila, just tell her that you’re about to swear and that you are but following in the ways of your forefathers; isn’t that what your parents always wanted from you? It’s not such a giferliche idea to get the eishes chayil to swear once in a while, if you chap. Gevaldick, if you chap.
As expected, a big machloikes erupted as to whether this issue of holding an item of mitzvah to validate an oath is a Toirah requirement (d’oraisa) or was this added as a Rabbinic decree which uses our verse, not as a source, but as support (asmachta). Toisfis. the Rema and others including Choishen Mishpot seem to be of the opinion that holding the object in your hand is d’oraisa: The Rosh and Rambam hold that it’s but a Rabbinic requirement instituted by the Rebbiem of Toirah Temimah in order to have a valid defense 35 years later when one surviving bochur brings an action in court. In any event, whether you hold the mila or some other mitzvah, you’re in good hands, if you chap. Got that? Veyter (let’s move on).
Back to the shadchan: Eliezer arrives to his destination and here comes Rivka. The Toirah states that she was very beautiful (seemingly a requirement of all the Ovois when selecting a mate) and specifically states that she was a virgin and moreover, that she was not known to any man. What’s p’shat here? Why the double language? Avada if she wasn’t known to a man, she was a virgin and even farkert, so why the double loshon (language)?
|a virgin: from the place of her virginity. — [Gen. Rabbah 60:5]||
בתולה: ממקום בתולים:
|and no man had been intimate with her: in an unnatural way. Since the daughters of the gentiles would preserve their virginity but were promiscuous in unnatural ways, Scripture attests that she was completely innocent. — [Gen. Rabbah ad loc.]||
ואיש לא ידעה: שלא כדרכה, לפי שבנות הגוים היו משמרות מקום בתוליהן ומפקירות עצמן ממקום אחר, העיד על זו שנקיה מכל:
Rashi tells us that the local girls had strange sexual practices that enabled sexual activity without the surrender of one’s maidenhood. He really does say that, by the way- see the box above you chazir. Seems that Rashi knew his way around and is suggesting that unlike other women of the time who patchkeed (experimented) around maybe with their BFFs, Rivka was pure, I would certainly hope so given that according to the mesorah, she was all of three years old at the time. Was she?
Avada you’re thinking three years old, where in the Toriah does it say that? The answer is: nowhere. The midrashim deduced that Rivka was three years old when she was discovered by Eliezer and brought into Yitzchak’s tent for consummation of their marital relationship. How can this be? Was Yitzchak some kind of pervert? Ver veyst? Are we to believe that at three she was schlepping jugs of water, feeding ten camels and making decisions about her future? How do we skeptics address the idea that one of the greatest Yiddin, one of our Ovois married a toddler? Did he put her in for a nap daily? Is it terrible if we think that this can’t be real p’shat? Are we considered apikorsim for even suggesting that Rashi may have gotten it wrong? What’s p’shat? Is there another p’shat that we weren’t taught in Yeshiva? Ver veyst: I certainly hope so and at least one toisfes in yevomos (61b) suggest that she was 14. Nu, that I can already understand. Fourteen year olds with jugs I have seen!
The emes is that Rebbe told us she was three and a few wanted us to swear that she was. Giloibt di Aybershter (thank god), many of us were unwilling to go through the procedure and we accepted it as fact that she was taka three. Was she? Lucky for us Yiddin, no one agrees on anything and there’s always another opinion and this time we seem to be on safe ground when thinking out loud that efsher, just maybe, she wasn’t three but at least 14.
What’s the bottom line? Our heylige Toirah is real, so are its characters. They weren’t perfect and avada neither are we. Our Ovois were stricken by outward beauty, overcame many challenges, and yet loved the RBSO unconditionally. He loved them too. You should too!
A gitten shabbis…