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Torah Sparks

November 2, 2002 - 5763

Annual Cycle: Genesis 23:1 - 25:18 (Hertz, p. 80; Etz Hayim, p. 127)
Triennial - Year II: Genesis - 24:10 - 24:52 (Hertz, p. 83; Etz Hayim, p. 132)
Haftarah - I Kings 1:1-31 (Hertz, p. 90; Etz Hayim, p. 142)

Prepared by Rabbi Lee Buckman
Head of School, Jewish Academy of Metropolitan Detroit

Department of Services to Affiliated Congregations
Rabbi Martin J. Pasternak, Director

Torah Portion Summary

(23:1-20) Sarah dies at the age of 127. Abraham, after bargaining with Ephron, acquires the Cave of Machpelah, in Hebron, as a family burial plot. This is the first Jewish acquisition of property in the Land of Israel.

(24:1-9) Abraham sends his servant back to Aram-Naharaim ("Aram - of the two rivers" = Mesopotamia) to find a wife for Isaac.

(24:10-28) Eliezer, Abraham's servant, has been sent to Haran to find a wife for Isaac. He arrives in Haran, and finds Rebecca at a well, where she passes his "test" of compassion and diligence.

(24:29-49) Eliezer tells his journey's purpose and recounts his experiences to Laban, Rebecca's brother, and how God led him to find Rebecca for Isaac.

(24:50-52) Laban and Bethuel agree to allow Rebecca to go with Eliezer.

(24:53-67) Rebecca consents to go with Eliezer, and is given a farewell blessing by her family. Rebecca goes to Canaan and is wed to Isaac.

(25:1-6) The genealogy of Abraham's descendants from his second marriage - to Keturah.

(25:7-11) Abraham dies and is buried next to Sarah in the Cave of Machpelah.

(25:12-18) A genealogy of Ishmael's descendants.

Torah Text Being Considered

"Abraham was now old, advanced in years. And Abraham said to the senior servant of his household... 'you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites among whom I dwell, but will go to the land of my birth and get a wife for my son Isaac...'

Then the servant took ten of his master's camels and set out, taking with him all the bounty of his master; and he made his way to Aram-naharaim, to the city of Nahor." (Gen. 24:1-4, 10)


  1. "...of his master's camels" (Gen. 24:10) They were distinct from other camels, for they would go out muzzled because of concern over committing theft - so that they should not graze in the fields belonging to others. (Rashi)
  2. And there was quarreling between the herds men of Abram's livestock and the herds men of Lot's livestock (Gen. 13:7) Because Lot's shepherds were wicked and would graze their cattle in the fields of others and Abrahm's shepherds would rebuke them over the theft they committed by grazing their cattle on other people's land. And Lot's shepherds would say, "The land has been given to Abrahm, and he has no heir, so Lot, his brother's son, will inherit him, i.e. will inherit his estate, and this is not theft, for the land will ultimately belong to Lot. (Rashi)
  3. "Now sharpen, if you please, your gear, your sword and your bow and go to the field and catch game for me. Then make delicacies for me" (Gen. 27:3-4) --- "And catch game for me from that which is owner less and not from what which is stolen." (Rashi)
  4. Moses was grazing the sheep of Jethro, his father-in-law, the priest of Midian; he guided the sheep far into the wilderness (Ex. 3:1) He went into the wilderness in order to distance himself from theft so that the flocks would not graze in the fields of others. (Rashi)

For discussion:

Rashi seems to be making the same point repeatedly in his commentary, i.e. in four different instances. One may presume that if he made his point based on only one instance, it would seem that he was "stretching" his interpretation in order to make the point.

Well, maybe that is the beauty of "drash" or sermonica. You can take a verse and suggest that it implies some further meaning beyond the literal meaning.

The new "Etz Hayim" Chumash does this. It offers literal understanding (Potok) and "drashic" commentary (Kushner). Do we sometimes use a similar approach when reading some types of literature - other than the Bible?

Some points to consider:

This whole super-sensitivity to theft in Rashi's commentaries - what do you think? Is he perhaps, being overly zealous? Unrealistic?

Yet, let us ask - how would the corporate, interpersonal, or political world look different today if we attended to such minor details as pointed out by Rashi in his comments above?

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