Weekly Parasha Insights by Rabbi Eli Mansour

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Source: DailyHalacha.com

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Parashat Hayeh-Sara- Heavenly Matches

Parashat Hayeh-Sara tells the story of Eliezer, Abraham Abinu’s trusted servant whom Abraham sent to find a wife for Yishak. Abraham made Eliezer take an oath that he would not bring for Yishak a woman from the local population, and would instead find a wife from Abraham’s homeland. In imposing this oath upon Eliezer, Abraham said, “I will make you swear by Hashem, G-d of the heavens and G-d of the earth” (24:3).

Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra (Spain, 1089-1167) explains why Abraham emphasized in this context that Hashem is “G-d of the heavens and G-d of the earth.” He writes: “Because [the designation] of the daughter of so-and-so for so-and-so on earth is from the heavens.” The matches that are made here on earth are decided up in the heavens, and so as Abraham sends his servant to find a spouse for his son, Yishak, he speaks of Hashem as “G-d of the heavens and G-d of the earth,” emphasizing that the matches on earth originate in the heavens. Ibn Ezra concludes, “Ve’hu Sod” – “This is a secret,” indicating that this interpretation touches upon profound Kabbalistic teaching.

Later commentators uncovered for us the deep concepts underlying Ibn Ezra’s remark. The Gemara in the beginning of Masechet Sota teaches that even before a fetus is formed, a heavenly voice declares whom that person is going to marry. However, the Gemara adds, this refers only to “Zivug Rishon” – “the first marriage.” When it comes to “Zivug Sheni” – a person’s second marriage, this is not predetermined, and who a person marries the second time depends on his or her deeds. On the surface, the Gemara here speaks of people who marry more than once, due to the death of their spouse or divorce. The Kabbalists, however, explain this Gemara differently. They explain that a husband and wife’s souls were created together, bound into a single entity. Just as the Sages teach that Adam and Hava were created as a single body, and were then separated, similarly, a husband and wife’s souls began as a single soul in the heavens. They were then separated and sent down to the earth as two different beings, and so when a man and woman marry, their souls reunite and again become bound into the single soul that they had initially comprised. The Gemara thus teaches that the “Zivug Rishon” – the initial bond between a husband and wife, which existed in the heavens before they were born, is predetermined by G-d, and has nothing to do with their actions and their merits. But the “Zivug Sheni” – the reuniting of the two souls in this world through marriage, is not predetermined, and needs to be earned. Indeed, as we know, in order to find a spouse, one must develop his character, be responsible and prepare himself to build a close relationship and care for a family. The original bond between the two souls happens without any effort, but the “Zivug Sheni” here on earth requires a great deal of hard work.

On this basis, the Kabbalists explained the Gemara’s famous comment that making a match is “as difficult as the splitting of the Yam Suf.” At first glance, the splitting of the sea – which involved separating water, which is naturally together – seems hardly an appropriate analogy for matchmaking, which involves the precise opposite process, bringing two different, distinct individuals together. In light of what we have seen, however, to the contrary – the splitting of the sea is the perfect analogy for matchmaking. The waters of the sea split to allow Beneh Yisrael to safely cross, and then came back together. The same is true of a husband and wife – the two souls begin bound together in the heavens, but are at one point separated, and reunited again through marriage.

This, then, is the deeper meaning of the Ibn Ezra’s remark: “Because [the designation] of the daughter of so-and-so for so-and-so on earth is from the heavens.” The Ibn Ezra is not simply saying that G-d determines in the heavens whom a person marries here on earth. Rather, he is subtly revealing to us the “secret” of matches – that they are literally “made in heaven,” as the husband and wife were once a single soul in the heavens. The process of finding a mate involves finding the “missing” portion of one’s soul so they can be reunited, thereby allowing each individual to become the complete being that he or she was created to become.

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Weekly Parasha Insights by Rabbi Eli Mansour

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Source: DailyHalacha.com

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Description: Parashat Noah- Following the Example of Noah and Yosef

Parashat Noah tells the famous story of Noah, the lone righteous person in a corrupt, sinful generation, and who was thus saved by the flood which G-d brought upon the earth by constructing an ark as G-d had commanded him.

Rav Menahem Azarya of Fano (Italy, 1548-1620) writes that Noah’s soul later resided within the person of Yosef. This is why both Noah and Yosef are given the title “Sadik” (“righteous person”). Noah is described as an “Ish Sadik” in the first verse of Parashat Noah, and throughout the ages, Yosef has always been referred to as “Yosef Ha’sadik.”

Indeed, numerous parallels exist between these two righteous figures. Most notably, perhaps, both sustained the world during a period of grave crisis. Noah sustained humankind and the animal kingdom on the ark during the flood that killed all living creatures on earth, and Yosef, through his prophetic insight which forewarned of an impending famine, oversaw the storage of grain in Egypt which sustained the ancient world during the devastating famine which would have otherwise caused widespread starvation.

Noah is described as having “found favor in G-d’s eyes” (“Masa Hen Be’eneh Hashem” – Bereshit 6:8), just as Yosef found “favor in the eyes” of his master, Potifar (“Va’yimsa Yosef Hen Be’enav” – Bereshit 39:4). Noah spent twelve months trapped in the ark, and Yosef spent twelve years in the Egyptian dungeon. Furthermore, our Sages teach that the sea split for Beneh Yisrael in the merit of Yosef, whose remains were being transported out of Egypt for burial in Eretz Yisrael. Just as Yosef saved Beneh Yisrael from the waters of the sea, Noah saved the world from the waters of the flood.

It is worth probing a bit deeper into the fact that these two great men are both credited with sustaining the entire world. The Hebrew root “Z.N.” has two seemingly unrelated meanings – sustenance (as in the verb “Zan” – “feed”), and promiscuity (as in “Zenut” – forbidden intimate relations). A clear example of these two meanings is the description of Rahab – the woman who assisted the two spies sent by Yehoshua to scout the city of Yericho – as an “Isha Zona” (Yehoshua 2:1). This has been interpreted to mean either that she had a store, selling food to sustain the townspeople, or that she worked as a harlot. While at first these two meanings seem unrelated, in truth, they are very much connected. King Shlomo warns in the Book of Mishleh (6:26), “Ki Be’ad Isha Zona Ad Kikar Lahem” – “For the sake of a harlot woman, until a loaf of bread.” This means that a person who pursues forbidden relationships sacrifices his livelihood, and ends up sacrificing “a loaf of bread” for the sake of forbidden relations. It as though a person chooses which “Mezonot” he will have – sustenance, or illicit relationships. These are the two sides of the same coin.

With this in mind, we can return to the connection between Yosef and Noah. They both earned the privilege of sustaining the world because they both withstood the formidable challenge of temptation. Yosef, of course, was tempted by Potifar’s wife, and he escaped rather than succumb. And Noah lived in a generation overrun by immorality, but with great strength and conviction, he resisted this influence and lived a noble, dignified lifestyle. As both excelled in avoiding one meaning of “Mezonot,” they were granted the special privilege of providing the other kind of “Mezonot” for the entire world.

Like Noah, we, too, live in a generation which has all but eliminated even the most basic standards of morality. And the influence of this culture is far more pervasive and powerful than it was in Noah’s time. Let us follow his and Yosef’s example of strict adherence to our values and principles in the face of temptation, and may Hashem reward our efforts by blessing us all with sustenance, success and prosperity, Amen.

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