Shabbat Parashat Chayei Sarah| 5763
A Chip of the “Old” BlockHarav Yosef Carmel
The second section of our parasha begins with the introduction “V'Avraham zaken ba ba-yamim”- “And Avraham was old, coming in days” (Bereshit 24:1). Most commentaries explain that this phrase is connected to the subsequent story of the search for a proper wife for his “only son,” Yitzchak. Avraham was afraid that if he did not take care of the matter of finding a wife who fit the role and destiny of Yitzchak, later on it might be too late. The match between Yitzchak and Rivka turned into a symbol for future generations of a family unit based on the attribute of chesed. This was so appropriate for the family of Avraham, who taught generations of offspring to be compassionate and kind to others.
Chazal chose for the haftara reading the story of King David’s waning days and it too begins with the words “Ve-ha-melech David zaken ba ba-yamim" - “And King David was old, coming in days” (Melachim I, 1:1). There, too, there seems to be a shidduch- a union between David and the beautiful, young woman, Avishag. As one peruses the story, he may find it to be the antithesis of the historical, Jewish approach to finding a mate. David’s advisors’ plan seems to resemble that of Achashveirosh’s advisors more than the legacy of Avraham, which we would expect. It may be specifically to counteract this misconception that Chazal linked this haftara to our parasha to let us all know – Avraham and David are one. Both of these great men earned the title “zaken ba ba-yamim”, which implies not merely physiologically advanced years but spiritual maturity. In several places we find zaken as a term for those who have reached Torah heights :
(Yehoshua la-zekanim, zaken yoshev ba-yeshiva, zeh she-kanah chuchmah).
Further investigation of David’s story uncovers that: 1. David did not endorse his advisors’ plan; 2. All action taken in this regard was done by the advisors, not David; 3. Young women did not volunteer to take part in a “beauty pageant,” rather the right woman was found and approached; 4. Avishag, who was chosen, did not have physical contact with David and simply served as a nurse. Indeed, there was no “shidduch” and David’s propriety in this affair earned him the complimentary comparison to Avraham Avinu.
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