Weekly Shiur- Chaye Sara- Rav Shames
As we read the Torah, especially in the sections that are primarily narrative, we find ourselves following fascinating storylines and events. The drama that is played out in every line of Sefer Braishit is constantly exciting, even if we have read the story over and over again each year. In addition to the main story, Chazal have taught us to pay close attention to the details that are presented in the stories. Each and every word of the Torah is calculated and to be read with the understanding that we are to learn from not only the story but also from the choice of words.
Chazal point this out in comparing the very long and repetitive account of Eliezer at the well, which spans columns of space in the Torah, while certain halachot we are taught by a seemingly extraneous letter.
In this weeks parsha as we are following the story of the search for a wife for Yitzchak (which can be described as the quintessential “shidduch date”), we reach the happy ending of the meeting between the couple to be:
“Vayetze Yitzchak lasooach basadeh …”
Yitzchak goes out to the field “lasooach” and sees the entourage arriving. What is meant by this word “lasooach”?
If we check out the rest of Tanach (you should either have an excellent memory or a computer program, I chose the latter) we find that this is the only instance of the usage of this word as a verb. The commentaries on our passuk offer different options as to the translation of this word.
The Rashbam explains that it is based on the word “siach” as in “siach hasedeh” meaning trees and plants. Accordingly Yitzchak went out to the field in order to plant trees and in the middle of his work he saw Eliezer and Rivka arrive.
The Even Ezra also views the root to be “siach hasadeh” but explains that Yitzchak was not planting things, but rather was taking a walk in the field amongst the bushes and trees.
The Ramban sees the root from the word “sicha” a conversation. He writes that Yitzchak was in the field in order to meet his friends and workers and had a conversation with them.
The more familiar explanation of the word is the one given by the gemara in Brachot and quoted by Rashi on the pasuk. The gemara is, as the Ramban, based on “sicha” a conversation, but it uses this verse as the source for tefilat mincha. Chazal explain that each of the tree forefathers established one of the daily tefilot. Avraham- shacharit, Yitzchak- Mincha and Yaakov- Arvit. This passuk serves as the basis for mincha. Yitzchak was out in the field to converse with God. (The sforno was bothered by the question as to why he had to be in the field to pray, a question not dealt with by Rashbam and the Ramban of course as it is hard to imagine a better place to either plant or stroll amongst trees. The Sforno explains that he did so in order to avoid distraction).
I think that it is remarkable that such an important message, that of prayer, is taught to us by the use of an ambiguous phrase. Had we not made the connection between this “lasooach” and Tehilim 102 “sicho” in reference to the prayer of the poor man we would have missed the entire point.
This I think is precisely the lesson of Yitzchak and mincha. Much has been written concerning the personality of Yitzchak and his mission. He is not the trailblazer of Avraham nor the leader and fighter that makes Yaakov. Yitzchak is very much a figure of persistence and gevura. As we will see next week he is to follow much of the same paths as his father and he will need to “redig” the same wells and repeat and deepen many of the experiences that we have already seen.
Rav Hutner points out that Yitzchak is the only one of the Avot that does not have their name changed. He remarks that this is precisely because of who he is. He needs to be the one who can be the same individual as he was born. He is the first the go through Brit Milah at eight days, he is the first to be born Jewish. Consistency is his message.
When a person approaches prayer it is as part of his personality. Avraham is said to have “stood” in his place, for his prayer. This fits I nicely with the unwavering individual who makes a “stand” and defies the entire world around him in order to live his dream. Yaakov is said to have “approached” God in his manner of prayer. This as well matches the image of a dynamic individual as the Torah represents Yaakov. Yitzchak is said to have “conversed” a soft spoken term but very steady.
The simple reading of the passuk, as the commentaries point out, place him in the most mundane of situations, talking, walking and even planting. It is precisely these acts that make him such a special person .It is the normalcy of Yitzchak that sets him apart. His avodat Hashem was expressed in his conducting a regular every day life.
This is as well the significance of mincha. When one gets up in the morning and witnesses the dawn of a new day, one is filled with a feeling of awe and inspiration. A religious person feels a natural need to call out to Hashem and praise him for the wonders that he sees and ask for help and guidance in the challenges that the day may bring. Late at night, in the darkest parts of or existence the religious person again turns to Hashem in order to receive consolation and make sense of the hectic time that he experienced that day. Mincha comes in the middle of the day. Directly in the midst of the tumult of our very worldly lives. In the middle of work or study we are required to stop and look up to look beyond the here and now and reach out to God on issues that are eternal.
It is in this challenge that Yitzchak teaches us his unique lesson. Through very normal acts of our lives we are to constantly involve God and remain steady and consistent in our commitment. Tefilla takes on an air of conversation as we integrate the world of religion into the hustle and bustle of our life styles.