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Aspaqlaria: Parshas Chayei Sarah

It is interesting to note that Judaism's holiest sites were not conquered but bought. This week's parashah opens with Avraham purchasing the Ma'aras Hamachpeilah and the fields around it. Later, Yaakov buys the city of Shechem from Canaanite princes, the sons of Chamor (Breishis 33:19). Similarly, Shmuel II concludes with David Hamelech purchasing the Temple Mount in Jerusalem from Aravnah the Jebusite.

R. Aharon Soloveitchik (Logic of the Mind, Logic of the Heart) calls this kind of acquisition "chazakah", holding. It comes from Hashem's commandment to Adam "to guard the garden and keep it". (Breishis 2:13) This is the gift of reaching unto things through cultivation, work and dedication.

The other kind of acquisition R. Aharon calls "kibbush", grasping. This kind of activity comes from Hashem's other imperative to Adam, "be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and kivshuhah -- subdue it". (Breishis 1:28)

In approaching Bnei Cheis, Avraham describes himself as "ger vitoshav anochi imachem -- I am a stranger and a resident amongst you". Avraham lived in two worlds, in the spiritual as well as the physical. He was amongst the Bnei Cheis, but also apart from them. This gave Avraham two tools: chazakah and kibbush.

The Western World is based on "might makes right", "the hand of Eisav", "kochi viotzem yadi asa li es hachayil hazeh - my might, and the strength of my hand won me this battle" -- the spirit of kibbush. Avraham didn't feel the need to enforce his will with power, it was okay for him to be a ger.

Without kibbush society would not progress. We would have no new science or engineering, no new territory, evil would not be vanquished. But kibbush must have limits. While Hashem did command "vikivshuhah", He certainly wanted man to rise above the level of warring tribesmen.

R. Aharon finds in this distinction the source of the gender differences in halachah. Males have a tendency toward uncontrolled kibbush, while women are more focused on chazakah. This places women on a higher spiritual plane than men. When a woman says "she'asani kirtzono -- for He has made me according to His Will", it is implied that men are further from that Will than she is. The reason for the extra mitzvos and extra ritual placed on males is to reign in that uncontrolled kibbush.

R. Chaim Soloveitchik holds that there is a distinct difference between the sanctity of Eretz Yisroel that came with the first commonwealth and that of the second.

The first Temple did not create a permanent kedushah (holiness). The reason given is "that which was acquired through conquering is lost through conquering. The First Commonwealth built on land acquired in the wars of the days of Yehoshua and the Shoftim (Judges), was itself conquered.

The Second Commonwealth was merely an immigration of a group of Jews who decided to live in the land as Jews. It is predicated on the mitzvos done there, the education of children raised there. That kind of sanctity can not be undone. "Kidshah lisha'atah vikidshah liasid lavo - it was sanctified for its time, and sanctified for all time to come". Even today, Har Habayis (the Temple Mount) has the sanctity of the Temple.

R. Aharon understands his grandfather's words in the light of this distinction. The first commonwealth was founded on kibbush. It therefor had an inherently inferior kedushah. The second commonwealth was built by chazakah. When Hashem tells Zecharia, "Not by force and not by might but by My spirit", He is saying that the second Temple should be build on chazakah, not kibbush, to lead to a permanent sanctification.

R. Yoseph Ber Soloveitchik zt"l, explained the meaning of kinyan, acquisition, in a speech given to the student body of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary in the Spring of 1985. He noted that the root /quph-nun-hei/ means to manufacture. This is because originally people owned what they made, the animals they raised, the plants they planted. The need for people to acquire things they were not personally able to make, lead to trading, barter, and eventually money. To purchase things is called "liknos", from the same /quph-nun-hei/ root, because money is just a surrogate for manufacturing things yourself.

What this means is that once something is acquired by purchase you have also acquired its entire history. The person who sold it to you has effectively declared that "all I have done to increase its value was as a surrogate for you doing it yourself".

Using R. Yoseph Ber's insight we can extend R. Aharon's concept of chazakah to things acquired by commerce as well. To buy something is to exchange a token of the chazakah you have put into something else, and trade it for chazakah on this object.

By combining these ideas, we understand why Chevron, Har Habayis and Shechem were bought. Buying is a means of chazakah. It is inherently holier than if our clame were based on military victory.

The same idea can be used to understand why the Gemara in Kesuvos (2a) asserts that the form of marriage is identical to that of a kinyan. This idea is proven from a gezeirah shavah (a comparison of terms) between the phrase "ki yikach ish ishah -- when a man takes a woman" (Devarim 22:13), and Avraham's offer to Efron "nasati keseph hasadeh, kach mimeni -- I have placed money for the field, take it from me" (23:13). In both cases the expression of "kichah -- taking" is used.

The halachah is not teaching that women are ch"v bought and sold like chattel. In the case of Chevron, Avraham was acquiring the entire field -- from the beginning of time until the end. By making marriage assume the same form as a kinyan we are acknowledging that the bride and groom were literally made for each other, and hopefully will remain together until the end of time. By using the form of chazakah, the marriage, Kiddushin, is on a higher plane.

In Avos 4:1, Ben Zomah says "Who is a gibor, a warrior, one who is koveish his yeitzer, his inclination [toward evil]". This is a proper use of kibbush, to vanquish evil, to change it into a tool for serving Hashem. It is interesting to note that the one who uses kibbush is called a "gibor".

We find the term gibor in a prophecy about the messianic age. "How much longer will you stray, back-slidden daughter, and remain hidden and withdrawn? For Hashem has created something new on the earth, nekeivah tisoveiv gever -- woman shall encircle man." (Yirmiah 31:20-22)

At the end of history, the Jewish people, the fallen daughter, the ger vitoshav, will return to Hashem. The principle missing in this galus, the balance of kibbush and chazakah, will be restored. Nekievah tisoveiv gever, from gibor. As man realizes that he is a spiritual being, the nekeivah, the feminine side, chazakah, will be restored to supremacy.

© 1995 The AishDas Society