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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Chayei Sarah

Parshat Chayei Sarah

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter    Print Version

Parashat Chayei Sarah
22nd of Cheshvan, 5778 | November 11, 2017

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Paysach Krohn
A Legendary Lesson

A number of years ago, I had the unique opportunity of taking a group on a European trip to Frankfurt, Prague and Vienna. It is always an awe-inspiring and enlightening experience to visit various holy sites where Torah and Yiddishkieit flourished, and this time we had something special planned.

In arranging and researching the trip, I learned of the two main cemeteries which exist in Frankfurt. One is older and contains many great Torah luminaries, the likes of the Pnei Yehoshua, Haflaah and the wife of the Chasam Sofer; whereas the newer cemetery contains Rav Samson Rafael Hirsch and one of the Skoliner Rebbes. As I examined the history of these great individuals, I finally came across the extraordinary life of Rav Hirsch. As an individual who contributed so significantly to the building and proliferation of Yiddishkeit and Jewish ideals, the lasting mark Rav Hirsch made on Torah literature is legendary. His voluminous writings continue to guide and inspire all aspects of Jewish life to this day.

Yet, when looking into the personal life of Rav Hirsch in greater detail, I came across something which caught my attention. He married a woman who was four older than he was. When he was asked why he had chosen to marry someone older than himself, he replied, “I have a lot to accomplish in life. I cannot marry a child.” As I pondered this response of Rav Hirsch, I began thinking to myself, “Where in the Torah does it actually say that the husband must be older than the wife?” The answer is nowhere.

The following year at the Torah U’Mesorah Convention, I spoke on Shabbos afternoon to several hundred women. There I posed the same question. “Where does it say in the Torah that a boy cannot go out on a shidduch with a girl who is older than he is? There is nothing wrong with it.”

A few weeks later, I received a call from a woman named Mrs. Levovitz. “Rabbi Krohn,” she said, “I just wanted to let you know something. My son was supposed to go out with a girl who was two years older than he is. At first, I wasn’t sure if I should push him to actually meet her. However, after hearing what you said about Rav Samson Rafael Hirsch at the convention, my opinion changed. And after looking into the girl, I actually discovered that she was a great-great-granddaughter of Rav Hirsch. I immediately encouraged my son to meet her, and just now, they got engaged.”

Some time later, this couple gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. And guess what they named him? Samson Rafael. The next year, they had another baby boy. Although this time they couldn’t name him Samson Rafael, guess what? He was born on the yaartzeit of Rav Hirsch. Hard to believe, but it is true.

As we are all well aware, there are many individuals who undergo a difficult time when looking for a shidduch. But, there are solutions. In the last few years, with more awareness and understanding of the shidduch scene, hundreds of shidduchim have been made where the girl is older than the boy. If you have a son or cousin and know of a girl who may be a bit older and looking for a shidduch, do not offhandedly turn down the idea of considering the match. That is just one way we all can begin to help the many singles out there find their beloved spouse and begin a beautiful marriage.

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis
A Good Heart

Just days after a baby is born, as he is given a bris milah, we publicly confer upon him the blessing that he grow and be raised to Torah study, chuppah (marriage) and good deeds. Yet it is quite interesting. This baby was just born and we are already putting him under the marriage canopy? Do we really need to rush so soon to the day the child will stand under the chuppah?

The answer is yes. That is how we Jews are. Grandparents and parents are invested from the very beginning of a child’s life in inculcating him or her with good character traits. And when the time comes for marriage, the child will be prepared to selflessly love another with kindness and goodness. But the process begins the moment the newborn enters this world.

For Avraham Avinu, when he looked to marry off his son, Yitzchak, despite his immense wealth, the criteria he set for finding a prospective wife was this very attribute: kindness. Eliezer was told not to search in Canaan for a wife for Yitzchak because of their poor character. He was rather to travel to Avraham’s birthplace and find someone there who exemplified qualities of goodness and kindness.

The first criteria needed in a marriage partner is kindness and good-heartedness. That is something which affects the entirety of the person and colors their personality on all levels.

Let me share with you an example.

Many years ago, a news anchor attended a class at Hineni, the outreach organization I founded to inspire and educate Jews about their Jewish heritage. Afterwards, she approached me. “Rebbetzin,” she said. “Yes,” I softly replied, “how can I help you?” “I have heard that you know many quality people. I was wondering if you could give me a good idea for a marriage partner? I am tired of being in so many relationships; I just want to get married.” “Okay,” I said, “what are you looking for?” And with that, she began.

“I am looking for the big five.” I paused, uncertain as to what she meant. “What are the big five?” I asked. “Well, one is good looking. You know, we need to have good chemistry.” “Obviously,” I said, going along with her.” “Also, someone who is really smart. I am a news anchor and I need someone sharp.” “Of course,” I continued. “And he should be rich. I’m used to a luxurious lifestyle and I don’t want to support him, but want him to support me.” “That’s understandable,” I affirmed, trying to let her express herself before offering my own advice. “A good sense of humor. I like to have fun.” I nodded. “And lastly, I want him to be athletic. I enjoy tennis.”

I paused for a few seconds, looking her in the eye. “Honey,” I said, “good luck. You just mentioned five different people. And additionally, each of your qualifications unto themselves are zeros.” She was a bit startled to hear my response. “Let me explain to you what I mean,” I said.

“The first digit in the Torah is a beis, while the last digit is a lamed. If you have a group of zeros without any number (1,2,3,4…) in front, the sum remains zero. Yet, if a number is added before all those zeros, the sum total can become something astronomical.

“What is the digit we must put before those zeros when it comes to shidduchim and marriage? We must place the digits, or the letters, of the Torah. The first letter of the Torah is beis, and the last letter is lamed. Together, these letters spell leiv, heart. If the boy has a good heart, you have millions. But if he doesn’t, you have zero.

“If a guy doesn’t have a good heart, his good looks will become unappealing overnight, his smarts and sharp wit will be used to ridicule you, his money will be used to control you and his sense of humor will become a tool to mock you. If you’re also looking for a good athlete to play tennis with, you can easily hire a trainer. But, my dear, you are looking for a husband. And for a husband, you must find someone with a good heart.”

“I understand Rebbetzin,” she softly said. “But where do I find him?” “Come to Hineni and we will try to find him. At Hineni, we teach Torah and Torah changes and guides people. G-d will be with you and you will be guided by the Torah to find your beloved husband.”

What we look for in a prospective spouse is to be informed by the Divine wisdom embedded in our Torah. It is there that we find direction and advice, and learn what will truly contribute to a happy and holy home. And then one day, a little child will be born, and those new parents who were once little children themselves, will look down upon their newborn and bestow the very same blessing they were once given, “May you grow up to Torah, chuppah and good deeds.”

Rabbi Eytan Feiner
The Life of Sarah

ויהיו חיי שרה מאה שנה ועשרים שנה ושבע שנים

Sarah’s lifetime was one hundred years, twenty years and seven years… (Bereishis 23:1)

Rashi, citing the well-known Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 58:1), asks why the Pasuk repeats the word “years” after each period of Sarah’s life mentioned. After all, the Torah could have just said, “Sarah lived for 127 years”?

The Midrash answers that it is to teach that when Sarah was 100 years old, she was like a 20-year-old in relation to sin, who is not subject to Heavenly punishment (1), and when she was 20 years old, she was like a 7-year-old in terms of her beauty.
What is the meaning behind this Chazal that at age twenty Sarah was as beautiful as a seven-year-old?

Rav Mottel Katz zt”l¸ the late Telz Rosh Yeshiva, explains that Sarah’s greatness was that she viewed her own beauty with utmost purity and innocence. At the age of 20, when one’s beauty is normally used to impress others, Sarah maintained the untainted and unadulterated beauty of a 7-year-old. (2)

Looking Back, Looking Forward

The Ben Ish Chai in his sefer Od Yosef Chai notes a further incongruity within this Pasuk. Why are the years of Sarah depicted, as per the precise, literal translation of the words, “One hundred year, twenty year, seven years”? Why does the Pasuk begin with the singular usage of the word שנה (year) and then conclude with the plural usage of שנים (years)?

When a person reaches one hundred years of life, it is easy to look back in life and feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment, and in turn be led to feelings of conceit and complacency. Yet when one reflects at what they were like at the age of one, feelings of humility set in. By contemplating what life was like at this age – i.e. how one was a helpless child who solely depended upon his parents – one will be led to self-effacement. Sarah, thus, always looked back at her life as a one-year-old and never grew conceited. (3)

Yet, it is less novel to say that someone as old as one hundred, which as per the Mishnah (Avos 1:28) is often already no longer alive, is not overly conceited as compared to someone in the peak of their youth. What about when a woman is 20 years old, at the height of her beauty; will she remain humble and modest then, recognizing that her beauty is a gift from G-d?

For that reason, the Pasuk reiterates the word “year” when stating Sarah’s age of 20. Even as a 20-year-old, she looked back to her infantile past and never grew overly haughty or proud of her accomplishments.

However, as a 7-year-old child, one mustn’t look back, but always aspire to the future. There is so much yet to accomplish. There are so many “years,” as the verse alludes, to grow and achieve. This is why the term “years” in the plural is used when describing the “seven years” of Sarah’s life.

Sarah thus possessed this dual perspective. As a 100-year-old and 20-year-old, she looked back to the past and remembered what she once was, and how she must never grow content and haughty. At the same time, as a young 7-year-old, she aspired to greatness and looked to many future years of accomplishment. It is this attitude in life which leads to the attainment of true greatness.

In a similar vein, Rav Moshe Eisemann explains the opinion of R’ Yitzchak in the Gemara (Berachos 6b) that one who benefits from the festive meal of a chassan and kallah and fulfills the mitzvah of making the newlyweds happy is considered to have built one of the ruins of Jerusalem. What does Yerushalayim have to do with the rejoicing of a chassan and kallah?

The Midrash (ibid. 56:10) states that Malki-Tzedek, king of Yerushalayim, named the mountain upon which Avraham later brought Yitzchak up as a sacrifice “Shalem.” Avraham himself, though, named it “Hashem Yireh” [“Hashem will see”] (Bereishis 22:14). In deference to both Malki-Tzedek and Avraham, Hashem combined both these names and named it Yerushalayim.

What does this mean? Malki-Tzedek’s naming of this area – Shalem – is insufficient as it implied shleimus, perfection. Such an attitude – that one has attained perfection and need no longer work on achieving more – can lead to feelings of arrogance. At the same time, Avraham Avinu’s name of “Hashem will see,” a description which looks to the future, can lead to an oversight of one’s past accomplishments.

Hashem therefore synthesized both names –Yireh and Shalem – to form Yerushalayim. The lesson is that one must look both to his or her past accomplishments as well as to the future and see how much more they have yet to achieve.

We thus tell the chassan and kallah that they too must carry this perspective with themselves. We may sing their praises and focus on all that they have done, yet they can never forget what lies in the future. The rejoicing of a chassan and kallah must therefore incorporate both a look to their past and a look to the future. Hence, the statement of R’ Yitzchak, “One who makes a chassan and kallah happy is as if he rebuilds one of the ruins of Yerushalayim.”

1. See comment of Mizrachi who questions how this can be true. Isn’t a boy and girl held responsible for their actions starting at bar and bat-mitzvah ages of 13 and 12? [See Teshuvos HaRosh (17:1) who writes that the designated ages of 13 and 12 are a halacha l’Moshe Mi’Sinai, a handed-down tradition from Sinai.] The Mizrachi answers, based on Shabbos 89b, that an individual is held accountable for their actions after bar or bas mitzvah, yet they are not subject to Heavenly punishment until they are fully mature at age 20. Along these lines, the Maharal writes that the brain is still developing and does not maximize its full maturity until reaching twenty years old. See further Time Magazine (February 12, 2007, p. 56) which similarly reports that the brain’s neuroplasticity is still developing until it reaches its peak and culmination at age 20.

2. This is notwithstanding that Sarah leads the list as one of the four most beautiful women (Megillah 15a – Sarah, Avigail, Rachav and Esther) and was named Yischa because she saw with Ruach Hakodesh (Divine Inspiration) and drew the looks of everyone towards her (ibid. 14a). She nevertheless used and displayed her beauty with utmost innocence.

3. See John Lloyd and John Mitchinson in 1,339 Quite Interesting Facts to make your jaw drop (New York: Crown, 2010, p. 161) who concluded based upon their own research that Sarah is the only women in the entire Bible whose age is recorded.

A Short Message From
Rebbetzin Chana Silver

As our Sages (Sotah 14a) teach, we are instructed to follow in the ways of Hashem. “Just as He is compassionate, so are you to be…” Now, think about it. When it comes to communication, what model does Hashem provide for us? What does Hashem do that we can pattern? He listens. In both our prayers and in Tanach, Hashem is described as One who hears our words of prayer and supplication. When it comes to us wishing to express ourselves, Hashem patiently and lovingly lends us a listening ear. We would be wise to follow suit and lend our own ears, full of patience and love, to our spouses, children and family as well.

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