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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Chayei Sarah

Parshat Chayei Sarah

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Chayei Sarah                                                               Print Version
25th of Cheshvan, 5783 | November 19, 2022

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Yoel Gold
Under the Mailbox

Recently, a friend of mine moved into an old duplex building in Los Angeles, and found that the front doorbell wasn't working. In order to fix it, he had to go around the house, crawl through the crawlspace, find the wiring, and change it. As he was crawling under the house, tapping around with his flashlight, he suddenly notices envelopes, papers, postcards, keys, coins. And he's wondering himself, “What's that doing there? How did it get there?” It turns out that the mail compartment where the mailman would drop the mail into, had a crack in it. And every now and then, some mail would fall through the cracks into the crawl space. And for the past 100 years, since the building was built, these envelopes piled up and collected dust.

He took them outside, sat on his front step and went through each piece. He was surprised to find there was a postcard dated 1938 from someone in Italy congratulating the tenant for moving into their new domicile. Who uses that word today? There was a receipt to someone who lived in the apartment at the time who donated a letter to a Sefer Torah. As he's going through each piece, there's an old lady walking by. She walks over, introduces herself, and says, “You know, I lived there 25 years ago, in the apartment upstairs, and some of my mail still comes to my old address. I'm wondering, is there any mail for me?”

They start going through the mail and suddenly she sees an envelope with her name on it. “Oh, my goodness, this is for me.” She takes the envelope, she opens it up and she sees there's a letter with four crisp $100 bills in it. It was dated to 1995, close to 30 years ago. And the letter reads, “I know it's before the holidays right now when your financial situation is tough. I thought maybe you can use this extra money.” Her eyes teared up. She got so emotional. She looked at my friend and said, “Would you believe it? The holidays are coming up again. I can really use this extra money right now.”

As she walked away, my friend couldn't believe it. He thought to himself, what are the chances of him crawling through the crawl space, and finding her money as she's walking by so he can give it to her?

When it comes to chesed, the Torah says three very powerful words, “Es he’ani imach,” what belongs to the needy is with you. When we find that we have extra money in our accounts, in our mailbox, or sometimes even under our mailbox, that money doesn't belong to us. It belongs to the needy. The only reason why Hashem put it in our possession is so that when the needy walks by, we can have the opportunity of giving.

So the next time that opportunity comes knocking at your door, check in, dig deep. Because chances are that “es he’ani imach,” what belongs to the needy is with you.

Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair
Speeding Through Life.

Time. Hard work. Generosity. Those are some of the most salient aspects that comprise our life. And they all are intertwined together.

Do you remember being seven years old and the time until your next birthday seemed about 100 years? And from 8 to 9 years old, it was around 50 years. And now the six months between Sukkot and Pesach seems to have shrunk to about six weeks, and it seems just after we're putting away the Sukkah, we start to search for chametz. I have a theory that we experience the passage of time as a fraction of the amount, the total time, that we've already lived. The longer you live, each moment becomes a smaller fraction of your life to date.

I remember my father a”h saying that when he was 70, the last ten years had passed in the twinkling of an eye. At the time, I couldn't relate at all to what he was saying. Now I know exactly what he means. Each second adds to the total of our life, but each second becomes a smaller fraction of the whole. And so the second seems to go faster and the years get shorter. Why did Hashem make us this way?

However long your life is, it's only relatively long compared with the lives of others. In absolute terms, even the longest life is like yesterday when it has passed. As you get older, you actually see time contracting faster and faster, rushing towards the end of your life. They say that youth is wasted on the young. An intelligent person will take heed of this acceleration of time and try to use his or her time more wisely.

The Torah tells us that Sarah lived for 127 years. It says Sarah’s lifetime was 100 years, 20 years and 7 years. Why repeat the word “years” three times? Maybe the Torah is hinting to us that Sarah's perception of time when she was seven years old was no different from that of 20 or 100. Just as at 100 years old, she knew how precious every God-given second was, so it was when she was 20, and even when she was seven, when the distance between one birthday and another seemed an eternity.

But what do we do with our time? Such is the question we all ask ourselves.

The millionaire had no doubts to whom he would not leave his vast fortune. His son. His son was a professional layabout who could give a three year course on idleness without a note of preparation. One day, the billionaire called his son into his study and announced his intention to donate his entire worth to charity. Faced with this catastrophe, the son hurried to his chief adviser and confidant, his mother. “Look,” she said. “Here's a hundred dollar bill. Go and tell your father that you earned this and that you're really worthy of being his inheritor.” The son went into his father's office, waving the hundred dollar bill. “Father, look at this. I made this money myself.” “Let me see that,” said the father. He took the hundred dollar bill in his hand. And with that, the father incinerated the hundred dollar bill with the tip of his cigar.

The son went back to his mother and told her what had happened. “Okay,” she said, “wait a couple of days and try again. Take this $50 bill and tell him that you worked all morning for it.” The second bill received the identical treatment as the first. Dejected, the son returned to his mother. “Listen, she said. “Why don't you actually try and get yourself a job? Go down to the town square and see if they're hiring people down there.” The son made his way down to the town square and eventually someone gave him a couple of hours work, schlepping some very heavy kegs of beer into a cellar. And for this, he received the princely sum of $10. Immediately, he ran to his father and said, “Daddy, look, I made this money just now.” The father took the bill, and as the cigar started to get very close to the bill, the son cried out, “Stop! Don't do that. You don't know how hard I worked for that money.” “Ah,” the father, “this money you earned.”

The Torah says that Sarah’s lifetime was 100 years, 20 years and seven years. Rashi tells us that the reason the Torah repeats the word “years” between each number is that each section of Sarah’s life exemplified an outstanding quality. For example, at the age of 100, she was as free of sin as a 20 year old girl. Why 20? Because the Torah only mandates penalties for a person aged 20 and above. Now you don't clock up a hundred sinless years without a lot of hard work. God created the entire universe just so that we could be close to Him to experience the ultimate pleasure. Compared to this pleasure, everything else is as valuable as a glass diamond. But if the purpose of the world is for us to have this pleasure, why is it such hard work to get there?

It's axiomatic that God is the ultimate good. Since His desire was to do good to another, namely man, it follows that such good must be the best possible good and the best possible good is being close to Him. It also follows that the ultimate good must be given in the best possible way. And that's why we have to work for it. If we were to get this ultimate good of being close to God without working for it, we'd feel like a pauper. When someone drops a coin into our hand, we'd feel, “I don't really deserve this.” To avoid this, God gives us this ultimate good by allowing us to earn it, by resisting our basic instincts of selfishness, of anger, greed and indulgence, and applying ourselves to fulfilling His will. And even though the reward he gives us is incomparably more than the effort we put in, nevertheless, in a real sense, we worked for it. And then a $10 bill feels like a lot more than $100.

But there’s one more thing that blends into this larger picture of life.

The Burnham Society of Jewish Psychiatrists always had a monthly lunch and learn. They always invited somebody stimulating and thought provoking, such as doctors, scientists, economists, media personalities. They all graced the tables of this exclusive gathering of intellectuals. It occurred to them one day that they never actually had an address by an Orthodox rabbi. So a phone call was duly made to the local yeshiva, and the distinguished rabbi was invited to speak at their next lunch. The polite applause died down and the rabbi started to speak. He spoke in terms suited to his secular audience, but his material was authentic Torah philosophy, 3000 years old and honed by a life of study. About 10 minutes into his talk, a man in the audience suddenly rose to his feet and said, in a low and threatening voice, “Stop that man from speaking. Stop that man from speaking. Stop that man from speaking or I'll have to change my entire life.”

I often think that if the Torah required Jews to travel around the world eating in all the best non-kosher restaurants, a lot more Jews would be religious. Usually, the greatest barrier to faith in God isn't logical, but psychological. Because if we accept that the manifest ordering creation logically implies an order, subconsciously, we already know that we may have to stop driving to the golf club on Saturday morning. And more than that, we're going to have to stop seeing ourselves as the center of the universe. And having been brought up in the ‘me’ generation, the thought that the pursuit of happiness and self-fulfillment may not be the ultimate purpose of life strikes at the very foundations of our most self-evident beliefs.

This is a bribe that most people find irresistible. The desires of the heart blind the intellect and the search for truth becomes its first victim. As Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch once put it, belief is not the knowledge that there's a God, but rather the acknowledgment.

In this week's Torah portion, when Abraham’s servant, Eliezer, tested Rivka to see if she was a fit wife of Yitzhak, he wanted only to find out if she had a love of kindness. Why didn't he check that she also had the unshakable faith in God that was necessary as the future mother of the Jewish people? The answer is that kindness and faith are inextricably linked. Only someone who is selflessly involved in the needs of others can free himself from the bribes of his own selfish desires. And only one who loves kindness for its own sake has the objectivity to recognize that there's a Creator in the world.

Rabbi Zecharia wallerstein zt"l
The Best Deal

The Mishnah (Kiddushin 2a) states that the betrothal of marriage between a husband and wife can be accomplished in one of three ways: money, a marriage document, or intimacy. The source from which we derive that money can be the commodity of exchange is the transaction recorded by the Torah in Parshas Chayei Sarah.

Avraham Avinu was in search of a burial place for his wife, Sarah Imeinu, and came across the field of Ephron, wherein he sighted a cave for Sarah to be laid to rest. After being introduced to the landowner, Efron, Avraham vouched that he would be willing to pay a full price for the acquisition of the cave. In hearing this offer, Efron presented himself as a generous man willing to give Avraham the cave free of charge. But, as the Torah makes clear, Efron came around to ask of Avraham a steep price of four hundred shekels, and at this, Avraham acquiesced.

It is from this recorded transaction that the means of enacting a marriage between husband and wife is derived. Just as Avraham Avinu utilized money to facilitate the acquisition of the cave of Machpeila, so too a husband enters the bond of matrimony through the means of money. The similarly used phrase of “take” used in both scriptural contexts of the Cave of Machpeila and marriage drive home this parallel.

But it’s odd. Why would we derive the concept of entering the holiest of life’s endeavors – marriage – from the corrupt man of Ephron? Why of all places is this exchange between Avraham and Ephron the source for marriage?

The answer is as relevant as it is profound.

In this scenario, both Ephron and Avraham Avinu believed they were getting the better end of the deal. Ephron thought to himself, “Four hundred shekels for a simple cave? What a steal! I’m making so much money for something worth so little!” Avraham Avinu, in the same vein, thought he was gaining so much, even more than Ephron. “Only four hundred shekels to purchase this cave, where Adam and Chava are buried and where the future Avos and Imahos going to be buried! What an incredible deal!” Both Ephron and Avraham believed they were getting the best deal of their life.

This is why we learn the source of marriage from the transaction of Ephron and Avraham. When a man and woman look to get married, each one of them believes that they are getting the better end of the deal. “I am so lucky to be marrying her! She is such a great girl! I couldn’t be happier!” And, likewise, the woman believes that she is getting the best deal of her life. “He’s so great! I’m the luckiest woman to have him in my life!” Both the man and woman believe, just like Ephron and Avraham thought, that they are getting the better end of the deal.

Such an attitude in marriage breeds true love and appreciation. When both spouses cherish each other, believing that they are so fortunate to have the other in their life, it’s the perfect recipe for long and happy years together.

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