Parashat Chayei Sarah
Dedicated In Honor of Our Parents Jerry and Arlene Natkin by Their Children
Parashat Chayei Sarah The Years of the Life of Sarah Parashat Chayei Sarah continues from where we left off last week, with the death of Sarah Imenu. The parasha begins with the passuk, “And the life of Sarah was one hundred years and twenty years and seven years; [these were] the years of the life of Sarah.” Why does the Torah repeat that “these were the years of the life of Sarah?” Rashi answers, “[This tells us] that they were all equally good.” On the contrary, we learned Sarah had a life filled with challenges. She experienced a famine, she was kidnapped in Egypt, and despite Hashem’s promise of making Avraham into a big nation, she went through years of infertility and uncertainty, and selflessly told her husband to start a family with her servant. To the outsider’s eye, Sarah had an incredibly difficult life. So why does Rashi specifically refer to all her years as ‘good?’ Rabbi Ari Wiesenfeld told a story about a 92-year-old man who was being admitted to an old age home. The nurse was taking him to his new room, and she was describing it to him. “It has blue carpet—” and the man quickly said “Oh, I love it.” She continued, “It has a few pictures on the wall near the bed, and a great closet—” and he said with a huge smile, “Great I love it!” The nurse said, “Mr. Jones, we’re on the way to the room, and when you see it, you’ll love it!” Mr. Jones said to the young woman, “Happiness isn’t the way you arrange furniture in your room. It’s the way you arrange your mind. I already decided to love it! That’s good enough for me.” “These were the years of the life of Sarah.” Every challenge in her life was met with a satisfaction and joy to just serve Hashem. She was content with the knowledge that Hashem is in charge. Charlie Harary once said there is a big misconception about the phrase “Gam zu le’tovah—everything [Hashem does] is for the good.” The average person could go through a difficult challenge and say, gam zu le’tovah, but his brain would rationalize it as “this bad thing is a kaparah, and something better will be waiting for me in the future.” But gam zu le’tovah means that this challenge isn’t a bad thing at all. It’s intrinsically good! However, our brains are not capable of seeing that, so we perceive the challenges as ‘bad.’ Sarah took each moment of her life as a great gift from Hashem. She appreciated everything and was so grateful for her time, and that is why Rashi explained the years of her life were good, because they were! Don’t Regret Doing the Mitzvah Our Rabbis teach us that there was a connection between Sarah’s death and Akedat Yitzchak. Her death, they explain, was the result of the akedah. Rashi quotes Chazal, that the Satan described the akedah to Sarah shockingly. Normally if one breaks unpleasant news to a parent that resulted in success, he would start off by saying, “Your son is okay, but he was involved in a car accident and b’H he’s fine.” A person must learn how to talk when breaking difficult news to someone. But the Satan said, “Avraham sacrificed your son Yitzchak...but he didn’t kill him.” From these shocking words Sarah’s neshamah left her body, but she heard the rest and was satisfied that her son had survived. Why did the Satan have to shock Sarah? Chazal answer that the Satan was trying to make Avraham regret what he did, so that he would lose this incredible mitzvah. As we say in hashkivenu in arbit, “Vehaser Satan melifanenu u’meacharenu —Remove the Satan from before and after us.” Please Hashem, don’t let the Satan discourage us from doing mitzvot before we do them or cause us to regret doing them afterwards. Imagine if you see a poor person that you want to help, but the Satan grabs you and discourages you from helping that person. Then, after you conquer the yetzer harah and help the man, the Satan comes to you and says, “Why did you give him so much money?” He tries to make you regret the mitzvah that you just did, so that you will lose credit for it. This is exactly what the Satan was trying to accomplish with Avraham. But we learn that Sarah passed her test, because Chazal taught us that her last breath came with the proud knowledge that she had succeeded in raising a son who was willing to give up his life in the service of Hashem. As we learned before, Sarah lived out her full lifetime, and the Satan did not take away any of the years of her life. This was when she was supposed to die. The Torah goes on to say, “Veyavo Avraham lespod l’sarah v’livkota — And Avraham came to eulogize Sarah and to cry for her.” But here the Torah uses a small kaf in the word v’livkota, which means “to cry for her.” The reason for this is because Avraham first eulogized Sarah’s good traits publicly; and then later, he cried for his loss privately. Chacham Ovadia once said at the funeral of the wife of a very charitable man from our community that “Avraham didn’t cry so much because he was able to visualize Sarah in Olam Habah and the glory that she was basking in.” Having Everything Later it says, “V’Avraham zaken ba bayamim, v’Hashem berach et Avraham bakol — And Avraham was old, advanced in his days, and Hashem had blessed Avraham with everything (24:1).” Rashi says that the numerical value of “bakol—with everything” is 52, which is the same numerical value as the word ben—son. Rashi implies that once Avraham had his son Yitzchak and they both passed that final test of the akedah, he was content that he truly did have everything! As we get older, we realize what’s most important in our lives is our children and the legacy we leave through them. So when Rashi says that Avraham’s son Yitzchak was everything, he’s saying that all that really matters to us as parents and grandparents is our children, and the future of our families who will carry on our lineage. This passuk says that Hashem’s blessings for us is to have children and grandchildren that will grow up to follow in the ways of the Torah and make us proud of them. To many people, having “everything” means wealth, status, and honor. But really, what’s most important is seeing our children become part of our Jewish lineage. There is a question posed about how the passuk begins, “Avraham was old, advanced in his days.” This seems somewhat redundant. Rabbi Twersky, also a doctor, comments that many people in their older years tend to look back and express regret. If only they could turn back the clock and relive the days of their youth to avoid some of the mistakes they had made. They would never think back and say, “If only I had spent more time at the office.” Rather, they realize later in life how insignificant those extra hours at the office were, compared to the great value of spending precious time with the family. The Torah is saying that there was not a single day that Avraham wasted or regret — he had done “everything.” There is no greater beracha than looking back on our lives and having the satisfaction that we lived our lives to the fullest and wouldn’t want to go back and relive a single day. Hashem Makes Shidduchim After detailing the mourning for Sarah and the purchase of Maarat Hamachpelah, the Torah then goes on for 66 pesukim to elaborate on how Avraham sent Eliezer to find a wife for his son Yitzchak. Eliezer was Avraham’s trusted, right-hand man. He went back to Avraham’s family in Charan to the home of Betuel, where he met Rivkah, the sister of Lavan by a well. The Torah wanted to show us the Hand of Hashem and how Hashem is the Ultimate Matchmaker. We see the story unfold: Eliezer and Rivkah happen to meet by the well and Rivkah displays her middot by giving Eliezer and his camels water. It is easy to see the Hand of Hashem when we think back to how we met our spouses or the way our children’s shidduchim occurred. Rabbi Ozeri and any of the other matchmakers in our community will attest to this fact. Hashem is the Ultimate Shadchan. Rabbi David Ashear comments on this. Older singles often wonder whether they’ll ever get married. Some haven’t had a date in months, and some not in years. Even when there are suggestions, they don’t sound promising. Sometimes, they will feel the urge to say, “Forget it, it’s been so long. It’s never going to happen.” The Seforno comments on the passuk in Parashat Miketz describing how Yosef was rushed out of prison after twelve long years, “Derech kol teshuat Hashem hanaasit kemo regah—Hashem always brings His salvations in an instant.” It doesn’t matter if a person didn’t go on a date for six months or six years. When Hashem decides that the time for salvation has arrived, it will come so fast, without any prior notice. We must always hope for that moment to arrive. The Power of Prayer When Eliezer was sent on a quest to find an unknown match for Yitzchak, he knew this would be a difficult task. He offered his own daughter to Avraham in order to ensure a shidduch, but Avraham refused. When Eliezer went on his mission, he prayed to Hashem that he would be successful, and Rivkah appeared by the well. Years later in Parashat Vayetzeh, Yaakov went on his journey to find his already established shidduch, Rachel. This match was set in motion already; it was supposed to be relatively easy! But instead, Yaakov had many hurdles to pass, working for years only to marry her sister Leah, and then having to work again. The difference here, was the prayers of Eliezer. He prayed for Hashem to give him success. And although the shidduch for Yitzchak was unknown and should have been difficult, Eliezer’s prayers and faith in Hashem made Rivkah appear quickly. So we learn from this, that when we pray difficult things become easy, and when we don’t pray, the easy things become more difficult. We must always keep trying, keep praying, and have emunah that Hashem will find our naseeb at the right time. Rabbi Duvi Bensoussan told an amazing story about the power of prayer. When the rabbi was a young boy in second grade, he was looking forward to his football game during recess. On the way out, his friend pulled him over to the side and said, “No, we’re not going to recess today. My mother was rushed to the hospital this morning when I was getting on the bus for school.” Young Duvi said, “Oh no, I’m so sorry. Is everything okay?” The friend said, “Yes, everything’s okay! She’s going to the hospital to have a baby!” So he said, “Great! Mabrook! Can we go to recess now?” His friend said, “Duvi, I have five sisters. We gotta pray that this one will be a boy!! We’re not going out to recess, we’re gonna stay inside and pray for Hashem to give me a little brother!” Sure enough, when all the boys went out to play ball, the two friends stayed behind to pray tehillim to get this boy a baby brother. The boys’ rabbi walked in with his cup of coffee on his break, and he saw two kids in an empty classroom, shuckling back and forth with tehillim books, praying their little hearts out instead of playing football. He said, “What’s going on? Why aren’t you two outside?” And young Duvi answered, “Jesse’s mom is having a baby now! He has five sisters so we’re praying for her to have a boy.” The rabbi chuckled and said, “Oh! Okay, continue!” And they eagerly begged Hashem, “Shir hamaalot…” for Jesse to have a baby brother. Recess ended; the day went on. A few hours later, there was a knock at the door. Jesse’s father came back from the hospital to pick him up from school, and he had a huge smile on his face. The whole class of boys said, “Well???” He said, “Baruch Hashem we had a healthy baby… GIRL!” And the whole class said, “Awwww.” Young Duvi stood up and said, “What?? Come on! I gave up my recess! I prayed my heart out!!” The story doesn’t end there. Jesse Sutton’s parents named that baby Naomi. But she is no longer Naomi Sutton. She grew up and became Naomi Bensoussan, Rabbi Duvi’s wife!!! Prayer is never ever in vain. Hashem knows exactly what to do with tefillot! Rabbi Bensoussan’s intention was to pray to Hashem with sincerity and emunah, and although his prayers weren’t exactly traditional, they were heartfelt prayers, nonetheless, and Hashem banked them, ironically, for his future shidduch. May we always be happy about the mitzvot we do, and not regret them. May we always have emunah that Hashem is in control and continue to pray for successful shidduchim for anyone that may be looking. May we live each day to the fullest by spending quality time with our children and grandchildren. This way we will enter our later years content that our days were full and productive, with our children and grandchildren around us, learning and growing in Torah and ma’asim tovim. Amen! Shabbat Shalom! Rabbi Amram Sananes as written by Jack Rahmey Discussion Points:
Are we living our lives the right way, with the guidance of the Torah, where we will have “everything?”
Rashi explains that the parasha repeats “These were the years of the life of Sarah,” because all her years were “good.” Although Sarah has a life filled with suffering, every challenge in her life was met with a satisfaction and joy to just serve Hashem. She was content with the knowledge that Hashem is in charge.
The Satan shocked Sarah with the news of Akedat Yitzchak in order to make Avraham regret the akedah. But Sarah passed away with the proud knowledge that she raised a son who was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for Hashem, and they all received credit for this incredible mitzvah.
Avraham was blessed “bakol— with everything” by being granted Yitzchak, and the legacy he left with him. Our children are our greatest blessing, and it is important to teach them the ways of the Torah so they can continue our legacy and make us proud.
Hashem is the Ultimate Shadchan, orchestrating every match with precision and grace. We must keep praying and have emunah that Hashem will bring our match at the right time, as we learned when Rivkah appeared at the well.
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