Parashat Chayei Sarah
In Memory of Chava Yvette bat Jamele by The Cohen Family
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 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—atonement, 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 will start by saying, “Your son is okay, but he was involved in a car accident, and Baruch Hashem, 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, “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 afterward.
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 hara 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.
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 gematria—numerical value of “bakol—with everything” is 52, which is the same numerical value as the word ben—son. We can infer from Rashi 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 matters to us as parents and grandparents are our children, and the future of our families who will carry on our lineage.
This passuk says that Hashem’s blessing 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 Twerski Z’TL commented 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.
Hashem Makes Shidduchim—Matches
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 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. All matchmakers in our community will attest to this fact. Hashem is the ultimate Shadchan.
Rabbi Sananes told an amazing story that happened over twenty years ago, which illustrates how Hashem is truly the Ultimate Matchmaker. The rabbi had visited his family in Gibraltar and was flying back to New York with a stopover in London. While he was in Gibraltar, a girl he knew from there asked the rabbi if he knew any boys to set her up with. The rabbi said he d’dn't know any boys for her who would want to relocate to live in Gibraltar, but she gave him her contact information all the same. He took the paper with her information and put it in his pocket, convinced that he would not be able to help her find a shidduch.
When he arrived in London for his stopover, he was tired and did not feel like getting on the next flight back to New York, so he changed his connecting flight to the following morning. Afterward, he realized that he had no kosher food, so Rabbi Sananes decided to call a friend he knew from London to bring him some food to the airport, and to keep him company for a few hours. As part of their conversation, Rabbi Sananes’s friend asked if he knew any girls that the rabbi could set him up with. The rabbi pulled out the scrap of paper from his pocket with the girl’s number on it and gave it to him. Several months later he received a beautiful silver gift from his friend in London with a note on it that said, “Thank you for setting me up with my kallah!” Rabbi Sananes was puzzled at first, and wondered, “What girl did I set him up with in London?” So he called his friend and asked. His friend replied, “Do you remember you gave me the number of the girl from Gibraltar at the London airport? Well I called her, and we started to date, and now we’re engaged!” It’s truly amazing how we can see so clearly from this story that shidduchim are completely in Has’em's hands!
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. Eliezer went on his mission, 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—match at the right time.
Rabbi Ephraim Eliyahu Shapiro told an amazing story about a woman in her 40s who hadn’t yet found her zivug—match. A friend of hers suggested she go to Rav Yissachar Meyer to get some advice. The woman was from France and didn’t speak Hebrew, so she asked her friend to help translate the rabbi’s message to her. The rabbi suggested to the woman to read Tehillim— to “recite perek 32, perek 38, perek 82, and perek 121, every day for 30 days.” The friend translated this for the single woman, and she vowed to do just that.
On day 30 she got engaged, and she asked her friend to find the rabbi to share the amazing news! While they were getting in touch with the rabbi, the friend realized something. She said to the new bride, “I know you don’t speak Hebrew because I need to translate for you, but do you read Hebrew?” The woman said, “No, of course not.” The friend, dumbstruck, said, “Well, how did you say the four perakim for 30 days?” The woman answered, “I did exactly what the rabbi said to do! I held the Tehillim close to me, and I said with all my heart, ‘perek 32, perek 38, perek 82, perek 121, please Hashem find me a husband,’ every day for 30 days.
The woman intended to pray to Hashem with sincerity and emunah, and although her prayers weren’t exactly traditional, they were heartfelt prayers, nonetheless, and Hashem sent her a shidduch. We must always remember Hashem is in charge and have faith that everything will work out the way’it's supposed to.
And He Loved Her
At the end of Parashat Chayei Sarah we read, “And he [Yitzchak] married Rivkah, and she became his wife, and he loved her (24:67).” As Jews, we know that the Torah is emmet, and we learn from the Torah that today’s society has it backward. Society dictates that you meet someone, fall in love, then marry them. This order of events contributes to the fact that more than fifty percent of marriages in the United States and many other western countries, unfortunately, end in divorce. One leading reason for this is that many relationships and marriages are based on a very superficial foundation of infatuation and lust. The Torah teaches us the opposite. When we want to get married, we need to look for shared values with which to build our marriages and families. This will ultimately bring each couple a strong love! Values of Torah and chessed, a bayit ne’ema’ b'Yisrael—a faithful home, these are the blessings that every Jewish couple under telechpah is given!
May we always be happy about the mitzvot we do, and not regret them. 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 maasim tovim. May we always have emunah that Hashem is in control and continue to pray for successful shidduchim for anyone that may be looking.
Are we living our lives the right way, with the guidance of the Torah, where we will have “everything?”
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