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Posts Tagged ‘Parshat Chayei Sarah’

Parshat Chayei Sarah

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

In his book, Thirteen Days (1968), Robert Kennedy publicized the inner workings of the Kennedy White House during the terrible days of the Cuban Missile Crisis. He described how the President’s special advisory group, known as ExComm, debated the options available to defuse the crisis in light of the intelligence presented to them. Fortunately, JFK and his advisors managed to avoid a nuclear showdown with the Soviet Union and compelled Khrushchev to withdraw his missiles from Cuba. For many who have studied this crisis the story ends on day 13 when the Soviet Union agreed to remove its weapons. However, David G. Coleman in his new book, The Fourteenth Day (2012), argues that the story did not quite end there. In fact, an entirely new chapter began on day 14.

The challenge facing Kennedy on that day, and in the subsequent months, was how to ensure that the Soviet Union kept the agreement. Coleman explained that, “One issue stood out as the most urgent: verifying that Khrushchev was following through in having the missiles removed. It was not an easy problem. It hinged on a fundamental issue notably lacking in the U.S.-Soviet relationship: trust. How could Americans be sure that they weren’t being duped? Might it all be some kind of devilish trick, buying time for the Soviet nuclear forces in Cuba to be readied for action” (p.36).

Over the next several months various agreements were achieved, ultimately ensuring the removal of the missiles and Soviet combat troops from Cuba. But to achieve these agreements Kennedy had to go through many hoops and juggle many different constituencies and pressures. He had to address the military’s concerns, he had to convince the American people that he was not compromising their security for the sake of a diplomatic deal, he had to confront the partisan pressures and accusations from his opposition in Congress, and he had to seal a deal with the Soviet Union that would actually decrease tension permanently, thus lessening the chance of a recurring crisis.

Kennedy understood a fundamental aspect of leadership. Success without follow-up is not success. If gains are not consolidated they will evaporate quickly. The essence of this week’s parsha illustrates the importance of this truism. Prior to the events recorded in Chayei Sarah we witnessed Avraham changing the world through feats of international renown. In Lech Lecha he emigrated from his homeland to the Land of Israel. During his journey he and Sarah spread monotheism and taught people how to lead an upright life. In Vayeira we were overwhelmed by Avraham’s defeating an international coalition of the greatest military powers of his day. He then argued with Hashem to spare the lives of the citizens of Sedom. Finally, he was prepared to offer his son Yitzchak as a sacrifice to G-d. These events are certainly worthy of note. Yet when we read Chayei Sarah we seem to leave the world of front page news and move to what at best seems like the human interest section. We see Avraham purchasing a grave for his wife and mourning her. We then spend the bulk of the parsha learning how Avraham, through the services of his loyal servant Eliezer, finds a wife for Yitzchak. We conclude with Avraham’s relatively quiet retirement and passing.

This contrast begs the question: What is the real message of Chayei Sarah? Rav Moshe Feinstein in his work of Torah insights, Derash Moshe, suggests an explanation that sheds light on this issue. Rav Moshe questions why the Gemara in Avodah Zarah (9a) claims that with Avraham, the two thousand year period of Torah learning began, when, in fact, there were others who prior to Avraham taught Torah as well. Rav Moshe answers that Avraham revolutionized Torah learning. Torah scholars prior to Avraham, such as Shem and Aver, taught Torah, but only to those people who were self-motivated enough to seek out Torah on their own and who were willing to commit totally to a Torah way of life. Avraham, on the other hand, circulated among the people, encouraging them to join the ranks of Torah learners and explaining that every commitment made to Torah, no matter how incremental, is important and a critical step forward. It is for this reason, Rav Moshe claims, that Avraham is credited with the real beginning of Torah learning. Through Avraham’s actions the Torah achieved a permanent place in peoples’ consciousness.

80 Hours On The Ground: Parshat Chayei Sarah In Chevron

Monday, December 5th, 2011

This past week was Parshat Chayei Sarah and I had the good fortune of being in Chevron for Shabbat. I was in Israel for only three days (approximately 80 hours) and was asked many times, “You’ve come to Israel for such a short stay?” Let me explain. I have been to Chevron many times, but it’s always special to be there for this unique Shabbat. Thirty thousand people from all over Israel and many from abroad take the time to make the trip to show that Chevron is and will always be an integral part of Jewish life.

My host for Shabbat was the Yeshivat Shavei Chevron, which is situated in the Bet Romano section. You know you are in Chevron, the home of Abraham, when you see all the boys and rabbeim of the yeshiva exhibiting such great hachnasas orchim. These are special people who choose to live their lives with such commitment to Eretz Yisrael with very few of the amenities that we all take for granted. Their commitment to Eretz Yisrael and Am Yisrael is second to none. The yeshiva’s students spend three years in the army and then years committed to only learning Torah in the city of our fathers.

Students of Yeshivat Shavei Chevron. Rabbi Hershel Billet is at the far right.

As you make your way to the Me’arat Hamachpelah Friday night, you see the hundreds of soldiers who come to Chevron for this weekend. As many people pass them, they say ‘thank you’ and ‘Shabbat Shalom.’ You see on their faces that they know they are doing something special for the Jewish people. Davening at the Me’ara on Friday night is packed (even though Ohel Yitzchak is open for one of only 10 days the whole year) with many people not even being able to make it into the building.

Seudat Shabbat at the yeshiva is incredibly inspiring with the yeshiva boys singing and dancing with all the guests and rabbanim. Dayan Yonatan Abraham, from London, spoke on Friday night telling everyone how this Shabbat means so much to him and how he gets chizuk from the yeshiva boys. Also in attendance this year was Rabbi Dovid Weinberger of Shaarei Tefilah of Lawrence and Rabbi Hershel Billet of Woodmere, who also gave divrei Torahthroughout Shabbat.

Meir Blisko, a guest at Yeshivat Shavei Chevron; Colonel Guy Hazut; and Minister of Justice Yaakov Neeman.

After the seudah the guests walk through the different neighborhoods of Chevron with the highlight being the Tel Romeda neighborhood, where we were greeted at the home of Baruch Meisel, a long time resident of Chevron. Here you get the true spirit of what it is to live in Chevron, along with hot cholent and an oneg Shabbat. Many visit the tombs of Ruth and Yishai in the hills of Chevron, high above the field of the Me’arat Hamachpelah. In the morning it’s back to the Me’ara to hear the parsha about how Avraham bought the Me’arat Hamachpelah for a burial site for Sarah to be a legacy for the Jewish people forever.

After the afternoon seudah a large group walks through the Kasbah, the original Jewish quarter of Chevron and now the Arab shuk of Chevron, under heavy army guard. The group sang Am Yisrael Chai and the locals didn’t look too happy. But in the end there were no incidents, and we once again found ourselves at the Me’ara and the tomb of Avner ben Ner, the general of Dovid Hamelech.

Minchah was followed by seudah shlishit back at the yeshiva. At this meal there is always a special treat as the colonel who heads the Chevron Brigade, Guy Hazut, is in attendance and addresses the crowd. This year, as he rose to speak, the boys of the yeshiva sang a special heart warming and inspiring song about those who stand to protect us. Then Shabbat came to a close all too quickly, and I can only hope to return to Chevron to be inspired and uplifted again next year.

David Pick (center) and Ilan Goldstein (right), guests at Yeshivat Shavei Chevron for Shabbos, speaking to one of the yeshiva’s rebbeim.

This year the yeshiva is celebrating it’s 32nd year in Chevron and on Sunday night there was a gala dinner in Jerusalem attended by Knesset members, past and present cabinet ministers, high ranking army officers and hundreds of alumni, all committed to the realization of the great work the yeshiva does to continue the Jewish presence in Chevron forever.

Special thanks to Dovi Weiss of Yeshivat Shavei Chevron for his amazing hospitality, as always.

Parshat Chayei Sarah

Wednesday, November 15th, 2006

It’s hard to imagine life without them, and yet they almost never came into being. I refer to the ubiquitous “Post-it Notes” that adorn the furnishings and appliances in all our houses and offices. In 1968 Spencer Silver, who worked as a research scientist at 3M, invented the semi-sticky glue while experimenting with different types of glues to use on adhesive tape. “Silver’s adhesive was revolutionary, because it could stick and come unstuck without ruining the surface it touched” (100 Great Businesses and the Minds Behind Them by Emily Ross and Angus Holland; Sourcebooks, Inc. Naperville, Illinois 2006; p.49).
 
Silver’s problem was that although he showed his invention to other researchers at the company, nobody could find a use for his weak adhesive. So his invention was shelved. In 1974, however, things would change. Art Fry, a fellow researcher of Silver, was a member of a church choir. During a rehearsal he became frustrated when the paper bookmarks he used to mark the hymns his choir was singing kept falling out. Remembering a presentation that Silver had made regarding his semi-sticky glue, Fry realized that, “he could mark the pages with sticky bookmarks without damaging the book” (Ibid.).
 
3M then began the long process of developing and testing the product for its marketability. Some executives at 3M feared that people would never pay for a mere alternative to scrap paper. But Art Fry did not give up. He constantly worked on ways to manufacture the sticky bookmarks that used Spencer’s glue as their adhesive. After several years of testing the Post-it Note hit the market in 1980, becoming an instant success. Today there are more then 1000 varieties of Post-it Notes available for purchase.
 
What is most amazing about this story is not Spencer’s invention or Fry’s happenchance discovery of a use for the glue. Oddly enough, things like that happen all the time. Rather, the most impressive part of this story is that Fry did not get distracted and saw his project through. Often great ideas never become a reality due to the lack of fortitude to see the concept through all the stages of development. This becomes especially acute when the development process hits bureaucratic snags and technical setbacks. Fry, however, viewed these realities as “par for the course in the innovation process” (p.50).
 
Leaders would do well to learn from Art Fry. Leadership is not just about articulating a vision. It’s about nurturing it down the long and arduous road until its realization. A person who can craft a vision but lacks the character to overcome the inevitable obstacles is no leader. Unfortunately, vision articulation gets all the glory. In truth, vision articulation without vision nurturing amounts to nothing. In this week’s parsha Yitzchak exposes us to the importance of vision nurturing – a job he spent his entire life doing.
 
Near the end of the parsha when Eliezer is returning with Rivka to marry Yitzchak, we see Yitzchak: “going out to the field to talk towards evening” (Bereishit 24:63). Several commentators offer explanations that seem to be mutually exclusive of what Yitzchak was doing. The Rashbam, who throughout his commentary emphasizes the literal meaning of the narrative, comments that Yitzchak went out to check on his workers and property. Rashi, as well as the Seforno, Kli Yakar and many others explain, based on the Gemara in Berachot (26b), that Yitzchak went out towards evening to daven Mincha. In fact, it was at this time that Yitzchak introduced to the world the concept of davening in the afternoon. Additionally, the Kli Yakar quotes the Gemara in Berachot (6b) that underscores the importance of Mincha by describing how Eliyahu HaNavi was answered on Har Carmel at Mincha time.
 
If we study Yitzchak’s actions in light of both approaches to the verse, we can better understand the importance of what Yitzchak did. The time of day under discussion certainly seems right for Yitzchak to be checking on the day’s work. Yet the importance of Mincha is that precisely in the middle of everything, we must stop and pray. One can certainly understand the importance of davening in the morning – when we set our goals for the day and are encouraged by the dawn of a new day. The importance of Arvit is also quite understandable. At the end of the day it is important to take stock of the past day’s events and to plan for tomorrow. Additionally, it is relatively easy to remember to daven at these times.
 
Mincha on the other hand is smack in the middle of the day. It is often difficult to stop what we’re doing and remember to pray. Moreover, stopping to pray breaks the momentum of what we’re doing. Yitzchak taught us the importance of taking a break midstream to refocus our efforts and to remember the reason we are in this world and the vision we are pursuing. Despite being stuck in the minutia of our daily lives, Mincha forces us to keep our eye on the prize and to maintain the fortitude to see things through.
 
Yitzchak is often described as simply continuing the vision that his father Avraham articulated. This is a great disservice to him. In fact it is Yitzchak’s nursing of that vision which ultimately allowed it to be realized in Yaakov’s family. Yitzchak’s life is a string of events that forced him to maintain the vision despite many obstacles. The mishnah in Pirkei Avot (5:2) states that it took ten generations from Noach until Avraham for monotheism to take hold. If not for Yitzchak, Avraham’s vision of a world based on monotheism and chesed might have remained on the shelf for another 10 generations.
 

Rabbi David Hertzberg is the principal of the Yeshivah of Flatbush Middle Division. Questions and comments can be emailed to him at Mdrabbi@aol.com.

Parshat Chayei Sarah

Wednesday, November 15th, 2006

It’s hard to imagine life without them, and yet they almost never came into being. I refer to the ubiquitous “Post-it Notes” that adorn the furnishings and appliances in all our houses and offices. In 1968 Spencer Silver, who worked as a research scientist at 3M, invented the semi-sticky glue while experimenting with different types of glues to use on adhesive tape. “Silver’s adhesive was revolutionary, because it could stick and come unstuck without ruining the surface it touched” (100 Great Businesses and the Minds Behind Them by Emily Ross and Angus Holland; Sourcebooks, Inc. Naperville, Illinois 2006; p.49).
 
Silver’s problem was that although he showed his invention to other researchers at the company, nobody could find a use for his weak adhesive. So his invention was shelved. In 1974, however, things would change. Art Fry, a fellow researcher of Silver, was a member of a church choir. During a rehearsal he became frustrated when the paper bookmarks he used to mark the hymns his choir was singing kept falling out. Remembering a presentation that Silver had made regarding his semi-sticky glue, Fry realized that, “he could mark the pages with sticky bookmarks without damaging the book” (Ibid.).
 
3M then began the long process of developing and testing the product for its marketability. Some executives at 3M feared that people would never pay for a mere alternative to scrap paper. But Art Fry did not give up. He constantly worked on ways to manufacture the sticky bookmarks that used Spencer’s glue as their adhesive. After several years of testing the Post-it Note hit the market in 1980, becoming an instant success. Today there are more then 1000 varieties of Post-it Notes available for purchase.
 
What is most amazing about this story is not Spencer’s invention or Fry’s happenchance discovery of a use for the glue. Oddly enough, things like that happen all the time. Rather, the most impressive part of this story is that Fry did not get distracted and saw his project through. Often great ideas never become a reality due to the lack of fortitude to see the concept through all the stages of development. This becomes especially acute when the development process hits bureaucratic snags and technical setbacks. Fry, however, viewed these realities as “par for the course in the innovation process” (p.50).
 
Leaders would do well to learn from Art Fry. Leadership is not just about articulating a vision. It’s about nurturing it down the long and arduous road until its realization. A person who can craft a vision but lacks the character to overcome the inevitable obstacles is no leader. Unfortunately, vision articulation gets all the glory. In truth, vision articulation without vision nurturing amounts to nothing. In this week’s parsha Yitzchak exposes us to the importance of vision nurturing – a job he spent his entire life doing.
 
Near the end of the parsha when Eliezer is returning with Rivka to marry Yitzchak, we see Yitzchak: “going out to the field to talk towards evening” (Bereishit 24:63). Several commentators offer explanations that seem to be mutually exclusive of what Yitzchak was doing. The Rashbam, who throughout his commentary emphasizes the literal meaning of the narrative, comments that Yitzchak went out to check on his workers and property. Rashi, as well as the Seforno, Kli Yakar and many others explain, based on the Gemara in Berachot (26b), that Yitzchak went out towards evening to daven Mincha. In fact, it was at this time that Yitzchak introduced to the world the concept of davening in the afternoon. Additionally, the Kli Yakar quotes the Gemara in Berachot (6b) that underscores the importance of Mincha by describing how Eliyahu HaNavi was answered on Har Carmel at Mincha time.
 
If we study Yitzchak’s actions in light of both approaches to the verse, we can better understand the importance of what Yitzchak did. The time of day under discussion certainly seems right for Yitzchak to be checking on the day’s work. Yet the importance of Mincha is that precisely in the middle of everything, we must stop and pray. One can certainly understand the importance of davening in the morning – when we set our goals for the day and are encouraged by the dawn of a new day. The importance of Arvit is also quite understandable. At the end of the day it is important to take stock of the past day’s events and to plan for tomorrow. Additionally, it is relatively easy to remember to daven at these times.
 
Mincha on the other hand is smack in the middle of the day. It is often difficult to stop what we’re doing and remember to pray. Moreover, stopping to pray breaks the momentum of what we’re doing. Yitzchak taught us the importance of taking a break midstream to refocus our efforts and to remember the reason we are in this world and the vision we are pursuing. Despite being stuck in the minutia of our daily lives, Mincha forces us to keep our eye on the prize and to maintain the fortitude to see things through.
 
Yitzchak is often described as simply continuing the vision that his father Avraham articulated. This is a great disservice to him. In fact it is Yitzchak’s nursing of that vision which ultimately allowed it to be realized in Yaakov’s family. Yitzchak’s life is a string of events that forced him to maintain the vision despite many obstacles. The mishnah in Pirkei Avot (5:2) states that it took ten generations from Noach until Avraham for monotheism to take hold. If not for Yitzchak, Avraham’s vision of a world based on monotheism and chesed might have remained on the shelf for another 10 generations.
 

Rabbi David Hertzberg is the principal of the Yeshivah of Flatbush Middle Division. Questions and comments can be emailed to him at Mdrabbi@aol.com.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/parshat-chayei-sarah-2/2006/11/15/

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