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December 6, 2016 / 6 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Sarah’

Parshat Chayei Sarah

Friday, November 25th, 2016

Douglas MacArthur was one of America’s most controversial generals. While some claim he was a strategic genius, others say he thought in very narrow terms and made numerous blunders. All agree, however, that he was quite the showman and knew how to project the right image for the moment.

If General Patton is the exemplar of flamboyancy, General MacArthur is the exemplar of understatement. Patton let people know he was in the room with his flashy uniform, medals, and pearl-handled pistols. MacArthur let people know he owned the room by wearing a plain khaki uniform (shirt and pants only) with no medals whatsoever. His rank insignia, marshal’s cap and pipe, said all that needed to be said.

Many people are familiar with the picture of MacArthur wading in the water as he returned to the Philippines in October 1944. As the battle was raging, not far from where he walked onto the beach, MacArthur, with staff and photographers in tow, looked simply like an executive preparing to enter a conference room. What is less known is how MacArthur entered Japan on August 30, 1945, arguably one of his finest moments.

Japan had finally agreed to surrender after experiencing the devastating effects of two atomic bombs. While the formal surrender on the USS Missouri in Tokyo Harbor had yet to take place (it would occur on September 2), MacArthur arrived early by airplane to essentially assume control of Japan. However, nothing about the transition was certain. Though Japan had surrendered, there were still many Japanese soldiers who wanted to fight to the death. There was a very real possibility that there were assassins among the waiting crowd on the tarmac and the thousands of Japanese soldiers lining his fifteen-mile motorcade route.

As we can imagine, many of MacArthur’s staff were nervous about disembarking. But when some of them began to put on their gun belts with their sidearms, MacArthur ordered them to remove them. He explained that, “If they intend to kill us, sidearms will be useless. And nothing will impress them like a show of absolute fearlessness. If they don’t know they’re licked, this will convince them.”

With bated breath MacArthur’s staff waited to see if they would survive the day. MacArthur was proved right. He donned his cap and sunglasses and disembarked the plane with absolutely no personal security. The plainness of his image spoke volumes. It declared to the Japanese people that they were defeated and that MacArthur and the Americans did not fear them. People were stunned, but they got the message. A people that had worshiped their emperor as a deity understood that there was a new sheriff in town.

The importance of projecting the appropriate image as a leadership tool can be seen in this week’s parsha. After Eliezer identifies Rivka as the appropriate person for Yitzchak to marry, he proceeds to her house to negotiate the marriage. Rivka’s family offers Eliezer a meal as a prelim to the negotiations (24:33). Despite his long journey, Eliezer refuses to eat until the negotiations are completed.

The Meam Loez suggests that Eliezer was concerned that Rivka’s family might have an older daughter who they would try to marry off to Yitzchak. He felt that if he ate their food he might possibly feel a sense of gratitude to them, causing him to be less inclined to argue and refuse their offer. Eliezer refused to eat so as not to weaken the fortitude he would need in the upcoming discussions.

The Meam Loez also suggests a second tactical reason. Eliezer, through his accompanying angels, was aware that Betuel and Lavan would try to poison him. He was also aware that the food was switched and that Betuel would eat the poisoned food and not survive the meal. Eleizer was concerned that if they ate first and Betuel died, the family and locals would want to postpone the negotiations until after the funeral and mourning period. He wanted to conclude the negotiations before they ate and Betuel died, thus creating a fait accompli.

 

In light of the General MacArthur episode we can suggest an image-based reason. By not eating, Eliezer projected an image of power and self-sufficiency. He demonstrated that he was disciplined and focused, and could not be bought. Most important, he demonstrated that he had the upper hand. He was prepared to walk away from the negotiations – even without a meal. Like MacArthur’s matter-of-fact landing in Japan, Eliezer, through his refusal to eat before sealing the deal, declared loud and clear to one and all that he was in charge.

While an image is not leadership per se, if used effectively it is a very powerful tool for leaders to use as they advance their causes. Oddly enough, MacArthur’s arrival in the Philippines when he arrogantly proclaimed that, “I have returned,” is looked upon by historians as an example of a prima donna calling for attention. His business-like arrival to Japan, though, without an accompanying public statement, is viewed by many historians as one of history’s great moments of statesmanship. It helped smooth the way for Japan’s return to the international community.

Rabbi David Hertzberg

Parshas Chayei Sarah

Friday, November 25th, 2016
The news of Sarah’s sudden death may have been more shocking to Avraham than the commandment to bring his own son as an offering. After arriving to the scene, Avraham fell on the dead corpse of his wife with tears in his eyes. After what seemed to be an eternity, “Avraham rose up from upon the face of his dead.” (Gn. 23:3)
Avraham knew what he had to do. He spoke to the people of Ches asking them to sell him a specific cave with its surrounding field to be used as a burial ground for Sarah. This was no ordinary grave. This place later became known as the Machpeilah Cave located in Chevron.
The Tiferes Yehonasan (Rabbi Yonasan Eibuschitz, Cracow, Poland, 1690-1764) comments that there is a rule of thumb with respect to being buried in the Machpeilah Cave. If somebody died at the hand of the Angel of Death, he was forbidden to be buried there. Only somebody that died by the Divine kiss of God was allowed to be buried in that cave.
Avraham knew this regulation and, yet, still requested that Sarah be buried there. It must be that Avraham knew that Sarah died by the Divine kiss of God. But, how did he know?
The Talmud (Avodah Zarah, chap. 1, “Lifnei Eideyhen”) tells us that the Angel of Death is completely covered with eyes. When it comes time for a person to die, the Angel of Death hovers over the person with his sword drawn. At the tip of the sword are three drops of poison. When the person sees the Angel of Death, he opens his mouth in shock at the horrific sight. The Angel of Death throws the three drops into his mouth. The first drop causes him to die, the second drop causes his body to smell, and the third drop causes his face to turn green.
This is how Avraham knew that Sarah must have been kissed by God. After examining Sarah’s face, Avraham saw that it did not turn green. On the contrary, it was illuminated with light. This was how Avraham surmised that Sarah did not die by the Angel of Death, rather by the Divine kiss of Hashem.
This explains why the verse stresses that Avraham rose from “upon the FACE of his dead.” This indicates that Avraham used her face to determine the cause of her death.
Since all the Patriarchs and most of the Matriarchs were buried in the Machpeilah Cave, we can deduce that they all died by the kiss of God. However, we are going to see that not only were they allowed to be buried in the cave, but it was even necessary for them to be buried there. The reason for this is as follows.
The Zohar (Chayei Sarah, pg. 128a) says that when Avraham was about to bury Sarah, Adam and Eve (who were already buried in that cave) got up to protest. They said to Avraham that they already suffer great embarrassment in Heaven as a result of their sin with the Tree of Knowledge. By burying Sarah in the cave (and later having Avraham buried there as well) would only add insult to injury. Since Avraham and Sarah were so incredibly righteous, it would make Adam and Eve look even worse. This would only increase their embarrassment.
Avraham guaranteed Adam that he would stand before God and arrange that Adam would no longer feel ashamed of his sin. When Adam heard that, he was appeased and approved of the burial of Sarah and Avraham in the cave. As such, Adam returned to lay down in the spot that he had been resting in before.
However, Eve was still not satisfied and she continued to protest. Only after Avraham assured Eve that he would also stand before God and arrange that she would no longer feel ashamed of her sin, was Eve conciliated. Then, Eve also approved of Sarah and Avraham’s burial in the cave.
The question is, “What could Avraham possibly do to ensure that Adam and Eve would no longer feel shame? After all, they did sin. What changed?”
The Chidah (Nitzosei Oros, 1) teaches us that the three cardinal sins of idolatry, immorality, and murder were all wrapped up in the sin with the Tree of Knowledge.
Idolatry: The serpent told Eve that by eating from the tree, she would be like God (Gn. 3:5). Since Adam and Eve were tempted to eat from the tree, we can deduce that they wanted to be like God. This is outright heresy. There can be only One God. By trying to also be a “god’, Adam and Eve were guilty of idolatry.
Immorality: The Talmud (Shabbos, chap. 22, “Chavis”, pg. 146a) says that the snake came on to Eve, implying that he had an intimate relationship with her. This is derived from a verse which says that when God asked Eve what had happened, she replied, “Hanachas Hishi-ani” (The serpent deceived me; Gn. 3:13). The word “hishi-ani” can be pronounced “hisi-ani” which comes from the word “nisuin” (marriage; Rashi ibid). Eve basically said that the snake “married” me. This is where immorality is found by the Tree of Knowledge.
Murder: Hashem warned Adam that on the day he partakes of the forbidden fruit, death will come into the world (Gn. 2:17). By eating from the forbidden tree, Adam and Eve brought death into the world which, in a sense, means that they were guilty for the murder of almost all of mankind.
The Zohar (Behar, pg. 111b) adds that when Adam died, he could not enter paradise because of his crimes. Therefore, God split his soul into three parts so that Adam could come back into this world as a reincarnation and repair the damage that he had caused. The three parts of Adam’s soul were reincarnated into the three Patriarchs. Each one worked on fixing one of the cardinal sins.
Avraham, alias Adam, rectified the sin of idolatry by destroying the idols of his father’s store (Bereishis rabba, 38:13, Rav Chiya bar brei d’Rav Ada d’Yafo). Avraham also publicized God’s existence throughout the world (Gn. 21:33), thus going against the prevalent philosophy of idolatry at that time. This repaired the damage that he himself caused in his previous life as Adam by the Tree of Knowledge, with respect to the component of idolatry.
Yitzchak, alias Adam, corrected the sin of murder by willingly stretching his neck out and allowing himself to be brought as an offering to God in the context of a mitzvah (Gn. 22:9). This remedied the damage that he himself caused in his previous life as Adam by the Tree of Knowledge, with respect to the component of murder.
Ya’akov, alias Adam, repaired the sin of immorality. Ya’akov testified about himself that the first drop of semen ever to leave his body went to producing his oldest son Reuven (Yevamos, chap. 8, “Ha’arel”, pg. 76a, Abaye; Gn. 49:3). Since Ya’akov first got married at the age of eighty-four, we can see his commitment to holiness and purity. Only by Ya’akov does it say that his “bed” was complete, indicating that all his children were righteous. This was due to his incredible sanctity. This mended the damage that he himself caused in his previous life as Adam by the Tree of Knowledge, with respect to the component of immorality.
All of this explains how Avraham placated Adam by ensuring him that the shame of sin would no longer exist. Avraham argued that the sin had been rectified. Moreover, the sin had been fixed by Adam himself in his reincarnated states as Avraham, Yitzchak, and Ya’akov. Why should Adam feel ashamed? He himself came back to this world to clean up the mess that he had previously created. Avraham’s burial in the Machpeilah Cave wouldn’t bring Adam shame. On the contrary, Adam will be pleased to know that he set straight what he had ruined.
Eve, however, was not so easily satisfied. This is because Adam’s part of the sin had been rectified, but what about Eve’s participation in the sin? Sarah’s burial in the cave would still bring Eve shame.
Avraham promised Eve that she would also not have to suffer embarrassment any longer. This is because the Arizal (Likuttei Torah, Shmuel 1) says that the Matriarchs were reincarnations of Eve. When the Matriarchs helped their husbands complete their missions, they also repaired the damage that Eve caused by the Tree of Knowledge.
When Sarah assisted Avraham to battle against idolatry, she helped repair Eve’s part in idolatry. When Rivkah supported Yitzchak’s rectification of murder, she helped mend Eve’s part of murder. When Rochel and Leah helped Ya’akov veer away from immorality, they helped fix Eve’s part of immorality.
Eve no longer had a reason to feel ashamed of her sin because Eve came back down to Earth in the form of the Matriarchs and cleaned up the mess that she had created.
The Arizal adds that Sarah herself fixed so much of Eve’s mistake. This can be understood in light of a Midrash.
The Tanchumah (Noach, 1) says that women were given three mitzvos to keep (family purity, challah, and lighting Shabbos candles) to atone for three things that Eve caused by her sin.
When Eve gave Adam to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, she brought death to him. This is why women are commanded to keep the laws of family purity. The verse says, “Whoever sheds the blood of Adam (man) by man, his blood will be shed” (Gn. 9:6). A deeper read of the verse points at Eve. She caused the blood of Adam to be shed. Her penalty was that her blood be shed as well. This happens when she has her menstrual cycle. By observing the laws of Niddah, women fix the sin of spilling man’s blood.
When Eve gave Adam to eat from the forbidden fruit, she ruined the challah (dough) of the world. Adam was called the challah of the world because when God created Man’s body, He extracted a clump of dirt from planet Earth (Tanchumah, Pekudei, 3). This is comparable to extracting a fistful of dough from the rest of the dough. Thus, Adam was considered the dough of the world. By feeding Adam from the forbidden fruit, Eve ruined the challah of the world. Therefore, women take off challah in the context of a mitzvah to atone for the ruination of the original challah.
When Eve gave Adam from the Tree of Knowledge, she extinguished the candle of Adam, his soul. After all, it says, “The candle of God is Adam’s (man’s) soul” (Pro. 20:27). When Adam’s soul left this world, it became a darker place. Therefore, women light Shabbos candles to bring light back into the world.
Sarah performed all three of these mitzvos. Sarah’s Shabbos candles stayed lit from the eve of Shabbos to the eve of Shabbos. The challah that Sarah baked in honor of Shabbos stayed fresh and warm from the eve of Shabbos to the eve of Shabbos (without plastic bags!) (Rashi, Gn. 24:67; Bereishis Rabba, 60:16).
Sarah also observed family purity because after she prepared the bread for her guests, she would not give it to Avraham because she got her period while baking the bread, which contaminated the dough. Avraham was stringent not to eat even regular dough that was touched by a Niddah. If Avraham and Sarah practiced such stringencies with respect to family purity, they were certainly keeping all of the other restrictions of family purity (Baba Metziah, chap. 7, Hasocher es Hapoalim, pg. 87a, Ephraim Maksha’a in the name of Rebbi Meir; Gn. 18:6-8).
On her own, Sarah fixed so much of Eve’s sin. Eve spilled man’s blood, and Sarah kept family purity. Eve ruined the challah of the world, and Sarah performed the mitzvah of challah. Eve extinguished the candle of the world, and Sarah lit the Shabbos candles.
Sarah’s burial in the Machpeilah Cave would not bring further shame to Eve. On the contrary, Eve came back down to this world as Sarah and repaired the damage that she had caused. When Eve heard this argument from Avraham, she was appeased and returned to her resting place.
It turns out that there is a deep connection between all four couples buried in the Machpeilah Cave. The first couple, Adam and Eve, sinned with the Tree of Knowledge which contained all three cardinal sins. The second couple, Avraham and Sarah, fixed the sin of idolatry. The third couple, Yitzchak and Rivkah, fixed the sin of murder. The fourth couple, Ya’akov and Leah, fixed the sin of immorality.
This further explains the reason why Avraham had to check Sarah’s face before burying her in the Machpeilah Cave. Avraham wanted to make sure that Sarah had done her part in fixing the sin with the forbidden fruit. Had Sarah died at the hands by the hands of the Angle of Death, it would have proved that she did not rectify the sin, because the Angle of Death was only activated after Adam and Eve sinned. Dying by the hands of the Angel of Death would have proved that Sarah was still living under the influence of the sin (Shvilei Pinchas).
However, when Avraham saw that Sarah’s face had not turned green, he knew that she died by the Divine kiss of death. This meant that Sarah had done her part in fixing the sin and had gone back to the level of Eve before she sinned.
Therefore, it wasn’t only permissible for Sarah to be buried in the Machpeilah Cave, it was necessary, because by being buried there it showed that Sarah had rectified the sin of the Tree of Knowledge.
At this point, perhaps we could add another suggestion which demonstrates how the Matriarchs atoned for the sin of Eve. When analyzing the sin of Eve, one will find that only four out of her five senses participated in the sin.
It says that the snake said to Eve, “You will not die” by eating from the tree (Gn.3:4). Since Eve listened to the snake, she ruined the sense of hearing. Then it says, “The woman SAW that the tree was good for eating, and that it was a delight to the EYES” (Gn. 3:6). By looking to do the sin, Eve ruined the sense of sight.
The verse goes on to say that, “She TOOK of its fruits” (ibid). By taking the fruit, she ruined the sense of touch. Finally, it says, “And she ate” (Ibid), thus ruining the sense of taste. The only sense which did not partake in the sin was the sense of smell.
Perhaps we could suggest that the four Matriarchs repaired the four senses.
Sarah fixed the sense of sight. This is because we find that Sarah was very connected to the sense of sight. For example, Sarah’s first name, even before Sarai, was Yiskah (Gn.11:23). She was called Yiskah because she was able to “Sochah” (look) with Divine Inspiration (Megillah, chap. 1, “Megillah Nikreis”, pg. 14a, Rebbi Yitzchak). She was also called “Yiskah” because everybody was “Sochin” (looking) at her beauty (Ibid). Moreover, after Sarah saw that Yishmael was “playing around” with Yitzchak in a dangerous way (Gn. 21:9), she gave Yishmael an “evil eye” (Rashi, Gn. 21:14). On top of that, Avimelech gave Sarah a veil to wear over her face so that other people would not be tempted by her beauty (Gn. 20:16, Sforno). By Sarah using her eyes to zap an evil Yishmael, and by wearing a veil so that others would not be tempted by her beauty, and by using her prophetic vision, Sarah fixed the sense of sight that she herself ruined in her previous life as Eve.
Rivkah fixed the sense of taste. Of all the Matriarchs, we only find Rivka spending so much time in the kitchen preparing delicious meals for her husband, Yitzchak (Gn. 27:14). Those delicacies helped put Yitzchak into a happier frame of mind so that Ya’akov would receive Yitzchak’s blessings in a powerful way. By using the sense of taste in the context of a mitzvah, Rivkah repaired the sense of taste that she herself ruined in her previous life as Eve.
Rochel fixed the sense of touch. We see this from the story when Lavan ran after Ya’akov and his family, claiming that somebody had stolen his terafim (idols). Ya’akov, not knowing that Rochel had taken them, said that Lavan could search all the tents to prove that nobody took them. Lavan went to Rochel’s tent first and found nothing. Then he checked Leah’s tent second and found nothing. Before searching the tents of Bilhah and Zilpah, Lavan went back to explore Rochel’s tent again. The reason why Lavan was so suspicious of Rochel was because he knew her to be a “toucher” (Rashi, Gn. 31:33). By using the sense of touch to prevent her father from committing the crime of idolatry, Rochel fixed the sense of touch that she herself ruined in her previous life as Eve.
Leah fixed the sense of hearing. This is because we always find Leah listening to what other people had to say. For instance, Leah heard everybody say that Lavan has two daughters and Rivkah has two sons; the older (Leah) should marry the older (Eisav) and the younger (Rochel) should marry the younger (Ya’akov) (Rashi, Gn. 29:17; Bereishis Rabba, 70:16). This caused Leah to cry out to God in prayer so that she would not wind up marrying a wicked man. Additionally, when Lavan sneakily switched Rochel with Leah to marry Ya’akov on the night of the wedding, Leah listened to Rochel to find out all of the signs that Ya’akov and Rochel had between them so that she would not be publicly humiliated (Baba Basra, chap. 8, “Yesh Nochalin”, pg. 123a). By using the sense of hearing to do the right thing, Leah repaired the sense of hearing that she herself had ruined in her previous life as Eve.
Parenthetically, this could explain why Rochel was not buried in the Machpeilah Cave. Rochel certainly died by the Divine kiss of God like all the other Matriarchs. However, her being buried separately from the other Matriarchs was because of the sense that she represented. The senses of sight, hearing, smell, and taste are all found on the head. However, the sense of touch is found on the hands which is at arm’s length from the head. Therefore, Rochel, who represented the sense of touch, was buried a distance away from the other Matriarchs who represented three of the other senses, in order to show what they atoned for.
This could also explain why Reuven brought Duda-im (flowers) to his mother Leah (Gn. 30:14). Reuven was also aware that the Matriarchs were supposed to atone for the senses that sinned with the forbidden fruit. Reuven mistakenly thought that the sense of smell also participated in the sin. Therefore, he brought the flowers to Leah so that she should use them and the sense of smell in the context of a mitzvah thereby mending the sense of smell that she herself ruined in her previous life as Eve.
However, by giving the flowers away to Rochel, Leah hinted to Reuven that there was no need to repair the sense of smell because it never partook of the sin to begin with.
Fixing the sin of the Tree of Knowledge is still relevant to us today. This is because the Patriarchs and Matriarchs fixed the root of the sin, doing the lion’s share of the work. However, we must all work towards fixing specific components of that sin because we were all part of Adam and Eve’s grand souls. All men were part of Adam’s father soul, and all women were part of Eve’s mother soul (Arizal, Sha’ar Hagilgulim, preface, 27-31). On some level, we are all guilty of that sin because we either wanted to eat from it ourselves, or we did not speak out against it strong enough. The Patriarchs and Matriarchs broke the ice and paved the way for us to finish the job (Shvilei Pinchas).
This is why the Zohar (Lech Lecha, pg. 81a) says that when a person dies and wants to go to Paradise, he must first go to the Machpeilah Cave, because that is where there is an entrance into Gan Eden. The couples that are buried there examine us to see if we did our part in rectifying the sin. If we did, they are happy with us and they open the gate for us to enter Paradise. If not, they push us away, in the very same way that Adam and Eve were driven out of Paradise after they sinned.
The way in which we can try to repair the damage done with the forbidden fruit would be to fix the three character flaws that caused sin to begin with. The three character flaws are: jealousy, lustful passions, and honor. The Panim Yafos says that all three faults were present when Adam and Eve sinned.
Jealousy: The serpent told Eve that by eating from the tree, they would be like God. By eating from the tree, Adam and Eve demonstrated that they were jealous of Hashem and they also wanted to be gods.
Lustful passions: The verse explicitly says that the fruit was “desirous” to her eyes. This is a type of lust.
Honor: By wanting to like gods, they wanted the honor and prestige that comes along with being a god.
These three character flaws created the three drops of poison on the tip of the sword of the Angel of Death. Each drop atones for one of the character flaws.
The first drop causes death. This repairs jealousy because a person only gets jealous by being in the presence of others that have things that he covets. Once the person dies, he is distanced from those people and the jealousy stops.
The second drop causes the dead body to smell. This atones for lustful passions because people often run after material things which spoil with time, such as food and beverage. Since he ran after those things anyway, his body spoils as well.
The third drop causes the face of the deceased to turn green. This mends honor because people receive honor from their faces (hadras panim; Lv. 19:32). By his face turning green, it removes the honor.
The instigator of all three character flaws was the snake. Therefore, he was punished in three ways. By having to crawl on his belly (Gn. 3:14), the snake was humbled, thus fixing the sin of honor that he caused. By eating dirt and by everything tasting like dirt to him (ibid), the snake was deprived of lustful passions, atoning for the lust that he generated. By God placing a deep-seated hatred between women and snakes (Gn. 3:15), jealousy was removed. They are so far apart from each other that jealousy doesn’t even begin.
Moreover, the three character flaws cause the three cardinal sins to happen. Honor leads to idolatry, so much so that a person may even start to think that he is a god. Lustful passions lead to immorality. Jealousy leads to murder, because by slaying someone, you can remove the source of what you are jealous of.
Let us summarize everything that we have just learned in a short and concise way. The three character flaws cause the three cardinal sins, which destroys the three aspects of man (blood, challah, and candle), which creates the three drops of poison, which causes three things to happen (death, smell, and green face).
But, the three Patriarchs, with their wives, fixed all of that. Therefore, they uprooted the three character flaws, preventing the three cardinal sins, meaning that no longer will there be a loss to the three aspects of man (blood, challah, and candle), resulting in no more three drops of poison, preventing three things from happening (death, stench, and green face), because they were kissed by God which is not even considered “death”, but, rather, it is called “sleep” (Zohar, Terumah, pg. 151b).
So, let us try to do our part in rectifying the sin of Adam and Eve by saying the following passage from Avos (3:1) regularly: Akavya ben Mahalalel says to concentrate on three things so that we do not come to sin. Remember where we came from, a putrid drop. Thinking of this can help reduce lustful passions. Remember where we are going, to a place of dirt and worms. Imagining that one day we may become worm food can help reduce honor. Remember to Whom we will have to give an accounting, to the King of Kings, Hashem. By keeping this in mind we can reduce jealousy because once we realize that God gives each and every person what he needs to fulfil his mission in this world, there is no longer any jealousy because having what somebody else has can actually be detrimental to us.
If we recite this daily, or even weekly, we can uproot the three character flaws, and prevent the three cardinal sins, and protect the three aspects of man, and remove the three drops of poison, and subsequently prevent the three harmful things from happening.
So, may we all be blessed with the strength to follow in the paths of our holy fathers and holy mothers by destroying any character flaw that might reside within us, and thus eradicate the three cardinal sins from the world, which is doing our part in fixing the sin of Adam and Eve with the Tree of Knowledge, which will make Hashem so proud of us that He will kiss us with the kiss of life, bringing all of us back to Gan Eden Mikedem.
Good Shabbos, Warmest wishes, Aba Wagensberg
Rabbi Aba Wagensberg

Parshas Chayyei Sarah

Thursday, November 24th, 2016

Vol. LXVII No. 47 5777
New York City
CANDLE LIGHTING TIME
November 25, 2016– 24 Cheshvan 5777
4:13 p.m. NYC E.S.T.

 

Sabbath Ends: 5:16 p.m. NYC E.S.T.
Sabbath Ends: Rabbenu Tam 5:43 p.m. NYC E.S.T.
Weekly Reading: Chayyei Sarah
Weekly Haftara: Ve’hamelech David (I Kings 1:1-31)
Daf Yomi: Bava Metzia 60
Mishna Yomit: Ma’asros 5:3-4
Halacha Yomit: Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayyim 72:4-73:1
Rambam Yomi: Hilchos Berachos chap.10 – Hilchos Milah chap.1
Earliest time for Tallis and Tefillin: 6:00 a.m. NYC E.S.T.
Sunrise: 6:54 a.m. NYC E.S.T.
Latest Kerias Shema: 9:18 a.m. NYC E.S.T.
Sunset: 4:31 p.m. NYC E.S.T.

 

This Shabbos is Shabbos Mevorchim, we bless the new Moon. Rosh Chodesh Kislev is 1 day, this coming Thursday. The molad is Tuesday 8 minutes and 6 chalakim (a chelek is 1/18th of a minute) after 4:00 pm (in Jerusalem).

Rosh Chodesh Kislev: Wednesday evening at Maariv we add Ya’aleh VeYavo. However, if one forgot to include Ya’aleh VeYavo (at Maariv only) one does not repeat (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayyim 422:1, based on Berachos 30b, which explains that this is due to the fact that we do not sanctify the month at night). Following the Shemoneh Esreh, Kaddish Tiskabbel, Aleinu, Kaddish Yasom.

Thursday morning: Shacharis with inclusion of Ya’aleh VeYavo in the Shemoneh Esreh, half Hallel, Kaddish Tiskabbel. We take out one Sefer Torah. We read in Parashas Pinchas (Bamidbar 28:1-15), we call four Aliyos (Kohen, Levi, Yisrael, Yisrael), the Baal Keria recites half- Kaddish. We return the Torah to the Aron, Ashrei, U’va Letziyyon – we delete La’menatze’ach – the chazzan recites half- Kaddish; all then remove their tefillin.

      Musaf of Rosh Chodesh, followed by Reader’s repetition and Kaddish Tiskabbel, Aleinu, Shir Shel Yom, Borchi Nafshi and their respective Kaddish recitals (for mourners). Nusach Sefarad say Shir Shel Yom and Borchi Nafshi after half Hallel, and before Aleinu they add Ein K’Elokeinu with Kaddish DeRabbanan.

      Mincha: In the Shemoneh Esreh we say Ya’aleh VeYavo, which we also add to Birkas Hamazon as well as mention of Rosh Chodesh in Beracha Acharona (Me’ein Shalosh) at all times. Kiddush Levana at first opportunity (we usually wait until Motza’ei Shabbos).

Rabbi Yaakov Klass

Redeeming Relevance: Chaye Sarah: What Happened to Yitzchak?

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016

There is something about Yitzchak that most commentators identify and yet do not seem to fully explain, and that is his unusual association with Be’er Lechai Ro’ee – the well by which Hagar experienced prophecy. Many suggest that he was attracted to it for its spiritual properties – it was a place with an apparent propensity for connection with God. The problem with this is that it makes it sound as if his step-mother was the only one in his family to have a prophetic experience. Did not his father, Avraham, receive prophecy as well? Hence it would have been much more natural for Yitzchak to frequent places where his father had experienced God, rather than his step-mother.

Presumably sensing the difficulty just mentioned, Rashi quotes midrash to provide an alternative explanation, one subsequently endorsed by Rabbenu Bachya as the simple meaning of the text: According to the rabbis, Be’er Lechai Ro’ee became Hagar’s dwelling place after she was expelled from Avraham’s house. Hence, Yitzchak, did not go there to pray or meditate. Rather he was on a mission, and that mission was to return Hagar to Avraham in marriage. Indeed, there is a very strong rabbinic tradition that this happens immediately after this story, Ketura really being another name for Hagar.

According to either explanation, however, there is a somewhat unexpected identification of Yitzchak with Hagar. Making this identification even stranger is the fact that Yitzchak makes this place his home after Avraham dies (25:11). Yet none of this is that strange if we are prepared to take a fresh look at the story. While the rabbis discuss the possibility of others having conscious prophecy, there are only two people living at that time that the Torah presents as knowing that they are involved in a prophetic experience – Avraham and Hagar. Yet their experiences are not entirely of the same cloth: Whereas Avraham’s experiences often involve a give and take with God, Hagar’s do not. This means that while Avraham often challenges the Divine will; Hagar simply submits to it. This presented Yitzchak with two modalities of spirituality – that of his father and that of his step-mother. Aspiring to become a prophet himself, he was presented with a choice how to express it. And choose he did. When we reflect on his own experiences with God and the rabbis’ subsequent description of Yitzchak as a man of strict judgement (as opposed to being a man of kindness like his father), it becomes clear that Yitzchak chose the path of his step-mother.

Incidentally, this can also explain why he would bring Hagar back to remarry Avraham. As we know, it was only with Yaakov that a balance was established between the expansive spirituality of Avraham (chesed) and the restrictive spirituality of Yitzchak (din). Yet balance is not only needed historically for the Jewish people, it is needed in each and every family. Avraham’s approach may have been monumentally great, but it lacked balance. There could be no better way to establish that balance than by bringing him together with someone whose approach was just the opposite of his own. That someone was Hagar. (While it would take us beyond the current discussion, I think there is good grounds to argue that Yitzchak’s own wife served a similar role for him.)

To follow one’s predecessors can be tricky. If they have left major gaps in their work, our own path opens up without too much difficulty – to perfect the work left undone. But what if we are heir to someone who has completely mastered a new approach? All we can do is to follow and try to model that approach. Such a task has its place, but it is not the type of thing that captures the imagination of a creative giant. And though Yitzchak’s genius is often overshadowed by that of both his father and his son, there is no question that it was there. Luckily, the perfected path of Avraham was not his only choice. Since his step-mother had not perfected her path, she left a greater space for Yitzchak to express his own genius. And as I have written in my first book, that is exactly what he did.

Finding role models is a tricky proposition. We have a natural tendency to pick people that are not so dissimilar to ourselves. That makes sense, as it will generally be easier to follow those with which we can more easily identify. But its ease doesn’t always make it correct. Sometimes, we need to be more adventurous in the search for what God wants from us. Yitzchak’s choice of Hagar shows us the need to broaden our horizons about this. We might have said that with a father like Avraham, why look any further. But Yitzchak’s wisdom was to examine not only the most obvious; to be involved in careful examination of where he had the most to contribute. It is this type of thinking that reveals Yitzchak’s true boldness, a boldness we need to recognize as

Rabbi Francis Nataf

Sarah Silverman ‘Insanely Lucky to Be Alive’

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

Comedienne Sarah Silverman on Wednesday posted on her Facebook an account of her recent brush with death:

“Hi. This is me telling everyone in my life at once why I haven’t been around. This will not interest everyone so feel free to disregard.

I was in the ICU all of last week and I am insanely lucky to be alive. Don’t even know why I went to the doctor, it was just a sore throat. But I had a freak case of epiglottitis.

I owe my life to Dr. Shawn Nasseri, Dr. Robert Naruse, Dr. Rob Huizenga, every nurse, and every technician & orderly at Cedars who’s punch-the-clock jobs happen to save human lives on the regular.

There’s something that happens when three people you’re so close to die within a year and then YOU almost die but don’t. (That was me. I’m the one that didn’t die.) It’s a strange dichotomy between, “Why me?” and the other, “Why me?”

They couldn’t put me fully to sleep for the recovery process because my blood pressure’s too low. I was drugged just enough to not feel the pain and have no idea what was happening or where I was. They had to have my hands restrained to keep me from pulling out my breathing tube. My friend Stephanie said I kept writing “was I in an accident?”

When I woke up 5 days later I didn’t remember anything. I thanked everyone at the ICU for my life, went home, and then slowly as the opiates faded away, remembered the trauma of the surgery & spent the first two days home kind of free-falling from the meds / lack of meds and the paralyzing realization that nothing matters. Luckily that was followed by the motivating revelation that nothing matters.

I’m so moved by my real-life hero, Michael, and amazing Sissies (blood & otherwise) & friendos, who all coordinated so that there wasn’t a moment I was alone. It makes me cry. Which hurts my throat. So stop.

Anyway there are some funny stories too.

I couldn’t speak for a while and I don’t remember a lot of my “lucid” time, but Amy (the Zvi) told me I stopped a nurse – like it was an emergency – furiously wrote down a note and gave it to her. When she looked at it, it just said, “Do you live with your mother?”

Also, when I first woke up and the breathing tube came out, I still couldn’t talk and they gave me a board of letters to communicate. My loved ones stood there, so curious what was going to be the first thing I had to say. They followed my finger, rapt, as I pointed from letter to letter until I finally spelled out, “Did you see ‘Hello My Name is Doris.'”

I love you all. Your friend,
Sarah

JNi.Media

Listen To Sarah

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

First published: Jewish Business News.

I’m writing this about half an hour after having heard the news of the murder of at least four Jews who were praying in a synagogue in a Haredi neighborhood in West Jerusalem. If anyone has had any delusions about this not being a religious war, and anything but a religious war, one need only connect the images that are emerging from this morning’s massacre of four Jewish men in the middle of their morning prayer to the images of Jews massacred in Hebron, in 1929.

In both instances, and in so many others, many of them in just the past few weeks, it was always an enraged, maddened Arab attacker, having been stuffed to the gills with hate by his environment—real and virtual—who exited civilization to become the avenging angel of whatever god he imagined was blessing this horror.

Being a pragmatic person, I, like so many of you, immediately started thinking of, well, what to do next. One really has to be nearly as mad as this morning’s two grocery workers-turned murdering butchers, to suggest they went on their murder spree to advance the cause of independence for their downtrodden Palestinian brothers and sisters. Clearly, they were out to kill as many Jews as they could before some policeman managed to shoot them dead. They were driven by religious hatred, determined to strike at the conquering enemy, wherever they could find him.

They must have talked about it beforehand. Schemed just how to acquire a gun, collect and hide butcher knives, coordinate their attack so as to inflict maximum damage before the unavoidable end. They were seeking only one thing: kill as many Jews as they could, while they still could. They had no concern for their own well being or even their lives. They sought death, willingly, lovingly.

Over the past two decades, the imaginations of a billion and a half Muslims have been ignited by a call to arms the likes of which they had not experienced since the crusades. With 9/11, followed by the emergence of Muslim zeal everywhere on the planet, and recently with the undeniable rise of the new caliphate in Syria and Iraq, Muslims young and old are awash in orgiastic fantasies of the rebirth of their old glory.

This is not a conspiracy, nor is this the actual wish of most Muslims in the world, it’s a fantasy. And the longer Western countries, including Israel, continue to respond to events around us as if they were localized emergencies, to be solved, managed, contained – the fantasy will grow more powerful.

Already we hear the president of Egypt accusing the Turkish secret service of supporting Muslim terrorists. And we’ve known for years of Pakistani secret service support for the Taliban and, by extension, Al Qaeda. The secret services of Muslim countries represent the vanguards of these nations. They’re not only living the fantasy in their everyday lives, they also know how far it can be taken if only they could master whole countries and their weapons.

Left unchecked, this Muslim fantasy will only fester and grow beyond anything our leaders in the west can imagine. I suspect that every erupted murder episode like this morning’s attack on Jews in prayer represents hundreds, perhaps thousands of others, yet unquenched.

Unfortunately, the only way to end this fantasy before it becomes so big it will envelope whole countries, is to crush it.

Which brings me to our beautiful matriarch, Sarah.

Sarah saw through Ishmael, the offspring of her slave girl Hagar and her husband, Abraham. He was up to no good, either plotting to rape her son Isaac or kill him, depending on which interpreter you prefer.

At another point, an angel of God told Hagar exactly who her son, Ishmael, father of all the Arabs was: “This son of yours will be a wild man, as untamed as a wild donkey! He will raise his fist against everyone, and everyone will be against him. Yes, he will live in open hostility against all his relatives.” (Gen, 16:12)

Biblical prophesies can be so annoying when they come true right in front of your eyes.

Sarah was no fool. She was, actually, the greatest prophet of her time. So she ordered her husband, Abraham, to get rid of the kid and his mother. Chase them out, she told him, in no uncertain terms.

She had no delusions about Ishmael.

This was the hardest moment in Abraham’s life. He just couldn’t being himself to do something this cruel. He resisted. He wouldn’t do it.

And so, according to our biblical account, God intervened:

God told Abraham, “Do not be upset over the boy and your maid. Do whatever Sarah tells you.” (Gen. 21:12)

And so Abraham, finally, obeyed his wife. There was no discussion of rehabilitation for the boy, no talk of cultural assimilation. He had to go.

I have no idea what will happen next in our war-torn Middle East and in the rest of the world. I suspect Sarah’s command still seems too harsh to most of us, myself included. It’s one thing to chase a woman and her son out into the desert, but what do you do with millions of Muslims? How do you recover from something like that? It’s one mad fantasy touching on another, evoking a third.

But if you’d like to know what our great grandmother Sarah, if she woke up today, would have told us, I can assure you, she would have said: “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.” (Ge. 12:10)

Tibbi Singer

Beginning The Journey

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

A while back, a British newspaper, The Times, interviewed a prominent member of the Jewish community (let’s call him Lord X) on his 92nd birthday. The interviewer said, “Most people, when they reach their 92nd birthday, start thinking about slowing down. You seem to be speeding up. Why is that?”

Lord X replied, “When you get to 92, you start seeing the door begin to close, and I have so much to do before the door closes that the older I get, the harder I have to work.”

Something like that is the impression we get of Abraham in this week’s parshah. Sarah, his constant companion throughout their journeys, has died. He is 137 years old. We see him mourn Sarah’s death, and then he moves into action.

He engages in an elaborate negotiation to buy a plot of land in which to bury her. As the narrative makes clear, this is not a simple task. He confesses to the locals, the Hittites, that he is “an immigrant and a resident among you,” meaning that he knows he has no right to buy land. It will take a special concession on their part for him to do so. The Hittites politely but firmly try to discourage him. He has no need to buy a burial plot. “No one among us will deny you his burial site to bury your dead.” He can bury Sarah in someone else’s graveyard. Equally politely but no less insistently, Abraham makes it clear that he is determined to buy land. In the event, he pays a highly inflated price (400 silver shekels) to do so.

The purchase of the Cave of Machpelah is evidently a highly significant event because it is recorded in great detail and highly legal terminology – not just here but three times subsequently in Genesis, each time with the same formality. For instance, here is Jacob on his deathbed, speaking to his sons:

“Bury me with my fathers in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite, the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre in Canaan, which Abraham bought along with the field as a burial place from Ephron the Hittite. There Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried, there Isaac and his wife Rebecca were buried, and there I buried Leah. The field and the cave in it were bought from the Hittites” (Genesis 49:29-32).

Something significant is being hinted at here; otherwise why mention, each time, exactly where the field is and from whom Abraham bought it?

Immediately after the story of land purchase, we read, “Abraham was old, well advanced in years, and God had blessed Abraham with everything.” Again this sounds like the end of a life, not a preface to a new course of action, and again our expectation is confounded. Abraham launches into a new initiative, this time to find a suitable wife for his son Isaac, who by now is at least 37 years old. Abraham leaves nothing to chance. He does not speak to Isaac himself but to his most trusted servant, who he instructs to go “to my native land, to my birthplace” to find the appropriate woman. He wants Isaac to have a wife who will share his faith and way of life. Abraham does not specify that she should come from his own family, but this seems to be an assumption hovering in the background.

As with the purchase of the field, so here the course of events is described in more detail than almost anywhere else in the Torah. Every conversational exchange is recorded. The contrast with the story of the binding of Isaac could not be greater. There, almost everything – Abraham’s thoughts, Isaac’s feelings – is left unsaid. Here, everything is said. Again, the literary style calls our attention to the significance of what is happening, without telling us precisely what it is.

The explanation is simple and unexpected. Throughout the story of Abraham and Sarah, God had promised them two things: children and a land. The promise of the land (“Rise, walk in the land throughout its length and breadth, for I will give it to you”) is repeated no less than seven times. The promise of children occurs four times. Abraham’s descendants will be “a great nation,” as many as “the dust of the earth” and “the stars in the sky.” He will be the father not of one nation but of many.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/jewish-columns/rabbi-lord-jonathan-sacks/beginning-the-journey/2013/10/24/

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