Illuminations #97, Cheshvan 5777, Parshat Chayei Sarah

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Illuminations #97, Cheshvan 5777, Parshat Chayei Sarah

Torah Gems

“And Avraham expired and died in a good old age, mature and content…”

The Ramban explains that the Torah is telling us two things about Avraham Avinu – first, the material assets that he had amassed throughout his lifetime, and second, that he was satisfied with his lot. 

We know that Hashem had blessed Avraham with tremendous wealth and in light of this fact, it seems puzzling that the Torah is praising him for being happy with his lot. Surely anybody who would merit a life of luxury would be happy with his lot.

R’ Henoch Leibowitz answers that the Torah is demonstrating the powerful force of human nature to long for more riches and not to be satisfied with his other fortuneAs the medrash in koheles says, “One who loves money will never be satisfied with money – if they have a hundred they desire two hundred” (kohelesraba 1:13). People tend to fantasize about “making it big,” thinking it will bring them everlasting happiness, but Shlomo haMelech tells us that as soon as he reaches those goals, he is already thinking about bigger and better things and his previous accomplishments seem inconsequential in relation to his new goal. Similarly, a wealthy businessman who was worth some 900 million dollars was overheard saying, “You see these young guys who made a billion dollars and think to yourself, ‘What did I do wrong?’

The Torah is telling us that Avraham Avinu refined his character until he had a total disregard for money and luxury. As a person who spurned material comforts, he was content with his material acquisitions and passed away a happy man

Parsha Pearls

“And Avraham said to his servant who he entrusted with all his property, ‘Place your hand under my thigh and swear in the name of God, Creator of heaven and earth, that you won’t take a women from the women of Canaan.’

People close to the Brisker Rav once complained to him that he was being overly critical of their handling of a certain spiritual matter and that he didn’t seem to trust them.  The Brisker Rav replied that we find with Avraham Avinu that even though he trusted Eliezer with all his money, when it came to spiritual matters he made him swear. We see, said the Brisker Rav, when it comes to spiritual matters a higher level of accountability is needed than by physical matters. Even one who can be trusted fully with money does not guarantee that we can trust him with spiritual things. The Brisker Rav continued that today, sadly, the opposite is true. When it comes to money, everyone is suspicious of each other, but when it comes to spiritual matters people readily will trust anyone. 

Glimpses of Greatness

In the late 1200’s, Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg, better known as the Maharam, was incarcerated. The German emperor, who was desperately trying to raise money for his military ventures, had trumped up false charges about the Maharam hoping to extort a huge ransom from the Jews, knowing that they would pay any price for their beloved leader.  But the Maharam instructed the Jews not to ransom him so as to discourage the government from continuing to attempt any such reoccurrences in the future.  Even after he died, the Maharam’s body laid imprisoned in the German fortress. 14 years later, a wealthy man paid an enormous sum to redeem the Maharam’s body and ensure him a proper burial. To his shock the Maharam’s body was completely intact; it hadn’t decomposed in the slightest, as if he had just passed away. What was even more striking was that the Maharam had continued to write his Torah commentary in jail. He finished one of those commentaries with the following comment: “These are the chidushei Torah which I merited to write here in jail and I thank Hashem for bestowing kindness upon me in my life and He will not leave me here after I die.”


Halacha Weekly

Q. How Can One Halachically Receive  Stock Dividends and Interest on Shabbat? 

A. Rav Moshe Feinstein explains that we treat the interest that is earned over Shabbat as though it was earned in the hours that transpire after Shabbat but before the next calendar day.  The same leniency applies for the first day of a Yom Tov.  The interest earned over Yom Tov is considered to have been earned after Yom Tov is over but before the next calendar day.  Rav Moshe explains that these leniencies will not provide a basis to justify earning interest when Yom Tov immediately follows or precedes Shabbat.  In these situations there is no time frame after (or before) Shabbat which can serve as the time frame during which the interest was earned.

Hence, Rav Moshe says that in these circumstances one should give away the interest earned during these time periods.