Illuminations #50, Cheshvan 5776, Parshat Chayei Sarah

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Illuminations #50, Cheshvan 5776, Parshat Chayei Sarah

Torah Gems

Avraham Avinu and his wife, Sarah, are the foundations upon which the Jewish nation was built. Together, Avraham and Sarah brought the light of Hashem into the world.

Yet there is a mystery concerning the number of years that Hashem allotted to them. Sarah died when she was 127 years old, whereas Avraham lived to 175. Since they performed their good deeds together, we would assume that Hashem would bless them with the same number of years. Also, our Sages tell us that Sarah had attained a greater level of prophecy than Avraham. If so, why was Avraham granted so many more years than Sarah?

According to the Sages (Midrash, Bereishis Rabbah 30:8), Avraham came to recognize Hashem when he was forty-eight years old. If we subtract these 48 years from 175 years that he lived, we arrive at 127 years. Thus, Avraham’s years were reckoned from the time he recognized Hashem: the forty-eight years that Avraham lived prior to his recognizing the Creator are not counted as part of the years of his life. This is consistent with the Talmudic passage, “ A convert is considered as a newborn baby from the time he converts” (Yevamos 22a). Therefore, in spiritual years Avraham lived 127 years, just like his wife, Sarah.

Sarah on the other hand, recognized Hashem from the time she was born, as it says, “Sarah’s lifetime was one hundred years, twenty years, and seven years; the years of Sarah’s life.” Rashi explains, “The years of Sarah’s life, all of her years were equally good.” Meaning, she recognized Hashem from her birth.

Without the awareness of HaKadosh Baruch Hu, a person is not considered alive. Avraham’s awareness of Hashem took place over many years. When he ultimately recognized Hashem, it was not mere speculation. Rather, he vividly comprehended the existence of the Creator.

May we follow in the paths of Avraham and Sarah so that our awareness of Hashem is the source of our life.

Parsha Pearls

Our Sages teach us that after the incident of the akeidah, in which Hashem tested Avraham to see if he would offer his son on the altar, someone came to Sarah and told her that Avraham had almost sacrificed Yitzchak. However, Yitzchak was, thankfully, very much alive. Sarah was so shocked by the unexpected report of her son’s brush with death that she cried out and died.

The messenger’s intention was to convey to Sarah the good news, that her son Yitzchak was alive. But he presented the details of the ordeal in the order of their occurrence. First he told her that Avraham nearly mortally wounded Yitzchak. Then he told her that ultimately Avraham did not slaughter her son. However, by the time the good news had a chance to take effect, the impact and trauma of the initial words caused her demise.

Had the messenger first conveyed and assured Sarah that Yitzchak was alive and then filled in details of the account, this calamity would not have occurred. Despite his good intentions, his lack of caution and sensitivity regarding the impact of his words brought about Sarah’s death. Instead of being credited as the bearer of good tidings, this emissary is considered by our Sages to be an agent of death.

This tragic incident underscores how intensely aware and extremely careful we must be in all of our verbal interactions. If we weigh all of our words before we say them so that we deliver them with tact and sensitivity we will spare others from undue anguish. What’s more, words uttered with thoughtfulness and care will imbue others with life, as Shlomo HaMelech said, “ A healing tongue is a tree of life” (Mishlei 15:4).

Glimpses of Greatness

In May of 1962, Adolph Eichmann was executed by the Israeli government. The identity of his executioner was kept secret for thirty years, until the man retired. As it turned out Eichmann’s executioner was an Orthodox Jew of Yemeni decent. A German television station tracked him down and asked to interview him. He agreed on one condition: the interview would be filmed in the kollel where he studied.

“Why do you insist on having it done there, with all the noise and hubbub in the background?” the producer asked. “Why can’t we do it in the comfort and quiet of our studio?”

“Because,” the executioner-cum – Kollel-man responded, “I want the German people to see Jews alive and studying Torah.”


Halacha Weekly

Q: Is showing honor to other relatives considered Kibud Av V’Eim (Honoring Parents)?
A: Naming a child after an ancestor is considered a form of Kibud Av V’Eim (honoring Parents.) There are customs among some Sepharadim that a child name his children after his grandfather/grandmother when they are still living, and this is ia form of Kibud Av V’Eim (honoring one’s parents). For Ashkenazim and some Sepharadim, they name their child after an ancestor (e.g. grandparent) only after they are already deceased. This is also considered a form of Kibud Av.
One is not allowed to call their parents by their first name. One is obligated to honor one’s in-laws, the same way one is obligated to honor parents. The same way one is obligated to honor one’s grandparents, one is obligated to honor one’s older brother or sister. However, one is allowed to call older siblings by their names.
One is obligated to honor one’s stepmother as long as one’s father is alive. One is also obligated to honor a stepfather the same way as long as one’s mother is alive. Even after their parent’s death, one should still respect his/her stepparent as part of having Derech Eretz (proper manners).

לעילוי נשמת

פריידא בת יעקב בן ציון ראפ ע”ה

נפטרה כ”ח חשון תשנ”ח ת.נ.צ.ב.ה.

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