Illuminations #136, Cheshvan 5778, Parshat Chayei-Soroh

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Illuminations #136, Cheshvan 5778, Parshat Chayei-Soroh

Torah Gems

The Medrash relates an incident where Rabbi Akiva’s students were losing their focus during the lecture. In order to regain their attention, Rabbi Akiva made the following remarkable statement: “Why did Queen Esther merit to rule over one hundred and twenty seven countries? Because it is fitting for the descendant of Sarah who lived for one hundred and twenty seven years to come and rule over one hundred and twenty seven countries.” This Medrash leaves us wondering, what is the correlation between the years of Sarah’s life and the number of countries over which Queen Esther ruled? Additionally, how did Rabbi Akiva intend to grab his students’ attention with this statement? If he merely meant to jolt them with an outlandish remark, there would surely be many other more relevant topics to choose from. Rabbi Yisrael Meir Druk in his Sefer “Eish Tamid” explains that buried in Rabbi Akiva’s statement was indeed a deep and very relevant message. We know that Sarah took advantage of every moment and lived her life to it’s fullest; she constantly pursued righteousness and goodness. As a reward, her descendant many generations later was accorded great honor and prestige corresponding to every moment that she lived. Esther was granted dominion over one country per year of Sarah’s life, one additional city per month and one additional road per day of her life. This demonstrates to us the tremendous reward and far reaching impact that a person can have with each and every moment of their life.  With this Rabbi Akiva was trying to impact upon his students the importance and value of utilizing every moment. He was telling them to look at the continuing effects of Sarah’s deeds and to learn to fully utilize every moment, to always stay focused and to never let their minds wander again during a lecture.

Parsha Pearls

Rashi comments that when Sarah heard the news of Akeidat Yitzchak-that her son was mere inches away from being slaughtered- it caused her to die of shock. Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz asks, why was Avraham able to withstand this test but Sarah who was also an extremely righteous woman couldn’t even handle hearing that it almost (but in reality, never)happened? He answers that Hashem presented the idea to Avraham slowly so as not to shock him but the Satan purposely broke it to Sarah suddenly in order to cause her harm. Alternatively he explains that at the moment that Hashem places a person in a trying situation, He also provides that person with the fortitude to overcome thetest. The test of the Akeidah was given to Avraham and therefore he was also given the fortitude to withstand it. Sarah was not placed in that situation and therefore she did not have the strength to overcome it.

Glimpses of Greatness

Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Herman was legenday for his Hachnasat Orchim; his home was open anyone who wanted to eat, sleep or relax at any time day or night. Once, a guest had been staying there for a few days but had never actually met his host due to Rabbi Herman’s busy schedule and late hours. One evening, Rabbi Herman came home and the guest, mistaking his host for another one of the guests, asked Rabbi Herman how long it was ok to stay for and if the hosts cared if people stayed for too long. Rabbi Herman answered, “I don’t know, I’ve been staying here for over twenty five years and no one has ever said anything to me.”

Halacha Weekly

Q. When is it permitted to cast lots?

A. Vayeshev Hayam (1-13, R. Yaakov Moshe Hillel) writes there are three types of goralot in the Torah (I.e.: types of decisions which can be made by casting a lot). 1.) A goral to divide amongst partners (to divide property). Such a Goral is made on the strength of an agreement between all the parties (partners to abide be the decision)  for the purpose of clarifying a division of [jointly held] property.  2.)  There is also a type of goral for a person to obligate himself to do an action, like that of Yonatan and David for example.  However, this is not effective if done by someone without Ruach Hakodesh (Divine Inspiration). 3.) Finally, there is a goral to ascertain future events which is totally prohibited because one must have simple faith in Divine Providence. (Tamim Tiyeh Im H’ Elokechah).

Regarding the use of a goral to divide property, there is an opinion that holds that it can also be used for the purpose of making a kinyan or deciding actual possession of property.  However, this represents a great leniency even in our times, and needs to be practiced without any possible room for deception [which might bias the outcome ]or any room for error and it will cling to the Divine Providence for the sake of deciding the division.