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PARASHAS CHAYAI SARAH -Appreciate the Moment & Seize the Day

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לעילוי נשמת

מורי ורבי הרב הגאון הרב אהרן בן הרב משה יואל

The Pollack Family Edition


The Life of Sarah

Parashas Chayai Sarah begins with the end of Sarah's life and her burial.

Avraham and Sarah were pillars of chessed. They created a home of chessed. We now have chessed in our genes since we received it from our Avos. Nevertheless, one can always work on improving and strengthening this middah, going beyond our inborn capabilities. How does one work on being a giver; what is the avoidah? In this parasha, it says 'Vayehihyu Chayai Sarah Me'ah Shana Ve'esrim Shana Vesheva Shanim…' Rashi, quoting the Medrash, asks why it says both Shnei and Chayai Sarah? Why the seeming repetition? Rashi answers, 'Kulan Shovin Letovo': after calculating the years of Sarah's life, we emphasize the completion, how all Sarah's years were good.

The Meforshim ask how we can define all the years of her life as good; she went through so many struggles and difficulties. How is this consistent with Rashi's statement that all her years were Letovo? R' Zusha from Anipoli says a famous answer. The words 'Kulan Shovin Letovo' means that they were all good years in the eyes of Sarah herself. Each of the numbers the Chumash details is hinting at Sarah's meilehs. That, too, shows one of Sarah's good character traits: her attitude to life was 'Kulan Shovin Letovo', whatever it looked like to the outside observer.


Ten Tests of Avraham: The Difficulties Of Life

The Mishnah says, 'Asoro Nisyonos Nisnaso Avraham Avinu.' The Rishonim argue what events in the life of Avraham were included in the ten tests. Rabeinu Yona says that the tenth one is that Avraham had to obtain a burial spot for Sarah for a tremendously large sum of money. That was after the akeida, which seems like the definitive test for Avraham. That was also after Hashem proclaimed, 'Atoh Yodati Ki Yarei Elokim Atoh' – now I know you are a real Yarei Shomayim. Is the test of burying his wife so significant? How and why is this the concluding test of the ten tests?

The Meforshim explain the pshat in the Rabeinu Yona: Many times, there are monumental tests in life, situations that call for tremendous emunah like the akeida. However, there are also the daily challenges and struggles that a person must deal with. This test was of the latter variety. After the akeida, Avraham's wife dies, he must buy a plot of land (even though the land had already been promised to him), and he has to pay a substantial amount for it. After all this, Avraham could have complained a little. This was the moment of nisayon; not complaining about life's difficulties is also a test.

Sometimes, there are apparent tests that force a person to muster the strength and emunah to overcome them. Then there is daily life with its difficulties. Does one complain or accept that 'Gam Zu Letovo'? It is a tremendous test of how we live our lives and how we view our daily existence. Sarah excelled in this regard, and with the death of Sarah, Avraham was required to demonstrate this middah. That was the tribute to the life of Sarah.


The Death of Sarah Or the Life Of Sarah

It seems incongruous that the parasha named Chayai Sarah talks about Sarah's death instead of her life. However, this difficulty can be resolved if we ask, what is life? Life is living. Sometimes, life is tough, but if we look at it positively and see its goodness, then it is called 'Kulan Shovin Letovo'. That is what Sarah Imenu leaves us with, and that is the test after the purportedly ultimate test of the akeida.

Sarah would explain that it was 'Gam Zu Letovo' that the plot of land was so expensive. Although it was undeniably hard at the time, after Avraham made the purchase, people near and far heard about the vast amount of money he paid for it. Everyone was talking about it; the posuk says that the money was 'Over Lasocher', which can mean that it was the business community's talk, person to person. This was so that people would not forget what had happened—and later on, no one would be able to deny that this piece of land belonged to Avraham.


The Meoras Hamachpeila

(A few weeks ago), I was at the Meoras Hamachpeila, and it dawned on me that the Arabs claim that Hogor was the main wife to Avraham and Yishmael was the main son. Does the fact that Hogor and Yishmael are not buried there make it evident that this is not the case? This is especially true because the plot of land was actually bought for Sarah! Because of the parashas this fact is undeniable.

The Rabeinu HaGra gives an amazing pshat how there are hints in the psukim how Adam, Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov are all buried in the same place, including the head of Eisav. Ephron tells Avraham 'Kevor Maysecha' four times. The fifth time, the language is different and says, 'Ve'es Mayscho Kevor.' The understanding of this is that tzadikim are not indeed maysim. Before Techias Hameysim, they are going to die so that they can be woken up. So, in actuality, they are buried, Kevor, and only later do they die, Meis. The fifth one refers to Eisav. Chazal tell us that 'Reshoyim Bechayeihem Kruyim Meisim,' and therefore the death, Meyscho, comes before the burial, Kevor. The Torah's loshon hints at the burial order in Meoras Hamachpela, proving that it is ours: four family members that would be tzaddikim and one rosho. It is like a prophecy.


The Secret to A Life of Happiness

'Kol Ma De'ovid Rachmona Letav Ovid' is the secret to a life of happiness. It is the yesoid of every yid. A yid lives with emunah. This is also a yerusha we got from Avraham and Sarah. This middah requires tremendous avoidah; how do we work towards attaining it?

I believe that the root of this characteristic is the middah of histapkus. What does this mean? When a person is content, that leads them to be able to live a full life and have a view of 'Kol Ma De'ovid Rachmona Letav Ovid.'

The Chofetz Chaim on the Mishnah' Eizehu Oshir, Hasome'ach Bechelko' remarks that the Mishnah says that a rich person is one who is happy Bechelko, with his lot. It does not say, 'Bemah Sheyesh Loi.' Why?

The Chofetz Chaim says that sometimes, a person has little or nothing. The Torah is not telling this person to be happy with extreme poverty. Instead, he should be happy that this is his lot in life. If a person is mistapek, he realizes that this is what he needs in his life, and he is content with it. This leads to oisher and simcho, for a person to be rich and happy. This is a middah of tzaddikim, they can live this way. They are happy even if they have nothing, in contrast to people in this world who have everything and are very unhappy.


A Tzaddik Is Happy with His Days

The Rambam has a fantastic eye-opener in this week's parasha. When Sarah passed away, Rashi says, 'Kulan Shovin Letovah,' she accepted all her days; they were good days. The Rambam says the same by Avraham Avinu. The posuk says 'Vayigvah Vayomos Avraham Beseivo Tovo'. Avraham passes away of old age Beseivo, extremely satisfied.

The Rambam continues that the pesukim always say svah- satisfied, with the word yomim- days. This means that they are satisfied with the actual day; they do not need anything remarkable to happen that day to make them happy. The day itself was the greatest present. Often, people wake up and immediately look at their phone and see if they got a deal which will make their day. Tzaddikim look forward to the day, not for what will happen that day but the day itself. They are satisfied! They are different from all other people. For most people, the more they have, the more they want, and they pass away unsatisfied because they always want more. A tzaddik is happy with the days that he has in his life.

The Sfas Emes explains that in the beginning of the parasha, before Avraham sends Eliezer to find a wife for Yitzchak, it says, 'Avraham Zokein Bo Bayomim', coming in the days. It could be an expression of getting older. However, Bo means coming to heaven with his complete days. His days are his accomplishment. The expression of killing time did not apply in his life. He had full days! This is a tremendous outlook on life: the importance and satisfaction of a day in one's life.

R' Shlomo Zalman Auerbach used to say we wish people' Arichus Yomim Veshonim.' Why both? A long day means a full day. A person can live long years with empty, short days… Therefore, we wish a person many years filled with complete, full days.

I once went to visit R' Pam when he was sick, and he was very upbeat and happy. I told R' Pam, "I see you're in a good mood," and he replied, "Of course I'm happy; it's a beautiful day!" In reality, it was a dark, snowy, rainy day. But R' Pam lived in a world of Svo Yomim, where each day is a gift and a beautiful day.

The tests of the Avos in their days did not hold them back from having fulfilling, complete days, and rewarding lives. In contrast, when we have difficulties, we can lie on a couch, out of commission for hours or days, letting them remain empty. The Avos, regardless of the situation, excelled in utilizing every moment of every day.


Sarah Ruled Her 127 Years of Her Life

The Medrash in Breishis Rabba says that R' Akiva was giving a shiur and saw that his students were dozing off and he wanted to wake them up, so he gave them a riddle: Why was Esther merited to rule over 127 republics? Because Sarah, her grandmother, ruled her 127 years of her life. The word Sarah means to be a queen, ruler. What does this mean? Why was this the riddle to wake up the talmidim?

Many learn that the ruling was over herself. She had full control over her actions. That's what Sarah means. R' Akiva told this to his students to show them not to waste time by sleeping during the shiur but rather to fill and conquer their days.

R' Nisan Alpert says another explanation. Sarah ruled over the tests that she received in life and did not let them rule over her. She was the queen over the situation. The difficulties did not get the best of her; instead, she got the best of them. It is imperative to have a positive outlook on life in order to attain this ability.


Bakol – All Was Good

'Kol Ma De'ovid Rachmona Letav Ovid.' The word Kol means everything. However, there is a little secret to this word. The posuk says, 'Hashem Berach Es Avraham Bakol.' Rashi says that this word refers to the name of a daughter named Bakol. Why is this her name?

R' Pam says that Leah calls Yehuda so since now she can praise Hashem. Chazal say that she was the first to praise Hashem. How can that be? What about the Avos? It can be understood that she was the first to name a child in Hashem's praise, so that every time she calls the child, she is praising Hashem. That was Leah's chiddush. Here we can apply the same concept: Avraham had a son and then a daughter. Avraham recognized the bracha that he had all he needed, so he called his daughter Bakol!

Ba’kol’- A Character of Tzadikim

In benching, it talks about the word Bakol. When one benches the host, one says, 'kemo Shenishbarchu Avoseinu Bakol Mikol Kol.' the Rishonim explain the play of words here: Avraham was Bakol, Yitzchak was 'Vayochal Mikol,' and Yaakov says 'Yesh Li Kol.' We bless the host with this. Eisav, on the other hand, says 'Yesh Li Rov'. Kol is the Middas Hatzadikim, contentment. This is the middah of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov.

The Sfas Emes points out this term is found throughout Bereishis. Avraham gives Avimelech' Ma'aser Mikol'. When Avraham gives Eliezer all his belongings, it also says Kol for his possessions. When Eliezer is summoned to Avraham, it says he was a 'Moshel Bechol Asher Lo'. His blessings were Kol.

The Ramban says that this magical bracha with Kol is a recurring theme with the Avos. There is a secret! It is a hint for the middah that Hashem has; a middah called Kol. In Yeshayoh, it says 'Anochi Hashem Oseh Kol'. Only Hashem can make Kol. It's also the eighth middah in the thirteen middos: 'Notser Chessed La'alofim'; Hashem can generate tremendous chessed because of the middah of Kol. The Ramban says that another middah has to be added to it to fully realize the middah of Kol: bas. Hashem gave this extra middah to Avraham because he was the personification of chessed.

This can be explained more simply. Kol means to have everything you need. Hashem has everything and is Sholeim-complete. Because of this, He can give. This can be seen in many areas. If a person has no self-love, then they cannot love others. Hashem is everything, and therefore, he can give it all to His creations. The same concept applies to Avraham. He felt like he had everything, and therefore had no issue giving it to others. This is the real middah of chessed. Most people feel needy and do not feel content, and therefore they are always seeking to keep what they have and get more.

A person can eat the most incredible and most expensive fish and meat, and the brocho is a simple shehakol and a borei nefoshos. However, if a person eats a kezayis of dry bread, he must bench. Why? Bread makes a person content. In birkas hamozon, the guest tells the host, you satisfied me, now I will give you back the bracho, telling you that I am content.

Sefardim have a different nusach. They add, 'Sheyevoreich Ba'al Habayis Shemo Hagodol kemo Shenishbarchu Avoseinu Bakol Mikol Kol'. This can mean that the name of Hashem, the Great Name, is Kol. Rashi says that Moshe begs Hashem to go to Eretz Yisroel. He says, "You started to show your greatness; let me see more." This greatness is the kindness of Hashem, that He is a giver. The bigger a person is, the more he can give.


Rebbetzin Tsivia Walkin: A Lesson of Life

There is a story that brings home the lesson of contentment:

My grandmother, Rebbetzin Tsivia Walkin, lived as a girl in Radin, and she was often around the Chofetz Chaim. I once asked her, "Are you afraid to die?" She answered, "No!" When I asked why, she said, "Because I am living, so why think of dying?" Life is positive and a fantastic gift. Live it totally and fully. After this, my grandmother went to the kitchen and started thinking; then, three minutes later, she told me, "A person must pass away and make space for others to live. Give everyone a chance." From here, I learned that when one is content with their days, they know how to share.

I believe that this is the lesson of this parasha. Avraham and Sarah gave so much in their life to others since they were happy!

Misery is miserly.

Happiness is giving.

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