שבת טעם החיים חיי שרה תשע”א
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Chaye Sara 5771
We don’t need Change!
ויביאה יצחק האהלה שרה אמו ויקח את רבקה ותהי לו לאשה ויאהבה וינחם יצחק אחרי אמו, and Yitzchak brought her into the tent of Sara his mother; he married Rivka, she became his wife, and he loved her, and thus was Yitzchak consoled after his mother. (Bereishis 24:67)
While I normally do not bring politics into the discussion of the parasha, I feel that this week it is appropriate to mention the contrast between the passing of the guard in the Western world and how the Torah views succession of leadership and greatness. In the United States the center of discussion concerning elections is if the newly elected official will be able to effect the change that eluded his predecessor. The Torah, however, offers us a diametrically opposite perspective to how one leader succeeds another.
Rivka’s virtues were similar to Sara’s
In this week’s parasha, Chaye Sara, we learn in the beginning of the parasha of Sara’s death. The Torah then records in detail how Avraham sent his servant Eliezer to Charan to obtain a wife for Avraham’s son, Yitzchak. Subsequent to Eliezer’s return with Rivka it is said (Bereishis 24:67) vayivieha Yitzchak haohela Sara imo vayikach es Rivka vatehi lo liisha vayehaveha vayinacheim Yitzchak acharei imo, and Yitzchak brought her into the tent of Sara his mother; he married Rivka, she became his wife, and he loved her, and thus was Yitzchak consoled after his mother. Rashi cites the Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 60:16) that states that the juxtaposition of the words vayivieha Yitzchak to the words haohela Sara imo teaches us that when Yitzchak married Rivka, he observed that she was similar to his mother in every manner. When Sara was alive the candle would remain lit from one Friday afternoon to the next, blessing was found in the dough, and the cloud was above the tent. When Sara died, these phenomena ceased, and when Yitzchak married Rivka, the miracles returned. One must wonder why it was significant that Yitzchak marry a woman who was similar to his mother. Marrying a woman similar to one’s mother is certainly appealing as one can relate better to his wife. Nonetheless, we must understand why the Torah felt it necessary to mention this aspect of Yitzchak’s marriage.
We must aspire to the greatness of our Forefathers
The answer to this question is very simple, but often ignored by many. Judaism is based on tradition, and while one is certainly encouraged to search for new methods of serving HaShem, one must always reflect on the deeds of our Patriarchs and our Matriarchs. We see that Eliezer was impressed with Rivka because the water from the well miraculously rose up to her, similar to what occurred to Avraham regarding the quarrel with the Plishtim over the wells. Our Sages teach us that even Lot learned the concepts of greeting guests and making them feel welcome from his uncle and brother-in-law Avraham. Thus, it should come as no surprise to us that Yitzchak was seeking in a wife the same virtues that he saw in his mother Sara. The Rashbam provides us further evidence of this idea. It is said (Ibid verse 66) vayisapeir haeved liYitzchak eis kol hadeavrim asher asa, the servant told Yitzchak all the things he had done. Rashi writes that the servant informed Yitzchak regarding the miracles that had occurred with him en route to Rivka, such as the shortened journey to Charan and that through his prayers he found Rivka. The Rashbam adds that Eliezer informed Yitzchak of the miracles to demonstrate to him that Rivka was a suitable mate for him. We see from this marriage that Yitzchak was not seeking a change in the family hierarchy. Rather, he sought the exact ideals that Sara embodied. We too can take a lesson from this approach and fulfill the dictum of the Sages (Tanna Divei Eliyahu § 25) that one should always say, “when will my actions reach the actions of my forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov.” When we observe the dictum we will see that our lifestyle will automatically change, without the injection of false hopes and promises that so often come with the desire for change.
The Shabbos connection
Every week we are blessed with the arrival of the Holy Shabbos. Although our preparations take on a routine, HaShem bestows every Jew with a neshama yeseira, an extra soul that allows him to become transformed with the onset of Shabbos. In the words of the Gemara (Pesachim 117b) Shabbos kevia vikayma, Shabbos is a permanent fixture. The permanence of Shabbos is actually the source of our blessing during the weekday, and this knowledge alone should make us strive to observe the Shabbos in holiness and purity.
Rabbi Label Lam writes: It was Shabbos some twenty years ago and my closest and oldest friend had come to Monsey from Boston to be introduced to a young lady at the table of a neighbor. In the meantime, our house was crowded with twelve or more girls that had come to celebrate the marriage of a friend. All the young ladies politely chattered through the meal and I was left alone to mumble some Shabbos Zemiros and words of Torah. In an inspired moment, my wife brought out a few cold bottles of beer between the fish and the soup. I was singing ever so quietly and hurriedly words to a Shabbos song, “Permissible thoughts and to marry off the daughters” No sooner had the words, “to marry off the daughters” escaped my mouth than a little red-headed girl held up a bottle of beer and shouted with exuberance, “AMEN!” I stopped mid-song, looked up, and mentally snapped a picture. The girls went home, and I was left waiting for my friend to return home. When he entered the door he looked woefully disappointed. “You’re one closer!” I declared trying to console him. I knew I said the wrong thing. I felt bad. He had driven so far only to be disappointed.
Two months later, between Purim and Pesach I awoke on a Sunday morning with an idea percolating in my mind. I promptly shared it with my wife, “What about my friend for that little red-headed girl?!” My wife countered with a skeptical tone, “I don’t see it! He’s so mellow and she’s a real live wire.” I chimed in, “Well look at us!” It gave her cause to pause and so she recommended that I speak to the one person who knew both of them. So I called up this lady that had made many matches and when she heard what I had in mind she got excited and said, “That’s a great idea!” I warned her, “That’s my idea! Don’t touch it!” So I called my friend right away. He was coming back to his apartment from a meeting with the Bostoner Rebbe who had advised him to try again, even with a certain Shidduch that didn’t seem to have much promise “unless, somebody tells you they’ve got somebody very special”. When he picked up the phone I told him right away, “I have someone very special…” His ears perked up. It was the same words the Rebbe had just uttered to him.
Three months later, there we all were by the Chupah at the Marina Del Rey between the Whitestone and Throgsneck Bridges while planes overhead streaked the sky. For years afterward, whenever we would go to Boston to visit them, my friend, would introduce me as the match-maker and all the guys would strike poses before me as if I had a warehouse back in New York. I was embarrassed because although I had tried before and since I have never been successful except this one time. It took me years to figure out who was the real human matchmaker. It was none other than the red-headed girl with the beer and her spontaneous- “AMEN!” (www.Torah.org)
The Other Side of the Story
There is a special mitzvah in the Torah called “Judging others favorably.” This means if I see someone causing me an affront, I have an obligation first to stop, think, and consider if perhaps I am missing one crucial factor.
It’s like the woman who was upset at not being invited to her friend’s wedding, and held a grudge for 20 years… until the invitation finally arrived in the mail accompanied by an apology from the Post Office.
Sometimes we feel we lack either the tools or patience to judge others favorably. As a matter of fact, more often than not we feel there could not possibly be any excuse or justification for certain behavior.
We can challenge these thoughts and prove how talented and ingenious we can be in inventing excuses for others – by seeing how well we do it for ourselves… as the following story portrays:
I am, in my own humble estimation, a reasonably considerate, courteous and judicious driver. I obey signs and traffic signals. I have never willfully cut another driver off, signaled right when I meant to turn left, or honked my horn in an officially designated quiet zone. Yes, I believe I can say without fear of reproof that I am a paragon of virtue and rectitude when I drive a car.
It’s when I park a car that I exhibit signs of, well, not thoughtlessness so much as chronic unawareness. Allow me to explain.
You know how sometimes you’re desperately searching for a space in a busy shopping area and you note, with no small degree of annoyance, that someone ruined a perfectly good spot by parking smack in the center of a space that would otherwise easily have accommodated two cars? Well, that was probably me.
And you know how sometimes (usually when you’re in a real hurry) you want to pull into (or out of) your driveway but you can’t because someone left either the front or back end of their car jutting way into the driveway entrance?
Believe me, I have never been proud of these, shall we say, unfortunate tendencies. (Vividly, I recall returning to my car one afternoon, surprised to find a rather nasty note taped to my back window, Much as I’d have liked to, I really couldn’t disagree with anything in the note, unless maybe it was the spelling of the word “malicious.”) On the other hand, I can’t really say I was terribly troubled by them. My attitude, it now shames me to admit, hovered somewhere between “I probably should try to be more careful” and “what’s the big deal, really?”
But that was before my miraculous and total rehabilitation. But I’ll get to that in a moment; first, one final bit of information.
Since a recent change in my husband’s work location necessitated his driving in to the office each day, he and I decided to purchase a small second car for my personal use. Because the driveway we share with our neighbor, Mr. S., is not large enough to accommodate this vehicle, I generally park it in the street in front of our house.
Hence, a typical scenario: I park the car at the end of the day, blocking a good part of the entrance to the driveway. My husband, who always comes home later than I, barely manages to squeeze his car in.
“It took me ten minutes to pull into the driveway,” he informs me. “There’s no way Mr. S. is going to get his van in. You ‘d better re-park the car.” Out I go, feeling – dare I admit it? – mildly put out. Okay, maybe there isn’t a lot of room, but surely with a little bit of effort…
Now to the episode that I fervently believe has cured me forever.
I’d gotten off to a later start than usual that morning. Despite my frantic efforts to get everyone ready for school on time, my sons missed the bus.
“Great, just great,” I fumed as I hustled the boys into the car. I had an extremely busy morning ahead of me and then an important early afternoon appointment. Driving the kids to school would take twenty minutes I could ill afford to spare. To top it off, I noticed the needle on the gas gauge was hovering close to empty. Oh well, there was enough gas to get me to school and back – I’d fill up later on the way to my appointment.
Twenty minutes later I was back, smoothly pulling the car up in front of the house as I usually do, leaving the car partially blocking the driveway. I gave the situation some quick consideration – my husband had taken public transportation to a meeting with a client that day and Mr. S. never got home until late in the evening – and then put the matter out of my mind.
The morning flew by. Before I knew it, it was time to leave for my appointment. In fact, if I stopped to fill the gas tank as I’d planned, I’d definitely be late. I’d just have to take my husband’s car.
Really racing the clock now, I ran to the driveway, yanked the car door open, jumped in and started backing out. I’d only gone a couple of feet before I hit the brake. What was that I saw in my rear-view mirror?
Was that the back end of a car blocking my driveway?
Had someone actually had the chutzpah, the unmitigated gall, to block my driveway?
How could anyone do such a thing? How could they not stop to think that someone might be in a big hurry to get out?
Forcing myself to keep calm, I tried to determine whether there was any way at all I could maneuver past the vehicle. If I turned the wheel just a couple of degrees to the right and then carefully… no, forget it… there was absolutely no way out.
Now I was really angry. Would I give this person a piece of my mind when he showed up! Where was he anyway? Tentatively, I hit the horn, a few short beeps. Then a few not-so-short ones. Finally, I leaned on the horn, filling the air with one long, ear-piercing blast. Still no sign of the guy. I realized I had no choice but to start ringing doorbells. Fighting back tears of frustration, I slid out of the car and turned towards the street. One step, two… and the awful truth dawned on me at last.
If I’d had the time, I might have written myself a note and taped it to the car window. And believe me, I would have been careful to spell every word right. (www.innernet.org.il)
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Chaye Sara 5771
is sponsored by
David, Myriam and Moti Nederlander
with appreciation to HaShem for Myriam having returned home this past Tuesday after 14 months of hospital and rehab care.
Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos
Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler
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