Dvar Torah Parshat Chaye-Sara 2015 5776 – Be Happy, Be Rich

Concerning the death of Avraham the Torah says he died at an old age: וְשָׂבֵעַ, “and content”. (Gen. 25,8) What does it mean by saying Avraham was content?

The Ramban gives a very enlightening explanation on this verse. He says that most people are not satisfied with what they have. He quotes the words of Kohelet: אֹהֵב כֶּסֶף לֹא יִשְׂבַּע כֶּסֶף, “he that has silver will not be satisfied with silver…”. (Kohelet 5,9) Or as the saying goes, “He who has one hundred, desires two hundred.” Avraham, on the other hand, was satisfied with what he had.

Ben Zoma tell us in the Mishnah: איזהו עשיר השמח בחלקו, “Who is rich? He who is happy with his lot”.(Avot 4,1)

Many Sages in the Talmud were very poor and yet they managed to continue with their studies and did not complain about their fate. They were happy with what they had.

This is an important message to teach us how a person should live. One should strive to do his best to earn whatever he wants. However, he must be satisfied with what he actually has. If he is not satisfied and does not appreciate what Hashem gives him, he will never be happy


Dvar Torah Parshat Chayei Sarah 2014 5775 – The Jews in Israel

When Avraham goes to Ephron to purchase a burial plot for his wife Sarah, he makes a statement to Ephron: גֵּר־וְתוֹשָׁב אָנֹכִי עִמָּכֶם, “I am an alien and a resident among you…”. (Gen.23,4) The word עִמָּכֶם is translated “among you”, but it can also be translated “with you” or “as you are”. Avraham was telling Ephron that everyone living on the face of the earth at one time was an alien and after time became a resident. No one was a resident when the world was created.

This argument can be used today to support the claim of the Jews to the Land of Israel. The Jews were residents of this land centuries ago. Many conquerors tried to establish themselves in the land but none ever succeeded. The only ones who were able to settle the land were the Jews. The Arab’s claim today that they were living here is a myth. They did not settle the land and didn’t come to this land until the Jews started to return and built up the country.

The only people who have a legitimate claim to the Land of Israel are the Jewish people. The Torah promises it to them and they actually are the only people who ever settled it in the past and the only ones who were able to develop it in the present.

Dvar Torah on Chayei Sarah 5773 2013 – An Alien and a Resident

When Avraham is negotiating with the Bnei Chet to buy a burial ground for his wife Sarah and future generations he makes a strange contradictory statement to them. He says: גֵּר וְתוֹשָׁב אָנֹכִי עִמָּכֶם “I am an alien and a resident among you…”. (Gen. 23,4) Which is he? Rabbi Soloveitchik has a unique elucidation of this passage.

He explains that Avraham is talking to them for the Jews throughout the generations to come. The Jew is indeed a תוֹשָׁב, a true resident among the nations of their dispersion. He deals in business with them; he speaks their language; he participates in their social and monetary institutions; he serves in the army and is prepared to protect the land; he partakes in their labs; tries to cure the sick; he works and develops the land – he is a resident in the full sense of the word.

Yet he is also an alien and in certain areas he is even a stranger. He belongs to a world that is completely strange to them, a world in which he is united with the Creator of the universe; a world and a tradition that is completely incomprehensible and curious to them; to a world of spiritual values that are not realistic according to their understanding; a world of sacrifices and of Torah, mercy, righteousness, and holiness. The Jew is indeed an alien among them.

Avraham, therefore, pleads for a burial ground that will be strictly a Jewish burial ground and a place they can call their own. He purchased מְעָרַת הַמַּכְפֵּלָה, the cave of Machpelah in Hebron. He purchased it, and today its ownership is contested.

Dvar Torah Parshat Chaye Sarah 5773 2012

Referring to the years of Sarah’s life the Torah starts by saying: וַיִּהְיוּ חַיֵּי שָׂרָה, “Sarah’s life time was…” and proceeds to give the number of years she lived. The verse then ends by repeating the words: שְׁנֵי חַיֵּי שָׂרָה:, “…the years of Sarah’s life.” (Gen. 23,1)

Rashi recognizes that these last words are the repetition of the opening words of the verse and gives an explanation. He says the repetition is to tell us that all the years were equally good. This is very difficult to understand since we know that her life was not always a pleasant one.

To begin with, she was barren and could not conceive a child until she miraculously gave birth to Yitzchak when she was ninety years old. She had aggravation from her maidservant Hagar. She was depressed about the evil influence Ishmael had on Yitzchak. What did Rashi mean when he wrote that all her years were equally good?

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein asked this question and gave a brilliant answer. He suggested that Rashi was not referring to goodness in her own life but rather to the goodness that she showed to others. No matter in what state of mind she was she never let it show in her treatment of others. In this sense Rashi means her life was always equal for goodness.

This is not an easy trait to emulate but is worth attempting. We should never let our mood reflect in our actions to others.

Dvar Torah Parshat Chaye Sarah 5772 2011

When Avraham sends his trustworthy servant Eliezer to find a wife for Yitzchak, he tells him to go: EL ARTZI VE’EL MOLADETI, “to my land and to my birthplace”. (Gen. 24,4) When Eliezer relates to Rivka’s family the mission he was given by Avraham he says he was told to go: EL Bet Avi, “to my father’s house”. (Gen. 24,38)

When Hashem first spoke to Avraham and told him LECH LECHA, He mentioned all three of these aspects. He told him to leave his land, his birthplace and his father’s house. Eliezer mentioned the third item that Avraham omitted.
No matter what Avraham told his servant and no matter what his servant told Rivka’s family, when a person changes his dwelling place, these are the three hardest things with which he must contend. Avraham heeded the call of Hashem and did not hesitate. Rivka did the same. Although her family attempted to discourage her and delay her departure, Rivka did not hesitate. When asked if she will go, her immediate response was, “I will go”. (Gen. 24,58)

Jews who make Aliya to Israel face the same predicament, especially those coming from the United States. Most of them were born there and grew up there. Their contacts and their associations are all in that country. Their language and their livelihood are dependent on that country and its culture.

It is not easy for American Jews to make Aliya. Those who do move are courageous and dedicated and respond to the call just as Avraham and Rivka did. They leave their country, their birthplace and their father’s house but they go to the country where Jews belong.

Dvar Torah Parshat Chaye Sarah 5770 2010

When Avraham is negotiating to buy the Ma’arat Hamachpela to bury his wife Sarah, Efron, the owner of the property suggests a price in a very cunning manner. He says: ERETZ ARBA ME’OT SHEKEL KESEF BENI UVENCHA MAH HI, “…a land worth four hundred silver shekel, between me and you, what is it…?” (Gen. 23,15)

Rashi comments on the phrase “between me and you”, between two friends like us what is it worth? What was Rashi’s rational that he deducted from Efron’s words that he implied that they were friends, hence what is four hundred shekel between friends?

A Rabbi once explained it very cleverly. When addressing an important person or a superior, one should say, “between you and me”. It would be a slight to mention yourself before the dignitary. When one speaks to someone they love, it is proper to say “between me and you”. Informality is acceptable.

Hence Rashi explains that he addressed Avraham as someone he loved and it is thus proper to mention himself first.

It is very important when speaking to others that the proper approach and the proper language be used.

Dvar Torah Parshat Chayeh Sara 5770 2009

Before his demise Avraham divides up his possessions among his children. To Yitzchak, who was going to carry on his traditions and his teachings of Hashem: VAYITEN AVRAHAM ET KOL ASHER LO LEYITZCHAK, “ Avraham gave all that he had to Yitzchak. (Gen. 25,5) To his other children, whom he had from all the other wives, he gave: MATANOT, “…gifts…”. (Gen. 25,6) Since this was an inheritance why use the terminology “gifts”? To Yitzchak he gave “all he had” and to the others he gave “gifts”.

Avraham was a wealthy man. The Torah testifies this. He made his wealth from two different sources. His major wealth cme from his own work, his own labor, what we would call his regular income. He also got great gifts and wealth from Pharaoh when he sent him away after the incident with Sarah.

The Kli Yaker explains that to Yitzchak he gave what he earned on his own initiative, from his own toil. To the others he gave the “gifts” he had received. The gifts he gave to those who would not carry on his traditions. The gifts he got he gave back to the source from which it came, the non-Jewish source.