Chayei Sarah

Living Time – Chayei Sarah

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Sunday: Attune Your Tone and Make Beautiful Music

And the life of Sarah was one hundred years and twenty years and seven years the years of the life of Sarah.” Rashi explains: “One hundred years old like a twenty year old for (who has not) sinn(ed), twenty years old like a seven year-old for beauty.”

The first praise of Sarah is that she was without sin. The Hebrew word for ‘sin’ is cheit, which is the root of hachta-ah, which means ‘to miss the mark’.  A sin is missing the mark. Sarah did not miss her target even with a hairsbreadth. She was exact and totally attuned.

The second praise of Sarah is for her beauty. Why is a seven-year-old girl more beautiful than a twenty-year-old woman? Because the beauty of a seven-year-old is innocent and pure beauty. She is not aware of her beauty and so, it is true beauty. Thus our Sages homiletically explained the verse in Psalms 37:18, “G-d knows the days of the innocent-hearted and their inheritance shall be forever,” – “This is Sarah, who was innocent-hearted in her deeds…like an innocent calf.

We can liken the life of Sarah our Matriarch to a great melody. In truth, every person has his/her own special melody. In order for the melody to be beautiful, it must not miss its mark, it must be exact, not fake and the musician must be perfectly attuned to the melody, giving himself over to it and flowing with it with innocence.

But that is not all. There is one more crucial point necessary to make the melody truly beautiful. If the musician is involved with his own experience of his awesome melody – of how it makes him awesome, he has missed the mark entirely and has ruined his melody.

We can liken the life of Sarah our Matriarch to a great melody. In truth, every person has his/her own special melody. In order for the melody to be successful, it must not miss its mark, it must be exact, not fake and it must be beautiful. Both of these depend upon the musician being focused on the melody, giving himself over to it and flowing with it with innocence. But if he notices his own experience, he misses the mark and fouls the beauty.

Monday: The Cave of Longing

Abraham bought the Cave of Machpelah for four hundred silver shekels. In Hebrew, the word for silver, kesef,  is also the root of the word kisufim, which means ‘longing’. Kabbalistic literature speaks of ‘four hundred worlds of longing’: Four hundred worlds of pleasure that the *tsaddikim* (righteous individuals) inherit in the World to Come. This is the secret of the four hundred silver (longing) shekels that Abraham paid for the Cave.


In other words, the Cave of Machpelah represents the lofty pleasure of the World to Come, here, in this world. Actually, the entire Land of Israel is innately connected to the World to Come. Israel is the “Land of the Life”. But the Cave of Machpelah in Hebron is the place of the connection to the World to Come. (The Hebrew word for Hebron, חברון, shares a root with חיבור , which means ‘connection’). For this reason, the act of taking possession of the Land of Israel begins in Hebron, in the past and for always.


Rebbe Nachman of Breslov says that one must always live with “the memory of the World to Come”. No, we do not want to die in order to reach the World to Come, G-d forbid. Instead, we must remember the World to Come while we are living. By doing so, we connect the worlds and draw the life force of the World to Come down into the life of this world.


This is the secret of our holy Patriarchs and Matriarchs, who are interred in the Cave of Machpelah, and this is the secret of the entire Torah portion of Chayei Sarah – the life of Sarah that holistically connects between the two worlds.


Chayei Sarah: Tuesday: Mission and Matchmaking

Eliezer, the servant of Abraham, goes to Charan to find a wife for Isaac. Charan is a long way off but Eliezer arrives the same day, as Rashi explains on the verse in which Eliezer recounts the story of his mission, “And I came today to the spring,” – Rashi: “I set out today and I arrived today.” This is the first Divinely inspired compressed- travel-time in the Torah. It takes place in the merit of Abraham. Abraham is very swift. In Hebrew, even the letters of his name, when re-arranged, spell bah-maher, “he comes quickly”. Abraham’s messenger, Eliezer, merits a compressed travel-time by virtue of his master, Abraham, who sent him on his mission.

The main part of the story is Eliezer’s success in finding a match for Isaac, with wondrous Divine Providence. This success is in the merit of Isaac. Note the two parallel stories: Eliezer arrives at the well with the camels “at dusk”. He stands and prays and suddenly “And behold Rebecca comes out”. Later in this Torah portion, the servant arrives with Rebecca and the caravan of camels “And Isaac came from the way of Be’er Lachai Ro’ee…and Isaac went out to converse in the field at dusk…and behold camels were coming”. Isaac goes out to the field at dusk to converse with G-d. He prays that his soulmate will be found and his prayer is answered even before he uttered it, when Rebecca went out at dusk.

Abraham is unique in his character trait of kindness and love. The love and the longing cause the compression of the journey and they arrive in the blink of an eye.

Isaac is unique in the character trait of might and fear. In order to actually find one’s soulmate, love and attraction are not enough. One needs sensitivity (one of the manifestations of the trait of might) to recognize the suitability of the match – a matchmaker that is motivated by fear of Heaven.

May every person find his/her soulmate with goodness and ease!

Chayei Sarah: Wednesday: On the Path of Truth

The word emet, ‘truth’ is basic and important. It first appears in the Torah in our Torah portion. It actually appears three times in this portion, which is the smallest space in the Torah between the repeated appearance of this word. First Eliezer, the servant of Abraham says, “Blessed is G-d…Whose lovingkindness and truth did not leave my master”. Afterwards, Eliezer tells Rebecca’s family how he thanked G-d “Who guided me on the path of truth”,   and finally he says to them, “And now if you will do lovingkindness and truth with my master, tell me.”

The first revelation of truth, which is the seal of G-d, is in this story, which is the ultimate manifestation of Divine Providence – so much so, that even Laban and Betuel admit that “This has come out from G-d”.

It all begins with Abraham, the great man of faith. Faith is connected to truth, emet v’emunah. This faith first manifests in Eliezer, in his inner sense of certainty. Afterwards, he expresses this truth when he recounts the story. Finally, he demands of the others to act with truth. Laban and Betuel first agree. It seems like they are connecting to the truth.  But in no time it turns out that for them, their willingness to act with truth was strictly superficial and they attempt to retract…until Rebecca saves the day with one word: Elech! (“I will go!”)


Chayei Sarah: Thursday: Mashiach in the Field

Isaac enacted the afternoon Minchah prayer. “And Isaac went out to converse in the field at dusk.”

The verse in Psalms says, “Let my prayer be set out as incense (ketoret) before you, the lifting of my hands the evening offering”. From here we learn that the Minchah prayer is like the service of the ketoret, the incense, in the Holy Temple. The morning prayer, Shacharit, is likened to an olah  sacrifice, an animal that is offered up on the outer altar with great public ado. The afternoon prayer, Minchah, is an inward prayer – like the incense on the inner altar, offered quietly and secretly.

The Hebrew word for incense, ketoret, also means hitkashrut, ‘connection’. (In Aramaic, the word katira means kesher, ‘connection). This is the connection of the inner dimension of the heart to G-d.

The Talmud says, “A person should always be careful about the Minchah prayer, for Elijah was only answered at the Minchah prayer”. In the merit of the Minchah prayer on Mount Carmel, Elijah the Prophet succeeded in bringing all of Israel to call out, “Hashem is G-d”. In the same manner, Elijah will bear the tidings of the coming of Mashiach from the inner connection of the Minchah prayer. We will go out to converse לשוח in the field like Isaac, and behold, the משיח Mashiach will come. As can be seen in the Hebrew above, the Hebrew words for converse and Mashiach share the same letters. Mashiach converses with G-d in prayer.

Mashiach is unique in his sense of smell, as is written in Isaiah “And his sense of smell will be fear of G-d”. Thus, he is connected to the Minchah prayer, the inner incense that is the best fragrance in the world.

Chayei Sarah: Friday: The Land of Kedem

And to the children of the concubines of Abraham, Abraham gave gifts and he sent them from upon Isaac his son while he was still alive, to the east, to the land of Kedem.” Rashi explains that the gifts that Abraham gave the children of the concubines were “the name of impurity”.

This is the root and source of all the eastern religions, “the land of Kedem”. If one travels to India, for example, one sees there a lot of idolatrous impurity – a far cry from Abraham, who shattered the idols. Nevertheless, a holy spark that comes from Abraham is captive within the impurity. It is no coincidence that the highest caste in India is called the Brahmin, a clear allusion to Abraham.

Abraham leads the trait of kindness and love. The rectification of the East is the rectification of love. Abraham has his main wife, Sarah, and the concubines (Hagar-Keturah). These wives correspond to the love of G-d at its upper level, a love that exists in the Nation of Israel – and a good love of G-d that can exist among the nations of the world. A person who completely converts and joins the Nation of Israel becomes a son of Abraham and reaches love of G-d at its upper level. A person who does not convert should become a Righteous Gentile, who recognizes the truth of the Nation of Israel and walks in the way of Abraham, who was “the father of the multitude of nations”.


Chayei Sarah: As Shabbat Approaches: Our Mantra

In the previous section we discussed the special gift that Abraham gave the children of the concubine, “the name of impurity” and its connection to eastern religions. What does this mean? On one hand, a name of impurity sounds very bad. But on the other hand, a gift is supposed to be something good, something that is given with a loving eye and abundance. This is certainly the case if the giver of the gift is none other than Abraham, the great personification of love!

The explanation is that the “name of Impurity” is one of G-d’s Holy Names. There is a possibility, however, and in some cases it is permissible for the nations that have not yet merited the light of the pure faith of Israel to use it while in impurity.

Apparently, the name of impurity from Abraham that reached the East is OM. This is the central mantra in the eastern religions (Hinduism, Buddhism and more). The holy source of OM is from the “Name of seventy two letters” (which is also mentioned in the Talmud). Actually, this Name is 72 permutations of three letters, and this name (spelled with three letters in Hebrew, אום,) is one of them.

OM is like the seal of Abraham himself. Both Abraham’s name and the word OM begin with the letter alef and end with the letter mem. This seal also appears in the expression that explains the meaning of the name Abraham. In Hebrew, this expression is   אב המון גוייםthe father of a multitude of nations. The first, middle and last letters of this expression spell OM.

The meaning of OM is further revealed by its gematria, its numerical value. OM (אום) = 47, the same numerical value as bitul , self-nullification. Abraham taught that the entire reality of the world is null to the Creator and that man must also nullify himself to the will of G-d. Eastern religions mention this nullification, but in a different way that also manifests in a garment of impurity. Nevertheless, a holy spark also hides inside the impurity – a point of nullification to the concept of G-d. Ultimately this spark will emerge from its impure garment and return to its source, as will take place soon, with G-d’s help.

If so, the rectification for this name of impurity is to recognize and internalize the Holy Name at its source, to reach a true level of self-nullification to G-d. It is not necessary to travel to India to look for gifts there. You can go straight to the source. Ultimately, everybody will get there.

Shabbat Shalom!

The translations  are l’ilui nishmat Alteh Necheh bat Haim Nuteh and R’ Elimelech ben Moshe.


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