Parshat Chayei Sara
Sarah, Mother of the Jewish People, passes on at age 127. After mourning and eulogizing her, Avraham seeks to bury her in the Cave of Machpela. As this is the burial place of Adam and Chava, Avraham pays its owner, Ephron the Hittite, an exorbitant sum. Avraham sends his faithful servant Eliezer to find a suitable wife for his son, Yitzchak, making him swear to choose a wife only from among Avrahams family. Eliezer travels to Aram Naharaim and prays for a sign. Providentially, Rivka appears. Eliezer asks for water. Not only does she give him water, but she draws water for all 10 of his thirsty camels. (Some 140 gallons!) This extreme kindness marks her as the right wife for Yitzchak and a suitable Mother of the Jewish People. Negotiations with Rivka's father and her brother Lavan result in her leaving with Eliezer. Yitzchak brings Rivka into his mother Sarahs tent, marries her and loves her. He is then consoled for the loss of his mother. Avraham remarries Hagar who is renamed Ketura to indicate her improved ways. Six children are born to them. After giving them gifts, Avraham sends them to the East. Avraham passes away at the age of 175 and is buried next to Sarah in the Cave of Machpela.
The Good Life
“Sarah’s lifetime was one hundred years, twenty years, and seven years; the years of Sarah’s life.” (23:1)
The millionaire had no doubt as to whom he would not leave his vast fortune. His son.
His son was a professional layabout who could give a three-year course in idleness without a note of preparation.
One day he called his son and announced his intention to leave his riches to charity.
Faced with this catastrophe, the son hurried to his chief advisor and confidante — his mother.
“Look,” she said, “here’s a fifty dollar bill. Go and tell your father that you earned this and that you are really worthy to be his inheritor.”
The son approached his father, waiving the fifty dollar bill in his hand, “Father, look at this, I earned this money myself.”
“Let me see that!” said the father. Taking the fifty-dollar bill in his hand, he laughed, “You earned this! Pheh!” And with that, the father deftly incinerated the fifty-dollar bill with his cigar.
The son returned to his mother and told her what had happened.
“Okay,” she said, “try again! Take this fifty dollar bill and tell him that you worked all morning for it.”
The second bill received a reception identical to the first — instant cigarine immolation.
Dejected, the son returned to his mother. “Listen,” she said, “why don’t you go down to the town square and see if you can get a job. Maybe that will work.”
The son made his way to the town square. For some considerable time, he tried to find a job. Eventually, someone gave him an hour’s work schlepping some very heavy kegs of beer into a cellar.
And for this hour’s work, he received the princely sum of five dollars.
Immediately he ran to his father and showed him the money.
“Father! Look, I made this money just now!” The father took the bill and as the cigar approached the hapless bill, the son cried out, “Stop! You know how hard I worked for that money?”
“Ahh!” said the father, ”This money you earned!”
“Sarah’s lifetime was one hundred years, twenty years, and seven years; the years of Sarah’s life.”
Rashi tells us that the reason why the Torah repeats the word “years”between each number, “one hundred years, twenty years, and seven years…” is that each section of Sarah’s life exemplified an outstanding quality.
For example, at the age of one hundred, she was as sinless as a twenty year-old (The Torah only mandates Heavenly punishment from twenty years old and above.)
You don’t clock up a hundred sinless years without a lot of hard work.
But why should it be such hard work?
G-d created the whole universe just so man could experience the greatest pleasure that exists — being close to Him. Compared to this pleasure everything else is as valuable as a glass diamond.
But if the purpose of the world is for us to have pleasure, why is it such hard work to get there?
It’s axiomatic that G-d is the ultimate Good that can be. Since His desire was to do good to another entity — man — it follows that that Good must be the best Good possible. If we were to get the Good without working for it, we would feel like a pauper feels when someone drops a coin in his hand. “I don’t really deserve this.” To avoid this, G-d gives us the Good by our trying to earn it.
Then a five-dollar bill feels a lot more than fifty dollars.
- Sources: Rashi, Ramchal