Torah Weekly - Parshat Chayei Sarah

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Parshat Chayei Sarah

For the week ending 27 Cheshvan 5761 / 24 & 25 November 2000

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    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 Avraham's 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 Sarah's 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.




    "Sarah's lifetime was one hundred years, twenty years and seven years." (23:1)

    Nothing is more ironic than fashion. About six months after you throw out your ultra-wide kipper-tie as being a fashion relic never to return, you see blazoned across the fashion page "The Return of the Kipper-Tie." A year after you bid farewell to your antique bell-bottom Levi's, they re-appear in the shops at house-mortgaging prices.

    If you hang on to anything long enough, it's bound to come back into fashion.

    That's really the history of the Jewish People. We've hung on to our devotion to Torah even when it was about as fashionable as a kipper-tie or a pair of winkle-pickers. Even when it looked like the Bible critics had it all their own way, suddenly a book like "The Bible as history" by Kathleen Kenyon comes along and demonstrates with cool scientific precision that the Torah's historical narrative is accurate and that archeology has discovered nothing to contradict it. And Jews start dusting off their copy of the Torah like their old bell-bottoms.

    In Germany, a hundred years ago when it was the trendy thing to treat Judaism as no more than a membership to a quaint club, when the Torah was about as fashionable as plus-fours, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch built a community that looked the modern world squarely in the eye and showed how a Jew could live in it without compromising a single inch of his love and commitment to the G-d of Israel and His Torah.

    Yes, if you hang on to something, it always comes back into fashion. But there's another fashion. A fashion that never changes. Paris may move hem-lines up and down three-or-so feet, Milan may make necklines that soar and plunge, but the Jewish woman has her fashion -- and it never goes out of style. It's called tzniut.

    Tzniut is usually mistranslated as modesty. It really means "private" and "bearing humility." The Jewish woman garbs herself in tzniut and nothing makes her more beautiful. Not the latest from Dior or Cacharel. Not the sequins or the boas of Givenchy. The "Designer label" that lifts the Jewish woman above being a decorative dolly is tzniut.

    The Jewish woman's legacy of tzniut comes from our mother, Sarah.

    Sarah passed away at the age of 127. The Torah records her age in an unusual manner. It says "Sarah's lifetime was one hundred years, twenty years and seven years." Why not just write "Sarah's lifetime was 127 years?"

    Sarah's beauty at twenty years was the same as when she was seven. Just as a seven year-old has a beauty which is wholesome and unaffected, so Sarah at age twenty had that same unaffected beauty which neither needs nor employs cosmetics or high-fashion. An un-gilded beauty which radiates because it is concealed. That's Jewish fashion.



    Melachim I 1:1 - 31



    It is the duty of parents to instill in their child the same Torah values by which they themselves live, and to ensure that their offspring become the next link in the chain of G-d's eternal mission. This job often continues until the parent's very last days.

    This message is delivered to us both in the Parsha and in its parallel haftara. In the Parsha, the aging Avraham -- having successfully raised Yitzchak to follow in his ways -- faces the challenge of finding a wife suitable for the future father of Israel. Avraham's job as parent wasn't finished just because his son had proved righteous. His task was not complete until he gave Yitzchak everything necessary to carry on Avraham' mission and to fulfill his own personal potential.

    In the haftara, too, we find the ailing King David with one final task to complete. His son Adoniyahu had proclaimed himself heir to the throne, hoping David's silence would be viewed as tacit approval. David, however, quickly made it known that his son Shlomo would be the next king. It was Shlomo who was best able to carry on David's work and complete the building of the Beit Hamikdash.

    Our Sages tell us "The righteous have no rest in this world nor in the world to come." The righteous have no desire to sit and stagnate; rather, every opportunity for growth must be seized. As we learn from Avraham and David, there is no retirement from parenthood, nor from the service of G-d.

    Written and Compiled by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair
    General Editor: Rabbi Moshe Newman
    Production Design: Michael Treblow

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