Parshat Chayei Sarah
Sarah, the 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.
You Are the Man on the Moon!
“Sarah’s lifetime was one hundred years, twenty years… ‘at one hundred she was as free of sin as she was at twenty…(Rashi).” (23:1)
In 1967, Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the Moon, was celebrated as a national hero. While he certainly an extremely brave man, why was he a hero? Armstrong basically followed instructions. In fact, some speculate that it was exactly Armstrong’s down to earth - excuse the pun - prosaic nature that got him the job. The last thing NASA wanted was a romantic stargazer wandering around the moon, going off-script.
Can you imagine the feeling of walking on the moon?! You are walking on the moon! On the moon! The earth is a beautiful enormous green/blue orb hanging in the sky above your head. Your head! You’re the man on the moon. You did it! You!
It’s much easier to get excited about fulfilling positive mitzvos than to refrain from violating negative commandments. We feel so much more accomplished when we perform a good deed — davening with proper intent, or learning with exuberance — than we do when we merely refrain from doing what is wrong.
But feelings can be deceiving.The fulfillment of a positive mitzvah may feel more holy, but the Vilna Gaon writes that we are granted much more reward for refraining from sin. The mishna teaches that Hashem grants each and every tzaddik 310 “worlds” of reward. The Gaon writes that a full 300 of these worlds are granted to him because he turns away from evil, whereas “only” 10 worlds are given to him because of his doing good.
It may be easier to appreciate the doing a mitzvah — celebrating Yom Tov, learning Torah or praying a meaningful section — than to refrain from transgressing. The feeling of spirituality, the “wow factor,” is indeed more readily accessible in the cases of actions and doing good. But the substance of a Jew, the foundation upon which all is built, is refraining from bad.
When we commit to be more careful with what we see, we are laying the foundation of our World to Come, and we are therefore rewarded with the bulk of our reward in Olam Haba. And that is infinitely more exhilarating than walking on the moon.