NOVEMBER 24-25, 2000 27 HESHVAN 5761
- Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"And Abraham was old; he came with his days." (Beresheet 24:1)
What does it mean to "come with your days?" Can a person not come with his days?
There was a person who traveled to a town and visited the cemetery there. He was shocked to see all the adult graves with headstones that had the age of the deceased at three years, four years, five years, etc., and no one had any normal life span of sixty, seventy or eighty. When he questioned the townspeople, he was told that the custom of that place was not to write the actual amount of years lived on this world, but rather how much a person accomplished. Every person would be asked before he passed on to estimate how much time he spent in the service of Hashem. That is why people would only have a few years on their headstones. This is what is meant that Abraham came with his years. Every moment of his life was used to serve Hashem. Indeed the Midrash says that Abraham had a coin minted with a picture of a young man and woman on one side, and an old man and woman on the other. Perhaps this lesson was hinted on that coin. A person must use his life and years to such an extent that he can be considered old as far as how many years were used to serve Hashem.
We can ask ourselves this question, "How much of our life is used in the service of Hashem?" Is it only one or two hours on Shabbat when we come to shul? Do we study morning and night and make sure to pray three times a day? Indeed, if we do even our physical mundane acts for the sake of Heaven, such as eating and sleeping to have strength to do misvot, or going to work to support our families - to support Torah, then most of our day can be considered fulfilling and positive. Our lives will be full with days and years, and we will be considered "coming with our days"! Shabbat Shalom.
- Rabbi Reuven Semah
"Sarah's lifetime was one hundred years, twenty years and seven years" (Beresheet 23:1)
A true story was told about an answering machine. This family lived in Israel and the children loved to put some unusual greetings for the people who call in. Once they put a message in Arabic that the family wasn't home and kindly place a message after the beep. One caller was so frightened thinking some Arab terrorists took over the home! Later he realized that it was unlikely for such people to put a greeting on the phone. Eventually the children grew tired of their game and just encoded the machine to record whatever was said next in the room as the recording that callers would hear. Since computers do exactly as told, it recorded the random sounds that were audible in the living room at the time. In the course of time a close friend called to advise the housewife to listen to their message. She listened and heard herself doing a great imitation of a marine sergeant addressing a recruit who disobeyed. The harsh words she used are not fit to reprint. She was horrified thinking how many people had called, and slowly put down the receiver, not quite knowing what to make of this bizarre message.
The point of this story is that this is something that could never have happened to Sarah Emenu. Rashi tells us that the emphasis placed by the text on the words "these are the years" tells us that all of her years were equal in their goodness. Sarah went through famine, was abducted twice, and at the end of her life she had everything a person could want. Status, wealth and family were all hers, yet she was Sarah in essence throughout. Her responses to life always showed who she really was. She was never for a moment caught off guard, because her real self was truly great. This was the way of all the great sadikim.
R.T. Heller explains that most of us are easily swayed. We view ourselves as victims of circumstance and products of our environment. How do the sadikim do it? The Sefat Emet explains that there is a spiritual cause or "root" for everything that happens to us. The sadikim always look for this root. When we stand on line in the store and have to wait for the customer in front of us, we see this situation in isolation. We get bored and fidgety. What we don't see is Hashem giving us the opportunity to realize that the person in front of us is just as important as we are. That is the "root." If we see this root, we will always do the right thing. Shabbat Shalom.
"No man among us will deny you his burial site to bury your dead" (Beresheet 23:6)
Even though B'nei Het consented to Abraham's burying his wife on their land, he specifically asked for a piece of territory belonging to Efron ben Sohar. The question arises, since B'nei Het said to Abraham, "No person among us will prevent you from burying your dead," why did Abraham make a point of asking Efron for his field? Why didn't he just go and bury Sarah?
Abraham knew, explained the Hafess Hayim, that when a group of people speak as a whole and say that they will do something, each one will refer you to someone else when it comes to putting the lofty words into action. Therefore, Abraham persisted in wanting to speak specifically to one individual in order to ensure that he would personally allow him to buy the piece of land.
This concept is important to remember when you try to motivate a group of people to commit themselves to some worthy project. It's easy for an entire group to say, "We'll all help," "You can count on us," "As soon as you need us we'll be there." What they really mean could be, "Someone else will do it. Of course, I won't be able to." Whenever you want to make sure that something will really be taken care of, get a commitment from a person who has the courage to say, "I'll do it." (Growth through Torah)
"And Abraham heard from Efron, and Abraham weighed for Efron the silver which he spoke about in the ears of the B'nei Het, four hundred shekels of silver that merchants used" (Beresheet 23:16)
On the words, "And Abraham heard, "the Rashbam commented, "A hint is sufficient to the wise man."
Efron spoke as if he were a generous man. He spoke to Abraham with the greatest respect. He ostensibly offered him the burial site free of charge. He mentioned, however, in passing, "The four hundred shekels that one might usually pay for this is nothing between friends. Your friendship is more precious than money. Take it without payment." But Abraham took the hint. He was perceptive and realized that Efron did not really want to give the land for nothing. It might seem to a na?ve bystander that Efron only mentioned the sum of money as an aside, that it was just a passing remark of no significance. But Abraham "heard," and with his well-developed intuition understood Efron's real intentions. He responded to Efron's inner wishes, not to his empty words.
This ability to differentiate between what someone says and what he really means is an attribute that we must develop. For many areas of spiritual growth it is essential.
A few examples: Someone makes a belittling remark about something he just accomplished. The person would really appreciate a kind word. He might be uncertain about the quality of what he did and wants reassurance. This encouragement could be beneficial in motivating him for further accomplishment. If you really "hear" him, you will say those kind words.
A person might be very busy right now. You would like to take up some of his time about a matter that is not really so important to you. When you ask him if you are disturbing him, he replies, "Not too much. I can always stay up late tonight to finish what needs to be done." Perhaps he can really afford to give you the time. On the other hand, he might be fervently wishing you wouldn't impose upon him right now. It's very difficult for him to take off any time today. Learn to "hear" with an awareness of what a person is hinting at.
By gaining this sensitivity and perceptiveness, you will be able to reach greater heights in the misvah of "loving your fellow man." (Growth through Torah)
Answer to Pop Quiz: Forty years old.
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