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Parashat Chayei Sara


The Sea-Horse

With your permission, dear readers, we will present this time a particularly unique creature, the sea-horse. Do not be mistaken, however. We do not refer to a horse with four legs which decided to live in the depths of the sea, but rather to a small fish whose head resembles that of a horse. The Sea-Horse constantly points its head upwards, like a fully developed and sophisticated horse. It lives in the swamps and other vegetation near warm shores. Its length is about 16 centimeters and its color varies. Its body is equipped with special self-defense devices to protect it from its foes. The Sea-Horse is capable of moving its eyes forward and backwards with no coordination whatsoever between the eyes. Thus, in times of danger, it can move its eyes to be able to see both in front and in back at the same time, keeping himself updated at all times as to what is happening all around him.

Interestingly, it is the male Sea-Horse who begets the children. How is this possible? The father Sea-Horse has a pouch in its stomach, similar to that of a kangaroo. After laying the eggs, the mother Sea-Horse places them inside the pouch. The pouch then closes and, for the next 10-45 days, the fate of the young sea-horses depend upon the father. In his pouch they begin to live and grow.

The Sea-Horse is not the only sea-creature whose name resembles his counterpart on dry land. There is also the sea-lion and others. Hazal teach us, "Everything which exists on dry land exists in the sea, except the weasel." Life on dry land resembles that in the depths of the sea. The only difference is that life on dry land is open and visible, whereas life under the sea is concealed from the eyes of people. If we consider the concepts of "revealed" and "hidden," we realize that the individual possesses within him both elements, the revealed - the body, and the hidden - the soul. Some mistakenly think that they can live a "double-life," that they can conduct their physical lives with no connection to their spiritual lives. For example, one who lives a moral, spiritually-orientated existence only on Shabbat or Yom Kippur, while exempting himself from this quality throughout the rest of the year. We must remember that at the moment we accepted the Torah at Mt. Sinai we agreed to be a sacred people, living lives of sanctity in all places, at all times, in accordance with the will of the Almighty.


Measure for Measure (14)

Flashback: A wealthy man who enjoyed the study of Torah met up with an indigent scholar and invited him to his home to converse in complex matters of Torah scholarship, not bothering to offer him anything to eat. He invited him this way twice, and the poor scholar, who had nothing to eat in two days, started walking to the city where he eventually collapsed and died. He was granted permission from the Heavenly Court to appear to the wealthy man to instruct him along a path of repentance. In the depths of the woods he ordered the wealthy man to wear tattered clothes and return to the city. There he was to study Torah without revealing his identity. Only when he was extremely hungry would he be allowed to leave, only to go to his home and ask for something to eat.

In the meantime, the driver waited and waited for his master to return so they can continue the ride. After a while he began looking around for him in the forest. He called his name, thinking that he may have gotten lost in the woods; he listened carefully to hear any clues, but it was all for naught. There was not a sound anywhere. After a good hour his voice was hoarse from screaming and, anxiously, he returned to the wagon and headed back home, to his master's house. He told them of his disappearance, and the townspeople immediately arranged a search party. They combed the area and sent teams to search all the roads and paths, but they came up with nothing. The wealthy man disappeared, and there were no clues as to his whereabouts. They had no choice but to conclude that he had been ambushed by bandits who then killed him. His family mourned, cried and wept, but they never gave up hope for a miracle, they continued waiting for some piece of information regarding their father and husband. But, as the days progressed, their hope waned, and in its place came mourning and their resolve that he was killed. They refused consolation and their spirits never settled, as the decree that the deceased is forgotten from the hearts of his loved ones takes effect only with regard to those who have died. The family members walked slowly and sadly, depressed and hurt. The wealthy man himself, who now looked like a poor, miserable peasant, now returned to the town and went to he Bet Midrash. He began learning diligently, and in his Torah he found solace from the agony of the reversal of his fortune. Hours flew by and, eventually, his hunger interfered with his concentration. He tried to ignore it and intensify his focus. But, the human being is but a human being, and his strength slowly diminished. His head pounded and his vision was blurred. How much longer could he survive? The soul of the poor scholar ordered him not to ask anything from anyone. He had only one option...Without any strength left, he dragged his feet to his own home. He knocked on the door which he recognized so well...


"And do kindness with my master, Avraham"

Rabbenu Behaye zs"l notes that Eliezer opened his prayer with kindness - " kindness with my master, Avraham" and concluded his prayer with kindness - "...and through her I will know that You did kindness with my master." He was very wise, having absorbed the teachings of his master, and he knew that a person is dealt with in a similar manner in which he deals with others. Whoever has compassion on others receives compassion from the Heavens. Since Avraham dealt kindly with all people, and kindness was his defining characteristic, as the pasuk says, "...kindness to Avraham," it is only proper that he would be dealt with kindly.

"And all the good of his master was in his hand"

The Ralba"g zs"l derives a critical lesson from this parashah. Clearly, the match between Yisshak and Rivkah was from the Heavens, and Avraham's blessing accompanied Eliezer. Furthermore, Avraham had already achieved world-renown stature, and there would be no greater privilege than being joined with Avraham's family in marriage. Nevertheless, Eliezer took with him ten camels carrying all types of wealth as well as a document affording rights to Avraham's fortune, not to mention gold jewelry. This teaches us that even when we are accompanied by the grace of the Almighty and success is guaranteed, we must still exert as much effort as we can, rather than relying on a miracle.

"Drink, and I will give your camels to drink, as well"

The "Siftei Kohen" zs"l explains that profound wisdom lay behind the test which Eliezer conducted. If he asks her for a drink, after he drinks his share, what will she do with the water which remains? Would she bring it to her house, not knowing whether or not the stranger was sick with some contagious illness? Would she spill it, thus insulting the man to whom she had just given water? But if she suggests giving it to the camels, this would be the most beneficial idea. This would increase her act of kindness as well as preserve her family's hygiene. In this way, she would demonstrate her cleanliness, sensitivity, maturity, and wisdom.

"Drink, my master...and I will draw for your camels, as well"

Rabbenu Abir Yaakov Abihassera zs"l cites the comment of the Zohar that Rivkah symbolizes the Shechinah. Water, as we know, represents Torah. When a person turns to his Creator in prayer that He help him understand the Torah and draw its waters, he receives divine assistance and the Torah quenches his thirst. Furthermore, the Torah gives water to "his camels," meaning, an abundance of blessing is bestowed upon his assets, as well, for the Torah is a tree of life for those who grab onto it, and its supporters are fortunate. Indeed, Torah study is one of those merits whose fruits an individual consumes in this world, while the principal remains for the World to Come.


Rabbi Aharon Hakohen zs"l

Throughout his life, Rabbi Aharon Hakohen zs"l achieved great honor and stature. He served as the head of the Jewish court in Ssina, the capital of Yemen. He was proficient in all areas of the Torah, and was a renown lover and pursuer of peace, one who loved people and brought them closer to Torah. The ruler of Yemen wanted to appoint him to the position of Chief Rabbi, but the ssadik refused to accept the position, preferring to earn a livelihood through his own work. He therefore became a tailor, and he made coats. He was a skilled craftsman, and his coats were unmatched in their beauty and distinction. The work was done honestly, with precision and skill down to the last detail. Every stitch ended up in the precise location, nothing was skipped or overlooked. Eventually, prominent officials waited in the rabbi's home for him to take their measurements and design for them magnificent, custom-made outfits, appropriate for men of their stature.

Rabbi Aharon, however, took his time, as he spent hours in the Bet Midrash, learning, teaching, and ruling on matters of halachah. He spent most of the time in Bet Midrash Alsherabi, and only when he finished his studies he would go home to greet the officials. They, however, were not used to being treated in this manner. "Tell us," they ordered, "what makes you think that you can treat us this way, leaving us waiting here for several hours?"

Rabbi Aharon answered calmly, "If you don't mind, allow me to first ask you a question. Which is more important - the body or soul?"

"Obviously, the soul is more important. Now please answer our question!"

"The answer is obvious," he replied. "You wait here for me to make you clothing to cover your bodies. In the Bet Midrash, I sew clothing for my soul. You yourselves admitted that the soul is more important!"


Halachot According to the Order of the Shulhan Aruch Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a

By Rav David Yossef shlit"a, Rosh Bet Midrash Yehaveh Da'at

Continued From Last Week

16) The portion of korbanot (sacrifices) should be recited only by day, after daybreak, meaning, one and one-fifth "halachic" hours before sunrise. However, someone who is pressed for time for whatever reason may recite the korbanot starting from one hour and thirty-six minutes (in "halachic hours") before sunrise.

However, the rest of tefilah, from "baruch she'amar" on, should not be recited before one and one-fifth "halachic hours" before sunrise. The earliest time for ssissit and tefillin is several minutes thereafter.

Halachic hours are determined by dividing the time between sunrise and sunset into twelve. Each twelfth constitutes one halachic hour. For example, if there were ten hours between sunrise and sunset, a halachic hour on that day would be fifty minutes. If the time between sunrise and sunset was fourteen hours, then a halachic hour would be seventy minutes, and so on.

17) One does not need to stand during the recitation of korbanot. The custom is to recite korbanot on Shabbat and Yom Tov, as well. Women should recite korbanot except for the section of the tamid (daily sacrifice).

18) The custom is that after reciting the portion of the tamid one says, "Atah hu Hashem Elokenu..." (the introduction to the portion of the "ketoret") and then recites the portion of the ketoret (incense), which comes from Shemot 30:34-6, and then 7-8. Afterward, the "Berayta" of "pitum haketoret" is recited.

The Zohar expands on the great importance of reciting the ketoret each day, and the remarkable benefit for the individual who says it. It says that in the place where "pitum haketoret" is recited with proper concentration and enthusiasm, death has no power there, and the person will be saved from all harm and mishaps. The ketoret is very beloved before the Almighty, more so than any other service performed in the world, and the benefit yielded through its recitation extends beyond that of prayer. Therefore, pitum haketoret should be recited before tefilah. Rabbi Shimon said that if people knew how much significance the Almighty affords to the ketoret, they would take each word and adorn themselves with it like a golden crown. And if one has proper concentration during its recitation, he ensures a respectable place both in this world and in the World to Come.

One should be careful to read each word meticulously from a siddur. Some have the practice of counting the various ingredients of the ketoret with their fingers as they read them.

19) One who comes late to the Bet Kenesset, and, should he first recite the entire order of the korbanot he will miss the shemoneh esreih with the congregation, he should skip all the korbanot and simply begin with baruch she'amar. He should then go back and recite at the korbanot after tefilah.

This applies only if he arrived late to the Bet Kenesset. But if he wants to change the order for some other reason, and recite the korbanot after tefilah, according to the Kabbalists he should not do this, for he thereby reverses the order of the upper worlds.


The Torah, as its name suggests, is a book of instruction. Morals, direction and guidance emerge from every topic contained therein. Hazal derived many halachot and customs from the episode of Eliezer, the servant of Avraham. We will discuss one such issue, one which is so fundamental and significant.

Eliezer, the loyal servant, is sent to perform a missvah. Furthermore, all the divine assistance of Avraham escorted him along his journey. Beyond that, Avraham's personal blessing accompanied him. As if this weren't enough, Eliezer had several miracles performed for him, and he miraculously arrived in Haran on the same day on which he left.

Was their any reason for him to have any doubt whatsoever as to the success of his mission?

Yet, what does Eliezer do? He prays: "He said, Hashem, the God of my master, Avraham, please happen before me today, and do kindness with my master Avraham."

We can never take anything for granted, we can never see anything as guaranteed. Our mouths should never refrain from reciting tefilah, prayers about all matters. Everything in our lives is so fragile, so unstable, everything can collapse in an instant. Let is continually pray for life, good health, peace and tranquillity, "nahat" and a respectable livelihood. Let us recognize that divine assistance is needed in all circumstances, and this realization will bring us an abundance of blessing and success!

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