Chayei Sarah

November 19th 2022

25th Cheshvan 5783

Utilize Heaven-sent Opportunities

Rabbi David Chananya Pinto

"Let it be that the maiden to whom I shall say, 'Please tip over your jug so I may drink,' and who replies, 'Drink, and I will even water your camels,' she will be the one You  have designated for Your servant, for Yitzchak" (Bereishit 24:14).

The question begs to be asked: Why did Eliezer, servant of Avraham Avinu, go about the task of finding a wife for Yitzchak through prayers and signs? Should he not rather have gone to search high and low until coming across a suitable marriage partner?

The reason could be that Eliezer himself, before leaving Avraham Avinu's home with ten camels, heard his master praying to Hashem that He should send His angel before Eliezer to help him find a wife for his son Yitzchak.

And after setting out, Eliezer experienced great miracles; the journey shortened for him when he travelled to Padan Aram. He understood this was a Heaven-sent opportunity to be assisted through prayer. Therefore when he arrived at the well at the same time as the shepherds, he prayed to Hashem for assistance in finding a suitable marriage partner for Yitzchak.

We can compare this to a poor man who walks around in rags. His daughter is about to get married, but he is penniless and has nothing to offer her. So he leaves home and sets out for a far-away town to collect money for the wedding expenses. And since he is poor and wretched, he travels on foot, even though he lacks a decent pair of shoes. He feels hopeless and does not know where help will come from.

But then suddenly a luxury chariot passes by him, in which the honorable king himself is riding. When the king sees this poor man dragging himself along in the bitter cold, mud stuck to his bare feet, he is overcome with compassion. He stops the chariot and invites the poor man to join him, offering to take him to his destination.

The poor man sits down next to the king, who then turns to him and asks, "Why are you wandering around in this terrible cold? Do you need anything? You look poor and destitute; please tell me what the problem is and maybe I can help you." If at this point the poor man would look at the king in puzzlement and answer, "No thank you! I don't need any help from you. I don't lack anything, and I can help myself!" then we would not define him as an ordinary being, but as a someone senseless. After all, the king himself is sitting next to him and wishes to help. He must take advantage of this opportunity that has come his way and ask the king to fill his every need!

The moral is clear. We, children of the King of kings, at all times and at every hour stand in the presence of our merciful Father Who wishes to help and assist us. A Jew is never lost and never alone, says the holy Baal Shem Tov. And if so, every person constantly has the opportunity to be helped by the generous and wide open hand of the Almighty. This is an opportunity that should be taken advantage of! Ask Him for all your needs and demand everything from Him.

This is a most important lesson for us to internalize. When a person sees he is receiving special Divine Assistance, he should take advantage of that opportunity, and whether through prayer or various symbolic acts or any other form of beseeching, he should not let it go. He should to pray to Hashem  and then indeed, he will merit siyata d'Shmaya.

Walking in Their Ways

A Jewel of a Prayer

Once when I was studying Torah in a beit kenesset in Lyon, a man walked into the synagogue and began praying with profuse tears. I asked if there was anything I could do to help. He wiped away his tears and related he had lost all his money through gambling, so he had come to pray that Hashem perform wonders for him and help him find a sizable sum of money or a diamond.

I responded, “Why don’t you ask Hashem to send you the money in a natural way, just as He provides for all living creatures? Why do you ask specifically for a miracle?”

“Believe me, Rabbi,” he replied, despair oozing from his voice, “there is no other way for Hashem to send me the money. I don’t even have a franc with which to buy a lottery ticket. Therefore, I am praying that if someone deserves to lose his money, I should be the lucky finder.”

I truly felt for this man and offered him a nice donation, but he flatly refused. He claimed he had never taken a penny from anyone in his life and had no interest in starting now. Unable to help him in any other way, I could only bless him that his prayers should be well received and he should merit Hashem's salvation.

Two days went by. The man returned to the beit kenesset, wreathed in smiles. He dug into his pocket and pulled out an impressive-looking diamond, explaining that he had found it near his house. Now he would manage to pay up his debts and even be left with money to start up an independent business.

Seeing the diamond sparked an insight into the power of prayer. How much Hashem loves the entreaties of those who turn to Him in difficult times! Our wholehearted prayers can accomplish wonderful things and even change the course of nature.

Words of the Sages

Rivka Would Not Have Been Accepted in 'Beit Yaakov'!

The chairman of Chinuch Atzmai, Rabbi Tzvi Boimel shlit"a, related (U'matok Ha'or):

A wealthy philanthropist arrived in Israel and asked me to accompany him to the Rosh Yeshiva, Harav Shteinman zt"l. While sitting in the waiting room I told him about a plan to open a high school in the north of Israel for girls from troubled homes who have a hard time being accepted in the existing institutions, and the need for financial assistance.

He listened with interest and told me that although he had already distributed a lot of charity, he was willing to give an initial amount of $48,000, so they could open the school.

One of the seminary principals I spoke with told me that despite the wealthy man's generosity, this initial amount was extremely minimal, since there would be no government support for the first few years, and the overhead is enormous. To illustrate this point, the principal said: the amount you received is comparable to walking into a Mercedes dealership with a thousand shekels in your hand, and asking to purchase a car...

I later told the Rosh Yeshiva about the gentleman who gave $48,000 and the parable of the Mercedes.

The Rosh Yeshiva asked me, "What is a Mercedes?"

I explained that it is a very expensive car costing hundreds of thousands of shekels.

"And where can you buy such a car?" He continued to ask. I replied, "Probably in Tel Aviv you can purchase this expensive car."

"If so," the Rosh Yeshiva smiled, "take a thousand shekels and go buy the car. Maybe they will sell it to you…"

Indeed that's what I did! I opened the institution with 'a thousand shekels', and with Hashem's help it succeeded beyond all expectations! And to this day it continues to produce outstanding students.

Rabbeinu saw those $48,000 as special siyata d'Shmaya, so he encouraged me to go ahead. Do you really need to have a million dollars in your pocket to establish an institution? If there is an initial sum, you go ahead and merit Divine Assistance!

In this very high school there was a girl who used to do her homework on Shabbat. The girl did not deny this and even openly and defiantly spoke about it. The question arose whether to expel her from the school so she would not influence others. Of course such a question, dealing with the serious issue of the girl's spiritual future, was submitted to Rabbeinu.

His answer was unequivocal: "That's why you opened the school! To influence such girls!" And he quoted the verse, "Because that is what you were created to do!"

"Do you know that Rivka Imeinu would not have been accepted in a Beit Ya'akov school? Do you know what kind of father she had? And what kind of brother? It was a family of criminals!"

Maran continued and said with humor: "They also had poison in the house! Apparently it was a regular fixture in the house, because it is not written anywhere that when Eliezer arrived they sent someone to the pharmacy to buy poison! They probably kept a permanent stock so if they would have to get rid of someone, they would have the means…"

And then Rabbeinu began crying and said: "This terrible house produced this daughter (Rivka Imeinu). And when she went to draw water from the well, the water rose towards her. But girls like that are not accepted in 'Beit Yaakov'…"

Time passed and I again approached Rabbeinu and told him the girl continues to do her homework on Shabbat. This was his reply: "You were already here three months ago and I told you 'Because that is what you were created to do!' So why are you asking again?"

The end of the story: I attended that student's wedding which took place in a wedding hall in Bnei Brak. She married an outstanding ben Torah who is dedicated to Torah study, and they established a wonderful home based on the highest Torah values.

From the Treasury

Rabbi David Chananya Pinto

The Grave Brings Man Closer to Hashem

"That I may bury my dead from before me" (Bereishit 23:4).

When Avraham Avinu searched for a plot of land to bury his wife Sarah, there was an important lesson he wished to teach the entire world. He asked the children of Chet to grant him an estate for a burial site, "that I may bury my dead from before me." But later on when Ephron agreed to take money for the field, he said to Avraham, "Your dead bury," reversing the wording.

The holy sefarim tell us that purchasing a grave is a segulah for long life. There are tzaddikim who buy themselves a plot of land, and even dig the grave and enter it, to remind themselves of the day of death and thus be inspired to repent and draw closer to Hashem. Since the grave (burial site) is the stimulus for a life of content, it precedes death, as Avraham said, "… bury my dead." But concerning the wicked who spend their time in this world pursuing transient pleasures, it says "Your dead bury." Death precedes the grave, for the grave plays no role in their lives.

According to this we can reconcile a well-known question asked by all the commentaries. The verse says (Bereishit 23:2) "And Avraham came to eulogize Sarah and to bewail her," but does not go on to describe the content of the eulogy.

We can say the eulogy was that "Sarah's lifetime was one hundred years, twenty years, and seven years." Rashi explains the repetition of the word "years" to signify that throughout the different stages of her life she remained equally righteous. She constantly served Hashem and strove to draw closer to Him, inspiring other women to follow her path, as Chazal say (Bereishit Rabba 39:14), "Sarah converted the women."

Sarah herself did not need to remember the day of death.  She joyfully toiled to attain spiritual elevation, never diverting her attention from her goal in life.

But we lowly people who are drawn after materialism need to remind ourselves of the day of death. We must keep in mind that after one hundred and twenty years in This World we will be buried in the ground and return our souls to our Maker. This should motivate us to constantly draw closer to Hashem with joy, so the soul will rejoice upon its arrival to the Next World.

A Day of Delight

The Fourth Meal (Melave Malka)

1. A person should always set his table on Motza'ei Shabbat in a respectful way, to accompany the Shabbat queen as she departs, even if he eats nothing more than the size of an olive (27 grams). This is an obligatory meal and not an act of piety. The holy Zohar says, "He who does not eat the fourth meal is considered as if he did not have the third meal either. Maran the Chida writes that this meal has great value and saves one from the tribulations of the grave. It is correct to eat this meal while still dressed in Shabbat clothes. One should consume bread, and only if this is really not possible may cake or at least fruit be eaten instead. When eating he should have in mind that this meal should bring blessing to his weekday meals.

2. Man has an organ called "Niskoi," (the luz bone, the lowest bone in the spine) which is the center, core and root of man, from the very essence of Heaven. Even when a person dies this bone does not soften or swell; if it is put in fire it will not burn and a hammer is unable to smash it. This eternal bone will be the source of resurrection at techiyat hameitim, and it is this which enjoys pleasure in the Next World. This bone is not nourished by food or drink, but from the Melave Malke meal alone.

3. Women must also partake of the fourth meal. They should say, "For the sake of the mitzvah of Melave Malke", and it is a segulah for an easy and safe birth. The story is told about the wife of the Gaon of Vilna who accepted upon herself to fast from Motza'ei Shabbat until Erev Shabbat (ta'anit hafsaka). She stopped eating after the third meal, and after hearing Havdalah went to sleep. When the Gaon heard about this he said, "Go and tell her that all her fasts will not atone for annulling one Melave Malke meal!" Upon hearing this she immediately rose and ate the fourth meal.

4. The Baba Sali zy"a who was accustomed to practicing long fasts, did not make up for this with a special meal after the fast, nor did he eat much at the meal preceding the fast. His grandson, Rabbi David Chai Abuchatzera shlit"a, said that the Melave Malke meal, which was the last meal before beginning the ta'anit hafsaka, did not include anything besides leftover challah from the Shabbat meals, dipped in a cup of tea. And this was more than enough for him (Abir Yaakov 317).

5. The Chida writes: It is fitting to cook a fresh dish for the fourth meal, and one should not make do with leftovers from the Shabbat meals, as the Gemara tells us (Shabbat 119b) about Rabbi Avahu who used to prepare a whole calf for every Shabbat meal. And for the fourth meal he would slaughter a fourth calf and eat its kidneys. When his son Avimi grew up he asked his father, "Why do you have to lose so many calves? We can leave kidneys from the Shabbat calves for the fourth meal." Indeed they did so and a lion came and ate the fourth calf!

6. It is correct and fitting to eat the fourth meal early so it is evident you are accompanying the departing Sabbath with a meal. One should preferably eat within four hours of the departure of Shabbat, or until midnight. But if one has not eaten by this time, and even if he went to sleep, as long as dawn has not arrived he should get up and eat.

7. If one continues eating the third meal until nightfall, and then eats another k'zayit to fulfill the obligation of a fourth meal, he has fulfilled his obligation. Therefore, if someone knows he will have to travel on Motza'ei Shabbat and will arrive home very late, making it difficult for him to eat the fourth meal, he should fulfill the obligation of Melave Malke in this way.

8. Chazal say (Shabbat 119b): "חמין במוצאי שבת מלוגמא, Hot on Motza'ei Shabbat heals." One should therefore have a hot drink and bathe in hot water. This wards off melancholy and helps a person feel happy and joyful. It is good to say the words, "Chamin b'motza'ei Shabbat melugma." This is alluded to by the verse (Tehillim 147:3), "He is the Healer of the broken-hearted, and the One Who binds up (מחבש) their sorrows." The word מחבש is an acronym for חמין במוצאי שבת מלוגמא.

For any questions in practical application of these halachot, please consult a rabbinical authority.


Principles in Service of the Heart and Rectification of Middot

Why Is It Hard for Us to Show Good Will?

One of the questions that engage the mussar masters is: Why is it so difficult for a person to be truly happy for his friend's good fortune (fargin)?

The mashgiach Rabbi Noach Orloweck shlit"a explained to a panel of educators that naturally, man thinks only of himself. A newborn baby does not take anyone other than his own self into consideration. A baby thinks he is the center of the world and is ready to wake up an entire continent if his throat itches and he needs a few drops of water. Only someone who matures and understands that others have feelings too, can begin thinking about how the other feels and if he needs something.

The difficulty exists even if consideration of others is not at his own expense; all the more so if he has to sacrifice something for the other person.

The practical question is, how does one overcome this selfishness? How can one manage to think more about others and remember they exist?

The Alter of Slabodka learned this from... animals!

Sometimes it seems to us there is no need in the world for cruel animals that seemingly bring only harm. Chazal say that Hashem created all animals so they will serve as messengers for Him when He wishes to punish the wicked.

It is well-known that animals know to hurt only those who are liable, and do not touch those who are not liable. All the more so man who is actually 'the crown of creation', must be careful in all his actions not to enter his friend's domain and not to harm others.

For example, when a person completes Shemonei Esrei and wishes to take three steps back, he must be careful not to step into his friend's space and disturb him. And while we are enthusiastically praying, raising our voices in praise or pain, we must pay attention that we are not disrupting someone else's concentration. It is true that I am praying to Hashem, but I must not forget that the other person is also a human being and not a log of wood.

A disturbing phenomenon that is sometimes encountered, happens in the stairwell. Here someone has discarded a wrapper, over there lies some 'flyer' distributed in the mailbox, but now rests peacefully on the floor. And if we are talking about the stairwell, many times a family returns late at night from some celebration, excitedly rehashing the event. But what about the other tenants who are now sleeping?

The best piece of advice is to remember that other people exist and treat them with respect. In this way we can perhaps eliminate our indifference and become attentive to other people's feelings.

It is told that the gaon Rabbi Aryeh Kook zt"l would not take a wage for supervising shechita. It is clear to everyone that supervision of shechita is no small matter, and one is paid well for this service. But Rabbi Kook refused to be paid for this position.

He explained the reason: "I fear this will cause an increase in the price of the meat and there might be people who will not buy kosher meat as a result." The rabbi agreed to give up his salary because he saw other people, not just his personal good. He made sure to consider the feelings of the general public, and realized the high price of meat could be a cause of distress to some, and perhaps also lead to his stumbling in serious prohibitions. He felt it was preferable for him to give up his salary, rather than cause others to suffer!

The conclusion is simply to look out for others and be willing to go out of one's way for their good. Rabbi Elimelech Biderman shlit"a reminds us that the Chazon Ish zt"l used to say, "Every bachur needs a 'spoon full of respect' every day." And why should we look at the needy and not provide what he is lacking, when it doesn't even cost us a dime?!


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