of the Weekly Reading
To be read on Shabbat Chayei Sara, 25 Cheshvan 5777/Nov.26,
Torah: Genesis 23:1-25:18; Haftorah: Kings I 1:1-31 (because
the first verse is like Gen. 24:1)
Chayei Sara is the 5th Reading out of 12 in Genesis and it contains
5314 letters, in 1402 words, in 105 verses
Sarah died at the age of 127. Avraham bought the Cave
of Machpelah. Avraham sent his servant to look for a wife for his son,
making him swear not to bring back a Canaanite bride. The servant left
for Charan, and arriving at the well, asked G-d to give him a sign.
Rivkah arrived to draw water. The servant asked if he may have some,
and after he drank she drew more water for his camels. The servant spent
the night in her father's house. Her family agreed to let Rivkah marry
Yitzchak. Avraham remarried Keturah, who bore him six sons. Avraham
died at the age of 175, and was buried in the Cave of Machpelah, next
to Sarah. Ishmael had twelve sons, each princes for their nations. He
died at the age of 137. His descendants lived along the border of Egypt
all the way to Assyria.
Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent
(for a free weekly email subscription, click
The Jewish people are clever. From my youngest years growing
up in NY, I heard, a very common expression, a Jew doesn't buy retail.
Only a chump pays full price. Yet we have a very interesting episode in
this week's Torah portion, that when Avraham was acquiring the cave of
the Machpela as a burial place for his wife Sara, he insisted on paying
its full value, no discounts. (see verse 23/9 and Rashi).
That is especially interesting since in fact G-d had promised the entire
land of Israel to Avraham's descendants. Rashi says on an earlier verse
(23/4) in the name of Avraham, 'according to the law I could take it if
I wanted'. Avraham could have taken the land for free
but he WANTED
to pay full price.
We can understand this dichotomy from a teaching in the Zohar (Book #
2 128a). The world is divided into two broad camps. Kedusha- holiness
and klipa-the shell, things that hide the holiness from us. One
of Klipa's characteristics is taking something for nothing, as
it says "we ate in Egypt for free". In the holiness camp there
is a crucial importance to working for something with your full strength,
using everything you have. Only through working, effort and struggle can
holiness be drawn in. The Talmud proclaims, according to the effort is
This is the reason that Avraham paid full price. It was unthinkable to
take something without efforts. Who wants something devoid of holiness?
There is a lesson for each of us here besides the obvious message to
not be afraid of investing yourself, of working. A person might think
that since G-d gave him or her certain natural positive abilities, and
therefore parts of life are easier for them, there is no reason from them
to make an effort. A person who is a natural speaker might become a teacher
or lectures. Someone good with numbers would be an accountant. G-d gave
them these talents as a gift! Efforts is for the other people. Nothing
could be farther from the truth. G-d gave us these abilities because that
is where the effort begins. And if this is true everywhere, it is particularly
true in relation to G-d's service, studying Torah and doing the commandments.
Jewish life begins when you leave your comfort zone.
Therefore the Torah tells us about Avraham, who under no circumstances
would take for free something that was actually his and which he could
have taken easily. Nevertheless, he paid full price. Similarly for each
of us. In order to draw the spirit of holiness, it has to be with effort
and struggle, not for free. There is no free lunch.
One of the many areas in life where effort is required is with food.
Overdoing food is very easy. Eating the right amount, the right kinds
of food and at the right time certainly takes effort. But still it is
universally accepts that we should enjoy our food. You have to eat. Why
shouldn't it be a pleasure? Therefore, every Jewish child learns from
an early age that Judaism demands that a person make a blessing before
he or she eats, acknowledging that the food came from G-d. By keeping
this in mind before and while we eat elevates the food and makes it holy,
bring it up a level instead of our being brought down to the level of
Understanding this on a deeper level, there is a custom by some chassidim
whose roots are from the Chassidic communities of Poland, to share the
food that their Rebbe made a blessing on. Even if I can't elevate the
food I eat in a proper way, certainly my Rebbe can elevate his food. By
partaking of his food, at least then I am eating truly elevated food.
The Rebbe helps me go to a higher level through his effort. Once in the
early years of his leadership, a Polish chassid came to the lubavitcher
Rebbe and asked him for some of his 'shirayim', meaning leftovers,
the elevated food of the Rebbe. The Rebbe did not give it to him until
he told him that by his, the Lubavitcher Rebbe's followers, is an understanding
that eating a Rebbe's shirayim is not only a merit, but it comes
with an obligation, to do something with the free spiritual strength that
the food will give.
Shabbat Shalom, Shaul
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For last year's essay by Rabbi Leiter on this week's
Reading, see the archive.
THE SAGES OF KABBALAH ON KabbalaOnline.org
an overview of the recommended articles in the columns:
Holy Zohar, Holy Ari, Mystic Classics, Chasidic Masters, Contemporary
Kabbalists, and more,
click to Chayei
Knowing You from Adam
From Shenei Luchot HaBrit by Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz
Rabbi Shimon said that when Abraham entered the cave of Machpela to bury
Sarah, Adam and Eve did not want to remain buried in there. They complained
they needn't suffer any additional shame upon constantly facing a pair
of people so much better than them, who hadn't brought sin into the world
as they had. Abraham replied that he would pray to G-d on their behalf
so G-d would forgive their sin
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