A DOUBLE LIFE
Despite the intense feelings of grief Avraham was experiencing after the death of his beloved Sarah, he conducted himself with the utmost courtesy and graciousness, throughout what must have been an exceedingly testing negotiation for a place to bury his wife. It is interesting to note, that at almost every juncture of the dialogue between Avraham and the natives of that place, there is some reference to the fact that all the people of the town were present and aware of the proceedings. There are many commentaries that discuss why this was necessary, but what I would like to try and discern is the reason for the curious absence of this feature at one particular stage of the transaction, when Ephron fixes the price he requires for the sale to take place.
We can easily understand that for Avraham there was a need for all to be present to witness the purchase of the land, so that there should be no later claims of theft or extortion, but for Ephron the onlookers were only of value up to a point. When Avraham indicated that he wished to purchase the plot of land owned by Ephron, Ephron’s response, notably at this point “in the ears of the children of Chet’, was both magnanimous and seemingly empathetic to Avraham’s situation, offering him all he desired for nothing. However when it came to the specifics of what he required Avraham to pay, the mention of others being present is rather obvious by its absence. It is here, after he in fact imposes a greatly overpriced amount for the land, that we see that the generosity of Ephron is merely a facade displayed as long as others are there to view his kindness, but totally lacking when there are now seemingly none present to attest to his benevolence.
If we look honestly at ourselves we would all have to admit that in certain areas of our life, the way we act in the company of others can be entirely unlike the way we act when alone. The very same Praying that took a lengthy amount of time when at shul, can suddenly be reduced to the most fleeting prayer when in one’s home. The good character traits we display when others are watching can swiftly dissipate when we are unable to muster up the masquerade required for the fake, in the confines of our own home. This is not to belittle those acts performed only in the public domain, for eventually they may encourage within us a consistency of such deeds and they may in truth be representative of the levels we truly desire to achieve. The key is in not allowing any self-deception with regard to the true stage of our spiritual progression, based on our communal behaviors, thereby impeding our growth through spurious beliefs and satisfaction. Rather we must use the manner in which we act in private to help us acknowledge our flaws and failings, and the way that we live in the public eye as the guide for our aspirations to sincere unwavering greatness. Our public selves should become our most private realities.
facts of life: take this serious
The Glass is Half Full
In Yeshivas Mir, there were two cooks who prepared the meals for all the bochurim and kollel members. They both came from Russia, and they both were cooks in a University in Russia prior to coming to Yerushalayim. One day, a fellow walked by the kitchen and heard the cooks talking while peeling the potatoes. One cook was lamenting “my life is so pathetic, I left Russia to start a new life. Look at me now I am in the same dead-end life, I work hard and get paid nothing.” A moment later the other cook said, “Are you out of your mind. In Russia we had to peel potatoes for people who are studying general topics. Now we are so fortunate to prepare food for people who are studying Torah. This is such a wonderful opportunity; I would even do it for free.” R’Yitzchok Zilber used to say this story ever year the week of parshas Chayei Sarah. He would comment “we see that you can have two people that are going through the same situation and one person can only see the bad in it, while another person is able to see the great opportunity that is being sent his way”. This concept helped me resolve a difficulty that I had with the first Rashi in this week’s parsha. Rashi comments that all of the years of Sarah’s life were equally good. How could Rashi write this, if you take a quick look at her life you will see that it was full of difficult and painful events? R’ Yitzchok would say that if we would look at her life, WE would say it was all bad. However Sarah Imeinu looked at things differently, and she saw in all her challenges tremendous opportunities. She took every stumbling block and turned it into a stepping stone.
A lawyer runs a stop sign and gets pulled over by a sheriff. He thinks he’s smarter being a big shot lawyer from New York and has a better education than an sheriff from West Virginia. The sheriff asks for license and registration. The lawyer asks, “What for?” The sheriff responds, “You didn’t come to a complete stop at the stop sign.” The lawyer says, “I slowed down and no one was coming.” “You still didn’t come to a complete stop. License and registration please,” say the sheriff impatiently. The lawyer says, “If you can show me the legal difference between slow down and stop, I’ll give you my license and registration and you can give me the ticket. If not, you let me go and don’t give me the ticket.” The sheriff says, “That sounds fair, please exit your vehicle.” The lawyer steps out and the sheriff takes out his nightstick and starts beating the lawyer with it. The sheriff says, “Do you want me to stop or just slow down?”
Bait Aaron Basic Shabbat Stories That will ignite your Neshama
Last Call / What kind of use you get out of your cell phone
Reb Isaac Perry z’l was a wealthy Jew, a renowned baal tzedakah,(Philanthropic Person) who lived in New York. (He reprinted the Shem MiShmuel and Avnei Nezer in a beautiful format.) When he became ill, he called a well-known marbitz Torah (Torah progenitor) of Eretz Yisrael, told him about his health situation, and suggested that they study Shem MiShmuel over the phone every day. The marbitz Torah immediately agreed.
At a set hour, every day, they studied Shem MiShmuel together and they warmed their hearts with his inspiring and deep lessons. They kept up this long-distance telephone-chavrutah for a long time, until Reb Isaac Perry’s disease finally overcame him.
His levayah was in Eretz Yisrael, and his chavrutah was of course present. After the kevurah (burial) was completed and most people had already left the cemetery, the sound of a cell-phone ringing (actually singing) was heard, emanating from Reb Isaac Perry’s grave. Whoever was present was astounded… and a little afraid, because no one had ever heard sounds coming out of a grave before.
As it turned out, it was his chavrutah’s phone. When he was shoveling earth into the grave, his cell phone fell out of his shirt pocket and into the grave. When the chavrutah realized that his cell phone was missing, he borrowed someone’s phone and called his own. That is when his phone began ringing from inside the grave.
People who heard this story quipped, “Reb Isaac Perry had a lot of money and expensive properties, but he didn’t take those into his grave. But on his final journey he did take his telephone-chavrutah, and all the other good deeds that he performed.”
1st Aliyah: Avraham negotiates with Ephron the Hitite to purchase the Cave of Machpelah as a burial place for Sarah. Tradition says that this is also the burial place of Adam and Chava.
2nd Aliya: Avraham sends Eliezar, his trusted servant, to Aram Naharayim, (between the Tigris and the Euphrates) to find Yitzchak a shiduch – a bride.
3rd Aliya: Leading a caravan of supplies and riches, Eliezar arrives in Nachor. While resting by “the well”, he devises a test to ascertain the worthiness of a potential mate for Yitzchak. Rivkah (Yitzchak’s 1st cousin once removed) meets all the criteria and Eliezar presents her with the appropriate gifts.
4th Aliya: Eliezar is invited into Betuel’s home (Rivkah’s father) and he relates the entire story of his mission and his encounter with Rivkah. Eliezar asks for her hand in marriage to Yitzchak. Betuel and Lavan (Rivka’s brother) agree.
5th Aliya: Rivkah express her desire to depart immediately. Her family blesses her, and Eliezar brings her to Canaan. Yitzchak marries Rivka in the year 2108.
6th & 7th Aliyot: Avraham marries Keturah (some say she was Hagar) and has 6 more sons. Avarham dies in 2123 – 1638 b.c.e. at the age of 175. His two sons Yitzchak and Yishmael bury him in the Cave of Machpelah. Yishmael’s 12 sons are listed and Yishmael dies at 137.