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Chayei Sarah 5765

Chayei Sarah (Genesis 23:1-25:18 )

by Kalman Packouz

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GOOD MORNING!   Many years ago I took my wife for our anniversary to the finest restaurant (at the time) in Jerusalem, The Carvery in the King Solomon Hotel. We tremendously enjoyed the ambiance on this special occasion. My wife ordered shishkabab. When her order arrived there was one shishkabab on her plate. I asked the waiter, "Where is the other shishkabab?" He replied, "This is the way we serve it."

I asked him to please bring the menu (which was in English) and then showed him the description: "Skewers of meat roasted to perfection on our grill." I then explained that skewers is an English word and ends with the letter "s" indicating that the word is plural and that the minimum plural number is two. To reinforce the logic of my argument I directed his attention to the photograph at the top of the menu with a picture of a beautiful plate ... and two skewers of shishkabab.

The waiter was very gracious and then informed me again that "THIS is the way we serve the dish". I thanked him for his assistance and asked if it might be possible to have a word with the maitre d'. The maitre d' unctuously glided over to our table and inquired how he could be of service.

I once again proceeded to give my insights into the structure and grammar of the English language and the lack of congruity between what was offered on the menu and what my wife received. The maitre d' gave me a compassionate look and informed me, "THIS is the way we serve the dish."

My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed our dinner - although in the back of my mind I began composing my letter to the Food and Beverage Manager. I wrote truthfully extolling the virtues of the restaurant - the fine decor, the excellent service, the delightful food. I then wrote, "However, there is one small matter which I know that a person of your high standards would want to know about - a seeming misrepresentation in the menu." I then briefly shared our experience with the shishkabab and shared my deep insights into the English language.

I know that if such a situation happened in a fancy restaurant in America, it would likely have been dealt with at the waiter level with an apology and a second shishkabab. And if the situation ever reached the Food and Beverage Manager, more than likely he or she would invite the couple back for dinner, compliments of the restaurant. Somehow I didn't think that the F & B manager would know this, though. So, I also informed him - very self-servingly - of the predominant standard of expression of apology in such a situation for an elegant restaurant. He wrote back thanking me for my letter, apologizing and asking my wife and myself to please come as guests of the restaurant for dinner!

Our second dinner was fabulous - until they brought my steak. I asked the waiter, "Excuse me, but where is the baked potato?" The waiter responded, "THIS is the way we serve the dish!" I then asked if he would mind bringing me the menu. When he brought it I pointed out the photograph of the plate with the steak ... and the baked potato! He went to huddle with the Maitre D - and then brought the potato!

There are many lessons to be learned from this story: (1) Be sure to be truthful in word and deed. (2) If you make a mistake, own up and make it right. (3) Beware of letter writers!

How does this story connect with this week's Torah portion? Avraham wanted to purchase the Cave of Machpela for a burial place for his wife, Sarah, in Hebron. Ephron, the owner of the field with the cave, initially makes a flamboyant offer to give Abraham the burial site. Later, Ephron offers the field for 400 "internationally-negotiable" silver shekels worth many times more than a regular shekel. The Torah makes note of Ephron's diminished stature by spelling his name without a letter twice after he revealed his greed and original insincerity.

I sincerely believe that the restaurant did not intend to deceive. However, Ephron did intend to deceive. Some people think that the Torah is just about spirituality, but "business is business" and that the Torah does not apply to business. Not true! True spirituality is integrating the Torah into your being so that you are truthful in all of your dealings. Ultimately, the Almighty runs the world and what one gains from deception will not benefit him in the long run.

Torah Portion of the Week
Chayei Sarah

Sarah dies at the age of 127. Avraham purchases a burial place for her in Hebron in the cave of Ma'arat HaMachpela. Avraham sends his servant, Eliezer, back to the "old country," his birthplace Charan, to find a wife for Yitzhak (Isaac). Eliezer makes what appear to be very strange conditions for the matrimonial candidate to fulfill in order to qualify for Yitzhak. Rivka (Rebecca) unknowingly meets the conditions. Eliezer succeeds in getting familial approval, though they were not too keen about Rivka leaving her native land.

Avraham marries Keturah and fathers six more sons. He sends them east (with the secrets of mysticism) before he dies at 175. Yitzhak and Ishmael bury Avraham near Sarah in the Ma'arat HaMachpela, the cave Avraham purchased in Hebron to bury Sarah. The portion ends with the listing of Ishmael's 12 sons and Ishmael dying at age 137.


Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

Eliezer arrives in Charan. Rivka gives him water to drink. The Torah states:

"And she finished giving him to drink. And she said, 'Also for your camels I will draw water until they finish drinking.' " (Genesis 24:19)

Why does the Torah specify that she will draw water rather than writing "I will give the camels to drink"?

The great Spanish Rabbi, the Abarbanel, tells us that Rivkah was meticulously careful not to say anything that would be untrue. Therefore, she said she would draw water, as if to say, "I don't know for sure if they will drink or not, but I will draw water for them. If they want to, they can drink."

Rabbi Shmuel Walkin adds that we see here how careful we should be to keep away from saying anything untrue. He cites as an example Rabbi Refael of Bershid who was always very careful to refrain from saying anything that was untrue. One day he entered his home while it was raining outside. When asked if it was still raining, he replied, "When I was outside it was raining." He did not want to mislead in case it had stopped raining from the time he entered his home.

This may seem to be ridiculous or inconsequential. However, if a person is careful with keeping to the truth in such instances, he will definitely be careful in more important matters. On the other hand, if a person is careless with the truth, he can even be tempted to lie in major ways!

(or go to

Jerusalem  4:11
Guatemala 5:13  Hong Kong 5:26  Honolulu 5:33
J'Burg 6:09  London 4:07  Los Angeles 4:37
Melbourne 6:37  Miami 5:18  Moscow 4:25

New York 4:29  Singapore  6:33


If you stretch the truth
it'll likely snap back at you

With Special Thanks to
Stephen & Eleanor Hammerman
for their dedication

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