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Chayei Sarah 5766

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

by Kalman Packouz

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GOOD MORNING!   I once visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC. What impacted me most was a video interview. An old man told of finding his friend davening (praying) one day. "Chaim, what are you praying? It's too late for the morning prayers and too early for the afternoon prayers."

Responded Chaim, "I am praying to thank God."

The old man asked, "Chaim, what are you thanking God for? Look around you! We're starving. They're torturing us and killing us! What can you possibly be thanking God for?"

Chaim replied, "I am thanking God that I am one of us and not one of them."

Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you view it. We all know people who are perpetually negative. From my experience, when I ask them about their perspective, they say "I am just dealing with reality." Reality is what happens to you. How you understand what happens to you - how you frame it or reframe it - is up to you. As someone once said, "In life there is pain, but suffering is optional."

What is fascinating is that we all have the ability to change our perspective and to even change our lives in one moment - if we have an insight into life and take it to heart. Taking it to heart is the hard part; Winston Churchill once said, "Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened."

The key to happiness in life is gratitude. If you are grateful for what you have you can have happiness; if you are ungrateful you are holding the key to misery. Recently I was re-reading Thank You! by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin (available at your local Jewish bookstore, at or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242). I wanted to strengthen my appreciation for all that I have and that happens to me. His book is filled with formulas, stories and insights. Here's a story that deeply affected me and which I wish to share with you. Writes Rabbi Pliskin:

I met a fellow whom I hadn't seen in over five years. The last time I had seen him he was pessimistic, negative, miserable and depressed. When we bumped into each other now he was smiling and his entire being radiated a sense of joy.

"How did you do it?" I asked him. "You look like an entirely different person. How did you develop the joy I see on you now?"

"When we spoke a number of years ago, you tried to influence me to become a more positive person. You suggested that I make a daily list of at least ten good things that happened to me that day," he said. "I argued that this wouldn't help me. It wasn't my fault that I was so unhappy. The root cause was that my parents were to blame. Nobody gave me what I needed to be a happy person. Others were to blame and I was angry at everyone I knew."

"About a year ago, I gave my entire spiel to a tough personal coach. He told me that I was choosing to be unhappy and miserable. I screamed at him, and told him that the way he was talking to me was just making me feel worse. I thought he would back down, like most people I intimidated with my anger. But to my surprise and shock, he spoke to me like no one had spoken to me before.

" 'You can go around blaming everyone else,' he said to me. 'But it's your own responsibility to make yourself happy in life. The more you blame others, the less you will do anything to change your pattern of thinking. It's your own pattern of thinking that's destroying your life. Stop it! Stop ruining your life! There's a lot of good in your life that you can be grateful for. Notice it and you will live a joyful life. Continue to willfully blind yourself, and you will be a miserable human being. It's up to you. I can try to help you develop a pattern of gratitude. But only you can do it for yourself. If you keep avoiding seeing what you can be grateful for, that's your decision, and that is what you will keep seeing: Nothing to be grateful for. But if right this moment you fully commit yourself to being a master at noticing what you can be grateful for, you will find things each and every day. Stop acting like an imbecile and start thinking like an intelligent human being.' This was said with such intensity that I was left speechless.

"I was furious at that person. I was looking for sympathy and I didn't get it. I felt awful. Then the next day I said to myself, I have to admit that he is right. I do notice what I focus on: negativity. Let's see what happens when I am utterly resolved to see what there is to be grateful for.

"The next day I noticed a number of things I could be grateful for. And the next day I noticed even more things. And then I noticed even more things. Somehow it was almost like I was living on an entirely different planet."

And now it is your decision ... whether to take the story to heart or to "hurry off as if nothing happened"!

For more on "Happiness Through Gratitude" go to!


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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

The Torah portion begins:

"And the life of Sarah was one hundred years, and twenty years, and seven years. These were the years of the life of Sarah."

Why does the Torah, which does not waste words, add the seemingly repetitive verse, "These were the years of the life of Sarah"?

Rashi, the premier commentator, informs us that the message from the repetitive phrase is that all of the years of Sara's life were equally good.

How is it possible to say this about Sarah's life? For many years she was childless; she experienced famine and exile; she was taken captive by the Pharaoh of Egypt and later by Avimelech.

Rabbi Zushe of Anipoli explained that Sarah mastered the attribute of constantly saying, "This too is for the good." Even those events that others might consider to be bad, she was aware that they were from the Almighty and therefore she was able to evaluate them as positive.

The quality of one's life is not dependent on external situations. There are people whose lives seem to run quite smoothly. Nevertheless, they tend to evaluate minor frustrations as tragedies and therefore view their lives in negative terms. The Torah ideal is to be aware that the purpose of your life is to perfect your character. Every life situation is an opportunity for growth. Sarah mastered this level of consciousness. Therefore, at the end of her life, which was constantly devoted to growth, it could be said about her that all her years were good.

This lesson is most important for us to internalize. See the growth possible in every life event. In each difficult situation ask yourself, "How can I become a better person because of what happened?"

CANDLE LIGHTING - November 25:
(or go to

Jerusalem  4:01
Guatemala 5:15  Hong Kong 5:20  Honolulu 5:30
J'Burg 6:23  London 3:42  Los Angeles 4:27
Melbourne 8:02  Mexico City 5:38  Miami 5:13

New York 4:14  Singapore 6:36  Toronto 4:27


Happiness is a way of travel,
not the destination.

In Memory of
Pete and Goldie Doraine
With love,
Charles Doraine

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