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Chayei Sarah 5767

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

by Kalman Packouz

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GOOD MORNING! What is free-will? It is not deciding whether you want chocolate or vanilla ice cream. That is weighing your desires. It is not deciding which road you'll take to get home. That's calculating the benefits of each alternative. Free-will is the ability to choose between moral choices - right and wrong.

What does the Torah teach us regarding free-will? In Deuteronomy 30:15-19 it the Almighty says: "See, I have put before you, life and good, death and evil ... choose life so that you may live..." Why does it say "choose life" and not conclude with "choose good"?

The answer: Every human being thinks he is doing the right thing -especially the evil ones! They simply rationalize their evil activities as "good." As an extreme example, Adolph Hitler, may his name and memory be blotted out, once made a speech claiming that the German people were the only truly moral people. What was his proof? They set up societies to take care of our pets while sending us to the gas chambers.

The Torah says the problem isn't that we choose evil. The problem is that we choose death. What does the Torah mean when it uses the term "choosing death"? We can gain an understanding from looking at why a person commits suicide. He wants to avoid or escape from pain. Often this is not just from physical pain, but the pain of facing problems, challenges or embarrassment. The death the Torah refers to is the escape from pain of life.

"Death" is a choice that is available to all of us, every second of the day. Every time we decide to avoid facing an issue or dealing with responsibility it is a form of death - it is an escape. In life, there are many ways we choose to escape. Drugs are one form of escape. Killing time is an escape. If you're turning on the TV just because you're bored, isn't that a form of suicide? We could be using our time to live and grow. But we quit because it's too difficult.

We all choose to escape, now and then, from the effort that's involved in accomplishing the goals and ambitions that we have for ourselves in life. We all want to be great; we all want to change the world. It's just that we don't always feel like putting in the effort. So, we distract ourselves and escape from who we really are and what we want to achieve.

Rabbi Noah Weinberg, head of Aish HaTorah, writes: "Greatness lies in how we resolve conflicts - in using our free will to grow - not to quit. To face reality - not to escape. To live and not to die. When we escape problems, we escape the chance of becoming great. It's a constant battle every moment of our lives."

Every moment we're alive, we're using our free will to choose between life and death, reality or escapism. It's a constant choice. We are either making the choice to take the pain in order to grow, or we're quitting. How we resolve that conflict is where our greatness lies. Our greatness is found in using our free will to live, fight and accomplish - rather than run away. To choose to live is to choose to embrace life and choose to better ourselves and the world!

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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

When Efron the Hittite agreed to sell Avraham the Cave of Machpela in Hebron as a burial place for Sarah, after several exchanges regarding the sale. The Torah then relates that:

"And Avraham heard ... and weighed out for Efron ... four hundred shekels."

Efron spoke as if he were a generous man. He spoke to Avraham with the greatest respect. He ostensibly offered him the burial site free of charge.

He mentioned, however, in passing, "The four hundred shekels that one might usually pay for this is nothing between friends. Your friendship is more precious than money. Take it without payment."

Avraham took the hint. He was perceptive and realized that Efron did not really want to give the land for nothing. It might seem to a naive bystander that Efron only mentioned the sum of money as an aside, that it was just a passing remark of no significance. However, Avraham "heard," and with his well-developed intuition understood Efron's real intentions. He responded to Efron's inner wishes and not to his superficial words.

This ability to differentiate between what someone says and what he really means is an attribute that we must develop. For many areas of spiritual growth it is essential.

For example, someone makes a belittling remark about something he just accomplished. The person would really appreciate a kind word. He might be uncertain about the quality of what he did and want reassurance. This encouragement could be beneficial in motivating him for further accomplishment. If you really "hear" him, you will say those kind words.

Another example: You may ask someone if he needs your help. He replies, "No, I can do it myself. It's not so difficult." Taking his words at their face value, you might just walk away. However, if you are perceptive, you will know that he really needs your help. Perhaps he is either too shy or too embarrassed to ask for your help. Learn to be perceptive to realize when your help is needed and really welcomed.

By gaining this sensitivity and perceptiveness, you will be able to reach greater heights in the mitzvah of "Loving your fellow man."

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Jerusalem 4:04
Guatemala 5:36 - Hong Kong 5:21 - Honolulu 5:31
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Melbourne 7:54 - Mexico City 5:39 - Miami 5:15

New York 4:19 - Singapore 6:33 - Toronto 4:33


Man is not what he thinks he is,
he is what he hides.
-- Andre Malraux

With Deep Appreciation to
Michael Minikes

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