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Chayei Sarah 5768

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

by Kalman Packouz

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GOOD MORNING! I received an email from a synagogue president who was upset that a generous donor to the Kol Nidre appeal was miffed at not being thanked. Wrote the president, "charity is not done in anticipation of thanks and recognition." I thought I'd share with you my response and some thoughts on giving charity:

___There are different levels of charity and different motivations. Both the giver and the recipient(s) have their obligations and opportunities. Yes, if we were all perfect we would give anonymously to the most important causes and not need anyone to know or to thank us. However, even if your donor has elevated himself to this high level of spirituality, it does not free the recipient(s) from his obligation to have gratitude and express gratitude for his benefactor.

___THE PRESIDENT: "If we give this man a thank you, what about the poorer congregant who gathered every penny he could to give a five dollar donation?"

___He also should be thanked. Perhaps you mean to say because of the poorer congregant's greater struggle to give, he deserves even greater thanks. Or perhaps you mean to say that the poorer congregant's greater sacrifice to give accrues to him an even greater reward. You may well be right. I'll leave it up to the Almighty to know what is in the hearts of men and why they do what they do. As for us, it is incumbent upon us to express gratitude to all who benefit us either with intent or without intent. Ultimately, it is to the Almighty that we must give thanks and recognize His great kindnesses. If we do not recognize, or feel that we must recognize, the good that others do for us, then I highly suspect that we lack in our appreciation of the Almighty's goodness as well.

___THE PRESIDENT: "The truest form of tzedakah is to give anonymously. Are we wrong in not thanking every member who responds to our Kol Nidre Appeal?"

___I think they deserve thanks; they are helping others. I also think that those who don't express their appreciation are missing an opportunity, just as those who could give and do not give are missing an opportunity.

___I am reminded of the story of Bart Starr, quarterback for the Green Bay Packers. He was noted for his passing game, not his running game. One time he opted to run the ball in from the 3-yard line for a touchdown. He ran back to the bench and excitedly asked the coach, "What did you think about that?" The coach replied, "You want me to thank you and praise you for running the ball?" Bart Starr responded, "Only if you ever want me to do it again."

___Perhaps the rich person should not need to be thanked in an ideal world. However, if you want the "touchdown" (the donation) you might want to reconsider your managing strategy.... (end of my response). Some additional thoughts about Tzedakah:

___The Hebrew word "tzedakah" is commonly translated as "charity" or "tithe." But this is misleading. "Charity" implies that your heart motivates you to go beyond the call of duty. "Tzedakah," however, literally means "righteousness" - doing the right thing. A "tzaddik," likewise, is a righteous person, someone who fulfills all his obligations, whether in the mood or not.

___The verse says: "Tzedek, tzedek you shall pursue" - justice, justice you shall pursue (Deut. 16:20). There's a basic human responsibility to reach out to others. Giving of your time and your money is a statement that "I will do whatever I can to help." That's the Jewish concept of Tikun Olam - repairing the world.

___The Torah recommends giving 10 percent. (Hence the popular expression "tithe," meaning one-tenth.) The legal source is Deut. 14:22, and the Bible is filled with examples: Abraham gave Malki-Tzedek one-tenth of all his possessions (Genesis 14:20); Jacob vowed to give one-tenth of all his future acquisitions to the Almighty (Genesis 29:22); there are mandated tithes to support the Levites (Numbers 18:21, 24) and the poor (Deut. 26:12).

For more on "Tzedakah" 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 Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

___Eliezer, the servant of Avraham, asked Rivka for a drink of water. She gave him and then offered to water his camels. The Torah tells us:

"And she hastened and emptied her pitcher into the trough and ran again unto the well to draw - and drew for all his camels." (Genesis 24:20)

___Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato takes note of the swiftness with which Rivka performed her act of kindness: "She hastened" and "ran again." As the Midrash states, "All of the deeds of the righteous are done quickly" (Bamidbar Rabbah 10:7). Rabbi Luzzatto writes: "The man whose soul yearns to perform the will of his Creator will not be lazy in the performance of His mitzvos. His movements will be as the quick movements of a fire and he will not rest or be still until the deed has been completed" (Mesilas Yesharim, Chapter 6).

___Rabbi Isaac Sher commented on this that even a seeming minor action, such as giving someone water, can be spiritually elevated when prompted by the proper motivation. When Rivka gave water to Eliezer and his camels, she did it with a love for chesed (kindness) which was manifest in her speed. For this deed she was deemed worthy of becoming the mother of the Jewish People.

___Rabbi Sher encouraged people to elevate the level of their chesed. Most people perform many acts of kindness daily by mere habit. If we were to consider these seemingly insignificant acts not as automatic behavioral responses, but rather as opportunities to do the will of the Almighty, we would succeed in transforming the mundane into the sublime.

___A suggestion: When a delivery person brings a package or the mail, offer him/her a glass of water. It is a great kindness and deeply appreciated!

___You will find invaluable the book Ahavath Chesed - a guide to understanding the meaning of the commandment to "love kindness" -available at your local Jewish bookstore, at or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242.

(or go to

Jerusalem 4:14
Guatemala 5:15 - Hong Kong 5:27 - Honolulu 5:36
J'Burg 6:06 - London 4:14 - Los Angeles 5:42
Melbourne 6:37 - Mexico City 5:57 - Miami 6:22

New York 5:34 - Singapore 6:33 - Toronto 5:50


When you are good to others,
you are best to yourself.
-- Benjamin Franklin

Mazal Tov on the Marriage of
Tamar Lampert to Hillel Feldman

With love,
Hap & Davida Levy


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