Chayei Sarah 5759

June 24, 2009

6 min read


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

GOOD MORNING! Standing in the checkout line at the supermarket one is surrounded by the tabloids and their headlines -- Monica's off to a diet clinic to lose 50 lbs., Joe Dimaggio is fighting the Angel of Death and the deathbed prophecies of Edith Stein (a Jewish girl sainted by the Catholic Church). We are fascinated by the trivia and the miscellaneous of the famous. What if there was something of real substance that we could learn from famous people? What if they really had some insights into life that might be of interest? That would be something! How about prayer? Does Dr. Kevorkian ("Dr. Death") pray? Does Bill Gates pray?

My colleague, Rabbi Irwin Katsof, has just published a book, Powerful Prayers, co-authored with Larry King. The book is Larry King's odyssey to find out about prayer. What is prayer? Why pray? To whom does one pray? And he does by interviewing people -- the experts (theologians), the business people (do they pray before a big deal?), the sports figures (Is G-d a Yankee fan?), the Hollywood crowd, military men.

Larry King is the perfect author for this book. The skeptic, interviewer par excellence on a spiritual quest. And Rabbi Katsof is the perfect co-author, appearing like Eliyahu HaNavie (Elijah the Prophet) with insights and direction for Larry at key junctures in his quest. The book is fascinating. It is ideal for anyone curious about prayer, skeptical about prayer or who wants some deep insights into the power and efficacy of prayer. Available from your local book store or by calling toll-free 877-758-3242.

Here are some excerpts of Rabbi Katsof's wisdom:

"G-d knows what we need. So we don't pray to G-d to remind him, we pray to G-d to remind ourselves. The essence of prayer is choice. Prayers help us refine and affirm what it is we want out of our lives. G-d desires our growth as human beings. Like any good parent, he doesn't spoil us by giving us what we want on a silver platter. (p. 164)

"We are confronted with obstacles, and we struggle when we lose awareness of G-d. Understanding isn't given, it's earned. We encounter roadblocks in life because we've lost sight of our path to G-d. Prayer is the map that leads us out of the wilderness and connects us to G-d." (p. 164)

"Life is a series of challenges and how we handled them determines our level of humanity. When a person is free from troubles, they are usually free of growth as well." (p. 131)

"The first request in the formal Jewish prayer is asking for understanding. 'Help me to understand You. Show me the world has meaning.' But this can't happen unless you open your eyes. You have a role to play as well." (p. 13)

Space permitting I would have also included "Four Things You Must Keep in Mind About Prayer" (p. 7). The book is filled with humor, warmth and insight. I highly recommend it.

And ... does Dr. Kevorkian pray? The answer: No. (p. 128) Does Bill Gates? Don't know. He's not in the book.

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 in the Ma'arat HaMachpela near 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

Avraham sends his servant, Eliezer, to bring back a bride for his son Isaac from "the old country". Eliezer prays for Divine guidance and then sees Rivkah. The Torah states,

"And the servant ran to meet her, and said: 'Give me a little water from your pitcher to drink." (Genesis 24:17)

The Midrash cited by Rashi states that Eliezer ran because he saw the water from the well miraculously rise to meet Rivkah. Although Eliezer witnessed this event, he did not consider it sufficient evidence to prove that she was worthy to be Isaac's wife. A test of her eagerness to do chesed (kindness) was still necessary. From her we see that even if a person is worthy of having miracles performed on his behalf, he is not deemed truly worthy unless he performs acts of chesed. (Heard from Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, Rosh Hayeshiva of Brisk in Jerusalem)

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If you feel distant from G-d -- remember...
it wasn't G-d Who moved.

With Great Appreciation to

Mr. Joseph Nae

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Kalman Packouz

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