Only The Good Die Young.
Chayei Sarah (Genesis 23:1-25:18 )
One of the most insidious messages from Hollywood is that only the "naughty" have fun.
One of the most insidious messages Hollywood has foisted on mankind is that only the bad have fun.
People of dubious character always seem to do interesting things, drive fast cars, get all the really good lines. Good guys are boring, simple and one-dimensional.
You might be thinking, "Well, that's what they really are like!"
But the truth however, is quite the opposite.
Let me tell you a true story. A friend of mine who is a very sharp cookie had her car towed away in Washington, DC. When she went to collect it, she explained to the attendant that the police towed it improperly since it was really parked legally. The attendant agreed but told her he couldn't release the car unless the fine was paid. However, he said, when she gets the car back she could appeal and get her money back.
After reluctantly paying the fine, she got her car and asked for the appropriate office of appeals. She was given the info, but the attendant added this warning, "You won't get your money back."
"Why?" My friend asked.
"Because the person who runs the office is a miserable person, whose only joy in life is the power he wields and never gives back the fines, ever."
Not being one to just sit by and be party to injustice, she thought there has to be a way to get my money back.
She called the appeals office and after reaching Mr. Control Freak, and explaining the details of the incident and why she was unjustly fined, she added this line, "I am sure you cannot help me so could you please direct me to the person who has the power to give me back my money?"
Well, you can imagine the response. "Oh no, I am that person, I can give you back your money." And so he did.
As King Solomon said, bad people have few choices (Proverbs 10:20). Once you understand someone's base desire (yetzer hara), he really has few to no choices in life. He will do whatever power, greed, arrogance, jealousy or whatever it happens to be, tells him to do.
He becomes one-dimensional.
Thus it's the good guys who really have depth and character and life. Bad people are extremely boring. They only think about one thing and can never rise to the occasion. They are caught in a web of their own desires and insecurities.
And, they live old, and they die old!
Youth has nothing to do with whether your birthday coming up starts with a 5,6,7 and up. Young people, whatever birthday they are celebrating, know life is full or opportunity. They know good prevails, they know a good deed is a lot better than the alternative. And they believe in people and they believe in the future.
As this week's parsha points out, old is not a factor of the years you have lived, it's a factor of the way you live those years.
Visit an old-age home and you can easily tell the difference between the old and the young. Sometimes the young are wheeling the old, sometimes it's the other way around. Either way, no number will help you figure out who's who, only the smiles - or lack thereof - on their faces.
And that is how this week's Torah portion starts. Sarah died at 127 years young. As Rashi, the pre-eminent Torah commentator, points out: As she was at 7, so at 20 and 100, "All equally good." All equally young.
You see, as Billy Joel sang, "only the good die young."