Food For the Soul
Don’t (Only) Rely on G-d
The Parshah Chayei Sarah tells of Isaac taking Rebecca as his wife. “And Isaac brought her to the tent of Sarah his mother.” Rashi, quoting the Midrash, explains this to mean more than the obvious. When she entered the tent, it was as if she was Sarah, Isaac’s mother. Because Sarah was of such saintly character, she was granted three special miracles.
Her Shabbat candles burned the entire week, her dough was particularly blessed, and a heavenly cloud attached itself to her tent. When Sarah died, these blessings disappeared. When Rebecca arrived on the scene, they resumed immediately. In fact, this was a clear sign to Isaac that Rebecca was indeed his soul mate and that the shidduch was made in Heaven.
Each of those three miracles, however, required some form of human input first. A candle and fire had to be found, the dough had to be prepared and a tent had to be pitched before G-d would intervene and make those miracles happen. In other words, He does help us but we must help ourselves first.
It’s a little like the fellow who would make a fervent prayer to G-d every week that he win the lottery. After many months and no jackpot in sight, he lost his faith and patience. In anguished disappointment, he vented his frustration with the Almighty. “Oh, G-d! For months I’ve been praying to you. Why haven’t you helped me win the lottery all this time?” Whereupon a heavenly voice was heard saying, “Because you haven’t bought a ticket, dummy!”
I wish it were that simple to win lotteries. But the fact is that it is the same in all our endeavors. G-d helps those who help themselves. May we all do our part. Please G-d, He will do His.
From an article by Rabbi Yossy Goldman
Bless New Month
This Shabbat is Shabbat Mevarchim (“the Shabbat that blesses” the new month): a special prayer is recited blessing the Rosh Chodesh (“Head of the Month”) of the upcoming month of Kislev, which falls on Thursday and Friday of next week.
Prior to the blessing, we announce the precise time of the molad, the “birth” of the new moon. See molad times on Chabad.org
It is a Chabad custom to recite the entire book of Psalms before morning prayers, and to conduct farbrengens (chassidic gatherings) in the course of the Shabbat.
Mind Over Matter
Enter Your Day
No moment of life is too small to deserve all of you.
Abraham, we are told, was not just elderly, but “come into days.” Meaning, he had entered into his days, every one of them.
Whatever it was he needed to do, whether to teach wisdom or to graze sheep, to throw himself into fire or to feed hungry strangers, to command or to obey, to love or to fight—in every act of life he invested his entire being.
And so he owned every day of his life. His life was his.
Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
The Cave of Machpelah
Abraham’s purchase of the field which contained the Cave of Machpelah [where his wife Sarah is buried] represents the beginning of the general redemption of all Jews. The commentary Pa’ane’ach Raza explains that with the 400 silver shekels that Abraham paid (Chayei Sarah 23:16), he purchased one square cubit of the Land of Israel for every one of the 600,000 root-souls of Israel. For by the estimation of “the seed of a chomer of barley at fifty silver shekels” (Vayikra 27:16), 400 silver shekels redeem exactly 600,000 square cubits.
Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet
Have I Got A Story
After high school, I went to New York to study at Beth Rivka Seminary in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y. I arrived on a perfectly ordinary day in September. One thing that sticks out in my mind is that there was also a funeral that day.
I happened to be nearby and, as it is a mitzvah to accompany the dead on their final journey, even if you didn’t know them personally, I joined the funeral procession. I heard that the woman was a mother of eight children, and she had passed away after a long illness. I later learned that the name of the woman was Mrs. Lifsha Shuchat.
Five years later, I married her son.
This story has special poignancy for the two of us, especially during the week when we read Parshat Chayei Sarah, the Torah portion which describes Isaac’s marriage to Rebecca after the passing of his mother. The verse states: “And Isaac brought her to the tent of Sarah his mother, and he took Rebecca, and she became his wife, and he loved her. And Isaac was comforted for [the loss of] his mother.” On this verse, Rashi comments: “It is the way of the world that, as long as a person’s mother is alive, he is attached to her, but as soon as she dies, he finds comfort in his wife.” On the day my future husband lost his mother, G-d had already set events into motion that would lead to our marriage five years later.
When Isaac brought Rebecca into his tent, though, it was more than just finding comfort for the loss of his mother. Rashi states, “He brought her to the tent, and behold, she was Sarah his mother; i.e., she became the likeness of Sarah his mother, for as long as Sarah was alive, a candle burned from one Sabbath eve to the next, a blessing was found in the dough, and a cloud was attached to the tent. When she died, these things ceased, and when Rebecca arrived, they resumed.”
As soon as Rebecca entered the tent, Isaac observed that she emulated his mother. Sarah excelled in fulfilling the three mitzvahs of a woman: lighting candles on Friday night, baking challah and separating a portion for G-d, and family purity (the laws governing a couple’s intimate relationship). For this, she merited the three aforementioned miracles—her candles burned from week to week, her dough never spoiled, and a Heavenly cloud hovered over her tent.
Why was it not sufficient for Rashi to merely point out that Rebecca’s deeds were like Sarah’s? Why did he stress that she also merited the same miracles as her mother-in-law? Furthermore, after Sarah’s passing, surely her husband, Abraham, continued to light the Shabbat candles in her absence. Why did he not merit to have his candles miraculously burn throughout the week?
According to our sages, when a man and woman marry, they enter into a partnership. The role of the man is to “bring home the wheat” while the woman prepares it for eating. His job is to “conquer,” to scour the world for the necessary raw materials, and her job is to take the materiality and transform it, to use it to create a noble, G-dly home. This task is reflected in the three mitzvot of a Jewish woman. By lighting Shabbat candles, she brings the holiness of Shabbat into her home. By separating challah before baking bread, she brings holiness into the food. And by keeping the laws of taharat hamishpachah, family purity, she brings holiness into the body itself.
The miracles that both Sarah Rebecca experienced represent the power they had to draw holiness into this world and to extend that holiness beyond the boundaries of their own homes. Abraham, great as he was, did not have that function. His candles shone with an ordinary light. When Sarah and Rebecca lit candles, the holiness in those lights illuminated the world “from Shabbat to Shabbat”—and continue to shine for eternity. This is the power they bequeathed to their daughters, all Jewish women for all time. Even if we do not literally see our flames miraculously burning for an entire week, their spiritual power, their warmth and illumination remains.
According to tradition, Rebecca married Isaac at an early age, yet her candles already had this miraculous power. As Jewish women, it is our privilege to continue this chain and transmit to our daughters their mission—to light up the world with the “candle of mitzvah and the light of Torah.” Ultimately, the Midrash teaches: “If you will keep the lights of Shabbat, I will show you the lights of Zion,” with the true and complete redemption.