Food For the Soul
Make your days count
“When you waste a moment, you have killed it in a sense, squandering an irreplaceable opportunity. But when you use the moment properly, filling it with purpose and productivity, it lives on forever.” – The Lubavitcher Rebbe
Many years ago, a product came on the market called “Death Insurance.” The problem was that no one wanted to buy a “death insurance” policy. It was a huge flop until someone had the bright idea to change the name from “Death Insurance” to “Life Insurance,” a much happier and more optimistic name.
The Parsha Chayei Sarah begins with the death of our matriarch, Sarah. Chayei Sarah literally means, however, “the Life of Sarah.” So is this a mere marketing gimmick to uplift us, or is it one of those paradoxical teaching moments? The Talmud explains how those who are righteous, who fill their days in productive and positive ways, are considered alive when they are dead, while those who bring toxicity and negativity into this world are viewed as dead even while they are alive. So it is quite fitting that following the death of Sarah, we focus on the meaning and influence of her life—who she was and what she accomplished—even though she is no longer living.
Sarah physically died. That’s the truth. But the opposite was also true. As a woman whose life was alive with the fullness of her choices, Sarah also lived, as death only marked a new form of her life. Sarah embodies the idea that we must not merely count our days, but we must make our days count.
So make the most of every moment. Make your moments holy. Make your moments endure by weaving into them a sacred reality. By understanding the infinite power and potential of each moment, you can stitch together the fabric of your life so that your spiritual loveliness will be there to embrace and clothe your eternal soul. Happy weaving!
From an article by Hanna Perlberger
Every Jewish woman and girl has a unique role to play in making the world a dwelling for the Divine. That moment on Friday afternoon, before sunset, when the Shabbat candles are lit, reveals this potential. The flame may not be visible all week long, like that of Sarah and Rebecca, yet it has a comparable effect. Every Jewish girl, from three years old, lights one candle, saying the blessing, while a married woman lights two. The Zohar tells us that these Shabbat candles bring peace to the world. Thus spiritual feminine energy is harnessed in order to bring us all closer to the goal of Creation.
From an article by Dr. Tali Loewenthal
Mind Over Matter
G-d helps those who help themselves
“G-d helps those who help themselves.” Is this statement heresy? Does it deny the hand of G-d in our successes? I recall a conversation with a self-proclaimed atheist who used the expression very cynically, suggesting that his considerable achievements were entirely his own and that G-d had nothing to do with it. I beg to differ. To my mind, “G-d helps those who help themselves” is a perfectly religious statement. What it means is absolutely consistent with traditional Jewish thinking. G-d does indeed help us to accomplish things, but He requires us to help ourselves first. If we just sit back and wait for miracles to happen, we may be disappointed.
“G-d will bless you in all that you do,” (Deuteronomy 15:18) makes it very clear. Our blessings come from G-d, but we must do. Of course, we believe in miracles—but we mustn’t rely on them. The combination of our own hard work and efforts coupled with G-d’s blessing is the ideal road to success.
From an article by Rabbi Yossy Goldman
The Right Time
In the Parsha Chayei Sarah, Abraham sends his servant Eliezer to find a wife for Isaac. With G-d’s help, Eliezer finds Rivkah (Rebecca). But Rivkah had a wicked father and brother so Abraham and Eleizer’s mission included “removing the rose from the thorns” at the right time. Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet writes: “There is an obvious moral relevant to us, in context of the principle that the events of the ancestors are an indication for their descendants. In the case of Rivkah there was a shortening of the journey to avoid that she remain even one extra moment among the thorns, in the house of her wicked father and brother. The same applies to us. We are not to become despondent over the darkness of the galut (exile).The Almighty will surely hasten the redemption to prevent our being in galut even one moment longer than necessary!”
Have I Got A Story
Life is a Double-Decker Cave
Two people went exploring and reached a swamp. The first was a man of means; he radioed for a helicopter, and five minutes later was on the other side, the crease in the pants of his safari suit intact. He even took some photographs while he was flying over (he was a man with an avid interest in the sciences), which made a modest but significant contribution to the field of swamp study.
The second person struggled across on foot. He got stuck. He got lost. He fended off poisonous snakes and other creatures too vile to mention. Twenty years later he emerged, calloused, begrimed, with a pronounced limp and the stink of the swamp in his skin. He went on to write the two national bestsellers, Surviving in a Swamp Environment and The Unknown Treasures of the Swamp. He directed both of the movie adaptations, and became the world’s foremost consultant for environmentalist groups and road-building companies. He established an international corporation which mined swamps for high-grade diamonds, whose presence was indicated by a certain type of slime on the surface—a technique he perfected based on his experiences.
One of the most famous pieces of real estate on earth is the Cave of Machpelah (also known as the “Cave of the Patriarchs”) in Hebron. As recounted in chapter 23 of Genesis, Abraham purchased the cave and surrounding field as a burial place for his wife, Sarah, making it the first plot of land in the Holy Land to become the legal possession of the Jewish people. Machpelah means “doubled” in Hebrew, and two reasons are given for this name. One reason is that four prestigious couples are buried there: Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, and Jacob and Leah. The second reason given by the commentaries is that it had two chambers one above the other, “like a house with a loft above it.”
Paradoxically, the Torah section (Parshah) that opens with the account of Sarah’s death and burial is called Chayei Sarah, “The Life of Sarah.” Indeed, the Kabbalistic work Midrash Hane’elam interprets the very verse describing Sarah’s passing—And Sarah died in Kiryat Arba, which is Hebron, in the land of Canaan (Genesis 23:2)—as an allusion to the soul’s journey through physical life.
And the chassidic masters explain that life is a double-decker cave—“a house with a loft above it.” Some arrive at the journey endowed with resources: a lofty soul, a refined character, a genius mind. These are the tzaddikim (perfectly righteous), who take the helicopter ride over the swamp of life. They do much good, enriching our knowledge and inspiring us with their bird’s-eye view of reality.
Then there are the sorry slobs who get stuck, who get lost, who get begrimed and beslimed in their journey through the swamp. These are the baalei teshuvah (masters of return), who emerge from their decades of wandering and misadventure with knowledge, skills and profits that far exceed those of their loftier brethren.
Life is a double-decker cave. If you ended up on the upper story, consider yourself lucky. If you find yourself on the lower level, consider yourself luckier.
Rabbi Yanki Tauber