For the week ending 6 November 2004 / 22 Heshvan 5765

Parshat Chayei Sara

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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Sarah, Mother of the Jewish People, passes on at age 127. After mourning and eulogizing her, Avraham seeks to bury her in the Cave of Machpela. As this is the burial place of Adam and Chava, Avraham pays its owner, Ephron the Hittite, an exorbitant sum. Avraham sends his faithful servant Eliezer to find a suitable wife for his son, Yitzchak, making him swear to choose a wife only from among Avrahams family. Eliezer travels to Aram Naharaim and prays for a sign. Providentially, Rivka appears. Eliezer asks for water. Not only does she give him water, but she draws water for all 10 of his thirsty camels. (Some 140 gallons!) This extreme kindness marks her as the right wife for Yitzchak and a suitable Mother of the Jewish People. Negotiations with Rivka's father and her brother Lavan result in her leaving with Eliezer. Yitzchak brings Rivka into his mother Sarahs tent, marries her and loves her. He is then consoled for the loss of his mother. Avraham remarries Hagar who is renamed Ketura to indicate her improved ways. Six children are born to them. After giving them gifts, Avraham sends them to the East. Avraham passes away at the age of 175 and is buried next to Sarah in the Cave of Machpela.


Age After Beauty

And Avraham was old (24:1)

Every year, cosmetic companies spend major money advertising the latest wrinkle-removers. The follicly-challenged amongst us are prepared to pour all kinds of noxious smelling potions on our bald domes to encourage a little sprouting when none has sprouted in many a year. Millions of research dollars every year are spent in the pursuit of a youthful appearance.

There was a time, however, when nearly eternal youth was commonplace, when aging was unheard of. Unheard of, that is, until the father of Judaism asked G-d to change all that.

In the Midrashic commentary on this weeks Torah portion, the spiritual masters (who had access to secrets of the universe) prescribe four main causes of aging:

  • Fear
  • Stress resulting from problems with children
  • A bad spouse
  • And War

We find sources for all four in the Scriptures:

We learn the aging effects of fear from King David: The verse says, He was terrified because of the sword of the angel of G-d (Divrei Hayamim 21:30), and in the following verse we learn and David was old.

That stress from problem children causes aging we learn in the Book of Shmuel: It says And Eli was very old and heard all that his sons did to Yisrael. (2:22)

The aging effects of a bad spouse derive from King Shlomo: Shlomos wives worshipped idols, which caused him to age. (Melachim 11:4)

The stress of war we learn from Yehoshua: The verse says He waged war against thirty-one kings (Yehoshua 12:24) and immediately following it says, and Yehoshua was old. (13:1)

Even though the Torah tells us that Avraham was old, none of the above causes applies to him. Sara, his wife, held him in high esteem and was a wife of the highest caliber. His sons followed in his ways, and he was blessed withgood fortune. Avrahams old age was a crown of glory.

Avraham was the first person in history to age, and his aging was of his own desire. Until the time of Avraham, outward signs of aging were unknown. People would not look any older at age 70 than attwenty. When their time came, they would pass away looking as youthful as ever.

Avraham asked G-d to change this. Avrahams son, Yitzchak, looked very similar to his father, such that when they would both enter a room people would not know which of them to accord the honor befitting the father. To avoid their embarrassment, Avraham asked G-d to age him so everyone would know who was who.

So all those medical and cosmetic companies can thank Avraham for their revenue! For, to Avraham, the appearance of eternal youth for all generations was nothing when weighed against even the possible minor embarrassment of one person

  • Based on the Midrash

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