For the week ending 14 November 2020 / 27 Heshvan 5781

Parashat Chayei Sarah

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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Sarah, the 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 Avraham's 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 Sarah's 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.


Practice Makes Perfect

“Sarah's lifetime was one hundred years, twenty years, and seven years…” (23:1)

Apparently, it takes at least 10,000 hours of practice to master an artisanal skill. That's a serous amount of time, and sometimes before you clock up those 10,000 hours, you may be tempted to think that you've got it down. I well remember putting a lot less than 10 hours into learning Chuck Berry's classic intro to Johnny B. Goode, in a pastiche version I wrote called "Yankie Levine" for the Ohr Somayach Simchat Beit HaShoeva the year before last (when masks where something that only surgeons wore).

Despite what I considered to be adequate practice, on the performance night I found that my fingers had not yet learned the notes that my brain thought they had, and under the pressure of performance, well, let's say, Chuck was rockin' and a'rolling in his grave.

On the other hand (l'havdil), this Rosh Hashana I got up to daven Pesukei d'Zimra in Ohr Somayach, (my privilege for more years that I can remember). I was feeling a little 'under-the-weather,' nothing terrible, but suffering from yet-undiagnosed COVID-19. Nevertheless, I got 'up to bat,' and thanks to Rabbi Mordechai Perlman's relentless drumming the nusach into my head (and years of practice), I adequately completed my task.

Rav Shlomo Wolbe once remarked that being a Jew means being “a professional human being”. To be professional at anything — especially being a human being — takes a lifetime of dedicated practice.

“Sarah's lifetime was one hundred years, twenty years, and seven years…”

Why didn't the Torah just write, "Sarah's lifetime was one hundred and twenty-seven years”? Sarah never stopped growing. She never stopped practicing to be a professional human being — not at seven years, not at twenty, not at a hundred and not even on the day she left the world. That is what made her the mother of the Jewish People.

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