In last week’s Parashat Vayera (18:23-33), after Avraham finished serving the three angels who came to him disguised as guests, he embarks on a long dialogue with Hashem, pleading and negotiating on behalf of the wicked people of Sedom to try and save that city from complete destruction. The question that’s asked is why did the Torah through this dialogue Avraham, spend all these Pesukim on saving these terrible people who were thoroughly wicked!
Rav Nissim Kaplan quoted the Maharal Duskin that Avraham was no fool, he knew exactly what he was doing. True, they deserved the worst punishment, but Avraham had a broader vision. He foresaw a time when his own descendants would anger their Creator by behaving as badly as the people of Sedom. Avraham seized the opportunity that lay before him. He created an insurance policy for his children. A contract for all future generations.
The day may come where the end seems inevitable, but there would always be hope. This is a gift from Avraham Avinu, a special merit that each generation would be awarded. Tzadikim would have the ability to protect their generation from harm. Avraham was negotiating with Hashem on behalf of all of us, the future generations of the Jewish nation. He was protecting us in advance by creating the concept of at least ten Tzadikim in a city protecting that city, even though, otherwise the city might not be worthy of being saved from Hashem’s wrath. This then was Avraham’s plan and strategy. This also helps us to understand another famous question people may ask...”What are these Rabbi’s learning in kollel doing for me?”
From Avraham's negotiations with Hashem, we can see that the Rabbi’s learning in our city are protecting all of us from harm that we may be unaware of, as we go about our daily lives. May Hashem always protect our community! Amen!
Now in this week’s Parashat Chayei Sarah, we begin with the Passuk, “Vaheyu chaye sarah meah shanah veesriym shanah vesheva shaniym; shenei chayei sarah.” Which means, "Sarah's lifetime was one hundred years, twenty years and seven years; the years of Sarah's life". We also learn from the repetition of the words“Chayei Sarah” that Sarah lived her full life and the Satan did not take away any of the years of her life.
Our Rabbis teach us that there was a connection between Sarah's death and the Akedat Yitzchak. Her death, they explain, was actually the result of the Akedah. Rashi quotes Chazal, that the Satan shocked Sarah in the way that he described the Akedah. Normally if something happens and you have to break the news to a family member, you would start off by saying,"Your son is ok, but he was involved in a car accident and B'h he's doing fine".
A person has to learn how to talk when breaking difficult news to someone. The Satan didn't make this his practice and would say "Avraham sacrificed your son Yitzchak...but he didn't kill him". From these shocking words Sarah's Neshamah left her but she knew and was satisfied that her son survived! Why did the Satan have to shock Sarah? Chazal answers, that the reason was to cause Avraham regret for what he did so that he would lose the mitzvah.
As it says in the "Haskevenu" of Arbit, Vehaser Satan melifanenu umeacharenu: "Remove the Satan from before and after us". Please Hashem don't let the Satan discourage or cause us to regret doing the Mitzvot before or after we do it.
Imagine if you see a poor person that you want to help, but the Satan grabs you to discourage you from helping that person. Then after you conquer the Yetzer Harah and help the man, the Satan comes to you and says, "Why did you give him so much money?” He tries to make you regret the mitzvah that you just did, so that you will lose credit for the mitzvah.
This is exactly what the Satan was trying to accomplish with Avraham. But we learn that she passed her test, because Chazal taught us that her last breath came with the proud knowledge that she had succeeded in raising a son who was willing to give up his life in the service of Hashem.
The Torah goes on to say: Veyavo Avraham lespod lesarah velivkotah. “And Avraham came to eulogize Sarah and to cry for her." But here the Torah uses a small Kaf in the word "Velivkotah", which means to cry for her. The reason for this is because Avraham first eulogized Sarah's good traits and then later, he cried for his loss in private. Chacham Ovadia once said at the funeral of a very charitable mans wife from our community that "Avraham didn't cry so much because he was able to visualize Sarah in Olam Habah and the glory that she was basking in".
Later on, in Perek 24 Passuk 1, it says VeAvraham zaken bayamim, veHashem berach et Avraham bakol. "Now Avraham was old, came along with his days, and Hashem had blessed Avraham with everything". Rashi says on this that the numerical value of Bakol "With Everything" is 52 which is the same numerical value as the word "Ben" (son) so what Rashi is implying here is that once Avraham had his son Yitzchak and they both passed that final test of the Akedah, he was content that he truly did have everything!
As we go through our lives and get on in years, we realize what's most important in our lives is our children and the legacy they will bring us. So when Rashi says that Avraham's son Yitzchak is everything he's saying that all that really matters to us as parents and grandparents is our children, and the future of our families, who will carry on our lineage. I feel very fortunate that I had all my grandparents alive, while I was old enough to truly appreciate them.
So what this Passuk is saying is that Hashem’s blessings for us is to have children and grandchildren that will grow up to follow in the ways of the Torah and make us proud of them. To have "Everything" to many people can mean wealth, health and honor but most important is seeing our lives and the children we produced become a part of our Jewish lineage and seeing it continue into the future.
The Passuk begins, "Avraham was old, came along with the days." This seems somewhat redundant. Rabbi Twersky, a medical doctor, comments that many people in their older years tend to look back and express regret. If only they could turn back the clock and relive the days of their youth again to avoid some of the mistakes they had made.
They would never think back and say, "If only I had spent more time at the office." Rather they would say "I should have spent more time with my family, building my relationships with my children instead". They realize then, later on in life, how insignificant those extra hours at the office were, compared to the great value of spending precious time with the family.
The Torah is saying that there was not a single day that Avraham wasted or regretted – he had done “everything”. There is no greater Beracha than looking back on our lives and having the satisfaction that we lived our lives to the fullest and wouldn't want to go back and relive a single day that needed correction.
When the great Rabbi Avigdor Miller past away in 2001 his children found in his will a letter saying to them the following:
My children and grandchildren, please don't cry or mourn for me too much because I'm very thankful to Hashem for giving me a wonderful life. I had a wonderful wife and 5 beautiful children who all went in the way of the Torah. My 2 sons, both Rabbis one a Rosh Yeshivah and my 3 daughters all married to Rabbis. My grandchildren also all B'nei Torah and following the path of Torah as I have prayed for all my life. I was healthy all of my years and was able to learn for 6 years in Slabotka Yeshivah. I am truly grateful for the wonderful life that Hashem gave me.
May we all live each and every day to the fullest by spending quality time with our children and grandchildren and be always involved in learning Torah with them every day. This, so we may enter our later years in life old and content with the satisfaction that our days were full and productive with our children and grandchildren around us learning and growing in Torah and Ma’asim Tovim with them! Amen!