Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim

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Parshat Chayei Sarah 5783
Rabbi Jablinowitz

We read in this week’s parsha that Sarah died after 127 years, and the Torah repeats the word שנה in stating her age; מאה שנה, ועשרים שנה, ושבע שנים. Rashi quotes the Medrash Rabbah (58, 1) on our parsha and comments that the pasuk repeats שנה in order to darshen each one separately and teach us a consistency in the life of Sarah. All of her years were complete and consistent in all aspects; both physical and spiritual. She always maintained a beautiful physical presence, which reflected her inner beauty, remaining consistent spiritually in her devotion to Gd. In this regard, the Medrash quotes the pasuk in Tehillim (Chapter 37, Pasuk 18), יודע ד' ימי תמימים, and comments, מה הם תמימים, כך שנותם תמימים. The repetition of the word שנה teaches us that all of her years were תמימים; complete and consistent in fulfilling her mission of Avodas Hashem. This was a trait of the Avos in general, and in particular, applied here to Sarah Imeinu.

What we learn here about the years of Sarah, applies to all of us, albeit not on such a grand scale. The Mishnah in Avos teaches (Chapter 4, Mishnah 3) in the name of Ben Azzai, אל תהי בז לכל אדם; do not disgrace or put down any person, שאין לך אדם שאין לו שעה; there is no person who doesn’t have his time. A basic understanding of this Mishnah would seem to be, don’t put anyone down because everyone eventually has his “moment in the sun”, and you will regret later the way you treated him.

The Chasid Ya’avetz in his commentary on Avos teaches a different p’shat. The statement that everyone has their hour, he explains, means everyone has his purpose and function in the world. You may not put him down, for there is an important reason for his being in the world. All creations are in this world for a purpose, and therefore, all must be respected. He brings the pasuk in Mishlei as an illustration of this. Shlomo Hamelech states (Chapter 17, Pasuk 5), לועג לרש, חרף עושהו. The one who mocks and puts down the poor and the unfortunate, is putting down his Creator. There is a reason everyone is here; don’t question the wisdom of Hashem.  

The Sfas Emes adds to the commentary of the Chasid Ya’avetz and teaches that the word שעה, literally an hour, has a different meaning as well. The pasuk says in Bereishis by Kayin and Hevel (Chapter 4, Pasuk 4), וישע ד' אל הבל ואל מנחתו. Gd accepted Hevel and his offering. The root ש-ע-ה means to accept and desire. According to the Sfas Emes, שאין לך אדם שאין לו שעה, means that every person has that which is requested from him. Everyone needs to understand what is desired of him specifically and fulfill his purpose in the world. Ben Azzai adds as well, ואין לך דבר שאין לו מקום. One of the ways Torah is acquired, as described in the end of Avos (6,6), is המכיר את מקומו; the one who knows his place. An essential aspect of our Avodah in this world is knowing our place and understanding what exactly it is Hashem desires from us. For sure, we all need to focus on Torah and mitzvos. Our precise function within that framework, though, needs to be clarified.

How much of our time is invested in these efforts is essential to us performing our function. The Sfas Emes teaches that the reason we stand up for an older person, as the pasuk commands (Vayikra, Chapter 19, Pasuk 32) מפני שיבה תקום, is because by this time in his life he has already fulfilled his essential task. The word שעה, which means what is desired from us, also means an hour. Do we live a lifetime for an hour’s task, or is most of our life focused on fulfilling our role? One who is a תלמיד חכם, who spends most of his waking hours on Torah and mitzvos, demands our respect well before he reaches the age of שיבה. We need to focus our time and efforts as much as possible in fulfilling what Hashem expects from us.

This gives a better perspective of what the Medrash is saying about Sarah Imeinu and others like her (Rashi brings the same comment by Avraham Avinu later in the parsha). The words שנותם תמימים in the Medrash indicate her entire life was complete and consistent towards her goal of Avodas Hashem. If on one end of the scale we have אין לך אדם שאין לו שעה, minimally every person has his task which he will fulfill, perhaps even momentarily, on the other end of the scale are the Avos and the Tzadikim of שנותם תמימים. All their days and all the years of their lives are constantly focused on doing the will of Hashem and fulfilling their purpose in the world.

Good Shabbos

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