Chayei Sarah תשפב
Sarah our Matriarch has died at age 127, and the Torah describes how her husband Avraham comes to eulogize her (Genesis 23:1,2):
וַיִּהְיוּ חַיֵּי שָׂרָה מֵאָה שָׁנָה וְעֶשְׂרִים שָׁנָה וְשֶׁבַע שָׁנִים שְׁנֵי חַיֵּי שָׂרָה:
(ב) וַתָּמָת שָׂרָה בְּקִרְיַת אַרְבַּע הִוא חֶבְרוֹן בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנָעַן וַיָּבֹא אַבְרָהָם לִסְפֹּד לְשָׂרָה וְלִבְכֹּתָהּ
1) Sarah lived one hundred years, twenty years, and seven years; the years of Sarah’s life.
2. Sarah died in Kiriath-arba, which is Hebron in the land of Canaan; and Avraham came to eulogize Sarah and to cry for her:
The Sages wonder about the seemingly extra words “the years of Sarah’s life” What do they add?
Verse two tells us that “Avraham came to eulogize Sarah.” From where did he come?
The Sages answer, “The binding of Isaac.” Indeed, the Midrash informs us that it was the binding of Isaac that actually killed Sarah:
הָלַךְ וְאָמַר לְשָׂרָה, אִי שָׂרָה לֹא שָׁמַעְתְּ מַה שֶּׁנַּעֲשָׂה בָּעוֹלָם, אָמְרָה לוֹ לָאו, אָמַר לָהּ לָקַח אִישֵׁךְ הַזָּקֵן לַנַּעַר לְיִצְחָק וְהִקְרִיבוֹ לְעוֹלָה, וְהַנַּעַר בּוֹכֶה וּמְיַלֵּל שֶׁלֹּא יָכוֹל לְהִנָּצֵל. מִיָּד הִתְחִילָה בּוֹכָה וּמְיַלֶּלֶת. בָּכְתָה שָׁלֹשׁ בְּכִיּוֹת כְּנֶגֶד שָׁלֹשׁ תְּקִיעוֹת, שָׁלֹשׁ יְלָלוֹת כְּנֶגֶד שָׁלֹשׁ יְבָבוֹת, וּפָרְחָה נִשְׁמָתָהּ וָמֵתָה. בָּא אַבְרָהָם אָבִינוּ וּמְצָאָהּ שֶׁמֵּתָה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר [בראשית כג, ב] וַיָּבֹא אַבְרָהָם לִסְפֹּד לְשָׂרָה וְלִבְכֹּתָהּ
The Satan went to Sarah and said to her, “Sarah! Do you know what has just happened?”
She said, “No.”
The Satan said to her, “Your old man took the lad Yitzchak and sacrificed him! The lad was crying and screaming, but there was nothing that he could do to save himself!”
Upon hearing this, Sarah started crying. She let out three sobs and then died.
When Avraham returned from Mount Moriah, he found that she had died. This is what the verse is referring to when it says, “And Avraham came to eulogize Sarah and to cry for her.”
It seemed that it was the Akeida that caused her death. Therefore, Torah was clear to repeat “the years of Sarah’s life.” Don’t think that Sarah died one day earlier that she was supposed to die. Every person comes into this world with a certain number of years and days that he is given to live. When that allotment is up, the soul is requested to return to heaven whence it came. The circumstances under which that happens are really inconsequential. It is just the method that Hashem employs to accomplish the goal of separating the soul from the body, freeing it to return to heaven.
The Midrash also tells us:
ילקוט שמעוני תורה ילקוט שמעוני על בראשית פרק ה רמז מא
זה ספר תולדות אדם העביר לפניו כל הדורות הראהו דוד חיים חקוקין לו ג’ שעות אמר לפניו רבש”ע לא תהא תקנה לזה אמר כך עלתה במחשבה לפני א”ל כמה שני חיי א”ל אלף שנים א”ל יש מתנה ברקיע א”ל הן א”ל ע’ שנים משנותי יהיו למזל זה מה עשה אדם הביא את השטר וכתב עליו שטר מתנה וחתם עליו הקב”ה ומטטרון ואדם
Hashem showed Adam (the souls of the leaders of) all the subsequent generations. Adam saw the soul of King David, which was given only three hours to live. Adam said to Hashem, “Is there anything to do for this soul?” Hashem responded, “This is what I have decided.” Adam asked Hashem, “How many years do I have to live?” Hashem said, “One Thousand.” Adam said to Hashem, “Do you allow gifts in heaven?” Hashem said, “Sure!” “Then give this soul [King David’s] 70 of my years!” said Adam.
The Talmud (Shabbat 30a) relates a conversation between King David and Hashem.
תלמוד בבלי מסכת שבת דף ל/א
דאמר רב יהודה אמר רב מאי דכתיב הודיעני ה’ קצי ומדת ימי מה היא אדעה מה חדל אני אמר דוד לפני הקדוש ברוך הוא רבונו של עולם הודיעני ה’ קצי אמר לו גזרה היא מלפני שאין מודיעין קצו של בשר ודם ומדת ימי מה היא גזרה היא מלפני שאין מודיעין מדת ימיו של אדם ואדעה מה חדל אני אמר לו בשבת תמות אמות באחד בשבת אמר לו כבר הגיע מלכות שלמה בנך ואין מלכות נוגעת בחברתה אפילו כמלא נימא אמות בערב שבת אמר לו כי טוב יום בחצריך מאלף טוב לי יום אחד שאתה יושב ועוסק בתורה מאלף עולות שעתיד שלמה בנך להקריב לפני על גבי המזבח
Rabbi Yehudah said in the name of Rav, … King David said before Hashem, “Master of the Universe, please tell me when I will die.” Hashem responded, “It is a steadfast rule that I do not disclose to a person how long he will live.” King David said, “Can you at least tell me what day of the week I will die?” Hashem said, “You will die on Shabbat.” King David said, “Maybe I can die on Sunday?” Hashem said, “Sunday is the day your son Shlomo is supposed to become king of Israel, and your kingdom is not allowed to encroach on his even the breadth of a hair.” “Maybe I can die on Friday?” (King David did not want to die on Shabbat because of the many halachic problems associated with the corpse.) Hashem said, “One day of your Torah learning is greater than all the thousands of sacrifices that your son Solomon will bring me!”
We see that Hashem gives a person a specific amount of time to live, and that sometimes it is not long at all. In King David’s case, as we see from the Midrash, there was a very deep connection between his soul and Adam’s, and, therefore, King David had to obtain his years from Adam; but everyone else is given a specific length of time to live on this earth. Our Sages tell us that the length of one’s years is commensurate to the size of the job that he has to accomplish while alive. One never knows how long that will be, so there is no time to waste!
The Talmud Yerushalmi (Berachot 2:8) speaks about a great sage, Rabbi Bun, who died at the young age of 28.
למה היה רבי בון בר’ חייא דומה? למלך ששכר פועלים הרבה והיה שם פועל אחד והיה משתכר במלאכתו יותר מדאי. מה עשה המלך? נטלו והיה מטייל עמו ארוכות וקצרות. לעיתותי ערב באו אותם פועלים ליטול שכרן ונתן לו שכרו עמהן משלם. והיו הפועלים מתרעמין ואומרים אנו יגענו כל היום וזה לא יגע אלא שתי שעות ונתן לו שכרו עמנו משלם. אמר להן המלך יגע זה לשתי שעות יותר ממה שלא יגעתם אתם כל היום כולו. כך יגע רבי בון בתורה לעשרים ושמונה שנה מה שאין תלמיד וותיק יכול ללמוד למאה שנה
You know what Rabbi Bun’s untimely death is like? It’s like a king who employed workers to complete a job for him. He noticed one worker working much harder than the others, and the king asked him to go for a stroll with him for the remainder of the work day. At the end of the day, the king paid that worker the same as the others. They complained saying, “But he worked only two hours and we worked the whole day!” The king said, “He worked harder in his two hours than you did all day!” Similarly, Rabbi Bun, put so much effort into his learning that he worked harder in his 28 years than a regular student would in a hundred years!
It goes without saying that Hashem in His infinite wisdom and His deep and broad view of all humanity from the beginning of time until today, has a perfectly clear vision for every soul that enters this world. That vision encompasses every aspect of the soul, and, to that end, it is endowed with every need it will have to accomplish its mission on this world.
Our Sages teach us that the soul of a person who has passed away may be returned to this world for a second or third time. There are different reasons for this. If a person stole, his soul will have to return to repay what he stole to the descendant of the person he stole from. Sometimes, when a soul has not completed its mission during the amount of time that it was given, Hashem may give it another opportunity to complete its mission. If a soul has just a small matter to correct, it may be here for a very short time. While everyone is grieving over the passing of this young soul, the soul is rejoicing that it can finally reach the great height in heaven that it aspired to achieve.
A story taken from the writings of Rabbi Chayim Vital, a well-known Kabbalist, printed in the Sefer Otzros Hatorah Volume 3 p. 78, illustrates this point.
Yosef, married a few years, and his younger brother, Dovid, made their way to their mother’s home from Shul on a Friday night to wish her Shabbat Shalom. The house had a pleasant atmosphere as the candles cast their glow on a table beautifully set for Shabbat. The only thing that disturbed the peace was the empty chair at the head of the table, the chair of their father who had passed away two years earlier. This filled their hearts with feelings of pain and longing. Their mother sat in her usual chair looking into a book as the boys entered and said, “Shabbat Shalom, mother!” “Shabbat Shalom,” mother said, trying to hide the tears that had been flowing from her eyes without end. “You are crying again, mother?” said Yosef. “There has to be a limit, and besides, today is Shabbat and you are not allowed to be sad on the Shabbat!” “But you know,” said mother, “that tonight is the second anniversary of your father’s passing, so how can I not cry?”
Yosef said, “Okay, tonight you have an excuse, but what about yesterday and the day before that? It is already two years, and you cannot find peace. Father is in גן עדן – Gan Eden, (paradise, where the souls of the deceased go to receive reward after one passes away) and he is surely not pleased with your sorrow. Hashem also surely doesn’t want you to be sad. The Code of Jewish Law gives the guidelines of when and how much one must mourn when someone passes away, and if you don’t comply, it looks like you don’t accept Hashem’s judgement.
Mother stood up, wiped a few tears from her eyes, and said, “You are correct, my son. With all my strength I wish I could forget, but I cannot. I promise to try with everything I have to be happy.”
Wishing his mother a Shabbat Shalom, Yosef left the house leaving Dovid to fill the role of father in the house. He made the kiddush on the wine, and over the course of the meal the peace of Shabbat set in, and mother even smiled a few times. After a festive Shabbat meal, they all went to sleep. Mother felt an inner peace that she hadn’t felt in a very long time, and soon fell into a peaceful sleep.
As she slept, she had a dream in which a group of people were running through the city and she was running with them. They exited the city and entered a dense dark forest. They continued running in the darkness until, suddenly, a ray of light broke through and the sun could be seen in the sky; they had come to the end of the forest. She could now see before her a beautiful garden of flowers giving off a beautiful fragrance. Surrounding the garden blue waters could be seen.
Suddenly, she could see an old Jewish man with a long white beard dressed in a long white garment before her. The man asked her if she would like to see her husband, and she immediately followed him, her heard beating rapidly. The old man stopped next to a large tree full of large beautiful fruits and from the distance she could see a meadow surrounded with a golden fence. In the center she could see Jews dressed in different colored clothing sitting in rows learning Torah. In the center stood a young Jewish man giving the lecture. “Wait a little,” said the old man, “He will soon finish the class and then you will be able to see him.”
The lecture ended and the lecturer started walking towards her. She couldn’t believe her eyes! It was her husband! Her head started to spin, as she saw her husband standing next to her. “Avraham!” She yelled out. Feeling faint, she leaned against a tree. “That’s me,” he answered. When she came to herself, she asked him, “Why did you leave me at such a young age?”
He responded. “The world you live in is like a reformatory where people are sent to complete certain matters or to suffer for sins committed in a previous life. The true world is here. I lived in your world once before, even before you met me, and I was a great Sage and a holy man. I was so dedicated to learning Torah that I didn’t want to marry and have children, so as not to disturb my studies. When I left the world, they gave me a position as the head of a yeshiva in גן עדן Gan Eden, and I began going higher and higher. However, when they realized that I did not marry and have children, I was sent back to the world to marry and have children. That is when I married you, my wife, and when our seventh child was born, they called me back to my Yeshiva in Gan Eden, where my students were awaiting my return. You have much merit as my wife and when your time comes, we will continue to live here together in peace and tranquility.
His wife said. “I never knew you were such a great Sage, and during our marriage, you never had time to study Torah.” Her husband responded. “I also didn’t know. Since I came back to the world to correct what was missing – to marry and have children- when I left the world again, all my Torah came back to me.”
His wife continued to ask. “Why is our son Yosef having such a hard time making a living?” He answered. “Do you remember the court case our son had with another Jewish person? Well, even though he won the case, in the process, he caused much pain and suffering to the other person. For that, they wanted to give him a severe punishment. I was able to prevail upon them to give him four years of difficult livelihood instead. In one more year, that will end, and he will start to succeed once again.”
“And what about our son Dovid? He is already 24 years old, and they aren’t even suggesting matches for him! Besides, I don’t have the funds to pay for a wedding, anyway!”
Her husband smiled and said, “The reason for this is that Dovid’s bashert was late coming to the world. She is only 13 years old now, and she lives in another country. In another five years, she will move to your city, marry Dovid, and they will also pay for all the wedding expenses.”
Her body began to tremble as a painful memory came to mind. “Why did that terrible tragedy happen to our three-year old son? Why was he killed by a drunk gentile!”
Her husband smiled and said, “Follow me!”
She came to a meadow full of light and in it were planted small trees budding from all around that looked like they were studying her. From above came rays of light of all different colors, and beautiful birds flitted from tree to tree singing songs she could hear. They were all singing songs of praise for someone, as were large flies of different colors singing praises into her ears. Small deer frolicked in the grass singing his praises, and even the grass itself was singing his praises.
Suddenly, she saw swirling discs of fire in a host of colors that positioned themselves next to her. After them came small angels with wings and they also stood next to her. Surrounding her she could hear instruments playing a beautiful tune, and she felt that she was going to faint. Her husband picked a grass from the garden and put it under her nose and she returned to herself. She looked again and saw a canopy of precious stones sparkling in all colors of the rainbow. Under the canopy came what looked like an angel and stood opposite her. She recognized her son that was killed and he was laughing very happily. She once again felt like she was going to faint, and her husband once again gave her the grass to smell. She opened her eyes and saw that it was her son.
She asked him. “Why did you leave me at such a young age?” The child responded. “Everything is according to the calculations of Hashem. I was already in the world, before being born to you as a son. That time I was born to a very prestigious family, but the gentiles in our city killed the entire Jewish population, and only I, a six-month old baby, survived. A gentile woman found me and took me to her house where she raised me until a different Jewish community redeemed me. I grew to be a great Sage and lived my life out in peace. When I left the world, I was received in Gan Eden with great happiness, and began going higher and higher until I reached a point where I could go no higher. Since I had nursed for a full year from a gentile woman, my judgement was to return to the world, nurse three years from a Jewish woman, and then I would be able to reach the greatest heights. That is when I was born to you, mother, and it is a great merit for you to have been my mother. When the three years were up, I returned to my place in Gan Eden, since there was nothing left for me to do on the world.”
“But why did it have to happen in such a horrific way?” she continued to ask. The boy answered. “When it was my time to leave the world, there was a decree to kill all the Jews of our city, including you and father. They honored me to be the atonement for the city, and my horrific murder saved the city. That is why I have all this extra glory here in heaven. No one else is permitted to see me and my reward except for father.” The boy chuckled and began floating away.
At this point her husband addressed her and said, “You see that all the questions have answers. Hashem doesn’t ever do anything bad. I have to return to my lecture now.” He escorted her to where they met, next to the tree, and said to her. “Here it is very good for me, however, it is very hard for me to see your suffering and tears. Please do me a big favor, and start living in happiness.”
Her husband disappeared and the old Jew appeared once again and escorted her to the dense forest.
She awoke the next morning feeling like a new person.
Our Sages teach us that at this time, all souls that come to the world have already been here before. We are all here to complete a mission or to correct something from a previous life. The purpose of this is so that the soul can reach a higher place in the world to come. When a soul reaches its limit, and can go no higher, Hashem gives it the opportunity to return to this world to do what it needs to do to be allowed to continue going higher and higher in Gan Eden. This is why Hashem has created us. He wanted to give our souls the greatest pleasure possible in the world to come, and He will do whatever He can, to help us achieve that.
If only we could see what is behind the scenes in every one of Hashem’s decisions, we would appreciate how what He is doing is the very best for every person.
While it is impossible for a mortal to understand the literally millions and perhaps trillions of reasons that the Loving and Merciful Hashem, would bring an event as horrific as the Holocaust on His beloved children, perhaps this idea can mitigate and provide an understanding of one small facet of it.
The Torah teaches us that if a person gives his life על קידוש השם – for the sake of Hashem’s name, his soul goes straight to the highest place in Gan Eden and avoids punishment for any sins he may have transgressed in this world. Since he gave his life for Hashem, the ultimate expression of love and self-sacrifice, it atones for all of his sins and provides him with the greatest possible reward in the world to come.
Based on this, all the Jews who perished in the Holocaust for the “crime” of being Jewish in essence gave their lives for the sake of Hashem’s name. They all understood very clearly, that they were being tortured and killed, because they were Hashem’s children. This entitles them to the greatest reward in the world to come without any punishment.
That being so, perhaps, over many years, maybe even thousands of years, there were many souls that had sinned and could not enter Gan Eden. They were suffering and could not achieve a good place in the world to come. Hence, Hashem in His goodness and His desire to see every soul in the highest place it can be, gave all those souls free passage into Gan Eden, by bringing them together at one time and having them killed “for the sake of Hashem’s name.” Giving their lives up in this way sent them straight to Gan Eden, something they could not otherwise achieve. In this way, Hashem did them the greatest favor possible.
Understanding that Hashem does what He does with our eternal well-being in mind – our station in Gan Eden – changes the whole picture. This world is a temporary existence, and the suffering is limited. The world to come is an eternal existence. How much better to have a good place in the world to come, rather than to have comforts in this world. Because we are able to see only half of the picture, the part of the picture down here, we have no clue of the good that awaits us in Gan Eden.
ספר תהילים פרק קמה
(יז) צַדִּיק יְדֹוָד בְּכָל דְּרָכָיו וְחָסִיד בְּכָל מַעֲשָׂיו
Hashem is righteous in all of His ways, and magnanimous in all of His deeds.
This is a fact; a very comforting one, at that.