Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Chayei Sara
To dedicate this lesson

Chayei Sarah


Rabbi Berel Wein

Cheshvan 21 5781
Jewish tradition teaches us that the house of our mother Sarah had unique qualities.. I have written about this often but add the following nuance to my previous writings. We are taught that in the tent of Sarah there were three outstanding qualities: the blessing of bountiful bread that is the quality of hospitality, the cloud of spirituality that always hovered over her home and the fact that the candle lit for the Sabbath burned throughout the entire week until the entrance of the next Sabbath.

This idea of that candle contains within it the great message that every day of the week is only a prelude to the great day of the Sabbath. We say so in our prayers when we count our days according to the upcoming Sabbath. This is the Jewish soul that constantly yearns for the Sabbath throughout the mundane activities of the weekday world. The Jew cannot believe that somehow the troubles, travails, distractions, and challenges of ordinary life which are omnipresent are really the basic issues of our existence and define our purpose in life.

Those who think that way are hardly removed from the rest of the animal kingdom that exists only in the moment, for the present, without any great vision as to what life should be and what one's purpose in existence is. It is only the Sabbath day that puts the whole week into perspective and enables us to see the greatness that the creator intended for all of us.

Throughout the ages, Jews always defined themselves in terms of the Sabbath. The criterion for Jewish legitimacy always was that one was a Sabbath observer. Jews took the Sabbath and made it their given name and, later in history, even their surname. They always wanted to be identified with the Sabbath, because they realized that the candle of life burns from one Sabbath to the next, and is never extinguished, thereby giving one the glimpse and goal of eternity in an otherwise finite world.

There have been many great works written about the Sabbath: halachic, philosophical, fanciful, inspirational, and psychological. All of them deal with special facets of the Sabbath, which is like a diamond that sheds light in all directions, no matter which way it is turned. The Sabbath became the object of love and endearment, and not only of identity and Jewish pride. Jews understood that the destruction of the Sabbath, God forbid, would mean the eventual destruction of the nation and its purpose as being a holy people.

This is the treasure that our mother Sarah bequeathed to us – a flame from a lonely candle that lights our way through an often dark and dangerous weekday world. We are witness to the tragedy that engulfs individuals and entire sections of the Jewish people who are devoid of the Sabbath and do not possess that candle of light that only the Sabbath can provide. That is why this week's Torah reading is entitled "The Life of Sarah", because as long as the Sabbath lives within the Jewish world, our mother Sarah is with us, to comfort and guide us, and to help raise us to eternal greatness.

Shabbat shalom

Berel Wein

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