This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Chayei Sarah (5762)
This week's section is called the "Life of Sarah", which is strange because it doesn't really deal with Sarah, and even stranger because it begins with her death.
To understand this, here is a story about the fifth Rebbe of Chabad, the "REShaB" Rebbe Shalom DovBer (1861-1920), whose birthday, (20th of Cheshvan), occurred earlier this week.
This Rebbe wrote thousands of the deepest discourses in the teachings of Chabad, established an entire Yeshiva (Torah Academy) system in Russia, and fought unrelenting battles to save and strengthen Judaism. But his health was very frail, and he regularly left the Yeshiva and visited the countryside on Shabbat to rest.
One such Shabbat there was a crisis; in the middle of the night one of the pupils in the Yeshiva suddenly got a bad case of diarrhea with fever.
Now normally this would not have aroused much interest, but it so happened that these were the first symptoms of a highly contagious disease called Cholera that was claiming myriads, possibly millions of lives at that time in Russia.
To make matters worse, the only treatment was to drink hot tea, and the young man refused even that (it meant asking a non-Jew to light the fire under the water pot on Shabbat) saying he would allow it only if the Rebbe said it was all right. After all, it wasn't clear that he had Cholera, and it was too late at night to wake the doctor to get his opinion.
What could they do? The Rebbe was over two hour's walk away. Who would go? Lots were drawn, and fell on a pupil by the name of Mordechi Perlov (who later became a well know Rabbi in Australia) to go and ask the Rebbe for his opinion. The young man set off at the crack of dawn, walking as fast as he could. Over two hours later, drenched with sweat and out of breath, he sighted the Rebbe's cottage.
The Rebbe's wife was sitting on the front porch at the time, and when saw the young man coming at a rapid pace she began to panic.
"What is it?" she yelled from a distance as she ran to meet him "What is the problem!?"
"Oh, nothing" he said, trying to be calm, hurry, and catch his breath at the same time. "I just want some advice from the Rebbe."
"Tell me what it is!" She demanded "Did something happen in the Yeshiva?"
"Well" he answered reluctantly, still trying to catch his breath, "One of the boys has a fever".
"Only a fever?" She interrogated, "You came running here all the way from the Yeshiva because one boy has a fever?"
"Well, he has a bit of diarrhea too, but it’s nothing too..."
"Oy!" She exclaimed, "Come with me. Hurry!"
She rushed him into the house, and to the door of the room where the Rebbe was sitting. She knocked quietly. There was no reply, so she quietly opened the door. The Rebbe was sitting, wrapped in his Tallis (prayer shawl), face to the wall preparing to pray. It was obvious that he was in a different world.
"One of the boys has, G-d forbid, Cholera!!" She yelled.
The Rebbe turned, looked at both of them for a few seconds and then motioned with his hand to Mordechi to hear his version.
"Yes Rebbe" he mumbled "Fever and diarrhea"
"Nuu!" said the Rebbe as he made a sign indicating that it was nothing. "A little diarrhea and fever, it's no reason to get excited" and he turned his face back to the wall.
"It's not a little!" Shouted his wife, "It’s very serious. It's a high fever, and he won't even allow them to ask the worker to make tea for him."
"He's right!" Said the Rebbe, turning back to them, "every time someone has a little diarrhea you have to light fire on Shabbos?" He looked at Mordechi and said calmly, "You go back to the Yeshiva and tell him and everyone else that it is nothing! Do you hear me? Absolutely nothing! He is completely healthy, no matter what the doctor says".
Mordechi turned, rushed out of the cottage, and with wings on his feet, began to run back to the Yeshiva.
When he arrived two hours later, almost all the pupils were standing outside afraid to even be in the building with their stricken friend. The Doctor had been called and he diagnosed Cholera. The boy lapsed into a coma and now it was just a matter of time. Everyone was petrified that it was the beginning of an epidemic.
But Mordechi rushed past everyone and into the building ignoring the shouts that he was endangering his life. He ran into the sick boy's room, threw his arms around him, hugging him and lifting his limp, unconscious body.
"The Rebbe said you are healthy!" He yelled. "Get up! The Rebbe said you are healthy!"
The others standing outside heard what he was shouting, and in seconds they too filled the room and began dancing.
Suddenly he sick boy, burning with fever, weakly opened his eyes and everyone instantly fell silent as he said;
"Boruch HaShem! (Thank G-d) the Rebbe said I'm healthy."
Minutes later the boy was sitting up in bed drinking water. And a week later he was back learning Torah with the rest of his friends as though nothing happened.
This is the job of all Tzadikim; to enliven others. And that is why this week’s section is called the "Life" of Sarah, because it speaks of the life she brought to the generations though her son Yitzchak.
Both through his marriage to Rivka (the subject of this week's section) which would eventually lead to the birth of their son Yisroel, and through his unique custom of digging wells and transforming the desert (as we will see more clearly in next week's section), he became one of the founders (forefathers) of a "LIVING" Holy Nation and one of the most vital forces in eventually accomplishing the goal of the Jewish people; bringing Moshiach.
Similarly thousands of years later when the Rebbe Rashab founded his Yeshivas called "Tomchi Tmimim" with the purpose of transforming the world. The pupils therein are called "The Soldiers of Moshiach (Bait Dovid)" and the ideas (called Chassidus) they learn are called "Toras HaMoshiach".
Their goal is, just as Yitzchak transformed the desert and the Rebbe enlivened the sick pupil in our story, to enliven and reveal the "living waters”; the G-dliness hidden in the entire creation.
As it says in Isiah 11:9 , "The world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d like the Ocean is filled with water."
This is truly the "Life" and living legacy of Sarah.
And it all depends on us to make it happen even one moment sooner. One more good deed, word or even thought can tip the scales and bring…….
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