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Parshat Chayei Sarah (5765)
This week we learn another life-episode from Abraham, the first Jew.
We read that, "Abraham was old, coming in days" (24:1)
The sages explain that "Old" means 'one who has acquired wisdom and perfected himself' (Kidushin 32b) and "Coming in days" means one who has improved the world around him every day of his life (Zohar 1:224a).
But, at first glance, this is not understood. Wouldn't it have been sufficient for the Torah just to tell us that Abraham was "Coming in days"
namely that he perfected the world around him? Then we would automatically
know that he perfected himself.
For instance, if we say that a doctor always heals we assume that he himself knows medicine. Same here, if Abraham could fix the world then it goes without saying that he was fixed.
So why tell us that he was "old" and had reached personal perfection?
To understand here are two stories.
Ariel Sharon was one of the most successful generals the Israeli army has ever known. His impressive string of military accomplishments and frequent opposition to Israeli government policy was renowned, and the very mention of his name brought fear in the hearts of the millions of enemies surrounding Israel.
In 1968, after stunning action in the six day war, he was chosen by the Jewish Federation to represent Israel in the United States where he developed a close friendship with a well known Chabad Chassid by the name of Rabbi Yizchak Ganzberg.
Rabbi Ganzberg visited Sharon many times and on one of his visits suggested that he could arrange a private audience with the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
Sharon, although not a religious man by any standards, had to maintain relations with all branches of Judaism and agreed to the meeting. And because of his important position he was given priority in the three-month long waiting list to see the Rebbe and late the next night he went to see the Rebbe.
Sharon later admitted, "I thought that it would be a cordial meeting with an aged Rabbi who was removed from the world. I figured it wouldn't last more than five or ten minutes. After all, what did we have in common? But I was in for a big surprise.
"The Rebbe began to speak with me about Israeli security. At first I was skeptical, but when I listened I realized that he was familiar with all of it, even secret material. It was like speaking to a colleague.
"For instance the Rebbe was very angry that eight of our soldiers were killed when we took the city of Kalkilia (near Kfar Saba) in the six day war.
"When I explained that we needed to cross a certain valley in order to attack and that the enemy surprised us with an ambush he replied, 'That is what I mean. Why did you have to cross the valley? You could have taken the city from another direction!' And he drew with his finger an exact outline of the city and where the attack should have been. as though army maps were open before him.
"And you know what...? He was right! Not just about Kalkilia but everything he said! I can't express how astounded I was. The last thing I expected was a military genius!!"
Sharon said that at one point he glanced at his watch and saw that over a half-hour had passed - like two minutes.
"Why are you looking at your watch?" The Rebbe asked.
"I have a plane to catch back to Israel" the General blushed and answered "and I'm afraid I'll miss it."
"There will be another plane." The Rebbe replied. "Stay here with me for a while longer and take another plane home."
Sharon was a military man. It was not his nature to be late or to change plans. But now he was hypnotized. He was so amazed by the Rebbe and his seemingly infallible wisdom that he simply wasn't able to move, and he remained that way for over two hours!
Just before dawn he left the Rebbe's room, spoke to the Chassidim for a long time, re-scheduled his flight, and flew to Israel the next day. Only several days later did he discover what a miracle had really occurred.
The flight he was supposed to be on was hijacked!
A few hours after takeoff four of the passengers stood up, pulled out guns and ordered everyone to raise their hands. They ordered the pilot to fly to Algeria where they separated the Jewish men from everyone else and conducted a thorough search for an 'important personality'.
These were Arab terrorists that wanted to kidnap Sharon. They had planned well, but they hadn't reckoned with the Lubavitcher Rebbe's ability to hold an audience. Sharon was not to be found on the flight and all the prisoners were returned to Israel.
Sharon told this story for the first time when he was invited to Kfar Chabad for a Chassidic Farbringen a week after his return. The Chassidim knew the Rebbe had spoken to him for several hours but had no idea of the miracle
that had occurred.
[Incidentally, when Sharon later informed the Rebbe of his decision to enter politics the Rebbe answered: "According to the discussion we had here, my opinion is that your place is in the Israeli army. There G-d has given and will give you success. There is no reason whatsoever, G-d forbid, that you should leave for any other occupation, and CERTAINLY not in the area of politics; including the position of Minister of Defense or something similar. This is not your job and not in this will you utilize your talents and expertise. exactly the opposite!" (May he take this advice NOW!)]
The second story is similar.
Once a friend of the Lubavitcher Rebbe's mother came from France to visit her in Brooklyn (the Rebbe's mother lived in Brooklyn near the Rebbe for 18 years till her passing in 1965).
She remained for a month and before she left admitted that she really didn't have that much to tell the people back home. "I will tell you a story." The Rebbe's mother said "That you can tell the people in France.
"It was in the Farbrengen (Chassidic gathering) of Simchat Torah. The Shul
(Synagogue) was crowded with people that came to hear the Rebbe speak. And he spoke for hours. The women's section was also packed and everyone was trying to hear what the Rebbe was saying when I noticed that two modern Israeli girls entered. They weren't religious and had probably just come from curiosity. They stood there for a while, perhaps a half-hour then one turned to the other and spoke modern Hebrew but I understood what they were saying.
She said 'Let's get out of here. It's hot, and packed and hard to breathe!'
But the other one turned to her and said. 'I also want to leave but I can't', she pointed to the Rebbe and continued,
"He won't let me.'"
This is what the Torah is trying to tell us. "Abraham was old": Often the effect we have on others is by just being a good example. By working on and perfecting ourselves we put out good 'vibes' that can affect the entire world.
Like the two above stories. The very fact that the Rebbe had reached such personal perfection was enough to make both General Sharon and the girl change their plans.
True, we must also be "Coming in days": to go out in the streets, if necessary, to actively return Jews to Judaism and non-Jews to the Noahide commandments. But we must never underestimate the impression we make on people 'incidentally' without our knowledge.
As the Rebbe once said, that sometimes if someone just SEES a Jew wearing tzitzis it can change their lives.
In fact, that is how Moshiach will influence the entire world - all six BILLION people. The personal perfection he will have and will bring to the Jews will be contagious and will transform the entire world, automatically and instantaneously!!
We just have to do all we can to perfect ourselves and the world around us to bring.....
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