Chayei Sarah 5760

Tora - Torah

Parshat Chaye Sarah 26 Cheshvan 5760 November 5, 1999

Younger students, please ask your parents for help in understanding this lesson.

Rabbi Gideon Weitzman asks in Sparks of Life (Parshat Hashavua essays based on the philosophy of Rav Kook): Why was Avraham so successful at spreading the message of Hashem? What was his method? He suggests the answer can be found in Avraham’s name. Originally born as Avram, he was Av Ram, a father of Aram, the place where he lived. Later, to expand his mission, Hashem changed his name to Av-ra-ham. Rashi explains that this was Av Ham (short for hamon) or, father of many nations.

Question: why wasn’t it then ‘Avham’? Why was the ‘ra’ still there? Explaining another Rashi, Rabbi Weitzman writes:

When God changed Avraham’s name, He never intended Avraham to cease being the father of Aram… Avraham remained the father and spiritual guide of his town… moreover Avraham was only successful in his new role as ‘father of the world’ because he retained his role as father of Aram. There is a Talmudic expression: “If you attempt to grab too much, you will find that you have grabbed nothing at all!” (Yoma, 80a). One who tries to achieve more than is realistically possible does not succeed in fulfilling his potential. The result is that he will achieve nothing… That was the secret of Avraham’s vast success and wide-ranging influence. The ‘ra’ remained. He always remained the father of Aram and, from this humble stance, he became the father of all the nations.

By teaching Aram, his word spread. Had he tried to reach the whole world, he probably would have failed. This can be seen on a much smaller scale, as a great Tora lesson: TaShih, after he finished teaching us a long Kata, once asked us, “How many moves are there in the Kata?” We each stood there and tried to count the moves quickly to get the right answer. The answer, he told us, is: ONE. The ONE move that you are doing. Master the one move, he taught us, and (to paraphrase Lao Tze) as wonder turns to wonder, you will come to master the WHOLE. (or the HOLE, that is the great void… alright, sorry, I don’t want to get too esoteric!)

Did Avraham become a father of many nations? This is the Parsha in which we learn that Avraham had six sons later in life and sent them eastward with gifts. (Gen, 25:6). What were the gifts? ‘Shem Tum’ah’ says Rashi, an impure way of connecting to Hashem. Explain the commentaries that this gift was ‘yichud without Mitzvot’, a method of connecting to Hashem without the Mitzvot. For them it was enough; but for us Jews, that is unacceptable. It’s not enough for us to make that connection with Hashem, we have to do it with Mitzvot as “a holy nation and a kingdom of priests”. That is how we will reclaim our often-ignored (in today’s world and religious climate) mandate of being a light unto the nations.

In addition, as TaShih often explained, this eastward journey was probably the source of many eastern religious philosophies, possible even the source of the Brahmin (= Ibrahim = Abraham) tradition of Hinduism that led to Buddhism and Taoism.

One other thought of Tora-Torah. Much of the Parsha is devoted to the story of how Eliezer relied on hashgacha (or God’s Divine personal watching and guiding of our lives) to locate the perfect match for Isaac. The Zohar explains how shadchanut, the art of arranging a marriage by bringing two soul-mates together (Zohar: I, 91b) is a divine act. Finding our perfect life-long, other-half soul-mate, is indeed, reliant on matches made in heaven. I found mine when we each scheduled the same room for rehearsals at NYU. The rest is hysterical… I mean…history.

I believe in Hashgacha, as well, in finding one’s Sifu. It’s quite a tale how I got…

…from a Bar Mitzvah present of Yoga classes in breathing

…to growing up at summer camp with Robert Kamen (later the screenwriter for Karate Kid movies) and seeing him do tensho kata

…to entering Y.U., seeing a Karate club starting to asking the young teacher whether he did Tensho kata (he laughed at me and said “stick around”) [his biggest mistake cause after that he couldn’t get rid of me]…

…to seeing him an exhibition by Master Gogen “the Cat” Yamaguchi doing Tensho and yoga (of all things)

…to attaching myself to TaShih that day until we went out for coffee and had our first real conversation about karate (even though he really just wanted to ditch me)

…to … well on it goes.

Don’t doubt it! In the heavenly Department of Shadchanut, there is an Office of Sifu Selection. Never forget who taught you how to stand, how to walk, how to breathe and ‘the art and discipline of Kavana’, or aiming the mind. Even if you have more than one teacher, honor each for the gift they have given you! That is of the highest order of hakarat hatov, being grateful for the good that someone has done for you, and kibud, honoring your teachers, the source of that goodness. When you say “Thank you for teaching us” at the end of a class, mean it! Remember that you’re thanking your teacher AND thanking Hashem as well for setting up the Office of Sifu Selection.


Here is an extra bonus bit of Tora-Torah for this week:

The lifetime of Sarah consisted of one hundred years, twenty years and seven years. [Genesis 23:1]

Rabbi Ari kahn explains: Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik “The years of Sarah’s lifetime: all were equal for the good.” [Rashi 23:1] She was 100, she was 20, she was 7. Most people pass from one stage of their lives to the next, leaving the previous stage behind, perhaps taking with them some fond memories. Each one of these ages — 100, 20, 7 — has something unique about it. The 7-year-old has innocence; the 20-year-old has strength; the 100-year-old has wisdom. The secret of the greatness of Sarah was that throughout her entire life she was 100 and 20 and 7.

Let us take a deeper look at each of these traits:

In order for people to pray, they need to feel that God is really listening. Adults often become cynical and lose the ability to stand before God and share their innermost secrets and aspirations. The child, who is innocent, has not developed such cynicism. The child possesses the ability to pray. When we pray, we need to feel that God is our Father in Heaven; we are His children. Sarah always felt that way.

The greatness of a 20-year-old is physical strength and idealism. The 20-year-old feels that he or she can change the world, can do just about anything — there are no limits, no rules, only potential. Sarah never felt limited. Sarah always had strength. Sarah was always idealistic.

The 100-year-old possesses wisdom. After years of living, a person gains the perspective which only experience can give. Great sages are almost always elderly people whose skills have not diminished over the years. Quite the opposite: they possess wisdom that transcends “book knowledge”. Sarah always had this wisdom.

Sarah was always 100, and 20, and 7. Throughout her life she possessed all these skills. This is the greatness of Sarah. This is why she was our first Matriarch.

Beginners in Tora Dojo must also reflect each of these three ages of Sarah to reach the highest levels of achievement: reflect an innocence and trust in their teachers, doing what may not make sense at the moment. This is ALWAYS the best way to learn. Listen, and practice … and in time, understand.When you become a little more accomplished, dream about Black belt: stand firmer, jump higher, kick harder, safely break more and more… Use your great strength and develop to your potential. In time, the wisdom the Sifu (the wise father/master) and even the LaoShih (the old master) may become yours. But never lose your innocence in learning, your youthful exuberance, your unbridled enthusiasm … all the while searching for understanding and wisdom.

In your training and practice to be a Yisrael (a Godwrestler; a Jewish peaceful warrior) remember the ‘sar’ in that word and think of Sarah.

Shabbat Shalom

"Tora-Torah" is a weekly column on Parshat Hashavua with insights into the inner aspects of the Jewish martial arts as founded and taught by Grand Master H. I. Sober in the International Tora Dojo Martial Arts Association. The copyrighted ‘Tora tiger’ logo is used with permission of Prof. H. I. Sober. "Tora-Torah" is written or edited by Michael Andron, PhD. Lao Shih, a Seventh Degree Black Belt in the Tora Dojo Association. He has been teaching Grand Master Sober's system for over 30 years. If any of you would like to contribute some "Torah" from time to time, send your suggestions (keep 'em short and ... in by Monday, please) to I'll try to keep it simple and with a good Tora Dojo lesson as well. "Tora-Torah" is published by Kodesh, Inc. Kodesh is a non-profit organization devoted to personal growth, mind-body effectiveness training, spiritual awareness. It offers programs to help the student "alter the state of his/her consciousness" through education, experience and joyful celebration.
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