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Don't Run Away from Your Past

Abraham’s Search for Truth Was Also Part of Truth

    Rabbi YY Jacobson

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  • November 2, 2017
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  • 13 Cheshvan 5778
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Class Summary:

“Now Abraham and Sarah were old, coming on in days,” the Torah states in the weekly portion. In the following portion the Torah says again: "And Abraham was old, coming on in days.” But what do these words mean? If the meaning was simply that Abraham and Sarah grew old, it could have just said: Abraham and Sarah were old (“zekanim”). Why the need for the extra words "baim bayamim,” “coming on in days?”

The Zohar offers a lovely, if problematic, interpretation. The literal translation of the words "baim bayamim” is “coming with their days.” Abraham and Sarah showed up with each of their days; for each day was lived to the fullest; each day was wholesome, meaningful, complete.

Yet, there is a serious problem here. For the first period of his life, Abraham was steeped in pagan idolatry. One Midrash says that Abraham was 48 years of age when he recognized the Divine. One cannot possibly say that Abraham “came with all of his days,” that each and every day of his life was spiritually complete and wholesome, because for years or even decades he was steeped in his father’s and his society’s idolatry!

It was during a public address (a “farbrengen”) on Shabbos Parshat Vayeira, 15 Cheshva 5748, or November 7, 1987, when the Lubavitcher Rebbe offered an incredibly beautiful explanation. He first introduced a powerful and enigmatic paradox in Jewish law. When you turn 13 or 12 the Torah obligates you with all the Mitzvos; yet nowhere does the Torah instruct a father to rehearse the mitzvos with his child? How can I ask of you to join a professional football team right when you turn 13 without practicing beforehand?

Many of us sitting here in this room have discovered the beauty, truth, majesty and depth of Judaism at a later point in life. We did not all have the privilege of growing up with it. Till we found our Jewishness, some of us traveled through many roads which “diverged in the forest,” and at times we took the less wiser one. We journeyed physically and mentally to distant locations, geographically and existentially. On the road, we encountered pit holes and ditches. We stumbled. We fell. Sometimes we got badly bruised. Sometimes we look back at our story and feel dejected. We think that we have wasted so many years in vain. We wish we would have discovered what we know now far earlier. But when the Torah says that “Abraham and Sarah came with ALL of their days,” it is suggesting a deeper perspective.

This essay creates a paradigm shift in how we view our childhood, our past, and our journeys that have been defined by imperfection. It explores the revolutionary idea that Abraham’s idolatry days were “wholesome” in their own unique way. It is an idea that gives inspiration and meaning to much of our lives journeys, and gives new meaning to the idea of Hakhel, in which the child and adult within each of us unite.

Dedicated by Goldee Seidman in the loving memory of her parents, Tova and Eliezer Seidman

Nearing the End

A priest and a pastor from a local church were standing by the road pounding a sign into the ground that reads: The End is Near! Turn Yourself Around Now Before It's Too Late!

As a car sped past them, the driver yelled, "Leave us alone you religious nuts!"

From the curve, they heard screeching tires and a big splash.

The priest turns to the pastor and asks, "Do you think the sign should just say 'Bridge is down'?"

Coming in Days

The Torah relates in this week's portion, Vayeira:

וירא יח, יא: וְאַבְרָהָ֤ם וְשָׂרָה֙ זְקֵנִ֔ים בָּאִ֖ים בַּיָּמִ֑ים...

Now Abraham and Sarah were old, coming on in days. [1] 

In the following portion the Torah says again:

חיי שרה כד, א: וְאַבְרָהָ֣ם זָקֵ֔ן בָּ֖א בַּיָּמִ֑ים...

"And Abraham was old, coming on in days.”

What do these words mean? If the meaning was simply that Abraham and Sarah grew old, it could have just said: Abraham and Sarah were old (“zekeinim”). Why the need for the extra words "baim bayamim,” “coming on in days?”

[Indeed, while many, including Abraham, achieve the title of "old" (zakein) in the Hebrew Bible, the particular words "baim bayamim” or “ba bayamim,” literally "coming on in days," only appear in connection with four people: Abraham, Sarah, Joshua (Joshua 13:1 and 23:1) and David (I Kings 1:1). Such selective application of words triggers our attention.]

The Zohar offers a lovely, if problematic, interpretation. [2] The literal translation of the words "baim bayamim” is “coming with their days.” (“Bayamim” can both mean in their days, or with their days.) What the verse is saying is that “Abraham and Sarah were old, coming with all of their days.” Abraham and Sarah did not only grow old. That happens to many people. But rather they “came with all their days,” they showed up with each of their days. Each day was accounted for; each day was lived to the fullest; each day was wholesome, meaningful, and complete. “They came with all their days.” No day had to be left behind.

Yet, there is a problem here. For the first period of his life, Abraham was steeped in pagan idolatry. Following the path of his father Terach, he was committed to the pagan beliefs and practices of the time. [3] What is more, as the genuine person he was, Abraham was sincerely entrenched in the world of the pagan belief system, more than others who just conformed to the masses. [4] 

It was only later in life that Abraham discovered the truth of Monotheism, the truth of a unified universe fashioned by a single Creator with moral expectations from His creation. The Torah does not give an age, and the Rabbis in the Talmud and Midrash argue over it. One Midrash says that Abraham was 48 years of age when he recognized the one and only true G-d. [5] Another Midrash and Maimonides [6] put him at the age of 40. The Talmud [7] cites a view that he was three years of age when he became aware of G-d. (Perhaps, it has been suggested, they are not arguing; there were different phases in Abraham’s intellectual and spiritual development. [8] )

But whatever the case, one cannot possibly say that Abraham “came with all of his days,” that each and every day of his life was morally complete and wholesome, because for years or even decades he was steeped in his father’s and his society’s idol practices.

The fact that Abraham made a remarkable transition in his life at the age of 40, 48 or 3, is, of course, astounding. One man stood up against an entire world because he cared for Truth. Yet this precisely was the greatness of Abraham: that he had the courage to tear himself away from a youth spent in error; that he could start all over again when discovering his mistakes. How then can the Torah state, according to the Zoharic interpretation, that all of his days were spiritually unblemished?

The same question, of course, applies to Sarah, about whom the Torah also states “she came in her days.”

What is more, concerning Sarah, the Torah states, [9] “And the life of Sarah was one hundred years and twenty years and seven years; [these were] the years of the life of Sarah.” The last words, “these were the years of Sarah,” are superfluous. The Midrash and Rashi explain them to teach that “All of them were equally good.” But how can we make such a claim about Sarah? The beginning of her life was consumed by idolatry. Her Judaism was discovered later in life. How can we say that all of her days and years were equally good, worthy, and wholesome?

It was during a public address (a “farbrengen”) on Shabbos Parshat Vayeira, 15 Cheshvan 5748, November 7, 1987, when the Lubavitcher Rebbe offered the following explanation. [10] I was only 15 at the time, but I can still recall the brilliant life-changing insight I heard that day.

The Paradox

The Lubavitcher Rebbe first introduced a paradox in Jewish law. [11] Every Jew becomes obligated to fulfill all of the mitzvos of the Torah at the age of 13 for a boy, and at the age of 12 for a girl (since girls mature faster than boys). Yet, the Torah does not obligate a father or mother to train their children to perform the mitzvos before the age of bar or bat mitzvah, so that they can be well-rehearsed by the time they reach that moment of duty. The sages did impose an obligation on every Jewish father to train his children to perform all of the mitzvos, [12] once they reach the appropriate age; [13] but that is a rabbinic obligation, not a biblical one. [14] 

We are thus faced with a paradox: There is no way that one can suddenly, on the day he turns 13 (or she turns 12), observe all of the mitzvos perfectly, without previous practice and rehearsal. It would be like asking a youngster to suddenly join a big-league (or even a little-league) football team without a day of practice!

How can one suddenly master the art and intricacies of all the mitzvos without previous rehearsal? Can I suddenly, in a few minutes' notice, become an expert in donning tefillin, prayer, grace after meals, and all of the negative commandments?

What is more, many of the mitzvos require much work before you can fulfill them: One needs to craft or buy tefillin; weave or purchase tzitzis; form or buy a shofar for Rosh Hashanah; purchase material to build a sukkah, etc.

That is exactly why the Rabbis introduced the rabbinic mitzvah of “chinuch,” educating our children to rehearse all of the mitzvos years before their bar-mitzvah. Yet the Torah itself does not demand this? [15]

There is an enigma here. Either we should not make them obligated on the day they turn 13, or give them some prep time beforehand?

Maybe there is a simple answer. The Torah need not state the obvious. It is a given that you have to prepare your child beforehand if you want him/her to take on the task. If the Torah would tell me that at 13 my son needs to play professional football, it need not tell me that I should teach him and practice with him beforehand. It is obvious! Just as the Torah does not state that you have to buy a shofar before Rosh Hashanah, or buy tefillin, or buy wood to build a sukkah. Why not? Because it is obvious. The Torah tells you to build a sukkah. How can you build a sukkah if you don’t purchase lumber? How can you blow the shofar if you don’t have one? Ditto with rehearsing the mitzvos with your children.

Yet this answer does not hold sway. If this was the case it would mean that educating our children in the practice of mitzvos is somewhat of a biblical obligation—it is so obvious that the Torah does not even have to state it. Yet, the Talmud and all of the halachic authorities state unequivocally, [16] that training our children in the practice of mitzvos (chinuch) is a rabbinic obligation, not a biblical one.

Yet this seems senseless. If you are obligating these kids on the day they turn 13 to perform 613 mitzvos, how does the Torah expect them to know them all?

Training is Part of Service

It was here that the Rebbe introduced an incredibly perceptive insight into Judaism (I still recall the passion and excitement in the Rebbe’s words when he presented this message.) From the Torah’s perspective, practice, trial, and error are all integral components of the mitzvah itself. When the Torah obligates the 13-year-old boy and 12-year-old girl to begin observing all of the mitzvos it does not mean that on that day they should suddenly perform them all perfectly. Rather, the Torah is obligating them to begin the process of mitzvah observance, knowing full well that it is a process that takes time and will inevitably be less than perfect for a while.

Here is a simple illustration. In Israel, every 18-year-old is drafted into the army for three years. But before they can actually become full soldiers on duty protecting the land and the people, six months of basic training is required. They need to learn how to hold a gun, how to use it, how to protect themselves and others, how to enter into combat. They must also perfect their bodies to be able to handle the grueling tasks of the soldier. Those that enter elite units need far more time for training. Do these months of practice count as part of their service in the army? Of course. They may be still making mistakes; they may not be doing the job well; they are not yet drafted to the front lines because of their inexperience; they still need time to perfect their performance. Yet that is the way things work. To become a soldier, you need training. When the country mobilizes you into the army for three years it knows that you can’t become a soldier overnight, and the time for training is considered part of your army service.

This is also true with Judaism. At the age of 13 or 12, the young Jew is “drafted” into the “adult army” of the Jewish people. Now we must begin the training—and that takes time, trial, error, and repetition till you get it right. In the famous expression of the Talmud, “the Torah was not given to angels!” It was given to humans, and humans need time and effort to master a new lifestyle and get it right. That necessary “training time” is part and parcel of the very mitzvah. When the Torah tells the 13-year-old, “start performing all of the mitzvos,” it means: Begin the process. The time you will need to purchase your mitzvah items, to master the practices, to learn the nuances, and to perfect your performance, that is all included in the package. And if on day one you can't do it all perfectly, that is not a flaw; it is an intrinsic part of the mitzvah.

It was the Rabbis, however, who introduced the mitzvah of “chinuch,” to begin the training far earlier, so that at the age of 13 or 12 our youths are ready to “shoot!”

Abraham and Sarah’s Discovery Process

This is the answer to our original question, how can the Torah describe all of the days of Abraham and Sarah as spiritually wholesome, despite them worshipping idols in their youths.

There is a profound message here—and it is at the heart of Judaism. Abraham and Sarah were not born in an environment of Torah. On the contrary, they were born and raised in ancient Ur Kasdim, a city in Southern Iraq, dominated by idolatry and the cult of kings as demigods, in which the gods were perceived as blood-thirsty jealous titans. Now, G-d—the real G-d—did not expect Abraham and Sarah to turn their lives upside down in a single day! People are not robots or computers. Humans need the time and mental space to inquire, investigate, research, question, and slowly evolve in their consciousness. The road to truth is paved by trial and error, again and again, and yet again.

Just as with any scientific discovery or theory, it does not come with a snap of the finger. The scientist spends months or years in research, in speculations, doubt, uncertainty, and experimentation, until he or she may discover the truth. Is all that research time not considered part of scientific progress and discovery? Is it seen as a futile waste of time? Of course not! It is the only way to reach any type of truth.

This, exactly, was the journey of Abraham and Sarah. In the words of Maimonides: [17]

“He began to explore and think. Though he was a child, he began to think incessantly throughout the day and night, wondering: How is it possible for the planet to continue to revolve without having anyone controlling it? Who is causing it to revolve? Surely, it does not cause itself to revolve. He had no teacher, nor was there anyone to inform him. Rather, he was mired in Ur Kasdim among the foolish idolaters. His father, mother, and all the people around him were idol worshipers, and he would worship with them. However, his heart was exploring and gaining understanding.

“Ultimately, he appreciated the way of truth and understood the path of righteousness through his acute comprehension. He realized that there was one God who controlled the planet, that He created everything, and that there is no other God among all the other entities. He knew that the entire world was making a mistake… Abraham was forty years old when he became aware of his Creator. When he recognized and knew Him, he began to formulate replies to the inhabitants of Ur Kasdim and debate with them, telling them that they were not following a proper path… When the people would gather around him and ask him about his statements, he would explain them to each one of them according to their understanding, until they turned to the path of truth. Ultimately, thousands and myriads gathered around him.”

This is why the Torah tells us that Abraham and Sarah “came with all of their days.” From G-d’s perspective, all of their days were perfectly wholesome. Of course, many of these years included theological blunder and false pagan beliefs. But that was part of their search for truth. The road to perfection must lead through imperfection. The road to truth runs through error. The road to awareness travels through failure. They were not entrenched in idolatry because they were careless and gluttonous; they were seeking the truth and in our complex world, you often embrace the wrong before you discover the right. For Abraham and Sarah, their path to G-d had to lead through other paths, because without that they could have never discovered Monotheism.

Even their “bad days” were “good days,” for all of their days were part of “training,” even if it included error and failure.

Our Journeys

The same holds true, at least to some degree, for all of us. Churchill said, "Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm." I can view my errors, shortcomings, setbacks, and failures as the bad days of my life; I can view my traumas as my prison sentences, those experiences which paralyzed me.   

Some of us have traveled through many roads which “diverged in the forest," and at times we took the less-wiser one. We journeyed, physically and mentally, to distant locations, geographically and existentially. On the road, we encountered potholes and ditches. We stumbled. We fell. Sometimes we got badly bruised and made some foolish mistakes. Some of us, in our trauma or ignorance, hurt our loved ones along the way.

Sometimes we look back at our stories and feel dejected. We feel that we wasted so many years. We look back at our lives, review the unwise decisions we made for ourselves, or our loved ones, due to our ignorance, pain, confusion, anxiety, and cluelessness, and we become demoralized. The pain and the regrets cripple us. We wish we would have discovered what we know now far earlier.

But when the Torah says that “Abraham and Sarah came with ALL of their days,” or that “all of Sarah’s years were identical in goodness,” it is suggesting a deeper perspective. Life isn't something that should be edited. The only way we discover our soul is through going through the processes we did. Every pitfall, every mistake, every confusing moment, is an integral part of our journey toward our own truth. We must embrace them all. Even the bruises are somehow part of our ultimate destination.

Of course, at times I need to grieve, and at times I need to apologize and make amends to the best of my ability. Yet my focus can be to redefine my traumas as the springboards that allow me to become the person I am capable of becoming and empower me to cast my unique light on our planet.

Many of us have discovered the truth, majesty, and depth of Judaism at a later point in life. We did not all have the privilege of growing up with it. Until we found our Jewishness we engaged in all types of behaviors that seem today to be empty and foolish. We are filled with shame, and often are terrified of anyone discovering our past. But authentic Judaism see it differently. Your mistakes are all part of your search for G-d. They too constitute a glorious part of your journey toward oneness and wholeness.  

Turn Around

There is an interesting and strange Jewish custom, which raises many an eyebrow for synagogue newcomers. On Friday night, when we conclude the “Lecha Dodi” poem, the entire congregation makes an “about-face.” Why? [18]

We are making the same point. In life, some of us are lucky enough to discover the “Shabbat.” We discover our G-d, our faith, our love partner, our soul, or space of serenity. For some of us, it means we discover a new destiny, a new appreciation for Judaism, new happiness, a new lifestyle. As we do so, some of us tend to say goodbye to our past. We want to shake off our past experiences; we are ashamed by them; we feel contaminated by them. Some of us even cut off ties with former friends and family members.

But Judaism sees it differently. At the end of Lecha Dodi, as we are about to welcome the Shabbat and enter into 24 hours of spiritual transcendence, we turn around! We do not detach from our past. We turn around, we acknowledge it, we embrace it, we take it along with us on our journey. Because our past is never to be cast away; it is to be seen as the path through which we arrived at our present destination.

Or as a wise man once said, “The closest thing to perfection is imperfection.”

Yes, when we discover the truth we must have the courage, like Abraham and Sarah, to smash the idols of falsehood and the gods of stupidity. Yet we must still look at compassion for the time we were “outside,” looking in, trying to find our way, our soul, our G-d. When imperfection leads to perfection it is imperfectly perfect.


[1] Genesis 18:11

[2] Zohar Chayei Sarah 129a. 224a. Cf. Maamar V’Avraham Zaken 5738 and 5746.

[3] See Midrash Rabah Bereishis 39:8. Rambam, Mishnah Torah, Laws of Avodah Zarah 1:3

[4] See Sidur Eim Dach Shaar Halulav.

[5] Midrash Rabah Bereishis 30:8. Kesef Mishnah to Rambam ibid.

[6] Midrash Rabah ibid. Rambam ibid.

[7] Nedarim 32a

[8] See Likkutei Sichos vol. 20 p. 14

[9] Genesis 23:1

[10] Likkutei Sichos vol. 35 Vayeira pp. 61-69. Sefer Hasichos 5748 Vayeira.

[11] For all the references to the following points, see Likkutei Sichos vol. 35 ibid.

[12] There are a few exceptions. For example, Tefilin (because it requires a clean body throughout, and complete concentration); fasting a full day on Yom Kippur (due to weakness).

[13] See Shulchan Aruch HaRav Orach Chaim 343 and all references noted there. Encyclopedia Talmudis entry of Chinuch. Likkutei Sichos vol. 35 ibid.

[14] To be sure, there is a biblical obligation on a father to teach his son Torah. But that does not include the practice, training, and rehearsal of any mitzvos. For example, biblically, I never have to teach my son how to bentch; I do not have to prepare for him tefillin before his bar mitzvah and teach him how to put them on; etc.

[15] There are a noted few exceptions: We are obligated to teach Torah to our children (but that does not include practicing with them the observance of mitzvos); we are obligated on Passover to relate the Exodus story to our children (but that does not include them eating matzah etc. in which they are not obligated biblically); we are obligated to bring them to Hakhel once in seven years.

[16] See Likkutei Sichos vol. 35 ibid. for all the references.

[17] Mishnah Torah, Laws of Avodah Zarah 1:3

[18] On the simple level, we turn around for the verse in which we welcome the Sabbath Queen, ending with the words, "Come O Bride, come O Bride, come O Bride O Sabbath Queen." As we welcome the Sabbath, we turn to greet her as we would any special guest. This is a throwback to the time when people would actually go outside greet the Sabbath Queen exclaiming, "Come O Bride, come O Bride!" The holy Arizal taught his students—the mystics of the city of Tzefat—that when greeting Shabbat in the field, they should face the setting sun with closed eyes and serenade the Shabbat bride. (See Talmud, Shabbat, 119a; Code of Jewish Law, O.C. 262; Shaar Hakavanot, Derushay Kabalat Shabbat, 1)
One of the early Chassidic masters explains that on Sabbath even the souls who are being punished and are "pushed out," are welcomed in for a respite. When we turn around, we welcome them to their Shabbat rest. (Tiferet Shlomo Metzora.) The following explanation in the essay on why we turn around is based on the writings of Reb Tzadok HaKohen of Lublin.

Please leave your comment below!

  • א

    אלי -2 years ago

    לכ' הרה"ג והחסיד משפיע לרבים וכו' מוהרי"י שליט"א

    אחדשה"ט, ייש"כ על המאמר היפה.הקושיא שהקשה מע"כ בענין שרה היתה קשה לי זה כמה שנים, ובפרט לאור דברי רעק"א (מובא בס' אגדות רעק"א עה"ת), דלכן הדגישה התורה ששני חיי שרה היו שלמים בת כ' כבת ז' וכו', כדי לבאר למה חייתה פחות מאברהם כ"כ שנים, ולזה תירצה התורה שימיה היו שלמים, כולם שוים לטובה, משא"כ אברהם הכיר בבוראו בהיותו בן 48 (כך הוא נוקט שם), ואז היה כגר שנתגייר, וכשתוריד 48 מקע"ה שנים חי אברהם תמצא קכ"ז, נמצא שאברהם ושרה שניהם חיו קכ"ז, עכ"ד שם.

    וזה תמוה, דלפ"ז צ"ל ששרה הכירה בבורא מתחילת שנותיה, והרי היא היתה צעירה מאברהם דודה ובעלה רק ב10 שנים, ואיך יתכן ששרה כבר הכירה לפני אברהם, אתמהה.

    והיישוב שכתב מע"כ אינו מיישב זאת לגמרי כפי נוסח הקושיא הנ"ל, דהרי רעק"א מבאר דאצל לא נמנו השנים הראשונות לפני שהכיר בבוראו, ואצל שרה כן נמנו, ואיך יתכן שהיא ידעה והוא לא, וצ"ע.כעי"ז יש להקשות בנוגע לרבקה ורחל ולאה שגדלו בבית בתואל ולבן, ואיך הגיעו לאמונה בהשי"ת.

    הכופל ברכה, בידידות, אמ"ר

    Reply to this comment.Flag this comment.

    • יי

      יוסף יצחק -2 years ago

      מכתבו נתקבל. ותודה לבבית. אבל גברא אגברא קא רמית, דהרי כל המדובר כאן הוא לפי שיטת ודברי הזהר (ראה זח"א קכט, א. רכד, א. ועוד) שאברהם אבינו עבד עבודתו במשך כל ימי חייו, עד שכל ימיו היו "יומין שלימין" ואפשר לומר עליו "בא בימים", שלא הי' חסר אצלו אפילו יום אחד. ודלא כמ"ש באגדות הגרע"א.

      בעצם הענין יש להעיר מרש"י בפ' תולדות שקיצר משנותיו של אברהם ה' שנים לא לראות עשו יוצא לתרבות רעה. ואם עשו לא הי' יוצא לתרבות רעה משמע שהי' יכול לחיות ק"פ, אף שזה יותר מקכ"ז דשוין לטובה.

      הנני מצרף פה הלינק למקור הדברים של המאמר שלי, וינעם לכ', בפרט ההערות ומראי מקומות.https://chabadlibrary.org/books/admur/lkus/35/4/1/index.htm#_ftnref_612

      בשאלתו על רבקה ולאה ורחל, אולי זהו כמו באברהם ושרה, אב ואם לגרים. והיינו שחקרו ומצאו בעצמם, כמו אברהם ושרה. אבל בפשטות לכאורה היתה זה ע"י השפעת יצחק ויעקב. וכמבואר במפרשים בפ' ח"ש החילוק בין כנען ומשפחת אברהם, שרצה דוקא השידוך מבית משפחתו הגם שהיו עוע"ז, כי בכנען השחיתות הייתה במדות, וזה עובר מאבן לבן, ובמשפחתו השחיתות היתה בדיעות, דיעות עקומות של ע"ז, אבל לא במדות, וזה לא עובר מאב ואם לבן. ואכן מצינו מדת החסד ברבקה, כי המדות היו טובות ומזוככות. ולכן הבין אליעזר שיש כאן שידוך מתאים בכח. וכן בנוגע לרחל ולאה. ולאחרי הפגישה עם יצחק ויעקב, יצא כל האור והכח שלהם מן הכח אל הפועל, ונעשו לאמהות בית ישראל.

      ואקצר בכבוד ובברכת שבתא טבא ובאיווי כט"ס, 

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      • א

        אלי -2 years ago

        ייש"כ על המענה.

        איני חושב שדברי רעק"א סותרים לד' הזהר, דודאי אברהם בא עם כל ימיו, וכמו שביאר מע"כ לנכון דגם השנים הראשונות שהובילו לזה הם בכלל הימים שבאו אתו, ומשום שגם באותן שנים עבד על עצמו להגיע למדרגה נעלה כפי מצבו אז, ומדרגה זו היא שבסוף הביאה אותו להכרת הבורא, וכדביאר מע"כ היטב בשפתו העשירה.

        אך עדיין יתכן לומר כרעק"א שהוא לא הכיר את בקוראו עד גיל מבוגר, משא"כ שרה כבר הכירה מצעירותה, ואולי למדה מנח שעוד היה חי או משם ועבר, ורק דע"ז הקשיתי דאיך יתכן שהיא ידעה ואברהם לא ידע כלום.בנוגע למה שכתב אודות האמהות שבא לאמונה בעצמן, יש לציין לשו"ת פנים מאירות סי' ל"ט (כמדומני), ע"ש.
        הערתו על דברי רעק"א נכונה, וכמובן דבריו נאמרו בדרך אגדה, ואולי אינם עולים בקנה אחד עם דברי חז"ל שהקב"ה קיצר שנותיו בחמש שנים, ויל"ע.
        בכבוד רב

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  • A

    Abraham -6 years ago

    If I may add...

    Wow this is major!! I never, but never read anything. Past Erev Shabbos, I tried this one, and was the best choice I ever did.

    If I may add, that even it was not mentioned in the article, but I just felt after reading this like "Hey, this means that even I look now how I look, and I won't be the one that never missed a Tfilah, the one that we say on him that he never ever says or does anything bad... No, I won't be the one, but WHY NOT FROM TODAY ON?? I'll still be great I'll still be wholesome.

    Thanks for the Chizzuk! Keep It up...

    All the best

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  • RL

    Rochel Leah -6 years ago

    Our Past

    Love it, so encouraging. 

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  • R

    Rachel -6 years ago

    Perspective on Life and History

    Beautiful, beautiful and healing.
    This is the basis of Judaism.
    When we look back at our days, it seems to us that  we were only descending deeper into the abyss, away from our truth, and wasted so much time in our lives, with fake gods, illusions, it is so painful. We can become so discouraged that the process took so long, half our life has passed by, already! But from your powerful essay I realized that there are no wasted days, all those days that I roamed blindly searching for the light of G-d, are days (till now unaware to me ) that are "counted" as being on The Path with G-d.
    On a global level, it might be the same: We see this in history all the time.
    When Moshe goes to talk to Pharaoh, things get worse.
    Unaware to us, redemption has begun.
    When foxes are roaming, rabbi Akiva is laughing, seeing in this itself future redemption, etc. What we perceive as blunder, darkness, confusion, meaninglessness, or worse, from a deeper perspective is all part of the ultimate destination.
    We are always living in a world moving towards redemption, in one way or another, even when all we see is bleak, dark or negative.
    In our lives too, from the moment we seek God, our days are counted as if we have found Him already, even though we might still be 40 years away from finding Him.
    We start to find Him, when we search and refuse what isn't Him, even if that process of searching then discarding, might continue for another other 40 years.
    Thank you so much.

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  • A

    Avigail -6 years ago

    A new perspective

    The insights you shared on Parsha Vayeira gave me a new perspective.

    Reply to this comment.Flag this comment.

  • Anonymous -6 years ago

    Thank you!

    Thank you so much! You continue to encourage.

    Reply to this comment.Flag this comment.

Essay Vayeira/Chayei Sarah

Rabbi YY Jacobson
  • November 2, 2017
  • |
  • 13 Cheshvan 5778
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  • 5068 views
  • Comment

Dedicated by Goldee Seidman in the loving memory of her parents, Tova and Eliezer Seidman

Class Summary:

“Now Abraham and Sarah were old, coming on in days,” the Torah states in the weekly portion. In the following portion the Torah says again: "And Abraham was old, coming on in days.” But what do these words mean? If the meaning was simply that Abraham and Sarah grew old, it could have just said: Abraham and Sarah were old (“zekanim”). Why the need for the extra words "baim bayamim,” “coming on in days?”

The Zohar offers a lovely, if problematic, interpretation. The literal translation of the words "baim bayamim” is “coming with their days.” Abraham and Sarah showed up with each of their days; for each day was lived to the fullest; each day was wholesome, meaningful, complete.

Yet, there is a serious problem here. For the first period of his life, Abraham was steeped in pagan idolatry. One Midrash says that Abraham was 48 years of age when he recognized the Divine. One cannot possibly say that Abraham “came with all of his days,” that each and every day of his life was spiritually complete and wholesome, because for years or even decades he was steeped in his father’s and his society’s idolatry!

It was during a public address (a “farbrengen”) on Shabbos Parshat Vayeira, 15 Cheshva 5748, or November 7, 1987, when the Lubavitcher Rebbe offered an incredibly beautiful explanation. He first introduced a powerful and enigmatic paradox in Jewish law. When you turn 13 or 12 the Torah obligates you with all the Mitzvos; yet nowhere does the Torah instruct a father to rehearse the mitzvos with his child? How can I ask of you to join a professional football team right when you turn 13 without practicing beforehand?

Many of us sitting here in this room have discovered the beauty, truth, majesty and depth of Judaism at a later point in life. We did not all have the privilege of growing up with it. Till we found our Jewishness, some of us traveled through many roads which “diverged in the forest,” and at times we took the less wiser one. We journeyed physically and mentally to distant locations, geographically and existentially. On the road, we encountered pit holes and ditches. We stumbled. We fell. Sometimes we got badly bruised. Sometimes we look back at our story and feel dejected. We think that we have wasted so many years in vain. We wish we would have discovered what we know now far earlier. But when the Torah says that “Abraham and Sarah came with ALL of their days,” it is suggesting a deeper perspective.

This essay creates a paradigm shift in how we view our childhood, our past, and our journeys that have been defined by imperfection. It explores the revolutionary idea that Abraham’s idolatry days were “wholesome” in their own unique way. It is an idea that gives inspiration and meaning to much of our lives journeys, and gives new meaning to the idea of Hakhel, in which the child and adult within each of us unite.

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