We went last night for dinner at Chabad’s YJP in Fort Lauderdale, and Rebbetzin Holzkenner made a lovely Shabbat meal.
The rabbi was away, up in NY, for the conference for the Lubavitch Shiluchim (emissaries), so the Rebbetzin not only made the meal, but also said the Kiddush (and then let us say our own) and gave the D’var Torah.
She asked about the Parsha, why is it called Chayei Sarah when the very first two lines (Genesis 23:1-2) are that Sarah died?
Sarah lived to be a hundred and twenty-seven years old. And she died in Kiryat Arba (that is Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went to mourn for Sarah, and to weep over her.
The Rebbetzin explained beautifully that when we live a good life, not only does our soul live on in the afterlife, but our good deeds continue to have an influence in this world even after we, ourselves, have passed.
She said that we should never underestimate our influence in this world, and that what we say and do reverberates like concentric circles that spread out from the source farther and farther. Moreover, while you might not think that what you do matters all that much or is a big deal, you never really know the outsize impact that it can have. Therefore, even while Sarah had passed and Abraham mourned her, the truth is that her legacy of the great Jewish nation was only just beginning!
This is an incredible lesson for our lives even while we experience all sorts of life challenges, and we may feel depressed or like what’s even the point of it all. But if we just remember that what we say and do, in good times and G-d forbid in bad ones, has an impact that truly can be far and wide, touching so many lives in ways that we may never even know.
While some people may choose to chase power, riches, and honor, it is often not what they do that has meaning or lasting power. Instead, the person with a pure heart, a simple voice that speaks truth, a soul that has compassion, and the arms that extends a warm hand to others those are the essence of meaning in this world and that which will have a true legacy.
It was an interesting “coincidence” that immediately before Shabbat a young lady, Orly, from Israel ran over to us on the street after seeing my kippah and started up a conversation with us. She told us about how she had recently given up all her worldly possessions (although I saw that she still had and was clutching unto her smartphone) and was on a mission to spread good in this world, helping start a homeless shelter, and teaching meditation. She said how she always asks people, “What’s your purpose? What’s your mission?” It’s not about the money and material possessions, but about the values!
Yes, Sarah lived in the prior week’s Torah portion, but also she lives in this week’s parsha, and even more, she lives in us, the Children of Israel, through our continuation of the tradition of faith of our forefathers and mothers in the one G-d Almighty. Am Yisrael Chai!