Torah thought forFriday 24 Cheshvan 5783 November 18 2022

Parashat Chayye Sarah

From Rav Yaakov Sasson Shlit”a, a grandson of Maran zt”l
(Translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK)

A Medical Examination Without Anaesthesia
It states in the Parashah, “Sarah lived to be 127 years old [lit. 100 years, 20 years and 7 years]. [These were] the years of Sarah’s life”
(Bereishit 23:1). Our chachamim explained that the repetition of the word “years” means that all her years were equally good [see Rashi ad loc.].

This is very difficult to understand! How may it be said that all of Sarah’s life were totally good?! Sarah was barren for 90 years! She was snatched, taken to Paro’s palace! And many many harsh experiences throughout her life. If so, how may we classify Sarah’s life as a life which was all good?

More than this, one may ask regarding what our chachamim expounded in the Talmud (Baba Batra 17a), that our holy fathers lived in this world lives that were akin to Olam Haba. And regarding the passuk, “Hashem had blessed Avraham, with everything” (Bereishit 24:1), they explained that Avraham lacked no aspect of goodness in the world! How may this be said about Avraham whose life had consecutive tests and hardships that cannot be described in words? What does it mean?

In the Talmud (Bava Metzia 114a) they said it happened with Rabbah bar Avuha who found Eliyahu HaNavi in a Gentile cemetery. He asked him about a matter of halachah and Eliyah HaNavi responded with the halachic source deduced from Torah pessukim. He further asked him on the same matter, and he answered him.

Rabbah bar Avuha asked Eliyahu HaNavi, “His honour is a cohen, if so, how may you enter the cemetery?” Eliyahu responded, “Have you not studied the Order of Taharot, there Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai said that Gentile cemeteries don’t convey the ritual impurity of a ‘tent’”?

Rabbah bar Avuha responded to him with a pained heart, “In the four Orders which apply today, I’m not sufficiently proficient, so how may I be proficient in the Orders of Taharot and Agriculture, which don’t apply today?”

Eliyahu asked him, “Truthfully, why aren’t you proficient in these Orders?” Rabbah bar Avuha replied, “Due to financial hardship”. Meaning that due to his great poverty Rabbah couldn’t appropriately study these Orders.

Eliyahu HaNavi took him and elevated him to Gan Eden, (understandably this refers to deep concepts, however, we will bring the words of the Talmud as they are). They said to him, take off your cloak and gather for yourself from the leaves that are here. He gathered many leaves for himself. When he left Gan Eden, he heard a lament, “Who has eaten his world in his lifetime like Rabbah bar Avuha!” Meaning, Rabbah, who partook from his fundamental reward from Gan Eden, because of this has lost his reward in Olam Haba!

When Rabbah heard this, he threw down his cloak and discarded the leaves. Despite this, his cloak absorbed the aroma of Gan Eden, to the extent that when Rabbah returned he sold his unique cloak for twelve thousand denarii, and he divided them amongst his sons-in-law. (Until here is the story in the Talmud.)

Let’s us consider! Rabbah bar Avuha was direly poor! And suddenly he meets Eliyahu and what does he ask from him? That he answer his question in halachah! This is the most important issue in Rabbah bar Avuha’s eyes!

However, we must ask, what is the purpose of all these events? Why did Eliyahu take Rabbah to Gan Eden? For what reason did he tell him to gather the leaves, and for afterwards they made him hear the lament, to the extent that Rabbah discarded the leaves? What does it mean anyway that the aroma was absorbed into Rabbah’s cloak?

HaGaon Rav Yaakov Galinski zt”l (Vehigad’ta) explained this beautifully. There is no one in the world without problems, troubles and afflictions! Each has their own issues, both big and small! Rabbah knew that even if he did have money, this won’t solve his life problems. Therefore he didn’t find it appropriate to ask for a decent livelihood from Eliyahu. For even if he were wealthy, it is possible that other things will be sparked that will impede his tranquillity.

At the beginning it appeared as if Eliyahu was guiding Rabbah how he may live without trouble. He took him to Gan Eden and enabled him to take from the leaves! But then immediately, everything was clear to Rabbah. These leaves are no solution to any problem, for if you take them, you will lose your eternal reward! Only one thing is the solution, “the aroma of Gan Eden”! Always remember, that there is in this world Gan Eden! There are spiritual concepts, there are extremely lofty and elevated concepts, more than all the things in this world! This is the true solution, which may enable a person to live a good life, a wholesome life!

Therefore it was said about our fathers, that they lived good lives, about Sarah that “all her years were equally good”, because Sarah was higher than all aspects of this world. She was exceedingly great in prophecy and throughout her entire life she engaged in holy work. Therefore, all of the troubles which she experienced in her life were void when stood opposite the profound meaning that she discovered in every action in life!

Also with Avraham Avinu, despite all his trials and troubles that he experienced, Avraham knew that this world is simply a corridor to reach life in Olam Haba! In this world he invests himself in Torah and good deeds, whose immense value cannot be fathomed. Therefore, his life is extremely good!

We shall conclude with a true story, which transpired with Maran zt”l. This is a story which is almost unbelievable that it could have transpired in our generation.

25 years ago, Maran zt”l experienced extreme intestinal pains. They took him to the hospital and there the doctors saw that he required an internal examination to examine the Rav’s stomach. Understandably, such an examination is very painful to the extent that it must be performed under anaesthetic.

The doctors wanted to sedate the Rav, however, on further investigation, they discovered that he was taking blood thinners, which prevented him from taking an anaesthetic. Therefore they wanted to keep him at the hospital overnight for observations, for by then the impact of the medication would wear off and then they will be able to sedate him. However, when it became known to the Rav, he refused to stay in the hospital because he wanted to return home to study Torah.

His trusted ally HaRav Aryeh Deri began to discuss this with the doctors that they should try and resolve the matter. However, they replied that nothing can be done, and that the Rav must stay in hospital. The Rav heard Rav Aryeh Deri discussing the matter with the doctors. He asked him, “What’s going on?” He replied to him that, “The doctors want him to stay in hospital, and truthfully, there is no choice he must stay, because it is necessary to arrange an examination, which they can only arrange tomorrow due to the anaesthetic!”

The Rav heard this and said, “What is the problem? An anaesthetic? Bring me a volume of Talmud from the hospital and then they will be able to arrange the examination!” Rav Aryeh hurried and brought the Rav the Talmud Avodah Zarah. The Rav began studying the Talmud whilst he said to his close friends to him to tell the doctors that now they may perform the examination!

Rav Aryeh turned to the doctors and said to them that the Rav said that they may arrange the examination without an anaesthetic. The doctors said that “This is impossible! If we do this, all the hospital will hear the Rav screaming from the procedure! This is so painful that no person is capable of withstanding this without sedation!” Rav Aryeh said to them, “What are you worried about, try, and if immediately at the beginning of the examination the Rav cries out, stop the examination, and the Rav will have to remain in the hospital until tomorrow.

After 20 minutes, the doctors left his room in disbelief. They said to the Rav close friends, “We have never witnessed anything like this! The Rav endured the entire examination as if he felt nothing!”

His son the Gaon Rav David Yosef entered with Rav Aryeh Deri, to see how he was. Suddenly the Rav saw his son and firmly said to him, “Tell the doctors that they may start the examination already!...

Indeed we have seen, a person of our time, who understood the value of the Torah and he was gifted to appreciate the pleasantness of the Torah. To fathom it with all his might to the brink. For sure, his life was a good life, despite all its hardships, yet when he would study, he was akin to a person sitting in the upper spheres of Gan Eden!

Shabbat Shalom