The Weekly Sedra – Parshas Chayei Sarah

The Rebbe says:

1. The first verse of this week’s Torah portion is, “Sarah’s lifetime was one hundred years, and twenty years, and seven years; the years of Sarah’s life”.

The Zohar learns out from this verse that Sarah signifies the body of a person, and Avraham Avinu (Abraham our Forefather) signifies to the soul of a person .

2. The Rebbe now asks a question based on this:

Earlier on in the Torah the Torah told us that Hashem (G-d) instructed Avraham Avinu to listen to whatever his wife Sarah said because she had a greater power of prophecy .

However, according to this abovementioned Zohar which says that Sarah was like the body and Avraham was like the soul, how does this make sense? Why should the soul listen to the body?

3. The Rebbe now quotes a teaching of the Baal Shem Tov which will help us understand this better:

The Torah says elsewhere, “When you see the donkey of your enemy lying under its load you would want to refrain from helping him. However, you must help him” .

The Baal Shem Tov systematically explains the significance of this verse according to Chassidus as follows:

“When you see the donkey”, means- when you take a look at your body (your donkey) ,
“of your enemy”- you will see that it is your enemy because it disturbs your service to Hashem,

“lying under its load”- and it is burdened by its load of Torah and Mitzvos (commandments) even though it was only created for the sake of Torah and Mitzvos,

4. The Rebbe now digresses for a moment and discusses the responsibility that comes along with the yoke of Torah and Mitzvos:

Besides for the fact that Mitzvos were given to be fulfilled by the soul as it is clothed in a body, the Mitzvos themselves are also done with physical things (for example- we are obligated to put on Teffilin (phylacteries) which is obviously a physical object (the hide of a cow)). Included in this are also the Mitzvos which are “obligations of the heart”; the obligations to love Hashem, fear Hashem, and believing that there is only One Creator, must also physically affect our mind and heart.

Actually, this concept of the body actually changing due to understanding and feeling things is not a new one, as the Torah states, “Good news fattens the bones” , and as we find this clearly in the Talmud when the shoes of Vespasian, a Caesar of Rome, did not fit his enlarged feet anymore because of the good news he heard from Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai .

5. Continuing in this vein, the Rebbe now repeats stories which illustrate how the mind and heart were physically affected from love, fear, and faith in Hashem:

The first story is about the Alter Rebbe, the first Rebbe of Lubavitch :

The Alter Rebbe was once Davening (praying) on Rosh Hashanah (the New Year) or Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) and when he reached the words “U’V’Chein Tain Pachdecha – And therefore (Hashem) please place upon us Your fear”, he was gripped with such a great fear that he fell to the ground and began rolling around trying to finish the word, “Pachdecha – Your fear”, but could only get out the beginning syllable, “Pach, Pach…”!

The second story is about the Tzemach Tzedek, the third Rebbe of Lubavitch :
In the early years of his leadership the Tzemach Tzedek was once Farbrenging with his Chassidim (followers) and a bottle of ninety five percent alcohol was brought to the table. The Tzemach Tzedek proceeded to drink three full glasses of this really potent alcohol but then brushed his hand over his forehead and the alcohol was not at all apparent.

The Tzemach Tzedek later explained that when he brushed his hand over his forehead he was meditating on the greatness of Hashem and a great fear of Hashem fell upon him and this took away all the effects of the alcohol.

The third story is about Reb Menachem Nochum of Chernobyl :

It is known that the great love and enjoyment which Reb Menachem Nochum of Chernobyl had from saying, “Amen Yehai Shemai Rabbah…” , with intense concentration caused him to be physically fat!

6. The Rebbe now returns to the explanation of the Baal Shem Tov:

To recapitulate the abovementioned explanation of the verse so far:

“When you see the donkey”- when you take a look at your body (your donkey),
“of your enemy”- you will see that it is your enemy because it disturbs your Service to Hashem, “lying under its load”- and it is burdened by its load of Torah and Mitzvos (commandments) even though it was only created for the sake of Torah and Mitzvos,

Then comes, “you would want to refrain from helping him”- since the body feels that Torah and Mitzvos are a big burden, you will want to just stick to the service of Hashem which is connected to the soul and you will break the body through fasting and affliction , therefore the verse tells you,

“However, you must help him”- you must work with the body and elevate it.

7. The Rebbe now brings an example of how we need physicality:

Let’s look at the Mitzvah of Teffilin (phylacteries):
If you sat and meditated for hours on all the Holy mystical elements of the Mitzvah but didn’t actually say a Blessing and put them on- you have not fulfilled your obligation of Teffilin. However if you said a Blessing and put on Teffilin without having any intentions whatsoever, you have surely fulfilled your obligation of Teffilin.

8. The Rebbe now repeats a story which illustrates this point very well:

One of the grandsons of the Tzemach Tzedek once needed to have a Bris (circumcision) and there was a choice of two Mohelim (circumcisers); one Mohel (circumciser) was an elderly man who knew all the mystical intentions that one should think while giving the Bris, and one Mohel was a young man who didn’t know all of these deep intentions, however, he was an expert cutter. The Tzemach Tzedek ruled that they should use the younger Mohel because the main point of a Bris is the actual cutting.

9. The Rebbe now answers his original question of why the soul should listen to the body:

As we explained above, the purpose of this world is the physical. However, now in exile we don’t see this clearly and only when Moshiach (the Messiah) comes will this be revealed, even to the extent that the soul will live off of the body (unlike today when the body lives off the soul). Nevertheless, our Patriarchs and Matriarchs were given a taste of the world to come even now while they were in this world and therefore Avraham Avinu/the soul was told to listen to Sarah/the body.

Translated and adapted by Shalom Goldberg. Taken from Likutei Sichos volume one, first Sicha.

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