Published on November 9th, 2017 | by Leah Lazer1
The Years of Sarah: Update on Shabbat Afternoon Learning, Singing & Nosh
Join us this Shabbat at 4:00 pm at our home when we’ll finish this amazing commentary by the Piazetzner Rebbe and we’ll get to his answers to these questions; we’ll learn together, we’ll sing a little, nosh a little, enjoy each other’s company as we share the sweet final moments of Shabbat together. I hope you’ll join us!
When: 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm
Where: The Margalit Home, 81 Brookside Avenue, Newtonville, 02460
We’ll be doing this, God willing, on many Shabbatot, but I won’t be sending out a newsletter each week, so if you can’t make it this week but you are interested, let me know and I’ll put you on a list of people who want updates on the Shabbat Afternoon learning/singing/nosh. And, you can always check the website, where the calendar will be updated with the latest information.
We started last week learning some of the commentary Derekh HaMelekh by the Piazetzner Rebbe, Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira, on the weekly portion of this week, Chayei Sarah (that is ok because on Shabbat afternoons the beginning of the next week’s Torah reading is read at Minchah services, so looking ahead in our learning to the next Shabbat’s reading is legit.) And it is works out well, because the style of this book is that Rabbi Shapira’s commentaries are quite long and complex, so we only did the first half of the commentary and we’ll continue this week—the Shabbat of Chayei Sarah—and finish it up.
The Piazetzner started out with the very first words of the Parsha: “The lifespan of Sarah was one hundred years, and twenty years, and seven years: these are the years of the life of Sarah.” He quotes earlier commentaries which note the emphasis on the word “years” and which conclude that there must have been something special about the Matriarch Sarah’s years: she made the most of her time here on earth; her years were fulfilled in holiness and purity. But what exactly does that mean?
He will eventually come back to answer this question, but the journey toward that answer takes us on a fascinating path. Rabbi Shapira starts with quoting the early Hasidic master Rabbi Levy Yitzchak of Berdichev who makes the daring statement that God regretted having created the yetzer ha-ra, the Evil Inclination, in people. That is another way of saying that when God created us with this evil inclination, one could say that it’s God’s fault when we do negative or evil things. After all, we were created that way! But Levy Yizchak explains God’s regret doesn’t get us off the hook. Rather it works this way: When we take responsibility for our actions, saying yes, I have free will, and I did it, then God comes in an says, I created you that way, the blame is on me. I’m taking the responsibility for that sin. But, if we blame God, shirking our responsibility, then God doesn’t take it on. We did it; the responsibility is on us.
Then, Rabbi Shapira goes a step further and asks, what would make a person not take responsibilities for their actions? He answers that it happens when we are disconnected from ourselves: when our bodies and our souls are out of touch with each other. If we only think about how to do the right thing, but don’t really feel it, we’ll always make excuses. He uses an analogy of someone who steps on a nail. The person could think, “That nail in my foot could cause an infection, which could get into my bloodstream and reach my heart and kill me. I better hurry up and take it out.”
Of course, that’s not how we really act when we have a nail in our foot. We feel the pain and without a thought we quickly take it out of our foot.
We all make excuses for not doing things we know we should do: I’m too tired, I’m busy, etc. But, what if the pain in our soul when we don’t live up to our true nature was as immediate as the pain of a nail in our foot?
How did we get so disconnected from our soul? How do get back in harmony with our deepest nature? And, what does that have to do with the years of the Matriarch Sarah’s life?