25 Cheshvan 5777 – Chayei Sara

It has been an action-packed week!!! Please see the pics below to get a taste of all that’s been happening!

Have you heard of the well-known and widely celebrated Dutch painter by the name of Vincent van Gogh?

As a child he was extremely shy with low self-esteem. He developed his artistic career in his 20s after first attempting to become a priest through a short stint in missionary work. While his paintings reflected the southern sun in France and often contained bright colours, his life was the complete opposite. He suffered from epilepsy and depression that ultimately lead to his suicide. Though mentally unstable, van Gogh’s work is seen as some of the most influential and praised art ever created. After painting 900 pictures and about 1,100 drawings and sketches, his 2,000 pieces of art were never really discovered until many years after his death. Van Gogh’s fame peaked a little before WWI in Germany and Austria and was also popular in late 1918, as British and American collectors brought his paintings over. Today, van Gogh’s work is worth millions of dollars. His painting Portrait of Dr. Gachet sold for 82.5 million dollars in 1990 and is valued at $134 million today!

Isn’t it interesting just how many people shot to fame only years after their passing?

This is especially true regarding our first Jewish fathers and mothers. You see, this week in Shul we will read the section called “Chayei Sarah” meaning, “the life of Sarah”. Now, you would expect the reading to be all about the events that took place during Sarah’s life. Yet it’s not. Rather, it speaks about the events that took place immediately following her death. So why was the name “Chayei Sarah” – “the life of Sarah” chosen to describe the entire reading?

The answer is alluded to in the Talmud (tractate Berachot) that tells us that “the righteous are alive even when dead and conversely, the wicked are dead even when alive”. In other words, someone whose life is not contributing to the world may be physically alive but in Torah terms he is very much dead. In contrast the imprint that a righteous person leaves on the world continues long after he or she has passed on.

Thus, Sarah’s influence was really only beginning in the years that she was alive. She may have touched the hearts of and inspired hundreds or even thousands of people during her lifetime, yet her influence grew far more after her passing. You see her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren etc… all the way down to us today thousands of years later are still retelling her story and continuing her legacy. Yes, it is true to say that she is still very much alive!

This week I urge us to consider this message and ask ourselves: What sort of lives are we living? Are we living lives that will be worth remembering? Will someone many years down the track consider us worthy to share of our story and continue in our legacy?

I leave you to ponder.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Yossi and Chana Raizel Friedman

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