Classics and Beyond Vayeira – Sense and Sensitivity,

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    Classics and Beyond Vayeira – Sense and Sensitivity, A New Lesson In Shalom Bayis

    ותצחק שרה בקרבה לאמר אחרי בלותי היתה לי עדנה ואדני זקןויאמר ה’ אל אברהם למה זה צחקה שרה לאמר האף אמנם אלד ואני זקנתי
    And Sarah laughed within herself, saying, “After I have become worn out, will I have smooth flesh? And also, my master is old.” And Hashem said to Avraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Is it really true that I will give birth, although I am old?’” (Bereishis 18:12-13).

    Rashi says on the last words of these pesukim: “Shinah hakasuv mipnei hashalom – The Torah altered [her statement] for the sake of peace.” Sarah had said, “And my master is old,” and Hashem told Avraham that she had said, “Although I am old.”

    The Gemara (Bava Metzia 87a) teaches in the name of Rabbi Yishmael: “Gadol shalom she’afilu HaKadosh Baruch Hu shinah bo – How great is peace, for even Hashem changed Sarah’s words for the sake of peace.”

    Why was it necessary to change Sarah’s words? Was there truly a potential for the words of Sarah to create marital discord? Sarah didn’t speak only of her husband Avraham’s old age, she also described herself as past her prime. Furthermore, what she said was true. Avraham was then 99 years old. (He was probably a founding member of the AARP.) Should it really bother him to be called old? While we cannot begin to fathom the true greatness of character of our Avos, it goes without saying that Avraham had the most sterling of middos. Was Avraham really going to be ticked off by Sarah thinking to herself something that was true?

    Perhaps the Torah is teaching us that in regard to feelings, there is no absolute standard. What to me may seem like an innocent quip, may be offensive and hurtful to another. Even if we think there is nothing wrong with a certain comment, we do not have license to say it – if it can possibly be hurtful to someone else. To say that the other is thin-skinned and overreacting is to discount another’s feelings.

    Many sefarim write that in truth, Avraham would not have been hurt and their shalom bayis would not have been impacted. The Torah was merely taking this opportunity to illustrate to us the importance of maintaining harmony in the home. We must always look through the prism of the other person’s soul, and not hold him to what we would consider the proper level of sensitivity.

    This lesson is borne out from a zug of the Gerrer Rebbe (as told to me by Rav Dov Tzvi Rothstein). It says in Midrash Tanchuma (Pinchas 10), “ Ke’sheim she’ein partzufoseihem shavin zeh la’zeh, kach ein daasam shavin zeh la’zeh, ella kol echad ve’echad yeish lo daas bifnei atzmo – Just as people’s faces are not the same, their thoughts are not the same; each one has his own way of thinking.”

    The Gerrer Rebbe asks: Why does the Midrash prove its point by mentioning the fact that no two people look alike? We all know that our thoughts and feelings are unique to ourselves. After just two minutes with a person, we can usually size him up and realize where we differ and disagree. Why do Chazal have to prove this point by pointing out that we all look different? Additionally, why is there a need to make the second half of the statement – that each has his own thoughts? What is being added that we don’t know on our own?

    He explains that the emphasis is in our response to the other person’s differences. No two people look alike, and we should not hold that against our friend. I may not like seeing a certain feature on a person, but that should not give me cause to think less of him. Likewise, we should not be critical of a friend who does not share our opinions and sensitivities.

    A person whose ideas are different from mine, or a person I find too thin-skinned, should be accorded no less respect and be treated no less pleasantly than my doppelganger.

    Reb Eliezer

    Rabbi Yonasan Eubshitz gives a very interesting interpretation on vaadoni zoken, which refers to Hashem. When an open neis is being done like yetzias mitzraim, Hashem revealed Himself as a gibor, general but at kabolas hatorah as a zaken because no open neis or miracle was done there. Sarah Imenu saw Hashem as a zaken indicating to her that here no miracle will be done and she cannot have a child as she did not have a womb, so vaani zakanti refers to Hashem. Lo tzochakti, I did not laugh for not being possible, but ki Yarea is a yiras horamemus feeling that she is not worthy to this type of miracle.


    > A person whose ideas are different from mine, or a person I find too thin-skinned, should be accorded no less respect and be treated no less pleasantly than my doppelganger.

    This should be fixed at the top of CR!


    AAQ, From your mouth….

    Reb Eliezer

    The Chovas Halvovas explains that when a carpenter makes a table they all look the same like a table but Hashem created every individual to be different. The Sefer Chagvei Haselah from Rav Yonah Tzvi Horowitz, explains that the Torah start with a ב to emphasize this bechina, being different and the aseres hadibros with an א, through the mitzvos to unify each other. Tefila, the zechusim of the tzibur, Torah learning, give a take like a business transaction, and even for Tefilin, someone else’s help is necessary, if someone does not make it, we cannot put it on.


    This also started a tradition of heilike Jewish women to think that everything wrong in the house is due to their husbands – even as Hashem corrects Sarah here. This is balanced with H’ telling Avraham to listen to Sarah in the case of Avraham, preventing Jewish men from totally ignoring the wives’ complaints.

    Reb Eliezer

    The gemora in Bava Metzia says that women are stingy and I said that maybe the men are stingy she cannot do anything against his will but Sarah Imenu knew that Avraham doesn’t mind, so she gave soles, fine flour over kemach, thicker flour.

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