Dvar Torah Chayei Sarah — Blessings From the Heart

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    Chayei Sarah — Blessings From the Heart
    ויברכו את רבקה ויאמרו לה אחתנו את היי לאלפי רבבה ויירש זרעך את שער שנאיו
    They blessed Rivkah and said to her, “Our sister, may you come to be thousands of myriads, and may your offspring inherit the gate of its foes” (Bereishis 24:60).
    With these words, we bless our daughters before they walk down to the chuppah. Of all the magnificent quotations in the Torah, why do we quote the rasha Lavan at this auspicious time?
    In truth, when saying, “May your offspring inherit the gate of its foes,” Lavan was giving a heartfelt and selfless berachah, as he was blessing his sister that her offspring should overcome their enemies, namely his own descendants. Though the success of Rivkah and her children signified Lavan’s failure, he still gave the blessing. This was an example of a blessing that is completely for the good of the recipient. Not only did he receive nothing in return, the berachah was actually to his and his children’s detriment.
    Such a blessing is the ultimate berachah. Such altruism and selflessness become the perfect message for a young couple with which to begin their marriage, to live a life where one is there for the other one, no matter what.
    The greatness of this type of berachah can be seen from a novel understanding of the words of Chazal (Bava Kama 92a): “Kol hamevakeish rachamim al chaveiro ve’hu tzarich le’oso davar hu ne’eneh techillah — Anyone who asks for mercy on behalf of his friend, and he is in need of the same thing, will be answered first.” A seeming example of this would be: If I need a shidduch, and you do, too, and I put aside my needs to focus on yours, Hashem will answer my tefillos first: I will be blessed with a shidduch even before you, the one I was davening for. This has led people to make an agreement with one another: “You daven for me, and I’ll daven for you.” Yet it seems as if the tefillos on behalf of the other in this case are not 100% selfless.
    There is, however, another way to understand this Chazal. “Kol hamevakeish rachamim al chaveiro ve’hu tzarich le’oso davar” can be speaking about a time in which my friend and I need the same exact thing and therefore are in competition for the item I am praying for. Thus, by davening for him, I am jeopardizing my chances of success. For example, were I to pray for the success of my competitor in business, then I will lose business as a result of his success. Yet that is precisely when Chazal say, “Hu ne’eneh techillah,” that the one davening for his friend will be answered first. If I am willing to concern myself with another person’s needs even when they are at odds with my own, such a prayer does not go unanswered and the great concern for another rebounds, with my needs being met first. Again, from altruism comes the greatest of blessings.
    Based on a vort from Rav Simchah Bunim Sofer (Shaarei Simchah, Vayeira), we can explain this further. In Parashas Vayeira, we read how Sarah was taken by Avimelech and as a result, Avimelech and his household were stricken with an ailment in which all their orifices were blocked. Avraham prayed that Hashem heal Avimelech and his household of their ailment, and they were healed. Immediately afterward, the pasuk (Bereishis 21:1) tells us: “VaShem pakad es Sarah — Hashem had remembered Sarah,” and she became pregnant. To explain the juxtaposition, Rashi cites the Gemara (Bava Kama 92a) mentioned above, which teaches us that anyone who asks for mercy on behalf of his friend, and he is in need of the same thing, will be answered first. Just as Avraham davened that Avimelech’s illness should be reversed and he should be able to bear children, he, too, was able to bear children and his wife became pregnant. And as the Gemara tells us, Avraham was answered first, since Hashem had already remembered Sarah even before He healed Avimelech.
    If we think about it, Avraham’s tefillos were detrimental to his own needs. As Rashi tells us (25:19), the leitzanei hador (scoffers of the generation) argued that it was Avimelech, not Avraham, who fathered this child. After all, Sarah had been with Avraham for decades, sans child, and shortly after one night of captivity, she became pregnant. This led HaKadosh Baruch Hu to make Yitzchak in the spitting image of Avraham, silencing for good any of these scoffers. (See Rashi 21:2.)
    To avoid the problem altogether, the most logical thing would have been for Avraham to refrain from praying on Avimelech’s behalf. If Avimelech was still unable to bear children, then the scoffers could not have claimed that it was he who fathered Yitzchak. Yet Avraham nonetheless davened for Avimelech, which enabled him to father a child and allowed for the leitzanei hador to cast their aspersions upon Avraham.
    In this case, Avraham davened for Avimelech, even though “Hu tzarich le’oso davar,” he was in need of that very matter — that Avimelech remain ill; it was in his best interests that Avimelech’s troubles remain unresolved. If a person has such gevurah, to help another when he stands to be harmed, that deserves Hashem’s blessing and the person’s prayer is answered first.
    Living a life of selflessness does not go unnoticed and unrewarded; it ensures that Hashem’s benevolence quickly finds its way back. What better message can we give our children at the time of their marriage!
    This can explain why these pesukim are leined on Rosh Hashanah, while we are engaged in our personal tefillos for a successful year. In Yalkut Yehudah (Vayeira, fn 4), Rav Yehudah Leib Ginzburg suggests that these pesukim remind us not to focus only on ourselves even while concerned about our own judgment. Self-absorption, even in the pursuit of a legitimate need, can lessen the efficacy of our tefillos. On the other hand, when we truly look out for one another, and even daven for them, Hashem will look out for us. This is especially true to remember in regard to others who have wronged us. Rav Ginzburg then cites the Tanchuma Yashan, where it says that when we have mercy on others and forgive their indiscretions, Hashem will have mercy on us.
    If we emulate Avraham and forgive the wrongs of others and go so far as to pray for them, those tefillos will put us on the path to earn His forgiveness and a greater acceptance of our tefillos.

    Reb Eliezer

    The Torah gives one the option of chayecha kodam mishel chavercha and he loves his friend more than himself, deserves to be answered first.

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