(Torah Portion Chayai Sarah) She Took Notice!
The Torah relates that Avraham instructed his faithful servant Eliezer to travel from the land of Israel to his birthplace, Aram Naharyim, to find a suitable wife for his son Yitzchok.
Avraham sent Eliezer with ten camels laden with gifts. Our Sages tell us that Avraham’s camels stood out from among the other camels because they were muzzled while they traveled so that they would not graze in other people’s property.
An interesting question is raised: The Talmud relates that the donkey of Rebbe Pinchas ben Yair was stolen and it refused to eat for three days. The thieves did not want to be stuck with a dead stolen donkey and let the donkey out. The donkey returned to its owner’s home yet even when it was given food it did not eat. Rebbe Pinchas asked his family if the food had ben ritually tithed and they responded that it was fit for animal consumption. Rebbe Pinchas answered, “Yes, it may be fit for an average animal, but my animal is stringent and would only eat from food that is definitely tithed.”
As strange as this may sound, the donkey of the righteous and sagely Rebbe Pinchas, picked up his owner’s stringencies and sensed that the food was not on the highest levels of ‘Kashruth’ and instinctively refrained from eating it.
Now, if the donkey of Rebbe Pinchas ben Yair would not eat stolen or untithed food, why was it necessary for our great forefather Avraham to muzzle his camels to prevent them from eating that which was not theirs? Avraham’s righteousness should have infused his camels not to eat from the property of others without a muzzle!
Commentators point out that, in fact, Avraham’s animals did not need the muzzle to prevent them from eating in other people’s fields. However, Avraham who introduced Monotheism, righteousness, Tzadaka and judicial laws into society, was a role model of how one should conduct their lives with honesty, integrity and faithfulness. He therefore made it his business to muzzle his animals to teach and inspire others how to correctly conduct themselves and their livestock. Additionally, he did not want to rely on a miracle to prevent his animals from grazing improperly.
The media has a heyday with pointing out our faults. Seldom do they take a moment to observe how countless Jews go about their lives living peacefully, honestly, decently, religiously, with benevolent generosity to others.
This past weekend I heard an amazing story: Mr. Sol Werdiger, CEO of Outerstuff, a company that produces sports apparel, received a phone call from Mr. Oh Joon, the South Korean UN Ambassador asking to meet him for lunch at a Kosher restaurant in Manhattan.
Although Sol did not know the purpose of the meeting he agreed to meet with Mr. Joon.
When they met, Mr. Joon told him the following, “I have always heard negative stereotypes about Jews and Israel and I took it at face value. Then, my daughter took an internship working on design in your company. Throughout the year, she has been telling me how wonderful it is to work at your company.”
Mr. Joon continued, “There are four areas which stood out and impressed my daughter. 1) Everyday, at 1:30 p.m., no matter what was going on at the office, all the men including those from neighboring offices, retreated into a room to pray with sincerity and calm. 2) Every Friday the office shuts down early in the afternoon in preparation for your holy Sabbath and is closed on the Sabbath – this includes all workers no matter which faith or religion they maintain. 3) My daughter observed that each petitioner for charity – and there were many – were treated with respect and left with a check in hand. 4) My daughter was treated with the utmost respect and dignity.”
Because of the amazing experience and lessons the company taught his daughter, Mr. Joon took out his checkbook and was ready to write a check returning all his daughter’s earnings! Mr. Werdiger wouldn’t hear from it. “Your daughter worked and earned her salary and rightfully deserves her pay, I will not accept any remuneration.”
Then the Ambassador relayed the most amazing thing. “As you know, I have voting privileges at the UN. Because of my renewed appreciation of the Jewish people, I abstained from voting on resolutions against Israel on three occasions. At one resolution I was the ninth vote needed to pass the motion and resolution against Israel and because I abstained, it did not pass!”
Mr. Werdiger told me that no one at the office had any idea that this girl was the daughter of an Ambassador and no one ever imagined what type of impact their typical conduct at work had on her or how this impacted the votes against Israel.
G-d has entrusted us to follow the example of our forefather Avraham to be trailblazers and to set examples becoming a light to all nations by living exemplary lives as outlined by the laws, personalities and experiences of our precious and timeless Torah!
Wishing you a most enjoyable & uplifting Shabbos
Rabbi Dovid Saks