Chayei Sarah: Good News/Bad News

This past week, we celebrated the bas mitzvah of one of my daughters.  My eldest daughter asked me if I gave her sister any ‘piece of wisdom’ shortly before she turned 12.  It turns out that she remembers what I told her a few hours before she turned twelve: “You have a few hours left to eat a cheeseburger without getting in a lot of trouble!”

Separately, my son reminded me of what I told him right as he was getting up for his aliyah for his bar mitzvah: “If you make any mistakes, just remember, everybody is watching you”

They are REALLY lucky to have such a wise and inspirational father.

Okay, on to Torah!

Last week's parsha ended with the near-sacrifice of Yitzchok, and this week's parsha begins with the death of Sarah.  Rashi explains that the reason these two are placed side-by-side is because Sarah was told that her husband Avraham was about to kill her only child, Yitzchok, and at the last minute he was saved.  At that point, due to the shock of hearing that her son was about to be killed, her soul left her.

There are many explanations of this Rashi, too many for this venue.

However, Rav Pinkus wanted to learn an important lesson from this Rashi.  From here, he says, we need to learn the importance of measuring our words when speaking with others.  Here you have a case of bad news being delivered, followed by good news.  However, the shock of the bad news was enough to kill Sarah.  Therefore, he says, it's important, in such a case, to first start off with the good news, so when the full story comes out, which contains the bad news, the person will not be in shock.

This is similar, he said, to a person who goes up to a parent, who's child went on a field trip with his school.  If they say, "Did you hear that the bus your son was on was in a terrible accident?  Baruch Hashem, it sounds like your child is okay…", that, even though there was a small amount of time between the bad and good, will immediately startle the parent.  In such a case, it would be better to say, "Baruch Hashem, your child is fine and well, but I heard…".

There is a secretary here from one of the schools, that every time she needs to call a parent during school hours, she starts off immediately with, "This is so and so calling from the school, don't worry, your son is okay…", because she knows that a parent begins to worry when the school is calling at that time.

So, we see from here that how a person words things can cause shock to another, and how we need to try our best to think ahead on how not to cause such a shock, even for a small moment.

Have a wonderful Shabbos!