Excerpts from a lesson given by HaRav Eliezer Berland, shlit"a, Parshas Chaye Sarah.

      In the story of the "King and the Emperor," a King and an Emperor who are both childless disguise themselves, and go out to travel around and see if they can find a cure for themselves. They meet in an inn, and each recognizing in the other a certain royal bearing, they confide in each other, and make a pact between them, that if they both go home and have children, a boy and a girl, under circumstances in which the two can marry, they will marry them together.  Eventually, they reach home, and do have children under such circumstances, but the pact between them gets forgotten. 
    Before the sin of Adam, it was supposed to be that each couple that were meant for each other would be born together, and then stay together all their lives, in the same way that doves do. But since the sin, each couple are now born far apart, and everyone has to pray and search very much in order to find their true partner. It says (Vayikra 20:17) that if a man shall take his sister, chessed hu: it is a wicked thing. Yet the word chessed also has the simple meaning of an act of loving kindness. Similarly, it says in the verse from Aishes Chayil (Proverbs 31:10-31), aishes chayil mi yimtza, a woman of valor, who can find?  The initial letters of this verse spell out the word, achim, brothers. The Arizal said that the farther apart the couple are from each other, in their place of birth, upbringing etc. the more certain it is that they were truly meant for each other.
      This week's parsha opens with the verse that the life of Sarah was a hundred years and seven years and twenty years. The explanation given for the strange language here, is that at the age of one hundred and twenty seven, she was just like she had been at the age of seven, i.e. free from sin. So why did the verse not say, "one hundred and twenty years and seven years," which would have told us the same thing?  What is the point of writing the word "years" an extra time, in the middle of the count?
      By Eliahu it is written vayira (Kings I, 19:3) that he was scared of Jezebel. How could this be? He was able to bring down fire from heaven, and on two occasions burn up a captain and squad of fifty men. Why could he not just bring down a fire and burn her also? In the Zohar, Rav Yosi explains that the tzaddikim do not like to trouble the Creator by having Him perform miracles for them. Rav Chiya said no, the real reason is that we are not supposed to read the  word as "vayira," he was scared, but rather as vayar, he saw. What he saw was that the time had come when, finally, he would be able to receive his true soul, which meant that he had reached the level of Moshe when Hashem took him to the cave where He revealed to him the thirteen attributes of mercy (Shemos 33:22.)  Eliahu understood from the speech of Jezebel that Hashem was sending him a hint from heaven to go to the cave. He had been alive for five hundred years, ( first of all as Pinchas, in Egypt,) and at last he would be able to achieve, after waiting and praying for so many years, his final rectification. 
   One can be alive and serving Hashem for many years with different souls inside him, either a righteous or an evil person, but not necessarily his own true soul. The soul of Eliahu that went up to heaven in a fire was on a much higher level than all the souls he had had up until then. The Arizal explains that Nadav and Avihu, the two sons of Aharon the Cohen, had brought down the fire from heaven before it's time, and therefore it had burnt them up. They both then came back in reincarnation as Pinchas, who was Eliahu. All the miracles that Eliahu did was with their two souls inside him. This itself was after two hundred years of having no ruach hakodesh, no holy spirit, resting upon him as a punishment.  Pinchas was the prophet at the time of Yftach, and he should have gone to Yftach to cancel his vow (Judges 11:30).  Because he did not, his ruach hakodesh was taken away. Those two hundred years were spent working on himself to raise himself up again to his former level. For, in fact, one can work all his life and not reach his true level. It is written, vayar vayakum vayelech el nafsho, literally, "he saw and he arose and he ran for his life."   The verse can also be translated, "he went to himself," i.e. to his true self, so that then he would be able to achieve his true level. 
    At Mount Carmel, Eliahu brought down a fire from heaven, and all Israel returned to Hashem, and killed all the prophets of the Baal. This was the final rectification of the souls of Nadav and Avihu, for on Mount Carmel it was really the right time for the fire to be brought down from heaven. Their souls then left him, and he finally merited to receive his true soul. He then went to the cave where Hashem had revealed to Moshe the thirteen attributes of mercy, showing that Hashem was infinitely merciful, being prepared to forgive even such a sin as the Golden Calf. 
    Only through the true tzaddik can this ultimate mercy be revealed. Hashem, out of his love for us, created this cave at twilight, on the eve of the first Shabbos, in order to hide within it the or haganuz, the hidden light, with which He created the world. In the Gemara, Masechet Megila, it is explained that if there were an opening as small as a needle in the wall of the cave containing the or haganuz, the light that would come out would burn up all the world. Therefore only the true tzaddik is able to enter this cave, for, as the Pri Tzaddik explains, only one who has worked on himself for many  years, until he has succeeded in canceling his body completely and become a completely spiritual being, is able to enter a cave that has no opening. 
    Finally, after five hundred years, Eliahu merited to his true soul. At that time, he merited to the or haganuz, and because of this, he is able to atone for all the people who are present whenever there is a bris mila, a circumcision, because he does not enter the place of the bris mila until he has canceled all the sins of all the people that are there.
    This is the explanation of the verse about the wording of Sarah's age.  A person is born with two powerful forces inside him, an inclination to do good, and one to do bad. In truth, both of them are holy angels, as explained in the Etz Chaim. On one side there is the force of chassadim, and the other a force of gevurot. Until the sin of Adam they were both forces for good, but since the sin, the force of gevurot turned into an evil inclination. The Tikuney Zohar brings that at the sin, the yud in the name of Hashem, shakai ran away and left the name shed, a demon. This is the evil inclination that tries to confuse a person and turn him away from the desire to do good.
    Therefore, one must take hold of his improper thoughts, and force them over to the side of holiness, so that they should be like a fire inside him, burning to serve Hashem, a fire of holiness, like that of Eliahu. Just like Sarah who shone like the sun (Baal HaTurim, Bereishis, 23:1), Sara was one hundred years, and seven years.  The initial letters spell out the word shemesh, sun. 
    The Midrash teaches that when the Egyptians forced Avraham to open the chest in which Sarah was hidden, (he had hidden her in a chest when they went down to Egypt, in order that she should not be kidnapped,) the light that shone out of it was so bright that it turned the night into day. And that is what is written, "a hundred years and seven years and twenty years"--not that her whole life she was like a seven year old with no evil inclination, but rather that her whole life she was like a twenty year old, with a very powerful evil inclination, that she had to fight a tremendous battle in order to subdue it, through many years of prayers and supplications before Hashem. Eventually she was successful and managed to convert the fire of desires of this world into a light, burning for Hashem, and this is the reason that she shone like the sun, and also the reason that Rashi describes her as being like a seven year old. In fact, she literally took herself back to being on the level of a seven year old, as if she had had no evil inclination.
      This is the answer that the wise men of Israel gave to the wise men of the nations. The wise men of the nations had argued that surely it is better to have no evil inclination, to be always connected to Hashem, without any confusions.  The wise men of Israel answered that no, it is far better that we should have this evil inclination, because by fighting it, through praying and crying constantly to Hashem for help in the battle against it, we are able to raise ourselves up to a much higher level of devotion to and serving Hashem than would otherwise be possible.

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