Torah Psych101 Parshas Shelach-Cicadas and grasshoppers-It's a matter of perspective!

讗讘专讛诐 讗讘讬谞讜 was considered an old man by most standards. Towards the end of the Parsha prior to his death, 讗讘专讛诐 married for a third time to a woman named 拽讟讜专讛 because her deeds were as sweet as the incense known as the拽讟讜专转. 专砖”讬 says that his third wife was really 讛讙专. Others disagree and say it was not 讛讙专. Going with Rashi鈥檚 understanding, that it was 讛讙专, he would have, in fact married someone whom he divorced. As we know, 讛讙专 was the concubine who was banished from 讗讘专讛诐 and Sarah鈥檚 house. Yet, in an intriguing set of events, he marries her again after Sarah dies.

A couple of questions come to mind when learning over this part of the Parsha. First of all, why did 讗讘专讛诐 feel compelled to marry again? Secondly, let鈥檚 look at the 驻住讜拽.

The 驻住讜拽 says (1)

讜讬住祝 讗讘专讛诐 讜讬拽讞 讗砖讛 讜砖诪讛 拽讟讜专讛

And 讗讘专讛诐continued, and took a wife, and her name was Ketura.

The use of the word 讜讬住祝-and he continued, if read literally, would mean that he added. What was 讗讘专讛诐adding to?

Rabbi Sachs once wrote about a man named Yisrael Kristal who was known for some time to be the oldest living man and a survivor of the Holocaust. He died in 2017 at the age of 113.During the Holocaust, he lost everyone and everything he had. Prior to the war he was a manufacturer of sweets. When the war was over, he eventually remarried and once again picked up the pieces and started again making 鈥榗onfections鈥 or candy as we know it. Many of the innovative candies such as chocolate covered orange peels and chocolate liqueur shaped like liqueur bottles were his inventions. He built up this company from nothing and perhaps more importantly he produced two children, ninegrandchildren and many descendants to follow. He remained a religious Jew his entire life which was not very common for survivors of the Holocaust.

Rabbi Sachs compares the life of Yisrael Kristal to the life of 讗讘专讛诐.讗讘专讛诐 had many hardships as we know with the 10 谞住讬讜谞讜转. Yet it is said of 讗讘专讛诐 that he died in a good old age, old and satisfied (2). When 讗讘专讛诐 married拽讟讜专讛 and had six sons with her, he started again. He did not give up. He picked up and continued with life. He ended up living a long life but also a good life. One of Rebbitzen Esther Jungreis鈥 favorite quotes was 鈥渁 long life is not good enough, but a good life is long enough.鈥滱vrohom had a long life and a good life.

RavDovid Feinstein suggests that the strange wording of 讜讬住祝, is letting us know that even when life seems like it should be over and even in the case of 讗讘专讛诐 where the 讙诪专讗 attests that he had already tasted the World to Come, (3), 讗讘专讛诐 did not stop living. He picked up and kept on going. You would think as we are told that 鈥淏etter an hour in the World to Come than an entire life in this world鈥 (4), that 讗讘专讛诐 would just say 鈥淚 am done.鈥 But no. He wanted to continue and add to the 诪爪讜转 he already had done and continue to do the very first Mitzva of 驻专讜 讜专讘讜 to be fruitful and multiply. Therefore, the Torah uses the word 鈥渁dd鈥 to describe what he had done by taking 拽讟讜专讛 and having six children with her.

Resilience is a topic that social scientists have studied for years and have designed studies to see for instance how children overcome bullying and constant insults and put downs. Professor Emmy Werner proposed three phenomenon that foster high resilience (5). A. Good developmental outcomes despite high-risk status. B. Sustained competence under stress and C. Recovery from trauma. These are countered by good support systems and a faith-based approach to life. Having a good support system and belief in G-d can therefore help anyone, no matter the adversity endured, to survive and thrive.

Like Yisrael Kristal and 讗讘专讛诐, we should never feel like our mission in this world is complete. We need to constantly strive to do Mitzvos and serve Hashem to our best ability while we are in this world. This requires us to replicate to the best of our abilities, resilience of people like Avrohom and Yisrael Kristal.

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  1. Bereishis 25:1
  2. Bereishis 25:8
  3. Bava Basra 17a
  4. Avos 4:22
  5. Current Directions in Psychological Science, Vol 4(3), June 1995, 81-85.

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