Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Life Of...

Chayyei Sarah
22 Cheshvan 5774 / Oct. 25-26, 2013

This week’s portion, Chayyei Sarah (which literally means “the life of Sarah”), begins with Sarah’s death.  We learn that Abraham goes and negotiates a deal for the Cave of Machpelah, which had been owned by a dude named Ephron, and buries Sarah there, designating the Cave as a family burial site.

Later in the portion, Abraham sends a trusted servant to go and fetch a wife for Isaac. After some Divine intervention, the servant ultimately brings back Rebecca, who literally falls off of her camel when she sees Isaac for the first time (he was quite dashing).  She covers herself with a veil before their first encounter, and right after meeting, is taken to bed in Sarah’s tent -- in the process becoming Isaac’s wife (helping the ancient rabbis determine that one of the ways to take a wife in accordance with Jewish law is by having consensual sex – check out Mishna Kiddushin 1:1).

We finally learn that Abraham actually took another wife after Sarah passed away, having another 6 kids, and ultimately Abraham passes away at age 175, “dying at a good, ripe age, old and contented.”  His sons Isaac and Ishmael bury him in the Cave of Machpelah, with his wife Sarah (note that we haven’t heard from Ishmael in quite some time, so to find him here burying his father, who had effectively banished him and his mother Hagar, is quite surprising).

I can’t help but be moved by the amount of effort that Abraham puts forth to ensure a meaningful burial place for Sarah.  He not only negotiates for and secures the physical location, but he actually buries her himself.  Ultimately, his own sons – even the one who is estranged – come to bury him there as well when the time comes.

Have you ever helped bury a loved one?

Have you thought about where you’d like to be buried when the time comes, and whom you hope will be taking part in that holy process?

Have you thought about what you’d like others to say about you once you’re gone, and are you striving to live your life in such a way to make those desired remarks come true?

This Shabbat, reflect on the fragility of life.  Take stock of your life thus far, and be grateful. Envision the life you hope to live in the years ahead and work towards it.  May we all be blessed to one day have those we leave behind not referencing our deaths, but rather having our life’s Torah portion be referred to as “the life of (insert your name here).”  And what a story it will be.

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