22/23 Nov: Chayei Sara: Shabbat comes in 3:48 pm, ends 4:54 pm
Parashat Chayei Sara – Love is Healing
When Sarah dies, Yitzḥak all but disappears from the narrative. It isn’t until Rivkah arrives that we see Yitzḥak re-enter the narrative, at which point the Torah tells us (Gen. 24:67): ‘Yitzḥak then brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he took Rikvah as his wife. Isaac loved her, and thus found comfort after his mother’s death.’ It is the first time that the Torah tells us that one person loved another, and it is explicit that Yitzḥak’s love for Rivkah is what allowed him to heal from the loss of his mother.
In the verses prior to Avraham’s death, the Torah tells us that Avraham fathered other sons, but left all he had to Yitzḥak. To his other sons, he gave gifts while they were living, and then sent them away from Yitzḥak. And then, in the verse directly after Avraham’s death, the Torah states (Gen. 25:9): ‘His sons Yitzḥak and Yishmael buried him in the cave of Makhpelah.’ Even though the verses directly preceding Avraham’s death emphasised his preference for Yitzḥak – and perhaps reminded us subtly of the first son who had been sent away into the wilderness, only surviving due to divine intervention – the Torah immediately tells us that this drama of the favourite child did not stop the brothers from coming together to bury their father. It is a healing, in the current generation, of wounds inflicted by the previous generation.
By following the character of Yitzḥak in his response to the deaths of his parents, we see Yitzḥak respond to his loss in a way that is instructive for us. First, Yitzḥak teaches us that love is healing. And second, he reminds us that we are not bound forever by the drama of our elders; we can heal through love, even when that love is complicated.
Rabbi Natasha Mann
So in terms of a punishment for the people of Noah’s time, the flood and the destruction of all living things does seem a bit extreme. One of my rabbis, Rabbi Brad Artson argues, that is exactly the point the Torah is trying to make.
Destruction, even when it comes from the God who is “slow to anger and abounding in kindness” bursts beyond any manageable or fair limitations. Even punishments, originally intended to be measured and reasonable, provoke unanticipated suffering and hardship.
Rabbi Paul Arberman.
Abraham Joshua Heschel believed that Adam’s sin was primarily in hiding from God and from himself. This is not, in Heschel’s eyes, an abstract idea; we all hide from God and from ourselves. Heschel expresses it thus in the third verse of his poem I and Thou:
” Often I glimpse Myself in everyone’s form,
hear My own speech – a distant, quiet voice – in people’s weeping,
as if under millions of masks My face would lie hidden. ”
Heschel is describing a personal experience in which he has hidden from himelf, his essence absorbed within society. His face is masked, hidden from view, making the idea to “know thyself” impossible.
I’m not sure why we hide from ourselves so well when we are young — or perhaps we just don’t take the time to think through who we are — but I can say definitively, that one of the great joys of getting older is the unmasking — getting to know yourself — what you actually enjoy or don’t enjoy doing.
Written by Rabbi Paul Arberman