Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah – Chayei Sarah
We ended last week’s Torah portion on a conundrum. Abraham and Isaac went up the mountain together – the Mountain at which God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. Abraham comes down alone. The sages are all across the map as to what happened to Isaac. Some will argue that he died and subsequently experienced resurrection. Some will posit that he took off running. Others will ignore the comment altogether. Whichever take one reads into the text, the fact that Abraham prepared to kill his son is itself horribly problematic. Is blind faith, faith? Irrespective of where one stands on this matter, the whole episode comes as a shock to Sarah. Her husband never told her what he was going to do. Last week ends with this conundrum.
This week begins with Sarah’s death. Abraham went home to Be’er Sheva. Sarah dies in Kiryat Arba – almost 30 miles away (several camel ride days). Why the Immediate move and death? Well, many scholars argue that when she learned what happened, she immediately left and then died. While the text is silent, what is not said screams off the page. Sarah left Abraham.
One might argue that this episode demonstrates the first divorce (or at least separation) in the Bible. Whether legal or not, the two find themselves living part, and after her death, Abraham still feels obligated to come and bury her. He stayed committed to her even after they were no longer together.
On Yom Kippur, I posted that we give up too easily. Somehow we think that if we leave someone, they no longer remain in our lives. I reminded couples who are divorced that a document separates them legally, but they will never lose the part of them that fell in love, that bore and raised children together, and who fought and/or lost interest in each other. Even the traumatic end cannot wipe away every moment shared and the ongoing relationship that binds them every time their lives intertwine. We get so lost on the hate or trauma that brought the loss that we forget everything else – including acknowledging that there was a time that we could not wait until the next moment that we could be together.
Indeed, there are times that we fall “out of love.” For a host of reasons, some traumatic and some benign, we find ourselves no longer able to maintain an intimate relationship with another person. We cannot let that diminish the blessings we shared along life’s path up until that moment in time when we part. We get to choose how much we celebrate what we co-created. We get to choose how much we seek to destroy it and all the lives that are impacted by our venom.
Abraham chose to still honor Sarah. He did not leave it for Isaac to do. His commitment continued long after she had left. In the same sense, we will see Isaac and Ishmael come back together to bury Abraham – and not just for the event. Isaac remains and stays with his half brother at Ishmael’s well for an extended period.
Even if the relationship changed, the respect for all that has been cannot. IF we let it happen, we diminish our lives and all of those with whom we are involved. For every family event – we will still have equally vested ownership. We are not perfect. We will mess up. There is a lot more to life than the momentary success or failure. In this realization is where we find access to the work that breeds peace for the world. Shabbat Shalom.