Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah –Chayei Sarah
I begin every funeral asking, “Is there anyone who would rather not be here today, if it meant not knowing … (the deceased’s name)?” I have never had a hand go up and had someone leave. Through my own loss, I have learned that people don’t leave us. Their hands leave us, but our hearts never let go. The lives of people we love continue to touch us, move us, and mold us as we move forward in life. Oddly, they continue to evolve, as well. The longer we live, the more we understand. People we did not understand we now “get.” Blessed or challenged, they never leave us.
Torah teaches us that people don’t die. Even as it speaks of the physical demise of Moses, Aaron, and Abraham, Torah tells us they were “gathered with their kin.” As Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over until it’s over.” And in Torah, it is never over. Our tradition teaches us that when we teach, we have to acknowledge the person(s) from whom we learned. Each lesson of Talmud begins, “Rabbi ‘X’ taught in the name of Rabbi ‘Y,’” often adding, “who taught in the name of Rabbi ‘Z.’” We pledge never to forget those who touch our lives.
This week’s Torah portion includes the end of the physical lives of both Abraham and Sarah. It begins with Sarah’s story. “The life of Sarah was one hundred years and twenty years and seven years; [these were] the years of the life of Sarah.” The text does not tell us that she died at 127. Rather, it speaks of her life span – and it does so in a most cryptic way. Often times when we look at tombstones, we see a birth date and a death date – as if these are the only important dates to remember. By pointing to at least here different elements of Sarah’s life span, Torah reminds us that the value of life happens in between the dates – and then our life experiences extend that influence for years beyond. Sarah’s influence continues with her son Isaac as he welcomes his bride Rebecca. “And Isaac brought her to the tent of Sarah, his mother, and he took Rebecca, and she became his wife, and he loved her. And Isaac was comforted for [the loss of] his mother. (Gen. 24:67)” We continue to remember Sarah as our matriarch –“Sarah Imaenu.”
Abraham lives 175 years. After Sarah’s death, he remarries and raises another family. As the father of Ishmael (through Hagar), “Avraham Avinu” holds influence over the entire western religious world.
We owe our ancestors a debt of gratitude. They did not live only to pave roads for the future, but we could not be who we are but for their influence and legacy. In turn, the decisions we make give or take honor from their legacies and pave or destroy the roads for those who will come after us. The people we remember for blessing are the ones that pursued life’s blessing for the many and not the few, who worked to grow relationships, not segregate them, and who lived by a moral compass that left the world more whole because he/she was here.
Tradition requires each of us to write our own Torah – the book of our lives. Counselor/Author Craig D. Lounsbrough wrote, “Dare to write your life story in such a way that, if perchance, someone happens to read even a single sentence of it, they will be compelled to take far greater care in the writing of their own sentences.” We live under the scrutiny of the future, and we cannot wait until we pass to care for all with which we fill our pages. Long after our days on Earth have passed, our legacy will continue to influence the world. May we want to be remembered for blessing the world – all of it with whom we come in contact, and not just those who further our personal hope for power and gain.