Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah – Vayeira

This weekend, Monmouth Reform Temple celebrates its 60th anniversary. A lot has happened in 60 years. This year is also my 60th trip around the sun. Einstein said that coincidence is only God’s way of remaining anonymous, so I have spent some time this year thinking about the confluence of these “coincident” happenings.

My first thoughts dealt with the things we have both seen through the eyes of youth and maturation. Yes, there have always been older members of a congregation to celebrate youthful exuberance and guard against immature decision making. One could argue that the same is true for my youth. I had folks around me, influencing my maturation. So, I don’t think that we are all that different. We both now stand at the precipice of being old enough to appreciate looking back on all we have learned, still young enough to learn and grow! It’s really kind of “neat” being at this stage. I am not young, and I am not old.

Standing with one foot in senior citizenship and one in youth, I looked at this week’s Torah portion with a renewed curiosity. Often overlooked because of the stories of the “Binding of Isaac” and the debate between Abraham and God over the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, we find the annunciation of Isaac’s birth. The portion begins, however, with a visit from 3 angels (or God and two angels). They have come to make several announcements. The first is that Abraham will have a child with Sarah. He has one with Hagar (Ishmael) as a surrogate for Sarah (who never really accepted him – and ultimately jealously banished him and his mother).

When Sarah hears the news that she will have a child, she laughs and exclaims that Abraham is too old. When questioned about the laughter, God told a little white lie. He said that Sarah laughed at herself, “Is it true that I shall give birth, although I am old?”

No, we don’t advocate lying, but this episode does teach us discretion. There are times to say things, and times not to say things. Not every truth is appropriate to share. Not everything one thinks is true is also true in the eyes of someone else. As radical as this thought may be – we do not have to see the world through the same lens; we only need to respect that people see what they see. As we age, if we pay attention, we get to see and understand the world through an increasingly broad spectrum. Young, we lack the experience to see the world through multiple lenses. Too often, we can only see and respond in ways in which we are raised or indoctrinated. As we age, even as our physical strength may wane, our emotional depth and intellectual wisdom can flourish. I have a friend from High School, Mike Morgan, who could then pitch at over 90 miles per hour! Within a few days after graduation, he started for the Oakland A’s. His arm did not stay nearly that strong as he aged, but he pitched in the major leagues for 25 years learning how to pitch differently, how to think past his arm strength to stay effective. We see professionals in every profession find better ways to accomplish more, even as we continue to age. We grow into an understanding we could not have fathomed in our youth.

MRT is in the midst of these “golden years.” We have a legacy of incredible work and programming. Our history of commitment to social justice is unrivaled in the area. Our current growth affirms that what we do is meaningful in people’s lives. We also have the wisdom to understand that as the world changes, we need to continue to evolve, and at an ever increasingly rapid pace. For 60 years, we have not just kept up, but have led. With the resources and experience that come with age, we stand in a position to bless many and appreciate being blessed in return.

So Sarah laughed – and then she had a baby and even at 90, found ways to help Isaac grow strong. It’s never too late to remember that just being is a blessing – being able to continue our growth is a blessing beyond. Shabbat Shalom.