11/05/2015

Shabbat Hayey Sarah

Candles Friday 4:27pm 6th Nov.
Havdalah 7th 5:21pm
Mevarchin Rosh Hodesh Kislev Thursday 12th, Friday 13th

Avraham lives a long and very difficult life. We have seen him have to contend with physical disasters, different rulers and standards, warring armies and conflicts within his marriage and his family. Running through all this is his faith and even there, it misled him into thinking that God wanted him to kill his son Isaac.

This week in the final chapters of his life he has deal with the issues of language, meaning and intent.

Despite the promise that all the land would one day belong to his children, he has to buy a burial cave for his wife from the local Hittite ruler. Ephron says he may have a burial ground for nothing but Avraham realizes he does not really mean it.

Avraham does not want to take a wife for Isaac from the Canaanite tribes. They are going to be displaced precisely because of their immorality. Instead he sends his servant to find a wife for Isaac. He specifically commands him to go back to “my land and my birthplace.” And his only other condition is that Isaac should not go back to live there. He says nothing about his family.

The servant understands that character is the crucial issue. He comes across Rivkah, almost by accident though of course we know it is not. She has all the qualities he knows Avraham wants in daughter in law. And when he starts to negotiate, he tells them that Avraham specifically insisted that he go back to his family for his son’s wife.

Was it the servant’s own initiative, to mention the family, to help seal the deal? Or was the Torah as it often is, concise and brief in conveying Avraham’s request? We cannot know. As with everything in the Torah it is the moral message that matters more than historicity or modern ways of analyzing texts.

Avraham has to deal with every aspect of human life. He has to steer through unknown and unpredictable waters. In a way that we all do today. In doing this he is constantly focusing on the wider issues of how to establish an ethical and spiritual tradition. We will all make mistakes and wrong judgments no matter how careful we are. But if we set our moral and religious goals and always have them mind, we will have a legacy to pass on that we can proud of.