11/25/2016

Shabbat Hayey Sarah

Candles Friday 25th
November 4:11pm
Havdalah 26th 5:06pm

Mevarchin Rosh Hodesh Kislev
Thursday December 1st

Life goes on. Yitzhak must have been traumatized by his near sacrifice. His mother has died and now Avraham sends his servant Eliezer to find a wife for Yitzhak.

Last week the Torah repeated the story of Avraham telling Sarah to say she was his sister to save them both. First from Pharaoh and then from Avimelech. In each case, there are significant differences that illuminate the background of the cultures they encounter, how facts are interpreted and how information is gathered.

This week we have the story of how Avraham bought the cave at Machpela. Two versions of what happened. Avrahams and Efron’s. Two sides to the negotiations. Then there’s the story of Eliezer’s quest for a wife for his master’s son. Again, two versions. Why does the Torah repeat narratives? It is carelessness? Surely not. Oral traditions are passed on and so are written texts. They always have a purpose, a message and a lesson. Sometimes the subject matter is wars and heroes. Sometimes the triumphs of Kings. Here it is the struggle to follow a spiritual and ethical way of life, one that is determine by God rather than humans.

First the Torah describes the mission, the instructions and the possible outcomes. Then after the events Eliezer repeats the events in talking to Rivkah’s family. There are differences. For example, Avraham says nothing about the test at the well of asking the girls for water. Avraham says nothing about his family whereas Eliezer does.

The commentators suggest that repetitions are intentional. In life, there are always different ways of looking at events. And human beings are different and react differently according to the situations we find ourselves in. There is a difference between Eliezer the servant, obedient to his master. And Eliezer the man, who interprets his master’s wishes and then responds to circumstances, using initiative rather than simply following instructions.

The Torah expects obedience but it also values proactivity and human agency.