Shabbat Shalom from Bruce Washburn:Parashat Chayei Sarah
November 11, 2023 | 27 Cheshvan 5784
Torah: Genesis 23:1-25:18 Triennial: Genesis 24:10-52
Haftarah: I Kings 1:1-31
We believe that in times of great strife, words of Torah can provide stability and comfort in our lives.
We know that you join us in praying for the safety of our soldiers and citizens, and that together we mourn the terrible losses already suffered.
We stand together for a strong and secure Israel.
Here is this week’s D’var Torah:
Rebecca loves and is loved something fierce. Everyone who knows her adores and respects her. Yet she will choose to leave her family twice over, choose to step out of love into the unknown. First, in our parashah, she chooses to follow a man she does not know to a place she has only heard of, leaving behind her family and her life. Next week, she will send her beloved son away, dissolving the new family she has formed. In both cases, Rebecca does what needs to be done. She leaves to form new lives, she sends away in order to preserve life. Rebecca learns both the anguish of leaving home and the anguish of sending away her child.
Rebecca’s parting from her parents and brother is one of the most beautiful moments in the Torah. It is infused with courage and hope. After as many days of delaying as they can manage, after putting off the moment of separation, the time to leave finally arrives. Her mother and her brother want to keep her, saying, “Let her stay with us for a few more days, maybe ten days, and then she’ll go.” But the time for departure has arrived and Rebecca makes the choice to leave. They ask her, “Will you go with this man?” and she replies, “Elech, I will go.” As hard as it is for her family to let her leave, they do. They keep a brave face and wish her luck and love. Their final words to her are a blessing: “Sister of ours, may you become thousands of myriads. And may your seed possess the gate of those who hate them.”
Rebecca is called not to battle but to marriage. Still, as she goes off, her family wishes for her security, the ability to keep herself and the children they hope she will have safe. They also have no doubt that there will be those who hate her descendants. They cannot bless her with everlasting peace; these people who have to send their child away know that someday she too may have to send her child away. They bless her with success. They remind her that they love her, that she will always be their sister.
Rebecca’s journey west to Canaan mirrors Abraham’s initial journey in Lech Lecha. She too chooses to lech. Abraham will be father of many; Rebecca too is blessed with innumerable descendants. Rebecca and Abraham both converse with God, both express their fear over acquiring children. But unlike Rebecca, Abraham is not sent out with love. Abraham’s initial departure from his family is not recorded in the Torah. We get no words of promise, no overwhelming outpouring of love from his parents and siblings as he leaves them. Later rabbinic midrash takes this a step further and imagines that his family is angry with him, that his family even harbors murderous thoughts towards him.
Abraham repeats this behavior when he becomes a parent. When it comes time for him to send out Isaac, to let Isaac have his own lech lecha moment, Abraham cannot do it. He does not know how to send forth his child with love, to trust that the time has come for his child to take care of him. He has bound Isaac too tightly to him. Instead, Abraham sends forth a nameless servant, making him promise not to take Isaac with him no matter what. Isaac won’t get a chance to grow up, to prove himself, to enter into adulthood in the company of his father. Instead, Isaac got the akedah and then was homebound.
Rebecca, however, will mirror her family’s behavior when she becomes a parent. Though it breaks her heart, she will send her son on his own lech lecha journey back to Haran, back to her own family. She will wish him well, surround him with her love and her promise. Jacob will go and he will succeed. He will struggle but he will carry on that promise and pass on that love when he too must send his children away from home, down to Egypt. There has never been a time when we haven’t had to leave our parents, when we haven’t had to send our children away. As Milcah and Laban sent Rebecca with love and courage, as Rebecca sent Jacob, so too do we send ours with blessing, with hope, and with breaking hearts.