Parshat Chayei Sarah


Chaplain Muriel Dance,’11 PhD, MJS, BCC


Chayei Sarah (Genesis 23:1-25:18) opens with the death of Sarah, Abraham’s wife and Isaac’s mother; it ends with the marriage of Isaac to Rebecca.  These two bookends frame the parsha. In between, Abraham buries Sarah, sends his trusted servant Eliezer to find a wife in the land of his birth for his son, and is himself “gathered to his kin” (a phrase associated with the death of our patriarchs).  The parsha yokes sadness with joy, death with marriage, in a characteristically Jewish way.

Abraham’s first act after Sarah’s burial is to assure the generations by seeking the right woman for his son.  Her test will be her willingness to follow the servant.  When Eliezer meets Rebecca at the well, the right woman, Rebecca, does more; she offers water to the stranger and his camels and invites him to her father’s house.

After Eliezer bestows gifts of silver and gold upon her, he informs her father of his mission to find a bride for Abraham’s son; her father asks her, “Will you go with this man?”  Rebecca agrees willingly, “I will go.”  Both Rebecca and Isaac express their desire for this partnership in their own manner.  Isaac finds joy in Rebecca as he takes her into his mother’s tent upon her arrival and thus assuages the loss of his mother.

This parsha offers me three blessings.

1)  For those who have buried a member of their family this year, or who have been at the burial of a friend who has become like a member of the family, may they be blessed with the knowledge that the person was buried in the presence of family and friends who remember and honor them, who have set aside time to grieve this significant loss and who will mark the place where this person was buried.

2)  For those who are thirsty, longing for water to drink, real or metaphorically, may they be blessed with water–both as it represents God’s gift to us of a life source that enlivens us and our land physically and as it represents Torah, the gift God gave us to sustain us spiritually.

3)  For those who are praying for their children to find a spouse/soul mate, may these parents be blessed with their children finding a holy relationship–a partnership that both sustains them in the face of losses and gives them a model for our relationship with the Holy One, Blessed be He.

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