Meir Panim’s Tiberias Free Restaurant not only provides warm meals, but the opportunity to socialize as well.
Now think of Abraham at the beginning of this week’s parshah. He has just been through the greatest trial of his life. He had been asked by God to sacrifice the son he had waited for, for so many years. He was about to lose the most precious thing in his life. It is hard to imagine his state of mind as the trial unfolded. Then, just as he was about to lift the knife, came the call from heaven saying, “Stop.” The story seemed to have a happy ending after all.
But there was a terrible twist in store. Just as Abraham was returning, relieved, his son’s life spared, he discovers that the trial had a victim after all. Immediately after this episode, we read of the death of Sarah. The Sages said that the two events were simultaneous. As Rashi explains:
“The account of Sarah’s demise was juxtaposed to the binding of Isaac because as a result of the news of the ‘binding’ – that her son was prepared for slaughter and was almost slaughtered – her soul flew out of her, and she died” (Rashi to Genesis 23:2).
Try now to put yourself in the position of Abraham. He has almost sacrificed his child. And now, as an indirect result of the trial itself, the news has killed his wife of many years, the woman who stayed with him through all his travels and travails, who twice saved his life, and who in joy gave birth to Isaac in her old age. Had Abraham grieved for the rest of his days, we would surely have understood – just as we understand Noah’s grief.
Instead, we read the following:
“And Sarah died in Kiryat Arba – that is, Hebron – in the land of Canaan; and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her. And Abraham rose up from before his dead…” (Genesis 23:2-3)
Abraham mourns and weeps, and then rises up and does two things that secure the Jewish future, two acts whose effects we feel to this day. He buys the first plot – the field and Cave of Machpelah – in what will one day become the land of Israel. And he secures a wife for his son Isaac so that there will be Jewish continuity.
Noah grieves and is overwhelmed by loss. Abraham grieves, knowing what he has lost, but then rises up and builds the Jewish future. There is a limit to grief: this is what Abraham knows and Noah does not know.
Abraham bestowed this singular ability on his descendants. The Jewish people suffered tragedies that would have devastated other nations beyond hope of recovery: the destruction of the First Temple and the Babylonian exile; the destruction of the Second Temple and the end of Jewish sovereignty; the expulsions, massacres, forced conversions and inquisitions of the Middle Ages; the pogroms of the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries; the Shoah. Yet somehow the Jewish people mourned and wept, and then rose up and built the future. This is their unique strength, and it came from Abraham – as we see him in this week’s parshah.
Kierkegaard, the Danish Christian philosopher, theologian and religious author, wrote a profound sentence in his Journals: “It requires moral courage to grieve; it requires religious courage to rejoice.” Perhaps that is the difference between Noah the righteous, and Abraham the man of faith. Noah grieved. Abraham knew that there must eventually be an end to grief. We must turn from yesterday’s loss to the call of a tomorrow we must help to be born.
Adapted from “Covenant & Conversation,” a collection of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’s parshiyot hashavua essays, published by Maggid Books, an imprint of Koren Publishers Jerusalem (www.korenpub.com), in conjunction with the Orthodox Union.
About the Author: Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, former chief rabbi of the British Commonwealth, is the author of many books of Jewish thought, most recently The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning.
If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.
Comments are closed.
No tweets found.
The Jewish outlook has always been that the physical world with all its beauty and pleasures is great, but only if it’s used to do good and express higher ethical values. Greek culture taught that beauty and pleasure are where it’s at – period – and let’s keep values and meaning out of the picture.
Remember 613 Torah Avenue? Of course you do.
Released in the 1970’s and through the early 1980’s, the 613 Torah Avenue Tapes on the weekly parsha were part and parcel of most frum children’s Torah education during those years, and continue to be used by many teachers and rebbeim.
Just as the moon waxes and wanes and then totally disappears from view before returning to the night sky, so, too, the Jewish people.
In commemoration of 19 Kislev, the anniversary of the release of the Ba’al HaTanya, the first Lubavitcher Rebbe, from prison in Russia about 150 years ago, a sale of chassidic sefarim took place in Yerushalayim. Sefarim were sold at a flat rate of 4 for 100 NIS. Sefarim were not sold individually for 25 NIS, but only in sets of four. Discs of chassidic music were also sold. People thronged from all over Israel to take advantage of this opportunity.
At about 4 a.m. on cold and damp autumn mornings in London, Dad would try to wake us in time for Selichot, the pre-Jewish New Year dawn prayers. As we heard Dad’s footsteps mounting the stairs, my brother and I would hide under our covers and mutter our displeasure at being disturbed.
In this week’s parshah Yaakov Avinu takes his entire family down to Mitzrayim. The Torah lists the family members who made this journey. On the list is Shimon’s son, Shaul. The pasuk refers to him as Shaul ben haCanaanis – the son of the Canaanis.
Chapter And Verse?
‘Has The Time For Slaughter Arrived?’
Question: I have noticed that some people stand during the Birkot Keriat Shema. I was always under the impression that one is supposed to sit for Shema and its berachot. Is there a source that allows one to stand during this part of the prayer?
The wedding was going full blast, with the joyful Jewish music playing. The sound of the violin awoke unfulfilled longings and triggered moisture in the eyes.
The family had reached deadlock.
According to the Sefer Yetzirah, each month is associated with a letter of the aleph-beis. Teves was formed by means of the letter ayin, which has a numerical value of seventy – a number that figures prominently in Judaism.
Having come to the conclusion that nobody was more qualified than Yosef to lead Egypt in anticipation of and during the approaching famine, Pharaoh appointed him prime minister. This appointment made Yosef the second most powerful man in Egypt.
Standing up for the truth is by no means an easy feat and Yosef paid for it dearly.
The family had reached deadlock.
A while back I inducted a new rabbi into office. It’s something I do often, and there is a certain predictability to the proceedings. I give the new rabbi my blessings and encouragement. He in reply thanks those who have helped him through the years, and sets out his aspirations as a spiritual leader and his vision for the future of the congregation.
Bad things happen, and when they do, the leader must take the strain so that others can sleep easily in their beds.
The purchase of the Cave of Machpelah is evidently a highly significant event because it is recorded in great detail.
Leaders lead. They don’t conform for the sake of conforming. They don’t do what others do merely because others are doing it. They think outside the box. They march to a different tune.
Could we understand the history of Israel without its prehistory, the stories of Abraham and Sarah and their children?
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/how-long-to-grieve/2011/11/17/
Scan this QR code to visit this page online: