These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Toyt un Phraylekh – Death and Joy (Parsha Thoughts)

Posted on October 28, 2010 by Joel D.

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Thoughts on this week’s Parsha, חיי שרה.

Not too long ago we were all eating, some sleeping, and many of us singing in little huts known as Sukkoth. Sukkoth is, as a festival, known as, “Zman Simkhateinu”, The Time of Our Joy. Surely eating and dancing in a wooden hut outside is fun in and of itself, but the happiness we receive isn’t really for Sukkoth. Coming off from a high of utter solemnity, that being Yom Kippur, we continue into Sukkoth building up what we will call spiritual “Happy Stock”. In other words, the “Simkhateinu” we acquire during Sukkoth is meant to spread across the year. It’s not that the only moment we can be happy is Sukkoth, rather “davka” the opposite, that joy is meant to last us through the year until the next Yom Kippur!

Now we get to Khayei Sarah, “The Life of Sarah”. What’s so ironic about the title of this parsha of Torah? In the first line we learn Sarah lives to 127 years, and then..Kaput! She dies! How anti-climactic for a eulogy or post-biography of someone’s life! Or so you would have thought. Rather the “Khayei” at the beginning of the Parsha, while certainly referring in a simple translation to the time in which Sarah lived, refers to everything that is to come after Sarah’s life. Namely that once Avraham has buried his wife he starts right off to finding a future wife for his son, the beautiful Rivka. So the “Life of Sarah” is not about her death at all, it would be better were it called, “The Lives That Spring Forth From Sarah.” Awkward title, I know, but it has a nice ring to it. Every death in the Torah, appropriately marked by some form of mourning, is also marked just as significantly by what follows. Moshe dies and he gives the Torah to Joshua. L’Dor Vador, Generation to Generation they say. For further proof of this beautiful idea look no further than Shabbat. One 25 hour day fuels us and drives us through the whole week. And so did the legacy of Sarah in that her loss drove Avraham not to despair but to seek for his own children a new legacy, one that has lasted at least until the posting of this D’var Torah.

What does all this mean to me? I came to Israel being told that my grandmother’s cousin lived here. I searched for months to find anything I could about him, nothing turned up. Then, through a fluke of fate, I found him. Nine days ago he died. But is that the end of it, the death of my lost cousin? Not quite. Tomorrow I’m going to spend Shabbat with his family, including his 80 something year old brother who would have known my grandmother (Aleya Hashalom).

And so, just like Sarah, from the loss of this one man I will gain a new family and a new life will begin simply because this one man worked so hard to build a future that would have for me a bed. And all this just a 470 bus ride away.

And so, until next time! Learn well, Eat Healthy and Shabbat Shalom!