Friday, November 6, 2015

To Be Continued In the Land

And the life of Sarah was one hundred years and twenty years and seven years; these were the years of the life of Sarah: and Sarah died in Kiryat Arba, which is Hevron, in the Land of Canaan.
Genesis, 23:1-2

This Shabbat we read Parshat Chayei Sarah. Two main episodes are related in the parsha; the first the death and burial of Sarah, the wife of Avraham, and the second is the acquisition of a wife for Yitzchak, his son. Both of these episodes are related in great detail.

In the first episode, we are told - not how or why Sarah died - but how Avraham went about finding a suitable gravesite for her; how he bargained for it, how he was careful to pay a full price, how much he paid, where it was, who owned it, etc etc. The second episode is not only detailed, but actually repeated! Why are these two episodes so lengthy in description?

To answer this, we must understand what these episodes represent. 
Avraham had been promised two things by G-d. The first promise is that the land of Canaan would be his, and the second promise is that he would be the father of a great nation. 
Both promises are made no less than 5 times each (trust me on this). 
But at Sarah’s death, where does Avraham stand? He is not in possession of the Land, and his 37 year old son, Yitzchak, is not even married, let alone having children. Despite all of G-d’s promises, Avraham is worried. He therefore makes sure that the burial site is his for a fair price. Indeed this is the only bit of Eretz Canaan that Avraham actually owns in his whole life. And his second mission, that of marrying off his son, he takes great care to make sure that the proper wife is selected.

Yet why Avraham so careful with these two missions?  Why is he so worried? Why doesn’t he just rely on G-d’s promises? The answer is because the promises aren’t exactly promises. They are G-d’s covenant. They are a part of an agreement. “You do this, and I’ll give you that”. And what is it that Avraham is supposed to do to receive the Land and descendants? 
It is only with the total commitment and participation of Avraham that G-d’s promises can come into being.   Only with devotion, sacrifice, and sweat, will these things come into beingsometimes against seemingly unbeatable odds-not only for Avraham, but also for his descendants. .

G-d’s promise of the Land – Israel – and His promise of children – Jewish continuity – are basically the two concerns which occupy Jews today. 'Will Israel be safe for Jews, and will I have Jewish grandchildren'.

And it is these concerns that have occupied Jews for the last 4000 years. The story of Chanuka (celebrated in five weeks) is a story of Jewish continuity. The battles of the Maccabees were battles against Hellenism, Greek culture undermining the Torah, The Maccabees won that battle – suffering great losses, showing faith in G-d’s word, and through that faith allowing His promise to be fulfilled.

Today we face the same challenges. G-d’s promises will come true, but only if we do our part. Avraham’s trials show us that faith does not mean inaction, but rather the opposite. 
We must take action, sometimes at an unbearable cost. We must fight for our identity, continue to settle our Land, fight against the Hellenists among us, who insist that the Land of Israel can be a Fun Place To Visit. That is not our goal. Our goal is to be, like the chanukia, a light to dispel the darkness, in our Land, in this generation, and for all generations to come.


Sarah's burial ground, the Cave of the Patriarchs, Hevron




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