Torah: Chayyei Sarah (Genesis 23:1-25:18) Haftarah ( I Kings 1:1-31)
The Death and burial of Sarah in the Cave of Machpelah. Abraham sends his servant Eliezer in search of a wife for Issac. Eliezer prays to G-d for assistance in his search. Eliezer finds Rebekah, whom Issac chooses to be his wife. Death of Abraham, who is buried next to Sarah in the Cave of Machpelah. The list of descendants of Ishmael.
Concepts and values in this Torah portion. The obligation to bury one’s dead, the love for one’s people and marrying within the faith, prevention of cruelty to animals, meditation, prayer and reflection, but some notable mitzvot are of being kind to animals and honoring the dead and comforting the mourners.
Even though the Parsha is the “Death of Sarah” it is really her life that one reads. The opening verse, “And the life of Sarah was a hundred and seven and twenty years; these were the years of the life of Sarah. Since the “and” was fingered in between each word of the year the rabbis comment: “She was as handsome at one hundred as the age of twenty; and as sinless at twenty as at seven.” One gets to know what a woman Sarah must have been, how loved and knowledgeable she was.
The reason for finding a wife for Isaac. Isaac will become the leader of the Jewish people and his father, Abraham wanted to insure that the Jewish faith will continue. Eliezer was an amazing figure that was entrusted with finding a wife for Isaac by finding a woman with qualities akin to Sarah. So, he prays for G-d to help him with this important task. Isaac went into the fields to meditate (Genesis 24:63). Our rabbis tells us that Issac was not merely meditating and communing with nature, but engaging in prayer, for he had instituted the tradition of the Mincha afternoon service prayer service (Talmud Berachot 25a). The afternoon prayer is the shortest of the three daily prayer services. Often popularly called, “the pause that refreshes,” it is in the middle of the day that affords the worshiper an additional opportunity to cultivate a genuine appreciation of the true blessings of life.
As Thanksgiving is celebrated next week…
This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.
At services we recite:
It is good to give thanks unto the Lord and to sing praises unto Thy name, O Most High.
Thanksgiving should not be relegated to one day or one month of the year.
Our sages said that as long as thanksgiving lasts, the world will endure. The theme of thanksgiving is a constant presence in our liturgy. From Shaharit (morning prayers), continuing through Minhah (short afternoon prayers) and Ma’ariv (evening prayers), the themes of creation, revelation and redemption constantly reminds us of G-d’s many blessings bestowed to us. While praying “we bend the knee, worship and give thanks to the King of kings” in the Aleinu, Jews affirm their thanks are in fact due to G-d’s bounties, and that we guarantee this consciousness by the physical action of prayer. The consciousness of the Psalmist was one of gratitude and thanksgiving, as seen in Psalm 95, “Let us approach Him with thanksgiving,” and in Psalm 97, “And give thanks to His holy name.”
Robert Louis Stevenson said, “The man who has forgotten to be thankful has fallen asleep in the midst of life.” Life affords us many opportunities to express our thanks: for the air we breathe, the food we eat, the world around us, the beauty of nature, the health and joy of our families, the existence of Israel, the peace of the moment, and the freedom to be.
The giving of thanks heightens our awareness. It sensitizes us and enables us to appreciate that which has been granted to us, and ensures that we do not misuse or waste our many blessings. So when we chant: “To You alone do we give thanks.” Let us remember what we should be thankful for, and to Whom we should be thankful, on Thanksgiving Day, and every day.
Rabbi Helene Ainbinder