Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Chayei Sarah:  Connecting Some Dots from Torah, from Life and a Hopeful Future

This week we experience the end of the first chapter of our Jewish family. The parasha begins as Sarah dies and her burial in the Cave of Machpelah is negotiated by her loving partner Abraham. As the reading concludes, Abraham dies. Near the conclusion of the portion, we read, “His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the Cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron son of Zohar the Hittite, facing Mamre, the field that Abraham had bought from the Hittites; there Abraham was buried, and Sarah his wife.” (Gen. 25:9-10 - Click Here>>> for the whole portion)  

Would it be a true sense of Shalom Shleimut - peace and wholeness that the descendants of these two, Isaac and Ishmael, could join together in this greatest of acts - Halvayat HaMeit - accompanying the deceased? In recent weeks, my heart and soul have ached for our brothers and sisters in the Land of Israel. Walking the streets as a Jew in Israel has become more Russian roulette than a journey to the market or to work. With the acts of terrorism spanning the landscape, we find our beloved State of Israel once again in turmoil. The delicate and deadly balancing act of negotiations, peace, compromise and security, safety and life is hanging by a thread.  

Recently, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism released a statement with the following words, “At a time when the Jewish people around the world are celebrating the wonder of Torah, of the time when darkness became light, the escalating violence in Jerusalem’s Old City and the West Bank causes us great concern. We hope and pray that the holy city of Jerusalem and all of its inhabitants also find light to overcome the darkness.”  (For the full statement Click Here>>>)

Yet, the light is dim and the sparks of hope seem more and more faint. We must ask ourselves what we can do from afar.  How can we influence those in positions of leadership to become Isaac and become Ishmael to unite in a celebration of life, of legacy and of sacred remembrance. For, after all, this is the task at hand.  I do not believe that anyone can claim entirely pure hands for all have retreated to the side of security, safety and life and left the negotiations, possibility of peace and compromise in the past.  
Tomorrow marks the twentieth anniversary (on the secular calendar) of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. I cannot help but call our attention to the reality that Yitzhak is the Hebrew for Isaac. Was he attempting to re-create the act of Isaac to join hands with Ishmael in burying our ancestor, their father, Abraham? President Clinton recently memorialized Rabin on October 31st in Rabin’s Square in Tel Aviv.  In his call for peace, he said, “All of you (speaking to all present) now must decide when you leave here tonight…how to finish the last chapter of his [Rabin’s] story.  

We must do the same. We must find ways by communicating to our neighbors, to our elected officials to anyone who will listen that we stand for and believe in peace. We must allow the last chapter of Yitzhak Rabin’s story to be that of his namesake’s - Isaac our patriarch - in coming together…however difficult that may be. For then and only then will peace be possible and have the potential to create lasting security, and life, for Israelis and Palestinians.

I do not know how. I do not have an idea of when. But, I hope, I pray that when my children visit Israel, they will see a place, a sacred place this is home, a safe, security and thriving home, for all its inhabitants.