Parshas Chayei Sarah
Home and Hearth
This weeks Torah Portion details two episodes that are critical to the
formation of our nation. Firstly we read how Avraham Avinu buried Sarah
which is followed with the fascinating story in which we read how Rivka was
selected to be Yitzchak's chosen wife. Both stories interconnect for the
life of Sarah formed the foundation and building blocks with which Yitzchak
was to build his own home. This week I was given the book ' Out of the
Depths' which is a moving memoir penned by Chief Rabbi Lau of Israel. In the
book Rabbi Lau describes how he endured against incredible odds as one of
the youngest survivors of Buchenwald to become Israel's Chief Rabbi. It is
an inspiring chronicle of faith and courage.
At one point in the book he describes how after dating the daughter of Rabbi
Yitzchok Frenkel ,the Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv, he met his prospective father
in law who shared with him an interesting thought.
In the beginning of Bereishis when the Torah describes the creation of Adam
and Chava Adam proclaimed 'This is a bone from my bones and flesh from my
flesh....'. The Torah then diverges from the Creation story and says ,as if
in parenthesis 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave
to his wife and they shall be one flesh'.
Rabbi Frankel asked him why the Torah emphasizes 'therefore shall a man
leave his father and mother'? We understand the importance of the positive
statement and shall cleave to his wife but why use the verb' to leave'?
Surely our parents should always be central to our existence?
He explained that each time he officiates at a wedding ceremony he wonders
if the marriage will truly last. After all the Chasan and Kallah hail from
two different families and they each represent divergent worlds. But then,
he continued, I see the parents on either side of the bride and groom.
Twenty or thirty years earlier they too stood side by side under the chupa.
They too were not born in the same mold yet their marriage has endured. They
serve as the role models for their children as their parents were for them
and they provide the young couple with the surest guarantee that their
marriage will blossom.
He continued to explain that the Hebrew word azav meaning 'to leave' also
carries another connotation. Azav can also mean inheritance. There is a
material inheritance which parents bequeath to their children upon their
passing, and there is a spiritual inheritance which they grant them when
they leave their home to get married. When a child sees that his parents
truly respect one another and live in love and peace they are being given
the greatest gift of all. They have a personal example to emulate and to
bequeath to the generations that will follow them.
With this thought he confided in his future son in law, the young Rabbi Lau,
that when the match was first suggested he was concerned. After all, Rabbi
Lau was liberated from Buchenwald at the tender age of eight. He had been
stripped away from his illustrious parents as a young child and had never
been gifted the inheritance of watching their interaction with one another.
However after inquiring about him he was assured that his innate goodness
and natural sensitivity would surely substitute for that which his parents
would have given him .
Perhaps this too is what transpired in our Parsha. When Yitzchak first met
Rivka he was concerned. How can a young girl reared in such a pagan
environment serve as a matriarch and role model for all future generations?
Who bequeathed to her the spiritual values and sensitivities that must
accompany such an exalted role. Yitzchak was not immediately sure that she
was a worthy matriarch for the Jewish people. However, when he brought her
into his home and witnessed the return of the spiritual glow that emanated
from the tent when his mother Sarah was alive, he realized Rivka's eminent
qualities and was thus assured that she was a perfect match for him.
The sages tell us of three particular blessings that pervaded the home
during Sarah's lifetime: a blessing in the dough; a spiritual light that
glowed through the week; and a cloud-like halo that hovered over the tent.
These special blessings are impressive but what exactly do they represent?
And why were they so important to Yitzchok?
The Hebrew word for house, bayit, is actually the same word as the letter
beit, which has a numerical value of two. Ideally, a home is where the
material and the spiritual fuse in harmony, the commentaries explain. The
letter "beit" always reflects two, signifying diversity, duplication. The
implication is that a Jewish home is meant to be more than a comfortable
abode. It is intended to be a framework that fosters harmony, spiritual
growth and Torah values.
"A blessing in the dough" reflects the union of material elements with the
spiritual light and energy manifested in the home. When the two fuse
together, they elicit Hashem's Divine protection. Just like a wedding canopy
unites a newly wed couple, so too, Hashem's presence in the form of a Divine
cloud was constantly hovering above Sarah's home.
When Rivka revitalized these three special qualities, Yitzchak realized that
she although she may have lacked receiving a spiritual inheritance from her
May our hopes be granted that our children will glean from us the tools and
values necessary to replicate the spiritual qualities of Sarah's tent .
Wishing you a wonderful Shabbos .
Rabbi Naftali Reich
Text Copyright © 2013 by Rabbi Naftali Reich and Torah.org.
Rabbi Reich is on the faculty of the Ohr Somayach Tanenbaum Education Center.