HaMirpeset Shelanu 197: From Yael Bendat-Appell, Assistant Director

Reflections on Chayei Sarah

Each time we revisit a parasha a year later, we inevitably read it through the lens of the current context of our lives. What is going on for us personally, spiritually, communally, and societally impacts our understanding of our sacred texts, changing for us the text’s meaning or message year after year.

This year, the essential question that emerged for me from re-engaging with Chayei Sarah is one of legacy. What do we want our legacy to be? What do I want my legacy to be?

I have not been able to shake from my mind several images and events of this past week: horrific violence in Israel that claimed the life of 26 year old Dahlia Lemkus; a news clip of a 90 year old minister being arrested twice in Florida for feeding the homeless outside of his church; and the tributes to soldiers from wars past and present who were memorialized and honored this past Tuesday on Veteran’s Day.

The enigmatic choice of the name of this week’s parasha forces us to go beyond the story of death—to the story of life. Sarah is no longer alive by the third verse of the parasha; and yet- the title forces us, at least on a meta level, to be thinking about her life.

So, given the context of the sometimes frightening and disturbing realities of our world, let us take seriously this week’s opportunity to ask ourselves- For what, and for whom, are we living? What values underlie our actions? How have we bettered the world, or taken care of someone else today? How will our story be told and what will be our legacy? And, if we find that our answers to these questions fall short—then let us be reminded that the narrative of our lives is in our own hands and that it is never too late to create change. After all, Sarah gave birth to Isaac at age 91.  Shabbat Shalom.

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