Chayei Sarah: The power of love

Chayei Sarah: The power of love

Congregation Bnai Israel, Millburn, Conservative

Human beings were not created to be alone. God created Eve to be an ezer k’negdo, a helpmate to Adam. In times of joy, we dance together, in times of grief, we mourn together. And when we are alone too long, we start to lose perspective, we aren’t able to find comfort in our daily tasks, and we can question our purpose in life.

I have always thought that the rabbis’ use of Rebecca as the model of kindness, the one who brings perspective, comfort, and purpose back into Isaac’s life was a beautiful idea. Rebecca makes a decision to leave her homeland and her family to become Isaac’s wife, and she does so hastily. She has already given water to Abraham’s servant and his camels, she has led him to meet her family and she consents to marry based on the merits she hears about from the servant, Eliezer. Rebecca, like Ruth, generations later, fulfills her destiny, and the national destiny, to be the mother of Jacob and Esau, and ultimately the mother of all of the Children of Israel.

Rebecca is easy to love and revere. But what about Isaac?

As Eliezer and Rebecca are returning to Canaan, Isaac is out in the field, walking. The Talmud tells us that this walk was no walk, but actually Isaac was out in the field praying. The sun was setting, and perhaps this was the first Mincha, or afternoon prayer. Of course in the time of Isaac, there were no fixed prayers, no Ashrei or Amida to recite from a well-worn and beloved Siddur. So, what might his prayers have been?

If he had no fixed prayer to say, what might Isaac have needed to say to God in that moment? Was his sadness over the death of his mother overpowering? Was he still reeling from the last minute change of heart of his father, who had placed him on an altar to offer up to God? Was he feeling so alone, so lost, so purposeless because he did not know if he would ever find his ezer k’negdo, his helpmate? Was he depressed, as you or I might certainly be if any one of these things had happened to us in the recent past? What other kind of walk in the wilderness could he have been taking other than one in which he might have been reaching out to God for solace, for comfort, for healing, for companionship?

And then in that moment, he looked up and saw camels in the distance. In that moment his prayer was heard, it was answered, and in some way, his aimless wandering in the field began to have a purpose. He hears from his servant all that he has done to bring Rebecca to be Isaac’s wife. “And Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah; he took Rebecca and she became his wife and he loved her. Thus did Isaac take comfort after [the death of] his mother.” (Gen. 24:67)

Though I know we don’t all believe in the power of prayer to end heartache and loneliness, nor do we know for sure that a companion can bring comfort and purpose, this story gives me hope that all who search for love and comfort have a chance to find it and find a willing companion, as Rebecca was to Isaac.

read more: