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Abraham Calls to Me

By Paula Stern
10/29/2010, 12:00 AM
Every once in a while (perhaps more often than I let myself believe), I take the liberty of writing not just as a soldier's mother, but as an Israeli, a Jew. I could tie this in with the blog, and I will, a bit, but for now, let's start with history.

The thing about history is that there are often sides, shades, and personalities that we can only imagine. The longer between the event and the reporting, the harder it is to imagine, to believe, to know. Sadly, this is what is slowly happening with the Holocaust. As we move into a generation that knows no survivors, the fact that there are films, videos, direct testimonies of those who did survive, physical evidence that corresponds and confirms all that they say and said - still there are those who would twist, deny, inflame.

Imagine now, that the history happened thousands of years ago, and not merely a few decades ago. Imagine a man who married a woman and they have a child. That child marries and has two sons. One of those sons marries not one, but two women. One of those dies young and is greatly mourned. The second is buried in the same place as the first man and his wife, the second man and his wife, and her own husband, the child of the second man.

So far, other than there being a man who married two wives, our story is common enough that it takes little imagination. 

But the man was named Abraham and his wife was Sarah. In the technical writing terms I often live by, Abraham revolutionized the world - perhaps the first of so many great Israeli/Jewish discoveries and innovations that have graced the world. There was no US Patent Office, but his idea was certainly unique. If you can fashion stone into a figure, calling that figure "God" is absurd.

Abraham's patented system of global management was simple - recognize the Power...where the Power really is. When Abraham's wife died, Abraham did something else that is well documented and stands through time. He buried her, we all know that - but more. He refused the gift of her burial place. He demanded to purchase the land and so, in effect, the Bible that documents this transaction proves a legal and binding land contract in which Abraham purchased what is now called the Cave of the Patriarchs, in Hebron.

There, he was buried. His son, Yitzchak with his wife Rifka; his grandson Yaakov, and his wife Leah. I have always felt sad that Rachel lies alone and yet her grave, its location and presence were important enough to have been separate. That Yaakov loved her was enough.

All this was written, explained, documented, in the first book of the Torah. This week, we read Chaye Sarah - the life of Sarah...in which she dies. A contradiction, the name, with what happens. I'll let scholars and Rabbis explain more, but let me tell you that Hebron, and especially Ma'arat HaMachpela (the Cave of the Patriarchs) has always been a place that touches me, calls to me, and soothes me. 

I’ve been there when almost no one has been there; I’ve been there when it was so crowded, you could barely move. I’ve been there in the early evening, mid-day, more than once in the morning. I’ve been there as I watched two people wed, and I’ve said prayers for the sick there.

Each time, the feeling is the same. I’ve come home. I’ve come to the grave of my grandparents, a direct link, a connection. I have the right to pray there, to ask them to intercede on my behalf because I am theirs, they are mine.

This Shabbat is the anniversary of Sarah’s death and so thousands, literally thousands, will go to Hebron to be there to commemorate this day, this life, this death, this start of our people, this continuance. Of all the times I have been there, this is the one time I have never been. So natural and yet each year there was a reason, a delay, something else or even nothing else.

This time, almost 80 members of our community are going to Hebron – amazingly enough, to camp out in tents across from the Cave of the Patriarchs. What an amazing opportunity to be there, to share this moving day with so many. I can’t wait to go. I’ve got brownies cooking, carrots steamed, a noodle casserole in the oven. It will be a huge communal meal and, as usual, I already know I have gone overboard.

It doesn’t matter – Abraham calls to me. 

And to tie this in, Chaim called mid-week. I don’t even remember about what and I asked him about Shabbat. It’s a way of leading in to him telling me if he can/wants to come without putting any pressure on him. 

“I’m going to Hebron for Shabbat,” he told me.

“Me too,” I answered excitedly.

“Yeah, but I’m staying in a tent across the street from Ma’arat Hamachpela,” he responded back. 

“Me too,” I answered back so happy.

In the end, Chaim had planned to sign up for the communal meal but by the time he got through, it was sold out. Chaim called to ask what we had planned in terms of food and so, he is joining our community as our “son” – Chaim and another friend.

Elie and Shmulik aren’t into this camping out in the wilderness part of it all and are staying home; sharing one meal with their older sister, another here in our home, perhaps with friends. We have friends who went to Hebron yesterday and set up the community’s “perimeter.” We sent down extra tents; I am chilling a beer for Chaim.

Abraham calls to me, as he often does. “Come,” he says to me, “come and give respect to your mother, to Sarah, my wife.”

I will go and pray there – for RifkA bat Teirtzel, for Elie’s friend Re’em. I will pray for the sick of Israel…and the healthy. I will pray for my daughter and her husband that all their dreams come true; I will pray for Elie and the path he has begun since leaving the army. I will pray for Shmulik, for his safety in the army and for his future with the bride he will soon take. I will pray for Davidi, that the years and his teachers be kind to him as his path is forged and his personality developed. I will pray for my little Aliza, who every day gets bigger and bigger and just had her first “babysitting” job.

I will pray for my husband and our life together. And in the midst of all this, I will thank Abraham and Sarah for creating the nation and the path to this day, to this land, to this place. Somewhere, the reality of what we know parts from the imagination we have. There is archeological and historical evidence for much of what occurred in the Bible. Where science stops, belief and faith continue. Beyond belief and faith, I guess, is imagination.

I imagine a great love in Abraham for his wife, Sarah and all he built with her. It is there in his buying the Cave of the Patriarchs so that no one can ever lay claims to that land. It is, in some sense, the oldest recorded land deal, and we have the deed, right there in every Bible.

I hear Abraham calling to me. They are waiting for me and I will go. I will sleep the night in a tent across from where they rest. To show my respect, to show my faith, to show my love. Me…and tens of thousands of their other children. We are the people of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rifka, Jacob, Rachel and Leah.

Shabbat shalom.