Moshe Kempinski
Moshe KempinskiCourtesy

Chayei Sarah Genesis 23:1–25:18

After the traumatic experience at Mount Moriah with his son Yitzchak (Isaac) Avraham (Abraham) returns home "And Avraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beer Sheba; and Avraham remained in Beer Sheba" (Genesis 22:19).

We very quickly read of another traumatic event in Avraham's life:

"And Sarah died in Kiriath Arba, which is Hebron, in the land of Canaan, and Avraham came to eulogize Sarah and to cry over her" (Genesis 23:2).

He undergoes the frustrating experience of trying to find the "right" place to bury his closest companion. Avraham and Sarah had walked into an unknown future together and had faced challenge after challenge together. They had created a family tent that was open for all those that needed sustenance, both spiritual and physical. This was the woman of whom Hashem told Avraham “Whatever Sarah tells you, listen to her voice” (Genesis 21:12).

Now that voice has been stilled and "Avraham came to eulogize Sarah and to cry over her" (Genesis 23:2).

Avram became Avraham "And your name shall no longer be called Abram, but your name shall be Avraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations" (Genesis 17:5).

But Sarai became Sarah; "And God said to Avraham, 'Your wife Sarai-you shall not call her name Sarai, for Sarah is her name. And I will bless her, and I will give you a son from her, and I will bless her, and she will become [a princess of] nations; kings of nations will be from her'" (ibid 15-16).

Avraham was the father of all nations. Reaching out and bringing closer all that came before him.

Sarah achieved the same purposes but she came as a princess. She reached higher and expected more of herself ,of her family and of all that she came in contact with. It is due to that, that all those around her achieved more than they thought they were capable of.

Now she was gone. "Avraham came to eulogize Sarah and to cry over her" (Genesis 23:2).

After all that Avraham had undergone, test after test, one wonders where he found the strength to face another uncertain future without Sarah.

Yet Avraham knew what he had to do:

"And Avraham was old, advanced in days, and the Lord had blessed Avraham with everything. And Avraham said to his servant, the elder of his house, who ruled over all that was his. But you shall go to my land and to my birthplace, and you shall take a wife for my son, for Isaac" Genesis 24:1-4).

The way to face an uncertain future is to begin the work of creating and owning that future.

Throughout our history the Jewish response to calamity or unstable future was to begin the slow but steady process of BEGINNING AGAIN.

After the horrors of the Holocaust, the Jewish refugees, some of whom had lost their entire families, set out to rebuild families again.

When the Israeli residents of the Jewish communities of Gush Katif were uprooted and their homes destroyed for the sake of an illusionary “peace”, they began to build new communities, face and conquer new challenges.

Regardless of how the US elections play themselves out, the United States and the rest of the world will not be the same. In the midst of that great uncertainty, many will lose hope or courage. That loss of hope is the greatest danger overshadowing the resurgence of terror and anarchy that we may see happening as well.

When the world went into upheaval in the time of the flood, Noah and his family entered the protective shield of the Ark. The separated themselves from the world and its difficulties, safely ensconced in an ark that was taking them to an uncertain future.

But there came a time when G-d had to tell Noah and his family:

"Go forth( Tzeh) from the ark, thou, and thy wife, and thy sons, and thy sons’ wives with thee. … be fruitful, and multiply upon the earth" (Genesis 8:16-17).

That is a great lesson to be contemplated and absorbed.

Yet the greater lesson needed to be learned from Avraham

Noah walked with G-d: "Noah was a righteous man he was perfect in his generations; Noah walked with G-d" (Genesis 6:9).

Avraham was different.

“And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, Hashem appeared to Abram, and said unto him: 'I am G-d Almighty; walk before Me, and be thou wholehearted” (Genesis 17:1).

That is a completely different relationship with G-d.

Walking with G-d involves complete dependence on G-d. Avraham was asked to struggle to find the unique and Divine part of his self and use that to go before G-d, to walk in faithfulness into the unknown armed only with his faith.

That walk was necessarily out in the world amidst the many who disagreed with him.That was the only way to make a change and to have an impact.

The greatest victory over disappointment and failure is the courage and faith to move forward, In the Book of Psalms King David speaks of those of our rivals who come against us with these words:

"They stumble and fall, but we rise and gain strength" (Psalm 20:9). The key phrase to note here is "but we rise and gain strength."

We gain strength when we have stumbled, but work to get up again. Once we are standing we need to regain control of our future. That has always been true of our people throughout history. It will need to become true of the divided people of the United States as well.

LeRefuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved

Rabbi Moshe Kempinski, author of "The Teacher and the Preacher", is the editor of the Jerusalem Insights weekly email journal and co-owner of Shorashim, a Biblical shop and learning center in the Old City of Jerusalem.