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Chayei Sara

November 22, 2019
24 Cheshvan 5780

Parashat Chayei Sara
Genesis 23:1 - 25:18

Dear Friends,

This week’s Torah portion, Chayei Sarah, is filled with both challenges and hope for the future. It all happens without direct intervention by the Divine; the Kol (the Divine voice) is missing. So, we are left with stories of people doing the best they can as they try to recall what they have been taught to bring their best selves forward.

The best example of that effort is the story of Rebecca watering the camels. The midrash says that she was three years old to increase the import of what she does. But it is enough to simply imagine a young woman noticing a weary traveler with 10 camels and offering to and then actually watering them. A quick reminder: camels would be very thirsty after a long journey and we know they are not the cuddliest of animals. This story teaches us the power of an act of kindness and giving that comes from who Rebecca is -- a person who expects nothing in return. The Torah does not tell us how tired Rebecca was when she finished watering all of those camels, or who helped her recover from her hard work, which must have taken quite a bit of time.

Last night, we held the Thanks & Giving program sponsored by the Interfaith Clergy Conference at Christ Church. We had three speakers -- three individuals who are out there doing and giving of themselves to make the world just a little bit better. Although we were reminded that climate activism cannot wait, we all have to start somewhere; Jessica Haller let us know that we can make a difference in climate change. We were reminded that gun violence happens everyday and a community is needed to help pick up the pieces and prevent it from happening in the future; James Dobbins from Guns Down Life Up reminded us that guns in our communities is a public health issue. And Marti Michael told us about what she has done and is doing with refugees at the border (see our mitzvah of the week for more about her next project).

I invite you to look at the construction of the word thanksgiving. Before we can give of ourselves to others, it is important to take stock of what we are grateful for. Last night, Rabbi Katz invited people to think about three things about themselves for which they are grateful. He wasn’t talking about material stuff. He was speaking of the things within ourselves for which we are grateful, such as qualities, gifts, and abilities. It is only when we are able to see recognize that within ourselves that we are truly able to give. This is not something we have been taught to do. Our tradition teaches us that we offer thanks each morning for waking up and being able to greet the new day; that is where we begin. That action gives us a habit of gratitude, allowing us to dig a little deeper to also be grateful for the particular gifts of our lives and what we carry inside of us. When we do that, we begin to able to see one another and give with an open heart.

Wishing you all a Shabbat Shalom and a happy Thanksgiving.

Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn

Sat, September 19 2020 1 Tishrei 5781