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Parashat Chayei Sara

November 18, 2022
24 Cheshvan 5783
Genesis 23:1 - 25:18


A Meditation on Giving:

After Maimonides


There are many ways to give.

           There’s giving money or food

           to those who need it.

But there’s also sharing a kind word.

           There’s giving time, attention,

           and the sense of being seen;

Bestowing honor, offering hospitality, and sitting

with someone who is ill

           Granting peace.

Offering love.

           But not all giving is the same.

           Some give grudgingly, reluctantly, or with regret.

Some give less than they should, but with grace.

           Others give what they should,

           but only after being asked;

A blessed few create circles of generosity where

neither the giver nor the recipient know the

identity of the other.

           The highest level of giving is when we allow the

recipient to become self-supporting, a giver in their own right.


At this time of thanks and giving,

           May we all commit ourselves to share abundance,

           words, time, resources, peace and love.

Thanksgiving is an American holiday celebrating the bounty of the harvest and it is modeled upon Sukkot, which we so recently celebrated. What do we wish to harvest at this moment?

We are living in a time when a sense of order and clarity of purpose is not easily accessed. In spite of the rise of reported antisemitism, the Jewish community in America is growing, and not just in Orthodox spaces. But we find ourselves at a moment of transformation, searching for ways to share the meaning of our tradition with one another and the larger community.

The vitriol that surrounds us on a daily basis makes it difficult to go forward. However at the end of the day, I go back to the text where we find Rebecca.

In this week’s Torah portion, Chayei Sarah, the "life of Sarah" (Genesis 23:1 – 25:18), we meet Rebecca, who appears to us as strong, kind, and open -- qualities exemplified by her watering of Eleazer's 10 camels. Can you imagine the time and effort it took for her to water all those animals? She displays her courage by being able say yes to Eleazer, Abraham's servant, and go on a journey into the unknown to marry a man she has never met before. When she arrives, they immediately forge a connection when she falls off her camel (Midrash). We are told that she becomes his wife and comforts him after the death of his mother. The key quality here is kindness. Acts of loving-kindness are all around us, if we open our eyes, we are able to see them and we need not go far afield.

Whether it is Rick Feldman working on issues of food scarcity in our neighborhood, or our own Irina Kimelfeld working hard to welcome a family from Ukraine, we are surrounded by a people acting from a place of chesed. For some of you it is simply checking in with those we know who are going through something.

All of this is chesed and chesed/loving-kindness. Interestingly enough, when we do these things, we can leave our fears at the door. The power of being there for others has the powerful side effect of bringing healing to our wounded souls.

In the case of Rebecca, her kindness to Eleazer strengthens her ability to leave the known for the unknown. Because she and Eleazer created a bond through her act of kindness, she is able to take a risk.

As we gather for Thanksgiving, let’s spend a moment reflecting on all that we are grateful for and in particular the acts of chesed that we have been witness to and have been the recipients of. Let us not forget the acts of loving-kindness that each of you have performed throughout the year.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn

Thu, July 18 2024 12 Tammuz 5784