What Was Isaac Doing in the Field?

What Was Isaac Doing in the Field?

Oct 29, 2021 By Jason Rogoff | Commentary | Hayyei Sarah

The patriarch Isaac is one of the most passive biblical characters. He speaks infrequently and seems to stand still while other people feverishly act around him. His presence in Parashat Hayyei Sarah is no exception. After surviving the ordeal of the Akedah, and experiencing the death of his mother, Isaac is nowhere to be found. Abraham buys the burial plot and only Abraham is mentioned as present at Sarah’s burial. Abraham then sends his servant Eliezer to find a wife for Isaac, but again we lack any information as to what Isaac is doing or how he is feeling after successive traumatic life events. Isaac only returns to the story when Eliezer returns with Rebekah and she first sees Isaac.

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Lessons on Leadership from Abraham and Sarah

Lessons on Leadership from Abraham and Sarah

Nov 13, 2020 By Jonathan Milgram | Commentary | Hayyei Sarah

Sarah Imenu, matriarch of the Jewish people, is a rich and complex biblical character. As we read this week of her demise and her husband’s quest for her rightful resting place, it seems fitting to reflect on her extraordinary life, her role in the creation of the Jewish people, and the model of leadership she, together with Abraham, bequeathed to us as a legacy.

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A Family Reconciles

A Family Reconciles

Nov 22, 2019 By Naomi Kalish | Commentary | Hayyei Sarah

Parashat Hayyei Sarah is bookended with the accounts of the deaths of the two first Jews, Sarah and Abraham. The early part of the text spends much time describing the process by which Abraham secured land for Sarah’s burial and then buried her. At the end of the parashah, we learn that Isaac and Ishmael buried their father Abraham together. Though the Torah describes these brothers’ unity in concise and matter-of-fact language, they and their extended family must have worked hard to achieve reconciliation.

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Falling Wisely

Falling Wisely

Nov 2, 2018 By Sarah Wolf | Commentary | Hayyei Sarah

Hayyei Sarah offers us a scene straight out of a romantic comedy. By the middle of the parashah, Rebekah has agreed to follow Abraham’s servant back to Canaan, where she will meet and marry Isaac. Rebekah and the servant near their destination on camelback as the afternoon draws to a close, and Isaac is wandering in the fields. The mood is set for an elegant and romantic first meeting.

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Leaving Home

Leaving Home

Nov 10, 2017 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Hayyei Sarah

To the best of my knowledge, Hayyei Sarah contains the only instance in Tanakh of a parent asking his child’s wishes. Laban and Betuel cannot come to an agreement with Abraham’s servant—who we’ll call Eliezer—about whether Rebecca should remain in Haran for a time or depart immediately to Canaan. And so, they ask Rebecca to state her preference. Contrary to her family’s express wishes, Rebecca decides to leave immediately.

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A Venetian <em>Ketubbah</em>

A Venetian Ketubbah

Nov 25, 2016 By The Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary | Commentary | Hayyei Sarah

This week’s parashah prominently features the mission of Abraham’s servant to find a wife for Isaac. The account includes the giving of gifts to Rebecca and her family (24:22, 53) and the assurance from Abraham’s family that they themselves are wealthy (Gen. 24:35). For thousands of years, ketubbot (Jewish marriage contracts) have established the financial responsibilities in a Jewish marriage. 

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<em>Hesed</em> Depends on Saying No

Hesed Depends on Saying No

Nov 25, 2016 By Lilly Kaufman | Commentary | Hayyei Sarah

Of all the lessons that Parashat Hayyei Sarah teaches us about hesed (kindness), perhaps its most important lesson can be summed up in the word “no.”

Rebecca, the heroine of the parashah, is both physically and ethically strong. She can lift a heavy water urn with ease, and she possesses a deep graciousness called hesed. When she gives water to Abraham’s servant, Eliezer, and his camels, she fulfills Eliezer’s eloquent prayer, in which he appealed to God moments earlier to find a fitting wife for Isaac. He names the value of hesed twice in this brief prayer (Gen. 24:12, 14), and his prayer is answered so rapidly and completely by Rebecca’s action that Eliezer is stunned (Gen. 24:21).

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Love and Covenant

Love and Covenant

Nov 6, 2015 By Blu Greenberg | Commentary | Hayyei Sarah

In the mid-90s, Bill Moyers of the eponymous television show invited viewers to watch Genesis: A Living Conversation, the 10 part series he conducted with Bible scholars, writers, psychologists, lawyers, artists, and communal and religious leaders of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The invitation frontispiece read: “Rape, fratricide, jealously, temptation, fear, rage, murder . . . Welcome to Genesis.”  Moyers was capturing the powerful “flawed models” nature of biblical heroes that make them eternally accessible and the inescapable truth about the human capacity for evil: “And the heart of man is evil. . . from his youth.” (Gen. 6:5)

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Worn Torn

Worn Torn

Nov 6, 2015 By Amichai Lau-Lavie | Commentary | Hayyei Sarah

“Abraham mourned and wept for Sarah.” (Gen. 23)

Did he rip his clothes? And what did Isaac do when hearing that his mother died?

I think of him this year as the verse in “the Life of Sarah” leaps again beyond the Speaking Scroll, an annual review of loss and mourning. Just about a year ago my father died. In the moments following the news, alone in a hotel, far away from anyone and anywhere, my first instinct was to tear my shirt, observing “keri’a.”

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Abraham’s Search: A Hallmark of Human Grief

Abraham’s Search: A Hallmark of Human Grief

Nov 14, 2014 By Allison Kestenbaum | Commentary | Hayyei Sarah

In an oft-told Buddhist story, a woman loses her son and is inconsolable. She approaches the Buddha and begs him to bring her son back. He instructs her to go around the village from house to house, seeking a single mustard seed from any home where no one has died. If she can find such a mustard seed, he will restore her son to life. So the woman knocks on each door and finds that there is no household that has not experienced loss. She returns without the mustard seed but with an enlarged awareness of the universality of loss that leads her to a path of compassion and peace.

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Who Inherits Abraham?

Who Inherits Abraham?

Nov 14, 2014 By Rachel Rosenthal | Commentary | Hayyei Sarah

It is a well-known, if vaguely uncomfortable, psychological phenomenon that when looking for a partner, people are often attracted to those who are similar to their parents in appearance and personality. It is easy to see the logic behind this; when planning our futures, we seek that which is familiar to us from our pasts. This notion is often thought of as a modern phenomenon, reflecting a time when people choose their own mates. However, closer examination dates this concept back to the Torah, starting with the marriage of Isaac and Rebecca.

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Life: Quantity Vs. Quality

Life: Quantity Vs. Quality

Oct 23, 2013 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Hayyei Sarah

“And the span of Sarah’s life was 127 years—the years of Sarah’s life” (Gen. 23:1; my translation). Whenever I read this verse, I feel a deep sadness that is only intensified by the story that follows. Let me explain.

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Ahuzah: Settling Down

Ahuzah: Settling Down

Oct 23, 2013 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Hayyei Sarah

At the opening of this week’s parashah, Abraham is occupied with arrangements for the burial of his beloved wife, Sarah.

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The Power of Words

The Power of Words

Nov 7, 2012 By Marc Wolf | Commentary | Hayyei Sarah

Where Sarah and Ishmael seem to fade from the scene, Abraham actively prepares for his death. The details of the burial of Sarah and finding a wife for Isaac that occupy the parashah rest in stark contrast to the death narratives of both Abraham’s wife and firstborn son.

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From Suspense to Sensitivity

From Suspense to Sensitivity

Nov 7, 2012 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Hayyei Sarah

Immediately after the drama of the binding of Isaac, we read Parashat Hayyei Sarah. Why the juxtaposition of these two parashiyot?

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To Speak Is To…

To Speak Is To…

Nov 19, 2011 By Samuel Barth | Commentary | Hayyei Sarah

After the many narratives that explore deeply the life of Abraham and his family, we find in this portion an interlude in which the focus is upon Abraham’s elder servant—not named in our text, but often assumed to be Eliezer (mentioned in Gen. 15:2). Eliezer has been charged by Abraham to find a wife for Isaac—not from the local (Canaanite) population, but from Aram, the place of Abraham’s birth.

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Our Aging Bodies

Our Aging Bodies

Nov 18, 2011 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Text Study | Hayyei Sarah

If the rabbis could imagine Abraham’s dismay at the physical signs of aging, how much more so for us, men and women, living in a culture in which we are constantly bombarded with visual images of young, vigorous bodies?

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To Dispense Love

To Dispense Love

Oct 30, 2010 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Text Study | Hayyei Sarah

Sometimes our Torah─the Torah I teach, anyway─is very abstract. Sometimes, though, I feel called back to the basics. This midrash is one of those calls.

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The Graves of Our Ancestors

The Graves of Our Ancestors

Oct 29, 2010 By Arnold M. Eisen | Commentary | Hayyei Sarah

I went to visit the graves of my parents the other day, and could not help but think—with this Torah portion looming—of the times when I went with my father (whose name was Abraham, until he changed it) to visit my mother’s grave.

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Athiests and the Torah

Athiests and the Torah

Nov 14, 2009 By Marc Wolf | Commentary | Hayyei Sarah

Oh, if the atheists read the Torah! During this week’s parashah, we encounter a text that could have been fodder for the atheist argument against prayer. Shortly before his death, Abraham calls his senior servant for one last assignment. The servant is to return to Abraham’s homeland to find a fitting wife for Isaac, and, after swearing that Abraham’s bidding will be done, he sets off.

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