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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The Distance to God

The Distance to God

Sep 14, 2009 By Andrew Shugerman | Commentary | Text Study | Hayyei Sarah

Uncertainty presents one of the greatest psychological challenges we face in life. The ancient Rabbis addressed ambiguities in the Torah and in life by seeking wisdom from connections between those worlds. This midrash reveals how they understood prayer as a cathartic response to the travails that test our faith and how such an outpouring can transform our reality.

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The Wisdom of the Wilderness

The Wisdom of the Wilderness

Nov 3, 2007 By Lisa Gelber | Commentary | Hayyei Sarah

When I lived in Seattle, I set aside one day each summer to visit Mount Rainier National Park and hike some trails there.

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Dawkins and a Deeper Level of Faith

Dawkins and a Deeper Level of Faith

Nov 18, 2006 By Marc Wolf | Commentary | Hayyei Sarah

In his introduction, Richard Dawkins articulates his goal in writing The God Delusion: “If this book works as I intend, religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down” (5).

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Biblical Negotiations

Biblical Negotiations

Oct 18, 2006 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Hayyei Sarah

This week’s Torah reading opens with the death of our matriarch, Sarah, and Abraham’s subsequent acquisition of a burial place for his deceased wife.

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Rebecca’s Veil of Independence

Rebecca’s Veil of Independence

Nov 22, 2004 By Lauren Eichler Berkun | Commentary | Hayyei Sarah

In a traditional Jewish wedding, there is a beautiful and dramatic ceremony before the chuppah known as the “bedeken” (Yiddish for “veiling”). At this celebratory moment, a groom is escorted with song and dance to meet his bride as he lowers the veil over her face. One popular explanation for the custom of bedeken is that the groom is “checking” (from the Hebrew root b-d-k) to make sure that he is marrying the correct woman. Jacob was tricked by Laban into marrying Leah, instead of Rachel, because she was masked behind a veil. However, the origin of the bedeken, “veiling,” ceremony is found in this week’s Torah portion.

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“A Righteous Person Knows the Needs of His Beast.”

“A Righteous Person Knows the Needs of His Beast.”

Nov 6, 2004 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Hayyei Sarah

This week’s parashah presents us with the first instance of a dating service.

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The Meaning of the Shalshelet

The Meaning of the Shalshelet

Nov 22, 2003 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Hayyei Sarah

In 1981, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) published The Torah: A Modern Commentary, admirably edited by Rabbi W. Gunther Plaut. The first of the denominational commentaries, it combined an unflinchingly scholarly perspective with a reverence for traditional readings. Conspicuously absent, from the Hebrew text, however, was the trope, the musical notations by which the Torah is chanted in the synagogue. The omission reflected Reform practice: in most Reform synagogues where the Torah is read, it is literally read and not chanted. But the omission triggered a storm of criticism and the UAHC quickly put out a second edition that included the trope.

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The Torah’s First Love

The Torah’s First Love

Nov 2, 2002 By Lewis Warshauer | Commentary | Hayyei Sarah

A newspaper reader knows from the headline what the topic of the article will be. Not so with the Torah. The title of each parashah is its first significant word; whether that word tells what will follow is somewhat up to chance. In Parashat No·ah, the title does tells us who will be the central focus of the narrative. In this week’s parashah, the title Hayyei Sarah seems to be irrelevant, misleading and yet, perhaps, fraught with meaning.

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Repeating the Past

Repeating the Past

Nov 2, 2002 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Hayyei Sarah

Ironically death pervades Parashat Hayyei Sarah, the parashah that is literally translated as “the lives of Sarah.” The Torah reading opens with the death of Sarah and closes with the death of Abraham. In between, we are privy to the negotiations between Abraham and Ephron over the Cave of Makhpelah (which would become the burial site for our ancestors) and the search for Isaac’s mate. Life is bracketed by death. Sadly, it is a fitting parashah given the circumstances confronting our brothers and sisters in Israel today. 

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The Mitzvah of Welcoming Guests

The Mitzvah of Welcoming Guests

Nov 10, 2001 By Melissa Crespy | Commentary | Hayyei Sarah

On our honeymoon in Jerusalem, almost ten years ago, my husband and I decided to attend Shabbat morning services at a Conservative minyan in the Baka neighborhood of the city. We didn’t know anyone personally in theminyan , but we had heard the davening was nice, intimate and egalitarian. We were not disappointed.

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The Torah’s Slip of the Tongue

The Torah’s Slip of the Tongue

Nov 25, 2000 By Melissa Crespy | Commentary | Hayyei Sarah

There’s a certain delight in catching a person in a “slip of the tongue”, a so-called “Freudian slip”. Unintentionally, the person speaking has let us into his inner thoughts and revealed a concealed, sometimes profound, perception. In our Torah portion this week, we seem to be privy to just such a slip of the tongue – or slip of the text, in this instance – and it leads us to profound insights about the nature of human relationships.

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Loving Kindness in the Torah

Loving Kindness in the Torah

Nov 6, 1999 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Hayyei Sarah

We don’t pick spouses for our children anymore. But if we did, what trait would we single out as the best indicator of a happy marriage?

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Clean Hands and a Pure Heart

Clean Hands and a Pure Heart

Nov 14, 1998 By JTS Alumni | Commentary | Hayyei Sarah

By Rabbi Lawrence Troster

Psalm 24 asks: “Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in His holy place?” The answer given is: “He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not taken a false oath by My life or sworn deceitfully (Ps. 24:3-4).” The medieval commentator David Kimhi of Provence (1160-1235) felt that the answer to the question lists three requirements: proper action—clean hands; proper thoughts—pure heart; and faith in speech—not swearing deceitfully. We might say that these characteristics constitute the complete person of religious integrity. In thought, action and speech, such a person is in harmony with God and the world.

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Faith in Israel’s Destiny

Faith in Israel’s Destiny

Nov 22, 1997 By Morton M. Leifman <em>z”l</em> | Commentary | Hayyei Sarah

This week’s Torah portion, Haye Sarah, provides us with yet another ancient episode that eventually contributed to the molding of the mythic consciousness of our people in a profound way. It begins with the death of Sarah and continues on with a lengthy description of the legal and business arrangements necessary for Abraham’s acquisition of land for Sarah’s burial. Abraham’s status in the land of Canaan is that of ger v’toshav, a resident alien, and though a man of great substance, even a person of renown, one honored in the community, his legal status required that he obtain special permission both from the owner of the land and from the community as a whole to buy and to own property. Members of the native clans were reluctant to confer full rights even to resident aliens — especially the right to land ownership which conceivably might deplete the holdings of the progeny of those currently blessed with political control.

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Political Extremism in Hebron

Political Extremism in Hebron

Nov 9, 1996 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Hayyei Sarah

Our parasha opens with the death of Sarah at the age of 127. Later in the parasha, when Abraham will breathe his last “at a good ripe age, old and contented (Genesis 25:8),” he will have celebrated 175 birthdays.

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Settling and Resettling the Land of Israel

Settling and Resettling the Land of Israel

Nov 6, 1993 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Hayyei Sarah

God willing, I shall be in Israel when you read my thoughts on this week’s parasha. I leave Sunday evening to attend the commencement of the Seminary’s Beit Midrash in Jerusalem on November 3, at which we will confer some twenty-five degrees to Israeli students who have completed their course of studies either as rabbis, teachers, or community center workers. These young Israelis, and those who preceded them and those who will follow them, will in due time mainstream Conservative Judaism in Israel, thereby creating the reality of a religious alternative to Orthodoxy.

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Hayyei Sarah

Hayyei Sarah

Jan 1, 1980

1 Sarah’s lifetime-the span of Sarah’s life-came to one hundred and twenty-seven years. 

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Hayyei Sarah

Hayyei Sarah

Jan 1, 1980

1 King David was now old, advanced in years; and though they covered him with bedclothes, he never felt warm.

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