A Sabbath Message: Purpose and Paradox

How do you measure the merit of a life? This week’s Parsha, Chayei Sarah--meaning “the Life of Sarah”-- focuses entirely on events happening after Sarah’s death. Sarah’s presence in this Parsha is experienced only through her absence from it. One of many illuminating paradoxes we find here.  
Chayei Sarah weaves a rich tapestry of life in the aftermath: Abraham’s purchase of her burial plot, the securing of a bride for Isaac to return the comfort lost upon his mother’s death, and the many negotiations that go along with such lifecycles. Despite Abraham’s struggles, it is noted that “the LORD had blessed him in every way” (Genesis 24:1). 
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks calls these words into question, noting that the circumstances of Abraham’s life in that moment did not reflect any of the blessings God had promised to bestow upon him. How then is it possible to make such a statement? In short: Purpose. Both Abraham and Sarah lived a life infused with purpose that spanned far beyond their finite lifetime. Rabbi Sacks observes that “Abraham acquired only a single field and had just one son who would continue the covenant. Yet he did not complain, and he died serene and satisfied. Because he had begun. Because he had left future generations something on which to build.” 
This touches upon a central idea in Judaism: L’dor V’dor, “from generation to generation.” When we feel connected to those who will come after us, it reframes our indispensable yet infinitesimal place in the larger picture of existence. We are not incapacitated by the overwhelm of all that there is to do in this world, nor disheartened by the fruits of our efforts. Instead, we are empowered to take responsibility for showing up and doing our part. Gratified by the task itself. Regardless of the immediate outcome.  
Inspired by community inquiry, our Mitzvah Maker Initiative has launched a new program emphasizing the importance of L’dor V’dor. Our B’nai Mitzvah Maker program pairs B’nai Mitzvah aged young people with elderly members of the community who may be in need of various forms of assistance. If you are interested in learning more, please email me at sams@sbjf.org. I hope to hear from you.

Samantha Silverman 
Camp Haverim Director and Mitzvah Maker Support Crew