Torah and Personal Transformation: Telephone Torah Study
This week we’ll explore Torah and personal transformation in Chayei Sarah (23:1-25:18), Thursday, 4-5pm. To join in on the conference call, please dial 702-851-4044, when prompted punch in 2, then our pass code 22252#.
Selected Verses of the Week
1. Abraham was old, well advanced in years, and Adonai had blessed Abraham in every way. (Gen. 24:1)
2. And Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah; he took Rebekah, and she became his wife and he loved her. Thus did Isaac take comfort after [the death of] his mother.(Gen.24:67)
3. Abraham breathed his last and died in good old age, full of age, and was gathered to his people.(Gen.25:8)
‘Camels and Consummation’ a Torah Queery by Joy Ladin which discusses how Torah gives us radical freedom to transform ourselves
After burying his wife Sarah, the aged Abraham summons his servant Eliezer and makes him swear to leave Canaan and return to Abraham’s homeland to find a wife for his son Isaac. Eliezer prays that God identify the right woman by having her offer water to him and to his camels.
Eliezer presumably chose camel-watering as a sign of Divine approval because it went so far beyond the code of hospitality that it could be motivated only by hesed, loving-kindness to a stranger and to animals. Given how much camels drink after a long journey through desert, watering a caravan-worth is like filling a swimming pool with a bucket. That not only takes kindness; it takes the strength, determination and independence necessary to turn kindness into action. Rebecca is there to draw water for her household; Rebecca’s kindness to Eliezer means that her own family has to wait for the water they, too, need. She risks her family’s anger to fulfill her own ideas about the proper treatment of strangers and animals.
Since Eliezer will soon ask her to leave her family and journey with him to an unknown husband and life, the independence Rebecca shows is a crucial quality. Many young women wouldn’t want to leave their families for a man they’d never seen. Rebecca is not only willing to go into the unknown; despite the understandable misgivings and sentiments of her family, she’s ready to go right now. Rebecca’s independence of family and cultural norms is an essential aspect of what makes her Matriarch material. Many years later, it enable her to defy Isaac’s will and every tenet of cultural morality by encouraging her younger son Jacob to steal the blessing his blind, aged father had reserved for his older brother Esau – and thus to ensure that Jacob would become the bearer of the Divine blessing that the Torah portrays as the fructifying spark of Jewish peoplehood.