Parashat Chayei Sara

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This is the Dvar Torah I wrote for the Kesher this week at Mt Sinai. I’ve added some additional commentary underneath it. 

“I just felt like running.” That’s how Forrest Gump answered when asked why he ran across the country. Running was something he had relied on as a child, and he returned to it as an adult. He wasn’t running to or away from anything. He just ran.

Three very different characters dominate the central story of this parasha: Elazar, Rivkah and Lavan. Elazar is the serious, humble servant focused entirely on finding a wife for Yitzchak. Rivkah is the kind, thoughtful even naive young woman who wants nothing more than to help others and make people happy. Lavan is the calculating, self-preserving brother in search of wealth and power.

The common denominator among all three, however, is that they all run. In the span of only 13 psukim, Elazar runs to meet Rivkah, Rivkah runs to fill the trough and ready her home for Elazar’s arrival, and Lavan runs to greet Elazar. They each posess the trait of zrizut, but the manner and means towards which they implement it is very different.

It’s no chiddush that Lavan is running for the wrong reasons, but is it significant to see that Elazar runs only once while Rivkah runs to fulfill two acts of chessed? Elazar is a servant and shaliach of Avraham’s – he serves his master to the best of his ability, but is ultimately only fulfilling the wishes of another. Rivkah is an individual who is acting on her free will – there is no pressure or external responsibility to take any action. Rivkah is realizing on her own that she has a responsibility to act, and she does so with avidity.

The world we live in presents us with very serious challenges. People suffer both locally and abroad. Injustices and discrimination run rampant, and innocent people are left by the wayside. Violence and harassment are not unknown even in our own communities, and we need to decide how to respond. We have to decide if we’re going to run towards the problems or away from them – will we be the selfless Rivkah, the obedient Elazar, or the selfish Lavan?

It’s easy to ignore the question altogether. We live fast paced lives – many of us on treadmills that keep us moving towards no particular goal and in no particular direction. We must fight the temptation to “just run” like Forrest, and ensure that we aren’t running away from the problems of this world. Let’s commit to following in the steps of Rivkah Imeinu, and run headstrong in support of causes we believe in, and in the direction of chessed, emet and tzedek.

I was inspired to write this dvar torah following the recent clustering of violent attacks and overwhelming harassment against homosexuals. Many religious, political and communal leaders across the country stood up and spoke out against this sort of bullying and attacks. Unfortunately, only a handful of Orthodox leaders took a stand against this universal cause, and even those few took a while to come around.

Homophobia and/or hate for homosexuals is not the only cause worth standing up for. There are many injustices in this world, and we need to stand up for as many of them as possible. Some require the contribution of funds, others require volunteering and action, and a few require nothing more than a statement of solidarity. When the rare opportunity to help someone in need comes in the form of a spoken word, written piece or facebook update, how can we pass it up?

I know this dvar torah wasn’t the most intellectually stimulating, but that wasn’t my goal. I want us all to think about the implications of our actions and damage that can perpetuate due to our inaction. Pick your fight, take your stand, and don’t allow momentum to keep you from standing up for something you believe in.

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2 thoughts on “Parashat Chayei Sara

  1. Pathetic

    As is typical of your posts, you’ve managed to use the Torah as a mere hook to hang your message on.

    To recap, you’ve quoted Forest Gump, mentioned that people ran in the parsha, and then decided that one of the messages the Parsha is trying to convey is that we must stand up for Gays and whatever other causes present themselves.

    I am not passing judgment on Gays, or causes, but I find it intellectually dishonest to use the Torah as a stepping stone for your misguided messages. It’s pretty clear that you didn’t learn the Parshah in any serious way, nor did you care to actually understand its own message, as you refer to Avraham’s servant as Elazar multiple times. Take another quick look at his actual name.

    It is important to always distinguish between your thoughts and the message of the Torah. When you accidentally blur the two, it becomes intellectual dishonesty. When you do it purposefully, it is nothing short of blasphemy.

  2. Is my message misguided, or do you just disagree with it? I’m sorry if you misinterpreted my post as claiming that the Torah explicitly or specifically commands Jews to stand up for gay rights – it does not. I think the story in that parasha specifics contrasts three characters, but ties them together with a common action – a standard biblical or literary device that is begging to be interpreted.

    I personally interpreted this to distinguish between the reasons these three people ran, and found that there was a specific question of motivation that was unique to each one. Rivkah saw a person in need of help, and without any concern for herself, or ulterior motive, she sprung to action. The modern day lesson for us is to similarly look around for people in need, and to selflessly spring to action. Some of the people I see that are in need are those who suffer from gender/sexual identity-based discrimination, harassment and bullying. This population doesn’t have the monopoly on need, but it’s a topic I’ve been thinking and reading about lately.

    If my dvar torah had ended with a call to action to help orphans and widows, would you have written the comment you did? Dare I say that if I had written that we need to act fast like Rivkah to reconquer the Gaza strip, you would have been OK with that as well.

    — I closed my dvar torah with a specific comment that this was not meant to be a monumental Torah idea, or a piece of scholarly work (the shul newsletter only gives me so much space anyway). I read through the parasha twice in search of an inspiration message, and I found it when I noticed how often people were described as running – I couldn’t find any classic commentary that addressed this odd grouping.

    But as always, thanks for commenting.

    P.S. A lot of people pointed out my mistake with Elazar/Eliezer, and that was just a straight out mistake of mine. It’s actually interesting that neither of us truly looked careful enough because it doesn’t say his name in that entire perek – he is really Eved or Ish. It’s all a drash that it’s Eliezer. I am no Rabbi and no scholar, and don’t think I’ve ever presented myself as such.

    P.P.S. You should really change your email address, because I don’t think you’re pathetic at all.

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