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Life is a Dash

Shabbat Thought

Parsha Chayei Sarah (Life of Sarah)

Genesis 23:1-25:18 | 1 Kings 1:1-31 | John 4:3-14

In last week's portion we saw the life of Abraham as a series of tests and promotions. Each time the covenant seemed to expand. The portion concluded with the beauty of Abraham's: Would he be required to sacrifice Isaac? G-d delivers the son, Isaac, and foreshadows the coming of the Messiah.

This week's parsha is called the “Life of Sarah” but is actually not. The second verse says that Sarah died (Gen: 23:2). We read about Abraham’s desire to bury her in a place where he had built an altar in the past. But he makes a statement that we should focus on this week. In 23:4, he says: “I am a sojourner and foreigner among you; give me property among you for a burying place, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.”

The word for sojourner and foreigner is Ger (Stranger) גָּר and To-shav (Foreigner) תּוֹשָׁב.

These words are very similar and mean essentially that Abraham consider himself living in a land that was not his home among a people that were not his people. He was just a visitor. But this was to be the land of his descendants.

In fact, this week, we also read how Abraham sends his servant to find a husband for his son among his people rather than have his son marry a Canaanite (Genesis 24).

Once this is complete, Isaac will be married, have children and never leave the promised land. He will be the beginning of the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham.

At the end of this week's reading we see the death of Abraham (175) and Ishmael (137). In these few chapters we have seen three deaths; Sarah's, Abraham's and Isaac's.

I read a poem years ago by an unknown author.


I read of a man who stood to speak

At the funeral of a friend

He referred to the dates on her tombstone

From the beginning…to the end.

He noted that first came her date of birth

And spoke the following date with tears,

But he said what mattered most of all

Was the dash between those years

For that dash represents all the time

That she spent alive on earth…

And now only those who loved her

Know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own.

The cars…the house…the cash,

What matters is how we live and love

And how we spend our dash.

So, think about this long and hard…

Are there things you’d like to change?

For you never know how much time is left,

That can still be rearranged.

If we could just slow down enough

To consider what’s true and real,

And always try to understand

The way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger,

And show appreciation more

And love the people in our lives

Like we’ve never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect,

And more often wear a smile…

Remembering that this special dash

Might only last a little while.

So, when your eulogy’s being read

With your life’s actions to rehash…

Would you be proud of the things they say…? about how you spent your dash?

Consider in this week your own past time and future times. G-d is still speaking to each of us and we still have moments to make. Will our moments be remembered like Sarah's and Abraham's?

A few questions to consider:

1. Abraham was a ger in his land. Describe a time when you have felt the same way. How did your relationship with G-d grow in this time?

2. What are some of the finest moments of your past?

3. Take some time and write your own obituary. Consider the people left behind and how they may speak of you. Consider the graveside moment and what will be said of you. Consider the book of Life being opened on judgement day. Will your name be read? Consider the impact of a life lived well. This is your time under G-d. Make it count like Abraham and Sarah!

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