This week’s portion presents us again with a wide variety of issues. Yet, the theme, I suggest, that unites them is that of relationships; from their loss to the emergence of ones that are new. We begin with the death of Sarah. The Midrash is filled with commentaries on the timing of this, coming as it does, on the heels of the “binding” or sacrifice of Isaac. The portion contains the death not only of Sara but Abraham’s re-marriage and eventually his death.
The focus of much of this portion is found in chapter 24. Abraham sends his senior servant to find a wife for Isaac. He meets Rebekah at the well and as a result she is chosen to become Isaac’s wife. They set off back to Canaan and, as Isaac and Rebekah meet, we read this very famous passage in 24:67 “Isaac then brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he took Rebekah as his wife. Isaac loved her and thus found comfort after his mother’s death” This one verse alone should keep Torah study very busy as we look at the structure of the relationship between Isaank and Rebekah and the presence of Sarah. Does real love emerge over time and change over time? Do we sometimes marry substitutes for a father or mother?
One of the most powerful drives, especially as get older, is the need to be with other people. The pandemic has highlighted this. Relationships give meaning, texture and definition to life. Often we have encountered, in recent years, the reality of Boomers and other elders, who have been alone entering into relationships without the benefit of marriage. There are many reasons for this. Yet, the bottom line is a need to be with someone, to not be alone. In the work we do we have actually published some rituals for what we call older adult cohabitation. These ceremonies are not marriages, rather they are blessings and rituals which give thanks that two people have found each other and have chosen to be together. In the workshop we do on New Rituals, this always elicits interesting conversation.
These rituals have been performed in a variety of places, including assisted living facilities. One such ritual, a “Commitment Blessing, ”gives thanks that two people have found each other and the ritual concludes with these wishes.
May they be healthy and lead productive lives.
May they find sustenance in their relationship.
May they find enjoyment in each other.
May their physical presence strengthen their spiritual growth.
May they nurture their fragility and rely on their strengths.
May their days be full, and inundated with love.
Rabbi Richard F Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.