Shabbat Shalom: What We Are to Each Other

Nov 6, 2020 | Article

Shabbat Shalom: What We Are to Each Other

In this week’s Torah reading, we learn of Sara’s death and of the details of her internment in a cave in the field of Machpelah. Abraham, the widower, is described as “well on in years” and “blessed… in all things,” though, notably, there is no mention of the pain and loneliness that he must have felt after the death of his life’s partner.

While the text tells us nothing of Abraham’s inner life during the days and months following Sara’s death, surely something must have occurred—either internally, in his heart and mind, or externally, through sharing his grief with others—that enables him to return to the blessedness of which is made a distinct point in the Torah portion. Did he dwell on memories of his life with Sarah, on the joys and regrets of their long partnership? Did he receive visitors who sat with him and shared his pain, who listened to him as he tried to articulate the depth of his sorrow and loss?

We humans are nothing if not social creatures. We are responsive and adaptable and capable of surviving great trauma, but our durability is so often dependent on communion with others. We rise on the strength of others’ compassion and empathy. We move forward into the unknown future bolstered by warm embraces, outstretched hands, and gentle smiles. Our interactions can build new and more beautiful worlds, or they can be the weapons of destruction wielded between us. Do we meet a grieving neighbor with open arms or with the cold turn of a shoulder? Do we listen when the topic of conversation is difficult or painful, or do we ignore that which causes us distress, saying, This has no bearing on me?

Surely Abraham did not stumble upon the place of beneficence that this week’s portion calls “blessed in all things.” Surely he must have been buoyed and lifted by his tribe to that state of grace. Surely even today, as each successive week brings news of an unthinkable tragedy or a longed-for accomplishment, it is our communal impulse towards care and compassion that must define our actions, so that we too, after such a wrenching event, find peace. Together.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Jay Strear
President & CEO