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20http://www.beth-israel.org/blog/2010/10/Rabbi-Lyon%27s-Blog---10_29_2010
Rabbi Lyon's Blog - 10_29_2010
10/28/2010 10:44 AM Posted by:

From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon
October 29, 2010

 

Upon reflection of this week’s Torah portion, I re-read this message which I wrote to you a year ago. It speaks to me again, because I had visitors in my office recently who spoke lovingly about the place where their beloved mother is buried. It brought them comfort to know that her final resting place on earth would be eternal. So, take to heart what the Torah portion teaches us this week and reflect on the memories of those whom you cherish every day.

This week, we read the portion called “Chayei Sarah”. This means the Life of Sarah, but, in fact, the portion is about the death of Sarah that is remembered and honored by her husband, Abraham. In Genesis 23, Abraham “rose up from upon his dead [wife]” and immediately prepared for her burial. It began with a conversation with the Hittites, the people of the land. Ephron the Hittite spoke up and offered a free burial site to Abraham. But, Abraham refused the offer. He insisted on paying full market price. Abraham prevailed and Ephron sold the site to him for 400 shekels. It was not a clearance price. Trust me when I tell you it was a lot of shekels. For the price, Abraham received “Ephron’s land in Machpelah, looking out on Mamre – the fields, its cave, and all the trees in the field within its boundaries” (Genesis 23:17-18). The purchase was notarized “in the sight of the Hittites and of all the town leaders.”

Commentaries point out that Sarah’s grave is the first permanent, legal presence in the land promised to Abraham and to their descendants (p. 116). The significance has not been lost on those who look for Biblical sources that point to our people’s longstanding connection to the Land. Abraham’s interest in honoring Sarah with a burial place for all time said much about his undying attachment to her. It also reflected Abraham’s faith that our people would endure on the Land. The piece of property he purchased became a sacred burial space. From there our people labored to return and honor not only the Cave of Machpelah, but the full promise that God made to Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob, Rachel and Leah.

To this day, the honor paid Jewish women has reflected the great love Abraham and Sarah shared, and the respect he paid her when she died. Years ago, when I officiated at the funeral of a man’s wife, we stood at the graveside in Beth Israel’s West Dallas Cemetery. He placed a rose on her grave before we left the cemetery. He asked me, “Do you know why I put a rose on her grave, today?” I wanted to know. He said, “Every Friday night in our home, I brought my wife a rose. And, then I recited to her the words of Proverbs 31.” Proverbs 31 is also known as “A Woman of Valor” for the beautiful way (although some call it dated) it refers to the selfless acts of a devoted woman to her home and the community. I was touched and moved by this man’s real acts of love and devotion for his wife. His sadness was palpable. Today, when I return to the cemetery on West Dallas, I see the headstone on his wife’s grave that bears the inscription, “A Woman of Valor”. They are both gone from life now, but memories of them endure.

Perhaps this Shabbat is time to observe yahrtzeit in your family. I urge you to remember your loved ones with recitation of Kaddish in the synagogue (This week is Shabbat Shira. If you prefer to recite Kaddish on a “quieter” evening, please call and we’ll read your loved one’s name next week). At home, open a picture album, review cards and letters, and honor their memory with acts of loving-kindness. If you’re so inclined, you might visit the cemetery. At graveside, you might recite Psalm 23, 121, or 15. Perhaps you might recite Proverbs 31:10, and Kaddish, too. However you choose to remember, consider the example set by Abraham, to honor the life that was lived in a sacred place for all time.

From my family to yours, Shabbat Shalom.

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