- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On November 22, 2019
- 0 Comments
The narrative of the death of Sarah follows immediately on that of the Binding of Isaac, because through the announcement of the Binding — that her son had been made ready for sacrifice and had almost been sacrificed — she received a great shock (literally, her soul flew from her) and she died. (Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer 32).
The Torah tells us that Abraham “bewailed” her. Then after the mourning period, he needed to have a place to bury her. He owned no land. He had journeyed from Ur in Mesopotamia to this land of Canaan God had instructed him to go. It was the land of great promise.
There, he encountered the Hittites and asked to buy a plot. In Abraham’s proposal for the purchase, he described himself in a particular way:
I am a resident stranger–ger v’toshav–among you; sell me a burial site among you that I may remove my dead for burial. (23:4)
These two terms, stranger and resident, express a particular idea though they may seem in contrast with each other like an oxymoron. Yet, it can also be viewed as a hendiadys, which means two ideas brought together to express a single notion. This is what describes Abraham’s situation. It is the land promised to him by God and yet he does not have the comfort of familiarity or even belonging there. He began as a stranger but could become a resident, by making it his home. One could lead to the other.
Our country has grown and prospered through the myriad of “resident strangers” who made journeys from distant lands with hopes and dreams to establish themselves in a place of respect and peace. And of course many others traveled against their will and were not allowed to dream of respect or peace but became property of others.
Aren’t we all resident strangers? We, or those before us, have come from other places to this country to make it our home. Even Native Americans believed they were guests on the land and therefore regarded it as precious and holy.
Abraham came to understand the holiness of the land and to fulfill his sacred mission.
Many still see America as their promised land. We have the ability to make it holy for countless generations as those before us did for us. That is what Abraham did and this is what immigrants do for America. Without them and our ancestors who believed in a better, more just life, there is no promise.
Belonging transforms a stranger into a resident. It is all of our responsibility.
Mazal Tov to our Bar Mitzvah, Adi Edward Kokorowski . Service begins in the Atrium at 10:15am.