- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On November 13, 2020
- 0 Comments
Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings, a weekly reflection as we move toward Shabbat. You can listen to it as a podcast HERE.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, former Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom from 1991-2013, author of 25 books, scholar beyond compare, wise teacher, and beautiful soul died of cancer at the age of 72 this past week. His passing is a great loss to Jewish scholarship and the world of learners who love Torah because he loved teaching it. He offered his learning like a humble gift as if the insights had been there all along and he just uncovered them. I never met him but feel like I did because of the way he presented what he taught.
In this week’s portion, Rabbi Sacks, in his book, Covenant and Conversation, analyzed the juxtaposition of two seminal Abraham stories. Both demonstrate the hard effort of particular individuals to succeed. The first was when the matriarch, Sarah, died. After mourning Sarah, Abraham, as her husband, sought to properly bury her. He went to the locals in the land of Canaan and recognized his status as a resident alien and wanted to buy a place to bury Sarah. The Hittites, from whom he sought to purchase the land, refused by offering it for free. They only relented after Abraham’s persistent insistence.
In the second story, Abraham sent his servant to find a wife for Isaac back to the land from where Abraham and Sarah had sojourned. As he arrived, the servant prayed to God to deal graciously with his master Abraham to ensure his mission would be successful. In the end, the servant did find the right young woman, Rebekah, and brought her back to Isaac. One might think it was a match made in heaven.
Rabbi Sacks offered a different perspective:
“The divine promise to Abraham is not what it first seemed: a statement that God will act. It is in fact a request, an invitation from God to Abraham and his children that they should act. God will help them…But not without total commitment from Abraham’s family against what will sometimes seem to be insuperable obstacles. “
Sacks continued with the recognition that “now as then, the divine promise does not mean that we can leave the future to God. That idea has no place in the imaginative world of the first book of the Torah. On the contrary: the covenant is God’s challenge to us, not ours to God…Faith does not mean passivity. It means the courage to act and never to be deterred. The future will happen, but it is we—inspired, empowered, given strength by the promise—who must bring it about.” (pgs. 126-127)
Such is a legacy Rabbi Sacks has left us all. I pray we are up to the task to own the responsibility to be in active pursuit of sacred, moral, and courageous living and thereby honor his memory by doing so.
Zichrono Livracha, may remembering Rabbi Sacks bring blessing.
Let’s join together for another engaging Qabbalat Shabbat at 6:00 p.m. Following services we’ll enjoy another Oneg opportunity to meet others. We can pray together HERE on the Temple Israel website, or HERE on Zoom, or even HERE on TI’s Facebook page. Or, just find it all on the website www.tisrael.org/TogetherWithTI .
Tonight at 5:00 p.m. our littlest congregants join for Tot Rock Shabbat. Join us on Zoom here
Riverway Shabbat Re-Charge begins at 7:30 p.m. Register here.
Torah study engages everyone. We start with a short Shabbat morning service at 9:00 a.m. with Torah reading and then launch into a provocative discussion. To join the conversation interactively, access Zoom HERE. You can also watch HERE on Temple Israel’s website or HERE on TI’s Facebook page.
Thank Goodness It’s Shabbat takes place at 10:00 a.m. Join us on Zoom here.
Connect with me HERE. I am interested in hearing your responses.