Volume 3 Number 37 – November 14, 2020 – 27 Chesvan 5781
Book Club News
Because the original book selected for December (Footprints on the Heart by Jean Naggar) has been difficult to obtain, our book club will instead be reading “How to Fight Anti-Semitism,” by Bari Weiss. The Zoom discussion will be Monday, Dec. 21, 7:15-8:45pm. Bari Weiss, the featured speaker at the recent JFed’s Women’s Philanthropy event, is the former op-ed staff editor for The New York Times. Her important book is a worthy, concise brief against modern-day anti-Semitism. The Guardian writes: “Her childhood synagogue in Pittsburgh was the site of last year’s Shabbat morning massacre. This passionate, vividly written, regularly insightful book is her pained, fighting elegy.”
Save the date for the February 22 book club meeting when we will read “Noah’s Wife,” by Lindsay Starck, a gorgeously written, brilliantly introspective, fable-like novel reimagining Noah’s Ark for our modern times.
To join Sisterhood’s Book Club, or, to suggest a book to read, contact Terri Schnitzer
Upcoming books under consideration:
Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts
Footprints on the Heart by Jean Naggar (if available)
Did you know?
created and delivered 142 Rosh Hashanah Gift Baskets to members and friends throughout the community at the holidays – far exceeding the goal of this first-time project!
matches funds for eligible children of NHBZ Members who participate in St. Louis Jewish Federation’s Passport to Israel Program
continues to organize educational programs and chesed activities to strengthen our shul, support our community and enrich the lives of our members through spiritual growth in Torah values, and we welcome your support
eagerly anticipates the time when we can resume the planning of our signature event – NHBZ Sisterhood’s Dine ‘n’ Style Annual Luncheon & Fashion Show
… can’t wait until we are once again able to sponsor special Holiday treats – at Pesach, Simchas Torah, and Purim – and enjoy socializing together at ‘kiddushim’ – in person!
“A Journey of a Thousand Miles” Chayei Sarah (Genesis 23:1-25:18)
– adapted from Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks (z”l), in his memory
Why Abraham and Sarah died at peace despite their tumultuous lives.
The parsha describes the lives of Abraham and Sarah as good and long and even that they were blessed with everything. “Abraham was old, well advanced in years, and G- d had blessed Abraham with everything” (Gen. 24:1). Yet how is any of this conceivable? Abraham and Sarah were commanded by G-d to leave everything that was familiar: their land, their home, their family, and travel to an unknown land, then forced to leave because of famine. Twice, Abraham’s life was at risk; he was driven into exile; remained childless a long time despite repeated Divine promises that they would have as many children as the stars. Then there was the agony of the binding of Isaac. One way or another, neither Abraham nor Sarah had an easy life. Theirs were lives of trial, in which their faith was tested at many points. How can Rashi say that all of Sarah’s years were equal in goodness? How can the Torah say that Abraham had been blessed with everything? The unexpected answer is in the parsha itself.
Seven times Abraham had been promised the land. Here is just one: The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Raise your eyes, and, from the place where you are now [standing], look to the north, to the south, to the east, and to the west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you” (Gen. 13:14-17). Yet by the time Sarah dies, Abraham has no land at all, and is forced to beg for permission to acquire even a single cave in which to bury his wife, and has to pay a massively inflated price.
Then, in relation to children, Abraham is promised four times: “I will make you into a great nation” (12:2). “I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth” (13:16). “’Look at the sky and count the stars. See if you can count them.’ [G-d] then said ‘That is how [numerous] your descendants will be.'”(15:5). “No longer shall you be called Abram. Your name shall become Abraham, for I have set you up as the father of many nations.”
Whether we think of children or the land – the two key Divine promises to Abraham and Sarah – the reality fell far short of what they might have felt entitled to expect.
That, however, is precisely the meaning and message of Chayei Sarah. In it Abraham does two things: he buys the first plot in the land of Canaan, and he arranges for the marriage of Isaac. One field and a cave was, for Abraham, enough for the text to say that “G-d had blessed Abraham with everything.” One child, Isaac, by then married and with children (Abraham was 100 when Isaac was born; Isaac was 60 when the twins, Jacob and Esau, were born; and Abraham was 175 when he died) was enough for Abraham to die in peace. Lao-Tzu, the Chinese sage, said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. To that Judaism adds, “It is not for you to complete the work but neither are you free to desist from it” (Avot 2:16). G-d himself said of Abraham, “For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him” (Gen. 18:19).
The meaning of this is clear. If you ensure that your children will continue to live for what you have lived for, then you can have faith that they will continue your journey until eventually they reach the destination. Abraham did not need to see all the land in Jewish hands, nor did he need to see the Jewish people become numerous. He had taken the first step. He had begun the task, and he knew that his descendants would continue it. He was able to die serenely because he had faith in G-d and faith that others would complete what he had begun. The same was surely true of Sarah.
To place your life in G-d’s hands, to have faith that whatever happens to you happens for a reason, to know that you are part of a larger narrative, and to believe that others will continue what you began, is to achieve a satisfaction in life that cannot be destroyed by circumstance. Abraham and Sarah had that faith, and they were able to die with a sense of fulfilment.
To be happy does not mean that you have everything you want or everything you were promised. It means, simply, to have done what you were called on to do, to have made a beginning, and then to have passed on the baton to the next generation. “The righteous, even in death, are regarded as though they were still alive” (Berakhot 18a) because the righteous leave a living trace in those who come after them.
That was enough for Abraham and Sarah, and it must be enough for us.
For information or to join Sisterhood, call the NHBZ office at 314-991-2100, ext. 3, or email: email@example.com