Chayei Sarah: The origin of the Jewish identity

We have learned from Vayeira that Abraham and Sarah represent loving kindness and truth, as the foundations of the Jewish identity with which the people of Israel are destined to be the light for the nations. These two principles are inherent to each other, for both function within the ethical frame of God’s ways and attributes from where both emanate.

“Blessed be the Lord, God of my master Abraham, Who has not withheld His loving kindness and truth from my master. As for me, the Lord has guided me on the way to the house of my master’s brothers.” (Genesis 24:27)

These principles are the references Abraham’s messenger had to identify the future wife of his master’s son, Isaac. So it happened, and Rebecca excelled in her awareness, willingness and determination to consolidate the roots of Israel by choosing to love her son Jacob as the rightful heir of Abraham and Isaac.

We have mentioned in other commentaries about this parshah in our blog that Isaac and Rebecca complement each other as principle and action. Isaac represents the Torah as God’s will and Rebecca its execution in the material world. Thus we understand Sarah and Rebecca as the bearers of the Jewish people, for both matriarchs characterized themselves as unconditional fulfillers of God’s loving kindness and truth in human life.

Sarah brought truth and infused it to Abraham’s loving kindness, while Rebecca brought loving kindness to Isaac’s truthfulness. Thus we see they never contradicted or opposed to each other, but complemented each other with the sole purpose of emulating God’s ways and attributes and fulfill then as His will.

Hence we must understand what our sages mean when they say that Sarah carried in her womb six hundred thousand souls (a symbolic number to represent the entire Jewish people in all times), for she and her husband’s character engenders the Jewish identity in their son Isaac. When we referred to Rebecca as the Jewish expression in human life, she is also Israel’s resilience to make loving kindness and truth prevail by all means necessary as we will see in the next portion of the Torah.

Rebecca as Israel’s generous heart comes to redeem human consciousness from its thirst for redemption under the negative traits and trends of ego’s materialistic fantasies and illusions, for only the goodness of loving kindness and truth can redeem the ailments of humankind. We see it in Rebecca’s swiftness to quench the thirst of the stranger messenger and also his camels.

“When she finished giving him to drink, she said, ‘I will draw water also for your camels until they have finished drinking’. So she hurried and emptied her jug into the trough and kept running to the well to draw water; and she draw for all his camels. The man was astonished because of her, reflecting silently to know whether the Lord had made his journey successful or not.” (24:19-21)

Some of our sages believe that the messenger represents the future Jewish messiah sent by his Master, and with His help to awaken Israel the nation to their inherited loving kindness and truth from their forefathers Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca. In the full realization and fulfillment of their identity, Israel will successfully quench humankind’s thirst for knowing their Creator and fulfill His will with the waters of His Torah. This following verse gives us an idea about that.

“And Isaac brought her into the tent of Sarah his mother. He married Rebecca, she became his wife and he loved her. And thus Isaac was consoled after his mother.” (24:67)

Also in this portion the Torah tells us about Rebecca’s family, from whom we will know about their character traits in contrast to hers. From this we learn about the future long journey of Israel’s descendants to rectify the negative traits and trends in consciousness that oppress loving kindness and truth as our essence and true identity.

About the Author
Ariel Ben Avraham was born in Colombia (1958) from a family with Sephardic ancestry. He studied Cultural Anthropology in Bogota, and lived twenty years in Chicago working as a radio and television producer and writer. He emigrated to Israel in 2004, and for the last fourteen years has been studying the Chassidic mystic tradition, about which he writes and teaches. Based on his studies, he wrote his first book "God's Love" in 2009. He currently lives in Kochav Yaakov.
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