Susan Barth
Advocate for Marriage Education in Israel

Project Chayei Sarah – A Vote for Marriage Education

As the antidote to the acrimony still exhibited as an aftermath of the US election, the marriage of our patriarch Yitzhak to our matriarch Rivka in this week’s Torah portion of Chayei Sarah, “Life of Sarah” is a major cause for celebration. Following the death and burial of our matriarch Sarah, Avraham immediately turns his attention to finding the perfect match for his precious son Yitzhak. And not just any match, but a woman with superlative character traits to complement the son whose life symbolized pure holiness.

The First Jewish Marriage speaks volumes

What is the most poignant feature of this first Jewish marriage in Eretz Yisrael can be found in the explanation of the most celebrated commentator Rashi on the statement:

“And Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he took Rebekah and she became his wife and he loved her. And Isaac was comforted for his mother.” (chapter 24, verse 67 of Chaya Sarah)

Rashi comments that she become like Sarah his mother. In other words, as I mention in a previous blog, she exhibited the same character attribute of modesty which merited both Sarah and Rivka the fulfillment of three miracles – that as long as Sarah lived, a “cloud of glory” hovered over her tent, and a light burned from Erev Shabbat to Erev Shabbat, and her home was full of blessing.

According to the Midrash (Genesis Rabbah 60:16), these three miracles translate into the three respective mitzvoth of family purity, Shabbat candles and challah.

Influence of our Matriarch Sarah

The influence which our matriarch Sarah had on the birth and destiny of our nation cannot be overstated – she was the one who encouraged Avraham to recognize Yitzhak as the heir apparent to the Jewish nation among her other attributes. She was a full partner in every sense of the word in opening her tents to spreading the well springs of Torah long before we received the Torah at Mount Sinai. And as is stated in the beginning of our portion the choice of language of the name of the portion as the “Life of Chayei Sarah” versus the “Death of Chayei Sarah” is a testimony that all her years were goodness. In her modest and holy manner, Sarah became a role model for women of empowerment and our role as the foundation of the home.

My Hebrew name is Sarah and so I take the mandate of what we can learn from our matriarch Sarah as a guide for what we as women can contribute to our homes and our society. Towards that end, our amuta Together in Happiness/B’Yachad B’Osher was established with the mission of spreading the attributes exhibited by Sarah to Israeli society in the form of promoting marriage education.

Launch of Project Chayei Sarah

So it is a fitting time to launch Project Chayei Sarah to memorialize her death and celebrate the first Jewish marriage. What is Project Chayei Sarah?

It is modeled on the Hartford Kashrut Commission which was my “baby brainchild” in Hartford Connecticut. The Commission which was formalized in the early 1990’s was the culmination of a kashrut project I started with the Chabad House of Greater Hartford in concert with the Young Israel of West Hartford. The model was simply to mobilize the participation of every single Congregational rabbi in the greater Hartford Community into forming a Commission which would include two lay persons from each congregation. The goal was to agree on one standard of kashrut and be a unified body for being the “Voice of Kashrut.” I can say with pride that every single congregation was represented and to this date the Commission is considered a beacon of the highest standard of kashrut and its name is recognized on the national front as a major kashrut symbol of reliability and has Federation funding. It was born out of my living room at the time and inspired by the Lubavitcher Rebbe in whose merit I focused my energies on the subject of kashrut.

Mission of Project Chayei Sarah – It Takes a Village

The mission of the project is to promote Shalom Bayit through the auspices of marriage education (especially education for engaged and newly married couples).

Goals of the project – to Encourage the following activities:

Every rabbi officiating in a wedding should adopt the policy to encourage any couple getting married to receive pre marriage education

Every synagogue in Eretz Yisrael with a congregational rabbi should encourage/authorize its rabbi to participate in an Alliance for Marriage Education and should  select two or the congregation’s members to represent the synagogue. The Alliance will advise and consult on the development of  programs and policies for the advancement of marriage education in Eretz Yisrael.

Chatan and Kallah instructors should incorporate marriage education components should their respective classes

Government officials and policy makers should consider legislation and administrative funding for subsidizing pre marriage education instruction as a means of reducing the divorce rate

Uniting our People

If ever there was a time to unite around our values that define us as a nation it is now. We pray that there will be an end to the horrific virus, and that one outcome will be a unity that propels us to re- assess what it most dear to us – and we do not need to look any further than our beloved matriarchs and patriarchs for the blueprint on the importance of shalom bayit.

So please write to me and say:

Yes I want to join Project Chayei Sarah _____________________________

My name _________________________

My email address ___________________________________

And email me at marriageconf@gmail.com

The launch of Project Chayei Sarah is a dream that can be fulfilled as one positive outcome if we all band together to take it from the dream to the reality.

About the Author
Susan Barth is founder and director of Israeli non profit Together in Happiness/B'Yachad B'Osher, promoting stronger, healthier marriages impacting Israeli society. A Project Management Professional (PMP) and businesswoman from the US, Susan sponsored and chaired the First International Conference on Marriage Education in Israel (attended by over 360 professionals) in Jerusalem in memory of her parents and launched I-PREP, an innovative marriage education curriculum. On November 8, 2017, Together in Happiness co-hosted with MK Yehudah Glick a historic Knesset seminar promoting government support for pre-marriage education
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