Tuesday, November 21, 2006

DVAR TORAH: Chayei Sarah

What with Rabbinical School Essays, lesson plans, a busy time in the catering office, and trying to figure out what exactly to stuff the damn bird with, I haven't exactly had the most time to write these weekly Divrei Torah, not to mention a really long time without a legitimate me-update. I also neglected to write a Dvar Torah before Shabbat, but I still want to keep the streak alive, so here I present a very short blurb about this past week's Torah Portion:

Do we dwell over death in Judaism? We were surrounded by nations that practiced Thanatophilia, for lack of a better term (a synonym, Necrophilia has different connotations), love of death or obsession with death. For Ancient Egypt especially, the embalming and mummification and rituals assigned with escorting the dead prevailed. Guards and consorts were killed so that they may serve their deceased masters in death as they had in life. Pyramids were erected for nobles, filled with riches to accompany them into the Land of the Dead.

Jews on the other hand have always treasured life, something I guess you would call viviphilia, another term I might be making up. Anyway, most of the death rituals in Judaism are simple and are for the purpose of those still living. Eulogies, Shiva, Kaddish, Yahrzeit, Yizkor, these are all for the benefit of the living. The body is laid to rest as quickly as possible, in respect for the dead, yes, but they are laid to rest in simple shrouds, in simple bio-degradable coffins if coffins are required by law, with simple headstones.

This Portion is Called "The Life of Sarah" not "The Death of Sarah", though Sarah passes away in the very first verses. Abraham mourns but not excessively. The letter kaf is diminished to show that his mourning was relatively light. As Sarah was the first Jew to die and Abraham was the first Jew to mourn, it set a precedent for Jews throughout time, not to be excessive. My uncle's mother just passed away a few weeks ago. As I have been staying with them, I saw first hand what it is like to be in mourning. And yet life went on for them. I helped in certain arrangements before the funeral, sat shiva with them, and comforted my young cousins by taking them out to see a movie.

Isaac found love in Rebecca that he had lost once his mother died. "And he took Rebecca into his mother's tent and became comforted". Life goes on.

Speaking of which, I have to go.

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