Chaye Sarah 5771
Posted on March 23, 2011
by Emily Mostow
This week’s parsha, Chayei Sarah (Life of Sarah), ironically begins with Sarah’s death. Abraham makes arrangements to bury her by purchasing the Cave of Machpelah. He approaches the owner of the cave and says, “I am a stranger and resident amongst you” (Bereshit 23:4). One interpretation of this is that Jews are residents in the world on a physical level, but strangers in the world on a spiritual level. We are supposed to bring the two together by sanctifying the physical world. Most mitzvot, including keeping kosher, kissing a mezuza, and having a seder, are rules about physical things. By treating the physical world in the way that God wants us to, we bring our “residential” existence closer to our “stranger” existence–that is, closer to the less familiar spiritual existence.
Later on in the parsha, Abraham sends Eliezer away from Canaan to find a wife for his son, Isaac. He makes Eliezer swear not to pick a Canaanite to be Isaac’s wife: “I will make you swear by God, God of heaven and God of the earth (Bereshit 24:3). Later on, he refers to God as “the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house” (Bereshit 24:7). Rashi interprets this to mean that before Abraham began to follow God, God was the God of the heavens but not of the earth. People on earth did not consciously obey God. However, ever since God spoke to Abraham, people on earth recognize God as God. Since then, God is God in both heaven and earth.
As human beings and as Jews, we are responsible for making sure God is not only in heaven, but that He is also on earth. We can do this by making God a part of our everyday, physical lives. Whether it’s in the food you eat, the way you dress, doing tikun olam, or fetching water for someone’s camels, letting God into your life lets God into the world.