Divrei Torah by Rabba Kaya Stern-Kaufman
After the trauma of the Akeida (the binding of Isaac onto the altar by his father Abraham) and after the death of Sarah, the Torah seeks out healing. The Torah seeks out the only possible path for healing: loving-kindness-hesed. It is the path of loving-kindness that will enable the survivors of trauma and loss to survive and move forward.
After mourning Sarah’s death, Abraham performs his final act of hesed, of loving-kindness for her by seeking out and acquiring for her, a burial place.
After this episode he sends out his servant Eliezer to find a wife for Isaac. Eliezer is on a hesed-seeking mission. He asks for G-d’s help in finding a woman who will not only offer him water after his long desert journey but who will recognize the thirst of his camels as well. He seeks a woman whose loving-kindness knows no distinctions.
Water: the symbol of life-giving hesed flows from the jugs of Rivkah- a universal hesed, for human beings and animals alike.
And it is this quality of hesed that will be a comfort to Isaac, a source of healing for him after the traumas of his life.
And Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he took Rebecca as his wife. Isaac loved her and found comfort after his Mother’s death. (Gen, 24:67)
As we begin to lift ourselves up from this week of shiva after the horror in Pittsburgh, after the trauma of this shocking and disorienting event- it is the comfort of hesed that we need; life-giving, tender and easily accessible loving-kindness. We have all experienced a profound outpouring of hesed from our community and from diverse communities around the nation. I know you too feel the great outpouring of love and support from the Rutland community.
Like Eliezer , let us continue to seek it out. Let us be on a hunt for kindness. Let us seek it within and without.
And let our seeking be a finding, and an allowing- let us allow the waters to flow- the waters of grief and the waters of love for humanity.
We sit here tonight still in mourning, wondering what we can do. Some of us feeling paralyzed and hopeless. Let us not be daunted by the enormity of this grief. At this moment, on this Shabbat, let us simply notice how we feel and allow the life-giving waters of kindness to flow through our community.
A modern poet- Martha Postelwaite, offers us these words:
Do not try to save
the whole world
or do anything grandiose.
in the dense forest
of your life
and wait there
until the song
that is your life
falls into your own cupped hands
and you recognize and greet it.
Only then will you know
how to give yourself
to this world
so worthy of rescue.
We begin with noticing and allowing. Noticing the grief and also the hesed that surrounds us. This is where we are tonight.
As we move forward let hesed- lovingkindness be the scale against which we measure all of our actions, all of our choices, and all of our votes. Let hesed-loving-kindness be the scale against which we measure our connections with one another and our strength as a community. We are all bound up in one another. May we recognize this as our strength and our blessing.
Rabba Kaya Stern-Kaufman
Rabba Kaya served as Interim Rabbi of RJC from October 2017 through June 2019.
More about Rabba Kaya