D'vrei Torah by Rabbi Ellie Shemtov
12-Step Torah Parashat Chayei Sarah 5781
Getting something you've never had requires doing something you've never done.
When I made up my mind to go back to school and become a rabbi in mid-life, I knew it would be a difficult transition. It had been years since I was a full-time college student. Returning to school would also require me to leave a good government job, move from my home of twenty-three years in Washington, DC and find a way to support myself while in school in New York. I had never done anything quite so risky but I was determined to move forward with what I believed was my life’s mission.
At the very beginning of this week’s Torah portion Chayei Sarah, which means the life of Sarah, Sarah dies. After burying his wife, Abraham decides it is time to find a wife for his son Isaac. He assigns this task to his servant Eliezer. Without much pomp and circumstance, Eliezer meets Rebekah, who he quickly decides possesses the right qualities for Isaac. One of those qualities is kindness. In response to Eliezer’s request for water, Rebekah not only provides him with a drink but then unprompted, draws water for Eliezer’s camels.
Rebekah agrees to go back with Eliezer and marry Isaac. In doing so she not only has to leave home but also travel to a place she has never been and marry someone she has never met. Whatever her plans for the future had been before Eliezer entered her life, Rebekah seizes the moment without hesitation. She somehow knows her fate lies with Isaac.
Not unlike my own decision to leave everything I had known for twenty-three years behind me, Rebekah decides to leave the only life she had ever known and go with Eliezer. It was a decision grounded in the belief that in order to get something you’ve never had you need to do something you have never done.
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