Sedra Shorts

Ideas and commentaries on the weekly Torah readings.

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Location: Bet Shemesh, Israel

I taught Tanach in Immanuel College, London and in Hartman, Jerusalem. I was also an ATID fellow for 2 years. At present, I work for the Lookstein Center for Jewish Education in the Diaspora, in Bar-Ilan University, Israel. The purpose of this blog is to provide "sedra-shorts", short interesting ideas on the weekly Torah reading. Please feel free to use them and to send me your comments.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Parshat Chayei Sarah

The Missing God

This week's parsha is unique in the Torah – it is the only one in which God does not talk to humanity. He remains silent.

That does not mean that He is ignored. On the contrary He is mentioned throughout. To begin with, Avraham makes his servant swear an oath in the name of God: "I will adjure you by the Lord, the God of the heaven and the God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites" (Bereshit 24:3).

Furthermore, the servant makes a prayer to God, saying: "O Lord, the God of my master Abraham, please cause to happen to me today" (ibid 12). He also refers to God in his speech with Lavan and Betuel a number of times.

Additionally, when Rivka met Yitschak for the first time, he "went out to meditate in the field", the Rabbis explain that he was praying.

God's actions are also very visible in the parsha. Avraham had promised his servant that God "will send His angel before you" (ibid 7), meaning that he would succeed in his mission. The way in which the servant succeeded was even more impressive. He asked God for a sign. The servant received that sign instantaneously and the first girl that he met was Avraham's cousin's daughter, Rivka. The test that he set her was also passed with success. Everything went exactly to plan.

Yet the lack of prophetic communication from God is still conspicuous by its absence. Why is He silent?

The parsha can be divided up into two parts: Firstly, Avraham's attempts to bury Sarah. Secondly, Avraham's search for a wife for Yitschak. We could put these episodes into one category: The Avot without the Imahaot, The Patriarchs without the Matriarchs.

Sarah is dead and Avraham is alone. Yitchak has no partner and he is alone. Furthermore, after three years, Yitschak is still morning his mother as he was only: "comforted for [the loss of] his mother" after he married Rivka (ibid 67).

Under these conditions, the word of God cannot be heard. The fathers without the mothers are incomplete; it is only when they are together and that there is joy and that word of God can be spoken.

Last year's Sedra Short for Parshat Chayei Sarah, entitled: "The Other Sons of Avraham” appears at

Another Sedra Short for Parshat Chayei Sarah, entitled: "The Legacy of Terach” appears at

Another Sedra Short for Parshat Chayei Sarah, entitled: "A Stranger and a Sojourner" can be found at

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