Friday, November 17, 2006

The Never Ending Search For Your Bashert

I moderate the UMJC's Torah mailing list. I felt that this week's Drash (study) was very relevant, and wanted to post it here.
Chayei Sarah - The Never Ending Search For Your Bashert

by Rebbetzin Malkah Forbes
Beit HaShofar, Seattle

The funny thing about searching for your bashert (your destined
soul-mate), is that even when you find your bashert, you have only
partly completed the task. For it is in helping our children through
our sacred unions that they find their bashert, and finish the task
which we started – to realize our own true destiny. In this mirroring
dance of fates between our destiny and that of our children do we find
our completion and our hope for the future. This couldn't be more
true as we look into this week's parasha and see Avraham bury his
beloved Sarah – his bashert – and at the same time move on to helping
his son, Yitzchak, find his own destiny and carry on the promises
given to Avraham and his progeny for all time.

Sarah – A Tzadekket and Spiritual Mother

As we enter into this week's parasha, the narrative begins with
Sarah's death. Seeing the setting sun of a matriarch, we are reminded
of the love Avraham has for Sarah at her passing:

"Sarah died in Kiriath-arba which is Hebron in the
land of Canaan; and Avraham came to eulogize Sarah and bewail her."
(Bereishis 23:2)

For Avraham, the task before him is to lay his beloved to rest in the
midst of his mourning. This entails bargaining with the people of
that area for a cave and plot of land for burial. This acquisition
was of paramount importance and Avraham was willing to spare no
expense for the sake of her burial. He humbled himself in his speech
to buy from strangers a plot which cost him four hundred large silver
skekels - the equivalent of one million ordinary shekels during that

So why would Avraham pay such an exorbitant price for a place to bury
Sarah? The answer to the question lies in how Avraham eulogized Sarah
– for in that eulogy the magnitude of this relationship and its impact
on Avraham and his spiritual legacy would have been completely
revealed to all. In previous parashot, we are told of Sarah's beauty
and her modesty – her modesty so great that it overshadowed her beauty
so that even Avraham did not perceive it fully. Though she was
beautiful and radiant, she was not vain. Continuing to look back, we
can see clues of her deep spiritual nature in her life and her
actions. The mere fact that Hashem sent angels to Avraham's tent was
very telling of the status of Avraham and Sarah's tents. Indeed, she
was the crown of her husband and through her own righteousness
combined with Avraham's righteousness, their tent was to be a place to
minister to angels. The food, though not eaten by the angels
literally, was fit for the angels. We read later that Sarah also
fought for Yitzchak's spiritual well-being by casting Ishmael away and
shielding Yitzchak from his wayward ways. Her spiritual discernment
regarding Ishmael's influence comes forth:

"Sarah saw the son of Hagar, the Egyptian, whom she had born to
Avraham, mocking. So she said to Avraham, "Drive out this slavewoman
with her son, for the son of that slavewoman shall not inherit with my
son, with Yitzchak!" (Bereishis 21:9)

G-d tells Avraham, who is troubled by this request, to heed Sarah's
voice – accrediting to her righteousness in speech and in deed because
of her fervency. It was only for the sake of the Holy One and the
spiritual welfare of her family that she would ask for something so
difficult. The midrash speaks of the three miracles of Sarah and how
later Rivka (Rebekah) would carry on these miracles. Sarah's Shabbat
candles never went out – the light from them was a means to peace in
her tent and for spiritual growth for her family. The midrash also
speaks of her challah - always yielding far more than she made and
staying fresh all week; a small piece would nourish like a meal! The
third miracle was the clouds of glory that surrounded Sarah's tent.
These clouds remained because of the holiness and purity that was part
of the relationship between Avraham and Sarah. Sarah was literally
the akeret habayit (the foundation of the home), the crown of her
husband, and the key to the survival of the Jewish people.

To Carry On The Legacy

But where do we go from here? With Sarah gone and Yitzchak not yet
married, how can the promise continue? Could there be anyone who
could compare to Sarah for his son Yitzchak? How could there be
anyone who could fill her place and carry on the spiritual legacy and
bless his son as Avraham himself was blessed? Avraham knew Yitzchak
would need a wife like Sarah in order to carry on his spiritual
inheritance - someone who would serve tirelessly, bring honor, and
have the ability to spiritually discern people and events in order to
preserve the connection to the future - she needed to be the new
akeret habayit. The task before Avraham is daunting, for Sarah would
have known if the prospective shidduch (match with matrimonial
potential) was the right one. But without her, Avraham will have to
rely on those who witnessed their unity and knew what was needed.
Avraham conscripts Eliezer to help him; he places his faith in Hashem
and charges Eliezer, the zaken of his household, to go out for him
with orders to find a mate for Yitzchak within his family. He knew
Eliezer would have to get it right – however, Avraham trusted
Eliezer's spiritual discernment and knew that Eliezer understood that
the fulfillment of Avraham's destiny lie at stake in this match.

The rabbis say each person has a number of possible matches – but only
one true optimal one. The true ezer k'negdo, the helper with whom G-d
pairs us with in order that we might become more refined in character,
helps us reach our spiritual potential. For Eliezer chesed (kindness)
– is his litmus test. To be sure, the woman that will marry his
master's son must truly follow in the footsteps of Sarah. Eliezer
realized that if Yitzchak, who represents gerurah (strength) would
come together with chesed (kindness), the offspring and their union
would represent tiferet (beauty) and secure the future. In addition,
in Yitzchak's time of mourning, he would unquestionably need someone
who would be sensitive and able to comfort him as well as be a
virtuous wife. Indeed, as we see, the test of Eliezer is passed by
Rivka as she shows true kindness when she waters his camels
tirelessly. As Eliezer secures her hand for Yitzchak from Laban, he
brings her home and as the midrash speaks, she is, without a doubt,
the bashert of Yitzchak:

"And Yitzchak brought her into his mother Sarah's tent. " (Bereishis 24:67)

"You find that as long as Sarah lived, a cloud hung over her tent;
when she died, that cloud disappeared; but when Rebekah came, it
returned. As long as Sarah lived, her doors were wide open; at her
death that liberality ceased; but when Rebekah came, that
openhandedness returned. As long as Sarah lived, there was a blessing
on her dough, and the lamp used to burn from the evening of the
Sabbath until the evening of the following Sabbath; when she died,
these ceased, but when Rebekah came, they returned. And so when he saw
her following in his mother's footsteps, separating her hallah in
cleanness and handling her dough in cleanness, straightway..."
(Midrash Rabbah - Genesis 60:16)

Managing Our Destiny Today

So while we dab our eyes and regain our composure from this romantic
moment, what do we take home from the reading of such a perfect match?
The answer is two-fold, since there are those of us who are married,
and those who have not yet married (or were previously married) and
seeking to find the true ezer k'negdo.

For those who are not married, so much is on the playing board before
us. Is it the right time to be married? Am I a whole person? Do I
have challenges I need to overcome? These are just some of the
questions that we ponder. But while these questions are valid, it is
important to realize that Yitzchak was in a state of mourning when his
bashert came to him and they were married. The idea of finding one's
bashert doesn't necessarily come at a time of convenience in life.
Beyond time considerations and life events, the bigger picture in
considering our bashert is who is helping us to find our bashert. Who
is our Eliezer looking for the signs despite our timing? Who knows
what we need and is a fitting match for us? Who will check our
selection and see deeply into our choice – correcting us if we might
be off the mark? Are we looking at the models around us that speak
life and closeness to Hashem while we are seeking to find the one who
will be our true ezer k'negdo? When we are looking on J-Date, are the
ideals and middot (character traits) apparent and recognizable enough
to us that we would be able to find that single, special soul-mate?
So much rides on finding that special soul-mate who will help us to
actualize our potential. Avraham knew this to be true and wasn't
leaving anything to chance. He realized the very completion of his
destiny was linked to a proper match for his son.

And then there are those who are married – happily, or maybe not
happily ever after. Assuming that we have found our bashert and are
bound up in true oneness, how are we living with our bashert that
models to our children the type of person they should seek? Do we
realize the spiritual potential that a couple can rise to when they
are not only well-matched but fully functional? Are we equipping our
children to know how to seek and to listen to an Eliezer type –
whether it be ourselves or another spiritual mentor? And if, G-d
forbid, we are not with the optimal soul-mate that we were destined
for, what are we doing to help our children to not repeat our mistakes
and to have better eyes with which to see?

May we have the cloud of glory rest upon our homes, bread in our tents
to feed a multitude, as well as the glow of Sarah's candles and the
light of Messiah for all who enter our tents. For as we participate
in the delicate dance of finding our "destined one" for ourselves,
building beautiful homes, and helping our children to find their
bashert, we will truly succeed in fulfilling our destiny. Only then
will there be the assurance that the traditions, spiritual inheritance
of Avraham and Sarah, and the spirit of Messiah will live on in our
children and their children's children until the Messiah returns

"Let your branches join together, as you build this life as one,
Bringing shelter to each other, beneath the wings of Shechinah..."

Debbie Friedman, "The Wedding Song"

No comments: