Hayyei Sarah (Genesis 23.1-25.18)

After last week’s stories of Sodom and Gomorrah, incest, banishment and near death in the desert, and near (very, very near) human sacrifice, this week’s portion provides welcome relief.  Yes, it stars with the death of Sarah, but the opening verse is “Sarah’s lifetime—the span of Sarah’s life—came to one hundred and twenty-seven years.”  Then we are told of her death.  Tradition has it that she died of shock upon learning of Abraham’s apparent intention to sacrifice their son.  Once he has mourned, Abraham gets up and buys land for a burial plot, the Cave of Machpelah.  We learn two things here: (1) Abraham gets up – that is, he gets on with his life after mourning.  (2) As Professor Arnold Eisen points out [ http://www.jtsa.edu/Conservative_Judaism/JTS_Torah_Commentary/Hayyei_Sarah_5771.xml ] , this is the first purchase of land by Abraham in Canaan: “The purchase of land in Canaan marks a turning point. Abraham seeks an ‘eternal home,’ an ‘eternal resting place,’ in the Land which at that moment offers neither home nor resting place for his family, but, according to God’s promise, will one day provide both to his descendants.”  The portion ends with Abraham’s marriage to Keturah, a list of their sons, his death (buried by both Isaac and Ishmael), and Ishmael’s descendants and death.

The rest of the portion deals with acquiring a wife for Isaac.  He marries his cousin Rebecca three years after Sarah’s death.  Since he was 127 minus 90 = 37 years old when she died, that means he was unmarried until about 40.  (Oy!)  Abraham sends his servant (assumed to be Eliezer) back to the old country (Aram naharaim) to find Isaac a wife.  What follows is like a fairy tale in which the uniquely suitable spouse is identified (like the ones where the princess has the right foot size or is a really light sleeper), and it’s told in that repetitive rhythm:  Eliezer prays that the young woman will not only give him water but offer to water his camels, Rebecca not only gives him water but offers to water his camels, and Eliezer tells her family how she not only gave him water but offered to water his camels. And Eliezer reveals his identity, and Rebecca reveals hers, and there are golden gifts that really pique brother Laban’s interest, and Rebecca accompanies Eliezer to Canaan and Isaac, with whom she lives happily for a while.  What is disconcerting is that Isaac is not involved at all in the process.  I have noted before the ubiquity of “the well” as a place where potential spouses meet (the Biblical singles’ bar).  It’s where Jacob meets and helps Rachel get water and where Moses meets and helps Zipporah get water.  But here, it is Rebecca who provides water for Eliezer and his camels.  She is also the one who decides to leave immediately for Canaan.  Rebecca, not Isaac, is the one who takes the initiative, and we will see that continue through their relationship.

Shabbat shalom,

Salesmen Joke

Had a door-to-door salesman call one time selling of all things — burial plots. I told him that we already had our plots in another cemetery. He seemed uncertain as to what to say next, but he recovered to say politely, “I hope you’ll be very happy there.”



Mother in Law’s Christmas

Every year the family had the same discussion about what to buy Gwen, our mum/mother in law for Christmas. When asked, she would always reply “Oh don’t your worry about a gift for me, I have everything I need. Save your money.” To which everyone rolls their eyes, scratches their heads, and carries on with suggestions.

One year when pressed, she finally relented and said “I would like a burial plot”, which was greeted with shock and raised eyebrows. She continued “I like to be organized, and don’t want any of you to worry about such things when I’m gone”. Now Gwen is very fit and healthy, but in desperation the family agreed and gave her what she wanted. And she was happy.

The next year when we began the same discussion, one son in law said “I don’t think we should get her anything – she hasn’t used what we gave her last year”!



A Fairytale For The Assertive Woman Of The 2000’s

Once upon a time, in a land far away,
A beautiful, independent,
self assured princess,
happened upon a frog as she sat
contemplating ecological issues
on the shores of an unpolluted pond
in a verdant meadow near her castle.
The frog hopped into the Princess’ lap and said:
” Elegant Lady,
I was once a handsome Prince,
until an evil witch cast a spell upon me.
One kiss from you, however,
and I will turn back
into the dapper, young Prince that I am
and then, my sweet, we can marry
and setup housekeeping in yon castle with my Mother,
where you can prepare my meals,
clean my clothes, bear my children,
and forever feel grateful and happy doing so.”

That night,
on a repast of lightly sauteed frogs legs
seasoned in a white wine and onion cream sauce,
she chuckled to herself and thought:

I don’t think so!



— Gershon Wheeler

A student in my math course at Ohlone State College in Fremont, Calif., developed a severe case of tendinitis. Since she couldn’t write, she brought a video camera to tape my lectures. After three or four classes, I asked her if she found the method satisfactory. She said it was working quite well, even better than note-taking.

“Actually,” she confessed, “I have another reason for doing this. When I told my mother you were a widower, she wanted to see what you look like.”

Sent out in 1999 (selections)  [taken from http://www.michiganet.com/jokes/jokes1998.htm]12/13/98:

Jewish Personal Ads

Jewish Princess, 28, seeks successful businessman of any major Jewish denomination: hundreds, fifties, twenties. POB 27.

Agnostic dyslexic insomniac male, seeks similar female to stay up all night to discuss whether or not there really is a DOG. POB 83.
Yeshiva bochur, Torah scholar, long beard, payos. Seeks same in woman. POB 43.

Israeli woman, 28, works behind falafel counter in pizza shop, looking for Jewish man with sense of humus. POB 789.

Worried about in-law meddling? I’m an orphan! Write. POB 74.

Are you the girl I spoke with at the kiddush after shul last week? You excused yourself to get more horseradish for your gefilte fish, but you never returned. How can I contact you again? (I was the one with the cholent stain on my tie). POB 766.

Israeli professor, 41, with 18 years of teaching in my behind. Looking for American-born woman who speaks English very good. POB 555.

Jewish male, 34, very successful, smart, independent, self-made. Looking for girl whose father will hire me. POB 53.

Single Jewish woman, 29, into disco, mountain climbing, skiing, track and field. Has slight limp. POB 76.

All my friends are doing it, and quite frankly, I feel left out. Jewish woman, 37, never married. Seeks divorce. POB 655.

Sent out in 2002

Single female seeks male companionship

The following ad in “The Atlanta Journal” received numerous calls:

Single female seeks male companionship, ethnicity unimportant. I’m a very good looking girl who LOVES to
play. I love long walks in the woods, riding in your pickup truck, hunting, camping and fishing trips, cozy winter nights
lying by the fire. Candlelight dinners will have me eating out of your hand. Rub me the right way and watch me respond.
I’ll be at the front door when you get home from work wearing only what nature gave me. Kiss me and I’m yours.
Call XXX-XXX-XXXX and ask for Daisy.

Over one hundred and fifty men found themselves talking to the local Humane Society about an eight week old Labrador Retriever.

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