Hayyei Sarah (Genesis 23.1-25.18)


Comments are from 2010, except for an updated link.  Jokes are newly dug up.

“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/the-graves-of-our-ancestors ], 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,



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Be careful what you wish for …

Hopeful suitor joined a computer-dating site and registered his wants.

He wanted someone who enjoyed water sports, liked company, favored formal attire, and was very small.

The computer operated faultlessly.

It sent him a penguin.



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Children’s Views on Marriage (selections)

What exactly is marriage? 
“Marriage is when you get to keep your girl and don’t have to give her back to her parents”
Eric, age 6

How did your mom and dad meet?
“They were at a dance party at a friend’s house. Then they went for a drive, but their car broke down. It was a good thing, because it gave them a chance to find out about their values.”

Lottie, age 9

Is it better to be single or married?
“It’s better for girls to be single but not for boys. Boys need somebody to clean up after them”
Anita, age 9

“It gives me a headache to think about that stuff. I’m just a kid. I don’t need that kind of trouble.”
Will, age 7

What is the right age to get married?
“Eighty-four, because at that age, you don’t have to work anymore, and you can spend all your time loving each other in your bedroom.”

Carolyn, age 8

“Once I’m done with kindergarten, I’m going to find me a wife”
Bert, age 5

How can a stranger tell if two people are married?
“You might have to guess, based on whether they seem to be yelling at the same kids.”
Derrick, age 8

How do you decide whom to marry?
“No person really decides before they grow up who they’re going to marry. God decides it all way before, and you get to find out later who you’re stuck with.”

Kirsten, age 10

“You flip a nickel, and heads means you stay with him and tails means you try the next one.”
Kelly, age 9

How would you make a marriage work?
“If you want to last with your man, you should wear a lot of sexy clothes, especially underwear that is red and maybe has a few diamonds on it.”

Lori, age 8

“Tell your wife that she looks pretty even if she looks like a truck.”
Ricky, age 10



Quotes about Fairy Tales

Everything is for sale in Hollywood; the fairy tale, the costume, the pumpkin, the footman and the mice. Amanda Eliasch

I’m not a big fan of kids’ movies that have this knowing snarkiness to them or this post-modern take on storytelling. I think that sails right over the heads of most kids. There’s something to be said for a well-told fairy tale. There’s a reason that these mythic stories stay with us. John C. Reilly

Obsessed by a fairy tale, we spend our lives searching for a magic door and a lost kingdom of peace. Eugene O’Neill

As long as you keep one foot in the real world while the other foot’s in a fairy tale, that fairy tale is going to seem kind of attainable. Aaron Sorkin

Life itself is the most wonderful fairy tale. Hans Christian Andersen


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