Chayei Sara Batmitzvah
Dear Rabbi Wayland and Suzanne, family, friends and the Woodside Park congregation. Shabbat Shalom.
The Sedra of Chayei Sarah opens with the verse “Sarah’s lifetime was one hundred years, 20 years and 7 years. The years of Sarah’s life.” Rashi, an 11th century commentator explains that the repetition of years divides Sarah’s life into three periods. Each period is unique. At one hundred she was as sinless as a 20 year old and at 20 she still had the beauty of a 7 year old, whose beauty is natural. Part of Sarah’s greatness was that despite her beauty as an adult, all who saw her recognized her purity and innocence. It continues by telling us that Sarah died in Kiriat Arba which is Hebron and Avraham came to eulogize Sarah and weep for her. Avraham eulogized for his beloved wife Sarah by emphasizing her wonderful qualities that had become associated with her name. Avraham’s grief was private. The name of the Sedra is Chayei Sarah, Sarah’s life but what is described in the first 2 verses is not Sarah’s life but Sarah’s death.
The Sedra shows Jewish respect for the dead and concern for the future. Avraham desired to give Sarah a proper burial in a place worthy of her greatness. Avraham wished to bury Sarah in the cave of Machpelah where Adam and Eve are buried. He approaches the Hittites who respond “Avraham is a prince of G-d in our midst.” Later on Avraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah (Lay-a) are buried there. Rachel, who died during childbirth, is buried in Bet Lehem.
The Sedra moves on a mission to find a suitable wife for Isaac. Finding a wife for Isaac will help him console over his mother’s death. Isaac was 37 years old when Sarah died. Avraham now took it upon himself to provide for the future. Isaac’s wife had to be a suitable successor to his mother. His wife should also be a matriarch. To find such a woman, Avraham sent his trusted servant, Eliezer, to his and Sarah’s family to their ancestral home.
Eliezer was looking for a kind girl. According to one commentator, he was interested in a girl who would go to draw water herself and not let her servants do it for her. Eliezer’s wish was granted by the girl whose name is Rebecca. Rebecca passed the test. She lowered the jug herself to spare Eliezer the effort. She actually brought the jug near his mouth so that he wouldn’t even have to hold it. By her own initiative, she gave water to the camels. According to Ramban, a 13th century commentator living in Spain, Rebecca’s sheer physical effort to draw water for the camels was the great proof of her kindness. Rebecca is the symbol of kindness. Loving kindness is one of the important attributes in Judaism. Gemiloot Hasadim.
Following the chance meeting of Eliezer with Rebecca at the well, we are told that Lavan, Rebecca’s brother, ran outside to greet the men who had given his sister rich gifts and invites them home. After Eliezer tends to his camels, Eliezer and his men wash and refresh. When everything had been organized food is served to Eliezer. Eliezer refuses to eat until he has spoken his piece.
The commentators ask why was Eliezer so adamant about not eating until he had spoken. Since the food has already been put in front of him, he should first have eaten and then explained his reason for coming.
Lavan behaved in an uncharacteristic way. He is running to meet Eliezer explaining that he has cleaned the house for him and prepared everything needed for him and his camels. It would be surprising to hear that Lavan went out of his way for a noble person yet here he does so for a servant. Lavan thought that he was actually addressing Avraham because Eliezer’s features resembled those of Avraham and that is why he gave him so much honor. It can therefore be understood that the reason why Lavan went out of his way to greet Eliezer was because he thought that it was Avraham.
On Rebecca's arrival to Canaan when she encountered Isaac, she got off the camel as a sign of modesty and covered her face with a vail.
The tradition of Bedeken literally covering is the ceremony where the groom vails the bride in a Jewish wedding prior to the ceremony under the chuppah. Accompanied by his father, the rabbi and other guests the groom covers the brides face with a vail. The vailing itself is a symbol of modesty based upon the connection with Rebecca meeting Isaac. The practice of the groom uncovering the vail comes from when Jacob married Leah (lay-a) because her face was veiled when he really wanted to marry Rachel, her sister.
The first city in which Avraham lived within the borders of Eretz Yitsrael was Hebron. Kiriat Arba is another name for Hebron some say it is near Hebron. There are many explanations for the name. The main one is that it was named after the 4 giants who ruled there before the conquest by Joshua and the Israelites. Hebron was also a city of refuge for a person who committed manslaughter and was compelled to live there until the death of the High Priest. King David made it his capital and ruled there for 7 and a half years until he was called by the Elders of Israel to rule in Jerusalem. Hebron is one of the 4 holy Cities of Israel together with Jerusalem, Zafed and Tiberius.
My name is Katie.
I have attended Woodside Park Chedar since Year One and I have recently started at JFS School which is the same school that my older sister Hannah attends. By sheer coincidence my sister Hannah’s Bat Mitzvah took place in this shul on the same Shabbat five years ago.
My Hebrew name is Leah, the same name as one of the four mothers. We are blessed every Friday night to be like Sarah, Rivka, Leah and Rachel.
I am a keen netball player and I have been playing for 2 years as a goal shooter.
In 2009, three generations of my family, along with supporters and friends, took part in a walk for wellbeing in Regents Park to raise awareness for Mental Health. We raised £36,000 for the Martin B Cohen Centre in Edgware and I am very proud of everybody who took part and their achievements. This August there was a Golf Day also for this charity and we raised another astonishing £32,000.
I am a member of the Chickenshed Theatre Company which is an acting school for children with and without special needs. All the funds go towards helping more children with special needs to act and express themselves just like the rest of us.
I love nature and would consider being a photographer capturing nature in its beauty. One of the mitzvot in Judaism is looking after animals and nature.
I would like to thank my parents, Nikki and Richard, for their love and encouragement, (pause) my sister Hannah for her guidance and support, (pause) and my Grandparents, Ruth, Geoffrey, Janet and Brian (who I am very lucky to have here with me today) for always being there for me.
I hope you have enjoyed my Devar Torah.