A Delicate Balance by Rabbi Darren Blackstein


Parashat Chayei Sarah contains a series of events that constitutes a virtual rollercoaster of emotions.

We first read about the heart-wrenching death of Sarah.  We witness Avraham’s grief and his determination in fulfilling the sacred task of acquiring a burial plot for her.  Avraham understands that life must continue, so he proceeds to find a wife for his son, Yitzchak.  Yitzchak marries Rivkah, Avraham remarries, and, at a later time, he passes away.  Towards the beginning of the Parasha, the Midrash points out that the end of Parashat VaYeira and the beginning of Parashat Chayei Sarah echo a message from Kohelet, “VeZarach HaShemesh UVa HaShamesh,” “The sun rises and the sun sets” (1:5).  We first read about the birth of Rivkah and then are told of the passing of Sarah.  The Midrash lists great people and demonstrates that before one passed away, the one who would carry on was already born.  This seems to provide us with some degree of consolation.  We at least can have faith in the fact that Hashem preserves a type of universal balance and that loss is compensated for.

Perhaps this is a reflection of another sequence of events that we find in Parashat Bereishit.  Only after man transgresses and is subject to passing away (chapter 3) do we read about his children (chapter 4).  Marriage and children are functions of continuity.  We react to a loss by moving on to an area of gain.  Avraham exemplifies this by searching for a wife for Yitzchak after Sarah’s passing.  It should be noted that this balance is fragile.  It is not an issue of substitution; it is an issue of continuity.

Does Yitzchak perceive this continuity?  We read, at the end of chapter 24, that Yitzchak brought Rivkah into Sarah’s tent.  The Midrash tells us that some form of Hashem’s Presence hovered over that tent as long as Sarah was alive and that when she passed away, the Presence left.  When Rivkah entered, Hashem’s Presence returned.  It seems that this Midrash is telling us that this also was a signal to Yitzchak that Rivkah would follow in Sarah’s footsteps, upholding the values for which his family stood.  This would preserve the balance and provide continuity.  However, one problem remains: Why does the Torah delay telling us that Yitzchak was consoled?  Only after we are told that he brought Rivkah into the tent, married her, that she became his wife, and that he loved her does the Pasuk say that he was consoled (24:67).  Perhaps we are to learn from this that consolation may not be immediate.  It took time for Yitzchak and Rivkah to function as a unit, hence the need to say that she became his wife.  The Torah then tells us that he loved her.  True love takes time to develop, and marriage should nurture that.  Only then was Yitzchak consoled.

The balance between loss and consolation is a delicate one.  Sometimes we are fortunate, like Yitzchak, and seem to recognize the hand of Hashem as the balance is preserved.  Sometimes, though, we are not so fortunate, and the equation seems to remain unbalanced.  The latter case would, in some way, resemble Avraham’s experience.  The Torah does not mention that Avraham was consoled.  He knew that Yitzchak was settled, but this did not console him.  He understood Hashem’s promise of a balance, and that was enough, apparently.  Was his heart broken?  Probably.  Was his Emunah truly shaken?  Not for a minute!  May we be blessed with Yitzchak’s Mazal to notice the balance, and may we also be blessed with Avraham’s fortitude when our vision is obscured.

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