Parashat Chaye Sarah – November 3, 2018 – 25 Cheshvan 5779

Ha-Makom Yinachem…

Our Parasha begins with reporting the death of Sarah. “And Abraham came to eulogize Sarah and to weep for her.” It has been pointed out that the wording here is counter-intuitive. It would be expected from one suffering the death of his beloved that he would cry first and afterwards eulogize. Why the reverse order?

The Book of Ezekiel contains a prophecy which says, “Behold, I take from you the delight of your eyes at a stroke… Groan silently; do not mourn.” The Talmud cites this passage and posits that it refers to the tragic situation of a sudden, unexpected death. A case in which the deceased was “snatched” away.

Death can be shocking and disorientating. Sometimes tears of mourning cannot come right away. A person may need the framing and modest emotional distance of a few words, or a eulogy, to regain a sense of equilibrium. Whereas some may find it “too early” for words, another may “groan silently” until the right words, carefully chosen, allow the more raw expressions of profound loss, wailing and tears, to well up. Perhaps Abraham found at first he could not cry for Sarah. He eulogized her, and then his tears flowed.

Terrible sadness, anger, and a range of unhappy emotions hammer us as we reel from the blow of the anti-Semitic atrocity perpetrated at the Tree of life synagogue in Pittsburgh. Some of us were immediately moved to tears on the behalf of the victims, fellow Jews at prayer, and for the courageous police officers wounded while trying to save them. Some of us may need the acknowledgment of words to begin to fully absorb the tragedy. Whether it moves from tears to words, or from words to tears, mourning is a process. “May God console the mourners in the midst of all mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.”

B’yedidut (w/friendship),

Rabbi Mitch Levine