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Parashat Chayei Sarah (Genesis 23:1-25:18)

“Thus the field with its cave passed from the Hittites to Abraham, as a burial site.” (Genesis 23:20)

Parashat Chayei Sarah opens with Sarah’s death.  Abraham approaches the local community to purchase a burial plot for her.  In the opening parley, Abraham refers to himself as a ger toshav, a resident alien (Gen. 23:4), even though the “locals,” see Abraham as, “…the elect of God among us.” (Gen.  23:6) Abraham’s lack of connection is striking; after all these years (he’s lived in Canaan for thirty years already) he still feels he does not belong.  Abraham may be from Canaan, but he is not of Canaan.    Abraham feels this so strongly, he sends his servant back to the “old country” to fetch a bride for his son.

Abraham is a useful foil for examining the results in the recently published Pew Research Center’s survey of US Jews.  Like Abraham, Jews in America are overwhelmingly proud to be Jewish (94% said so).   Unlike Abraham, though, only 72% believe in God.  And unlike Abraham, American Jews feel the local girls (and guys) will do just fine, thank you very much:  overall, 44% of married Jews’ spouses are not Jewish.  The number jumps to 58% for those married since 2000.  Of course, after Sarah’s death, there are only a couple of Jews left:  Abraham and Isaac, actually (according to Pew, Rebecca is someone with a Jewish affinity).  According to Pew, there are 6.7 million Jews in the US today, significantly more than expected.

Abraham sees himself as a ger toshav because he hears God’s voice and heeds the call to be different.  Today, many voices call to the Jews in America.  Some say be different, some say don’t be different.   Which call will be answered?

Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom


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