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

“And Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac.” (Genesis 25:5)

Parashat Chayei Sarah declares “And Abraham was old, and come into days, and God blessed Abraham bakol, in all.” (Gen. 24:1) It’s a little surprising to read because the first Jewish family is a mess: Isaac and Abraham have not spoken since returning from the mountaintop and Sarah dies in the second verse of the parasha (portion). This is a blessing?

The rabbis of the Talmud use word play to resolve this apparent contradiction. They claim the blessing is a daughter named Bakol (Babylonian Talmud Bava Batra 16b). Rabbi Zev Wolf of Zhitomir (?-1800; disciple of the Maggid of Mezrich and a chassidic leader) builds on this interpretation explaining we use different words to “name” the Shekhina, the feminine manifestation of God’s presence in the world, depending on whether we see her in plants, animals, or birds. Abraham understands the Shekhina resides in everything and so he looks for, and sees her, and tries to find the right name for her, bakol, in all—even in the midst of personal turmoil and familial disarray.

Art Green, (1941-; scholar of Jewish mysticism and Neo-Hasidism and Dean of the rabbinical program at Hebrew College in Boston) concludes from Wolf’s interpretation love is the key and love is the link. Just as Abraham loves his daughter, he also loves the Shekhina. His particular love for his daughter catalyzes his universal love of all. Abraham is the paradigmatic exemplar of the one who is wealthy because he is happy—not merely satisfied—with his portion, or, all he has. This is Abraham’s blessing.

Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom


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