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The entire cycle of human life is portrayed for us in this week’s Torah reading. The first part of the parsha deals with the inevitable reality of human mortality. The Torah teaches us the concept of Jewish burial – its simplicity and honesty, and the restorative treatment of grief. Avraham mourns the loss of his life’s companion and support. The Torah does not tell us what he said in detail but it does tell us that he did eulogize her, for eulogies are for the benefit of the living as much as they are for the honor and memory of the deceased beloved one.

The Torah also records for us that Abraham wept at the loss he sustained. Weeping is not so much in style in our modern society. The funeral parlors in the Diaspora usually do all in their power to mask the reality of their business. Funerals are now called celebrations of life and other such phony euphemisms. In the medieval world death was real and a constant presence in life.
Anyone who has visited Prague as a tourist will have the tower clock struck by the Angel of Death every hour indelibly etched in his mind and memory. But a life spent dwelling on death is pretty much a wasted life. The Torah instructed us to choose life. So, all of Judaism is life-centered. The true celebration of life never takes place at a funeral. It takes place in the everyday activities of life, in purposeful endeavors and in the promotion of the inestimable value of life.
Our current enemies celebrate death - suicide missions, hatred and murder. We have to continue to choose life, no matter what.
The bulk of the parsha deals with marriage and the process of finding the proper mate for life. Such a process is so complicated and fraught with significant possibilities of error and sadness. Therefore Judaism traditionally invoked Divine aid in seeking a mate in marriage.
And that it is what Eliezer, Avraham’s servant and agent does in attempting to find the right wife for Yitzchak. But, he also tests her to see what her character truly is. How much compassion and kindness is within her persona and what type of wife would she make for the heir to Avraham’s vision of monotheism and humanity – are the issues that Eliezer has to address in his search for a mate for Yitzchak.
If the beginning of the parsha deals with the proper and healthy attitude towards human mortality, the other part of the parsha deals with life, family and nation building. It teaches us that proper, moral, compassionate people are necessary for God’s work to be accomplished in this world.
It also teaches that one must be willing to commit in order to build a successful marriage and an eternal family. Lack of such committed courage and fear of the unknown are the enemies of the continuity of the Jewish family and the survival of the Jewish people generally. This parsha has very important lessons to impart to us.
Shabbat shalom
Rabbi Berel Wein          

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