Participate in the promises of G-d!

Hayei Sarah (Sarah’s Life) B’resheet/Genesis 23:1-25:18

Haftorah Reading: I Kings 1:1-31

Tonight we read of two important events in this Torah portion. The first one deals with the purchase by Avraham, of a field and cave to bury his wife Sarah. The second subject deals with a mission to find a wife for his son Isaac. What is important here, and in other places in Torah, is the extent scripture goes to to give us the details of these two events. Usually when this happens scripture is alerting us to the fact that these events have something important to tell us. Remember the very word Torah speaks of teaching. These two occurrences here are in such detail to teach us an important lesson.

These two events cover the two most important promises G-d made to Avraham. One concerns the promise of land and the other was the promise of children. In Genesis each of these two promises are stated five times emphasizing there should be no doubt about them. G-d intended to impress upon Avraham, and upon us, that these two promises were for eternity.  

Below is a list of these promises and where they are found in Genesis. It is also amazing and worth noting these two promises have been contested throughout the centuries by the world. If we look at history we will see that this claim of the land has been a flash point over the years. It also shows us that the Jewish people have been a target of hatred and discrimination over the history of the world.

Now, I want us to think about what we can learn from this Torah portion and what these verses have to say to us on how we live our lives each day.  Both the promise of land and finding a wife for Isaac have a common thread. In Genesis 23:1-24:20 we read of the extensive bargaining that went on between Avraham and Ephron the Hittite. First, Ephron said he would give Avraham the cave and land. Then Avraham insisted on paying the full price for the property. He also wanted the transaction to be legally recorded in the records of that time, saying Avraham was the rightful owner of the property and had paid the full price. Why did Avraham go through all this when G-d had already promised him the land as an eternal possession? Why didn’t he just wait for G-d to do it?

Hold these thoughts in mind as we also look at the story of Rebekah who was to become the wife of Isaac. This story is found in Genesis 24:1-25:11. Here we can read about the process Avraham went through to find a suitable wife for his son Isaac. He sent his trusted servant to the city of Nahor, his homeland, where his family lived. He told his servant he did not want his son to marry one of the Canaanite women.

So the servant went to the city of Nahor to find a wife from the people of Mesopotamia. Rather than cover every detail we will look at several high points. When the servant arrived at his destination he asked G-d for help in finding the right girl for Isaac. He quickly met Rebekah and realized she was the one to become the wife of Isaac. He went home with her, met her family and explained his quest and who had sent him on this mission.

You may remember he gave elaborate gifts to the family and asked to take Rebekah back with him to become the wife of Isaac. In Genesis 24:55 the mother and Laban asked if she could delay her departure for a few days. In verse 56 the servant pleaded with them to not delay their return to his master. In verse 58 they called Rebekah and asked her personally if she would go with this servant. Her answer is expressed in a single Hebrew word, elek. In English this word means, I will go. What do we make of her answer and also of Avraham buying a plot of land in Israel? What quality can we see in each of these people? What does it teach us?

Avraham had the promise of G-d for land and descendants. However, he knew the fulfillment of these promises did not release him from doing his part. He knew G-d’s promises required his active participation. He could not just sit back and do nothing to bring these promises to fulfillment. G-d expects us to be His partner not just a passive observer.

Likewise, Rebekah responded with her one word answer when presented with a choice. She said, “I will go.” She didn’t delay. She didn’t ask what Isaac looked like or what her life would be like when she got there.  She didn’t ask how often she would be able to go home to see her mother again.  She showed a faith that was put into action.

I firmly believe each of us is presented with choices in our lives, maybe even presently you are being given choices. The question is how do we react.  Do we just say if G-d wants it to happen he will bring it about. Or do we become an active partner with the Father in bringing His will to fruition.  Our challenge is to look and listen for those opportunities and challenges He puts in our path and to quickly say yes to Him.

Abraham received two promises – both stated five times.

Promise of Land

  1.  Genesis 12:7 The L-rd appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the L-rd who had appeared to him.
  2. Genesis 13:14-17 The L-rd said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north, south, east and west. All the land that you see, I will give you and your offspring forever…Go walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.”
  3. Genesis 15:7 Then He said to him, “I am the L-rd, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldees to give you this land to take possession of it.”
  4. Genesis 15:18-21 On that day the L-rd made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates – the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.”
  5. Genesis 17:7-8 I will establish My covenant as an everlasting covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your G-d and the G-d of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give you as an everlasting possession to you and to your descendants after you; and I will be their G-d.

Promise of children

  1. Genesis 12:2 I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great and you will be a blessing.
  2. Genesis 13:16 I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted.
  3. Genesis 15:5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars – if indeed you can count them.” Then He said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
  4. Genesis 17:4-5 As for Me, this is My covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.
  5. Genesis 22:17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars of the sky and as the sand on the seashore.