Chayei Sarah – When a Father Can No Longer Give — By Ben

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In Chayei Sarah, Avraham makes his last appearance in the Torah. After all he has done; brining monotheism back into the world, fighting a war, being the father of two nations, and a multitude of other holy accomplishments… he will do 3 final acts before dying. 1) Purchase a family tomb at the cave of Machpelah so he can bury Sarah. 2) Find a wife for his son. 3) Ride off into the sunset (or sunrise, cause he goes to the far east).

But the second act Avraham doesn’t do himself. Instead he charges his trusted servant Eliezar with the mission. Which is odd if you think about it. Eliezar isn’t Jewish (per se) and he doesn’t have prophesy like Avraham does, but he is going to be given task of finding the new mother for what will become the nation of Israel? The pshat (surface understanding) is that Avraham is too old to find Yitzchak’s wife. But Avraham isn’t too told to travel to the far east and get remarried giving birth to 6 more sons? Another understanding is that Avraham didn’t want to return to his hometown of Charan (where he will send Eliezar). Granted, I’m not a fan of going home that often myself, but c’mon, even I go back for the sake of family now and then!  I don’t have a good answer for this question. But a possibility dawned on me recently. It’s not an official answer, just my take.

It was a Thanksgiving not terribly long ago…

…that I was going through a difficult time. The writing project that was supposed to be my break into the industry was becoming worrisome. My boss had stopped returning my calls and hadn’t paid me for almost a month. I had quit my day job to focus on said writing project and was now up the proverbial creek without much of a paddle. I had some savings but as luck would have it I had developed two cavities and my monthly health insurance premiums were going up. Point being that even if I did go back to waiting tables, the cost of living in Los Angeles was becoming too much to handle anymore.

Going home for Thanksgiving has never been easy for me. I’m not terribly comfortable around my family to begin with and being a struggling artist can rob one of the confidence necessary to deal with difficult questions about his/her future. But now in my early thirties and having just been dumped before the holiday, I was particularly vulnerable. Family inquiries of “what’s wrong” can only be held off for so long with, “nothing, just tired from the flight,” or “that sandwich isn’t sitting well.”

Finally, after dinner, I reached a breaking point. I was sitting in the basement on my air mattress when my father came in looking for something to drink from the downstairs refrigerator. With no hidden agenda he asked affably , “Hey Ben, you doing okay?” To which I replied, “No Dad. I don’t think I am.”

What proceeded was a tear-filled and desperate confession of worries and uncertainties about what was to come. I was vulnerable to my father in ways I hadn’t been since before I was a teenager. And now, feeling broken and a failure, it was my father’s turn to talk.

There is no doubt in my mind that my father loves me and wants nothing but the best for me. Unfortunately, being a science-minded neurologist, he had no idea what words I needed to hear. His consolations were suggestions of career change, go back to school, “this industry is a hard business and not everyone succeeds.” But what I needed to hear was reassurance that life is a rollercoaster and that even though I was down, I had been more up that year than I had ever been. That he had seen my growth of building relationships in multiple cities both professional or personal. And most importantly, that he believed in me. That the plays I had written and the movies I had filmed had a unique viewpoint with an increasingly improving craft.

Beyond a Father

My father couldn’t say those things, he didn’t know how to. Though I do honestly believe that is how he felt, his ability to express the sentiments were beyond him. Because even though a father may be a master of his world, a day had come where he’s simply wasn’t equipped to help his son with his problems.

I don’t know if this has anything to do with why Eliezar was sent to find Rivka. But after having just buried Sarah and having almost sacrificed his son, it makes me wonder if, for whatever reason, Avraham couldn’t help Yitzchak this time.

 

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