Sedra of the week: Chayei Sarah

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Sedra of the week: Chayei Sarah

 Rabbi Alex Chapper looks ahead to this weeks portion of the Torah

He was blessed with everything you could wish for: wealth, fame and long life. But there was one thing Abraham was concerned with more than anything else – he desperately wanted a wife for his son, Isaac.  

He instructs Eliezer, his most faithful servant, to find a match not only as a wife for Isaac, but also as a spiritual successor to Sarah, Abraham’s late wife. What is most striking are the specific directions Abraham gives to Eliezer, even making him swear ‘not to take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose midst I dwell’. 

Abraham is adamant that the girl cannot be a local, but must hail from his ancestral homeland of Charan and she must agree to live in the holy land of Israel. Why does Abraham make this strange stipulation? What is his objection to a wife being found among the indigenous population?  

The Kli Yakar (R’Shlomo Ephraim Luntschitz) explains that Abraham had educated Isaac to believe in one God and he was extremely concerned that all this could be undermined if he either married one of his polytheist neighbours or lived among the immoral inhabitants of his homeland. The only way to protect them from the dual set of negative pressures was to extract Isaac’s future wife from Charan and for them to live together in Israel.

Abraham understood the impact environment has on a person, how much we are influenced by those who surround us and the extent to which the prevailing culture affects us.  

It is only right we invest significant resources into educating our children, but this is only one part of their overall development. Of at least equal importance is the environment in which they live and especially the influences to which they are exposed and those from which they need to be protected. Abraham was acutely aware that in attempting to secure our children’s future, we ignore, at their peril, the many negatives of the surrounding culture.

  •  Rabbi Alex Chapper serves Borehamwood and Elstree United Synagogue

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