Chayei Sarah — Genesis 23:1-25:18, The Parashat Hashavua for Saturday, November 3, 2018

We call our Torah, Etz Chayim, a Tree of Life. How cruel then, that 11 Jews were murdered in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh this last Shabbat. How do we take in the horror of this crime? We are shocked by the worst mass killing of Jews in American history. But this is not the first time innocent Jews have been victims of hateful violence. We just have not experienced it here. How should we respond, with more hatred, with fear, or with healing and unity? Our Torah teaches us always to choose life, that we must strive to come together. We see that in this week’s Torah portion. Ishmael and Isaac have been estranged for most of their lives since Abraham and Sarah drove Ishmael out of the family after Isaac’s birth. But here, near the end of this week’s parsha, we read, “And Abraham breathed his last, dying at a good ripe age, old and contented; and he was gathered to his kin.  His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron son of Zohar the Hittite, facing Mamre,” (Genesis 25:8-9) Our sages teach that later in life, Isaac sought out his brother Ishmael and visited him at his camp. Over time Isaac healed the wounds that divided them and they came together again as brothers. This is how they could bury their father together. Our Torah teaches us that we must answer hate with love and defy anyone who tries to divide us, by working for unity, connection and equality for all. Our lives depend on it.