Thursday, December 22, 2005

Chaye Sarah

Gen. 24:53-67

After that unnerving, dream-like experience with my father and the subsequent death of my mother, I fled. I could no longer bear the burden of being the focus of all his impossible expectations – that strange, God-touched man, my father.

And where did I go? I sought out my brother, Ishmael, whom I had not seen since I was a child. I barely remembered him, but in those memories he was a huge, god-like figure, strong and outgoing with a booming laugh that seemed to make the earth vibrate under my feet. I found him at Beer-lahai-roi, where his mother had first heard the voice of God – one more thing for which my mother had never forgiven her.

He was still the same, large and hairy and smelling of the outdoors, and he welcomed me with tears in his eyes and a bone-crushing hug. We spoke about the abandonment we had both suffered at the hands of our father, and how he had come to terms with it. Expansive in his feelings as well as his gestures, he had long ago forgiven Abraham, and had been in contact with him over the years. Yet he had not felt that he could get in touch with me.

“How was I to know what Sarah had told you?” he said sadly. “You were so young. I was tickling you and roughhousing with you, throwing you in the air, and you were squealing with delight. Perhaps she could not bear seeing us friends, or perhaps she really was afraid that I would hurt you.” I could only shake my head. Her bitterness had remained unabated, except maybe at the end, when she had stood in Hagar’s shoes, facing the death of her only child.

“Do you think that was why he did it?” I asked. “So that she would know what he and Hagar had felt, when she insisted that he cast you out?”

He did not think so. Abraham was utterly serious about his God, and would never use Him as an excuse for petty revenge. “There may have been an element of it, though, and of justice. Abraham and his God are both obsessed with justice.” However, his mother had lived many years, and I still suspected that the terror Sarah had felt had contributed to her death.

I returned home, however, more at peace than I had been for many months. On the first day afterward I was walking in the fields, my heart still aching for all the pain my family had put itself through, when I beheld a procession coming towards me. My father’s old servant, Eliezer, hastened up to me and presented a veiled woman to me as my cousin Rivkah, who was to be my bride. I could see her eyes sparkling at me behind the veil, and her voice, low and musical, reminded me of my mother’s. My heart lifted. This would be a new beginning. We would never tear the family asunder with jealousy and favoritism, as my parents had done.

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