Parshat Chayei Sarah: Three Years Since Pittsburgh
וַיְבִאֶ֣הָ יִצְחָ֗ק הָאֹ֙הֱלָה֙ שָׂרָ֣ה אִמּ֔וֹ וַיִּקַּ֧ח אֶת־רִבְקָ֛ה וַתְּהִי־ל֥וֹ לְאִשָּׁ֖ה וַיֶּאֱהָבֶ֑הָ וַיִּנָּחֵ֥ם יִצְחָ֖ק אַחֲרֵ֥י אִמּֽוֹ׃
Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he took Rebecca as his wife. Isaac loved her, and thus found comfort after his mother’s death.
When we lose someone tragically, the words comfort and peace seem elusive and shallow. We are never told how or when Isaac hears that his mother Sarah died, but it seems he never got a chance to say goodbye. Isaac comes down with Abraham from the mountain after the near death experience of the akeida only to discover that his mother died. He reacts by leaving home. His relationship with his father strained, his relationship with his beloved mother cut short.
When we next see Isaac, three years have passed in his wandering. We find him in the hometown of of Sarah’s old handmaid Hagar, and Hagar’s son Ishmael. Was Isaac looking for a mother figure? Was he looking for support in his older brother? He seemed to be lost, though I believe his soul was seeking out peace and comfort in the face of grief.
During one of his strolls, he unexpectedly finds what his soul was seeking. It came in the form of the matriarch Rebecca, and, in her, Isaac finds love. He rediscovers the light that was lost with his mother’s death. He finds peace because he finds love.
I don’t mind if it sounds trite, because it’s true: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that.” When we are faced with hate, we need love. When we are overcome with grief, we need love. Peace means finding someone to love and being loved. We can find love in a friend, a brother or a sister, a pet, or maybe even a stranger. To drive away the darkness, we must shine love. In their names, may we drive out hate and help the grieving find comfort by shining love a little brighter:
Their lives cut short at the Tree of Life Synagogue on October 27, 2018.
Below are examples of the artwork displayed around the Tree of Life Synagogue. Thank you to Randi Weiss for them.