The Torah portion, or parasha, this week is Chayei Sarah and is found in Genesis 23:1-25:18. In this parasha, Sarah dies at 127, and Abraham approaches the Hittites about acquiring a burial place. He bargains with Ephron and buys the cave of Machpelah and the surrounding field from him. Abraham sends his senior servant, Eliezer, to his family in Aram-naharaim to find an appropriate bride for Isaac. Eliezer arrives at his destination and asks God for a sign – the woman who will become Isaac’s wife would be kind and generous, offering to draw water for Eliezer and his camels. Almost immediately Rebecca arrives at the well and passes Eliezer’s test. Eliezer learns that she is the granddaughter of Abraham’s brother Nahor and realizes that God has guided him to the right woman. Eliezer is invited to Rebecca’s home, where he explains the purpose of his journey to her brother, Laban, and her father, Bethuel. They agree to allow Rebecca to go with Eliezer. Rebecca also agrees and accompanies Eliezer to Canaan, where she becomes Isaac’s wife and comforts him after his mother’s death. Abraham later marries Keturah and fathers six more sons, although Isaac is his sole heir. Abraham dies at the age of 175 and both Isaac and Ishmael bury him alongside Sarah in the cave of Machpelah. The parashah concludes with the genealogy of Ishmael’s descendants.
This parasha focuses on incidents of respect and caring for others. Eliezer could have focused on finding a woman that was wise, belonged to the right family, showed skill in household and management skills, or a host of other qualities. Instead, Eliezer was most concerned that the woman be kind and generous and would demonstrate this generosity and hospitality by offering water, not only for him, but for his camels as well. These were characteristics that Abraham was known for. When Eliezer found a woman fitting that description, he found out that Rebecca was also kin and a skillful and wise woman. Her caring nature allowed her to become a comfort to Isaac. Second, we see the importance of respecting and caring for people in death as well as in life. Abraham goes out of his way to buy a proper burial site for Sarah and Ishmael and Isaac come together to bury their father with Sarah. As we go through this week, may we look for the ways that we can respect and care for others around us.