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It’s all about connections. Without connections we feel discombobulated, adrift, uneasy. Connections with people, followed by connections with places, help to keep us grounded, to feel that we have a solid base to come home to.
One of the most difficult effects of the corona virus (aside from the deaths it causes) is that it cuts us off from some of these connections, and forces us to improvise new means of contact with others and with the world around us. Goodbye visits. Hello Zoom.
In a way, our parsha is all about connections. We have the end of the connection between Avraham and Sarah, as she dies at the age of 127. This leads to Avraham’s seeking a connection with a place he can call his own. By his own definition he is a stranger and resident, or “resident alien” according to one of the popular translations. He wants to be more than that. He wants to be a part of the place, by owning a piece of land. And that piece of land, the Machpela Cave, will be used for creating a continuous connection between the living and the dead.
In the next story we read of Avraham’s desire to make a connection for Yitzhak, his recently reborn son. He sends his trusted servant Eliezer back to Avraham’s homeland. Did he want a connection with a place as pagan and Canaan? Actually, the commentators said he was seeking a bride who would have no other connections to turn to, so that Avraham’s family would be the sole source of support.
Eliezer makes the trip, finds Rivka, from Avraham’s family, and she, with remarkable alacrity, agrees to cut her connections with her family and travel to Canaan and link up with that branch of the family. That says something about relations with Laban and the rest of the family in Aram Naharaim.
The connection between Rivka and Yitzhak seems to be immediate. They seem to be on the same wavelength. In a remarkable statement, we read that Yitzhak took Rivka into the tent of his mother, Sarah – who was already dead.
Here we see the physical and symbolic connection that Yitzhak makes between his mother and his bride. The young Rivka will continue to carry the torch of Sarah, and fill Yitzhak’s need for human connection with the family (after all, he was not on the best of terms with his father).
When the matter of the next generation is resolved, the story returns to Avraham, who is alone. But not for long. We read that he takes another wife, named Keturah, and the Midrash tells us that Keturah was actually Hagar, Sarah’s former maidservant and the mother of Ishmael. Connections that were severed earlier are reconnected here.
And finally, it comes time for Avraham to join Sarah, at age 175. Here, we seal the final connections. Avraham is reunited with his soulmate Sarah in the cave that he bought to connect him to the land, the Machpelah Cave, and the burial is attended by the reunited brothers Yitzhak and Ishmael. Again, the whole family is together. And to top it off, we read that Yitzhak settles in Beer Lahai Ro’i, the well where Hagar found water for Ishmael and herself and where she may have settled.
Connections. We long for them. We need them to give our lives more substance than simply going from activity to activity in a vacuum. We need connections to stimulate thought, feeling, activity.
Our parsha is full of connections. Hopefully our lives will return to a full complement of connections in the near future.