Friday, October 25, 2013

Parsha Perspective

By Rabbi Yisroel Shusterman, Dean, Cheder Chabad of Monsey

Imagine the holy son of a saintly Rebbe marrying the daughter of a renowned atheist, straight off a socialist commune. Pretty far-fetched, no?

This week's Torah portion Chaye Sarah (Bereishis [Genesis] 23:1-25:18) talks of a very similar shidduch (match). We read the story of the marriage of Isaac and Rebecca -- the first Jewish wedding. The shadchan (matchmaker) who conjured this shidduch certainly had a very active imagination. It is difficult to find two people who stemmed from more different environments.

On one side there was Isaac, the first Jew who was "holy from birth," born to righteous parents and entered into the covenant with G‑d when he was eight days old. He was raised in a home of holiness and purity, and was consecrated to G‑d when he was "sacrificed" by his father on Mount Moriah. He was so holy, in fact, that he was forbidden to leave the sacred confines of the Land of Israel.

Rebecca, on the other hand, was "a rose amongst thorns." She was the daughter of the pagan Betuel and sister of Laban, who was notorious for his dishonorable character and his deceptive habits. She was raised in Charan, which due to the corruption of its inhabitants, was dubbed "the place of G‑d's wrath." The culture clash must have been enormous.

Eliezer, Abraham's trusted servant, was charged with the mission of extracting Rebecca from her father's home and bringing her to her Isaac in the land of Canaan. Most of this week's portion is devoted to telling the story of Eliezer's mission in great detail.

We can bring together Mars and Venus. The first Jewish wedding – and its inherent strangeness – is so elaborately described in the Torah because it is a metaphor for our mission in life. We are all Eliezers. And our mission is to affect a shidduch even stranger than the one which Eliezer facilitated.

We are sent to this world to bring together in holy matrimony the eminent groom, G‑d A-mighty, and the reluctant bride, this mundane world. Seemingly, no two greater opposites exist: G‑d radiates selflessness and spirituality, while the world exudes egotism and the primacy of materialism. Yet, we are expected to unite the two in perfect harmony by living spiritual G‑dly lives in this hostile environment, thus revealing within the world its truest, but deeply buried, nature -- its G‑dly essence. We can infuse our every act, even the most mundane ones, with spirituality and meaning; we can bring together Mars and Venus.

The Jew is the perfect shadchan because he, too, is a juxtaposition of two opposites -- a corporeal body and its needs and desires, and a divine soul with a burning love for her Creator. The Jew who successfully synthesizes these two conflicting parts of his psyche by recognizing the body for what it really is – an aircraft which when conditioned properly can lift its pilot, the soul, to dazzling heights – is perfectly positioned to create the same fusion between the body of the world and its supernal soul.

The Midrash says that G‑d betrothed us at Mount Sinai, and the date of the wedding is rapidly approaching; scheduled for when Moshiach comes. The collective efforts of all the shadchans throughout the generations will finally pay off -- when we will all rejoice at the greatest wedding of all time, to be celebrated with much pomp in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

(Excerpts from Chabad.org - by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg)

May you have a meaningful and uplifting Shabbos!

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