Let’s talk about life after death

Between Us

Although it is called Chayei Sarah (“the life of Sarah”), this week’s parasha is actually about her death.

While grieving for his lifelong partner, Abraham purchases a burial site from the Hittites in a cave named Machpelah (located by Muslim and Jewish tradition in the city of Hebron). It is the first purchase of real estate by a Jew in what is today Israel. Following the burial of Sarah, Abraham reaffirms her life by seeking a wife for their son, Isaac.

Sarah’s death prompted two key responses from Abraham: the purchase of land and the perpetuation of the people. Both are critical for our survival as a Jewish community, made that much clearer to the large delegation of 125 community members who just returned from Federation’s Israel YOUR Way mission to Israel. The critical importance of the land of Israel – and the security of its citizens – was made abundantly clear to each of our mission participants throughout our journey. It is absolutely imperative that the land – and the people – of Israel be secure in order for Jewish peoplehood to be sustained.

A turning point in Israeli history took place 20 years ago this week, when Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated over this same issue of land and Jewish continuity. His assassin, Yigal Amir, was a religious extremist who believed that Rabin was taking Israel in the wrong direction in pursuing “land for peace.” Amir’s gunshot that fatefulnight ripped a hole in the fabric of Israeli society which has not fully healed.

In Israel last Saturday night,100,000 Israelis gathered in Rabin Square to honor his memory. Several events are being held throughout our own community to commemorate Rabin’s legacy, including a special presentation at the JCCGW on Wednesday, November 11 by Dan Ephron, author of the recently-published, “Killing a King: The Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and the Remaking of Israel” at the Lessans Family Annual Book Festival.

We all have an important role to play in our community’s ongoing story, through the continuity of Jewish life both in Israel and here in Greater Washington. Like Abraham in this week’s portion, we can reaffirm life by honoring our past, living active and engaged Jewish lives today and investing in our future.