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Friday - Shabbat, October 29 & 30  - Parshat Chayei Sarah

Torah Reading: Chayei Sarah (Genesis 23:1 - 25:18)
Candle Lighting  5:37 PM
Shabbat ends 6:37 PM

Chain Reaction  

In this week’s parsha, Eliezer, the servant of the Patriarch Abraham, is sent on a mission to Charan to find a suitable wife for his master’s son, Isaac. When he arrives in Charan, he prays to G‑d that he should find the one destined for his Isaac. Soon after concluding his prayer, he finds Rebecca who consents to become Isaac’s wife. This incident, arguably, is the fastest response to a prayer on record!

Eliezer’s prayer is introduced with the word Vayomer, meaning “And he said.” While there is nothing unusual with that introductory word, there is something quite unusual about the musical note (trop) that is connected to this word, which tells us how to chant that word when we read the Torah publicly on Shabbat morning.

The shalshelet note appears only four times throughout the entire Five Books of Moses, so it is strange that a prosaic word like “And he said,” should have a note that is so unique. There must be a deeper message contained in this note and its appearance here.

The shalshelet note resembles and sounds like its translation, a chain of three, shalosh. When one chants the Torah, this note sounds like a chain of three notes, each taking the one who chants it to a higher level.

There are two, interlinking (pun intended) ways of explaining this rare note and its appearance here in the narrative of Eliezer finding a wife for Isaac:

Eleizer’s prayer to G‑d was about finding a match for Isaac. Ostensibly, it is about two individuals who would be brought together in marriage. This might be a touching scene, but by adding the shalshelet note here, the Torah wishes to inform us that the events that will follow are infinitely more significant.

This match—the first to be mentioned in the Torah—was the linchpin that would link Abraham to Jacob—the three Patriarchs—thereby creating a powerful chain reaction that would last for all eternity. Had this marriage not materialized, Abraham’s contribution and legacy would have been abruptly aborted or fizzled out little by little. The shalshelet note, thus, alludes to the power of the three links—Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—that helped to forge a Jewish nation.

Secondly, when Eliezer prayed to G‑d to find a suitable match for Isaac, he recognized that this event was not just about the marriage of two important people. The very insightful, devoted and even prescient servant of Abraham saw the future in this marriage. He saw an entire chain of generations that would bring light and inspiration to the entire world – a light that would lead inexorably to the final Redemption through Moshiach. He is about to introduce a new family to the world that will lead to a chain of events that will impact all of human history in unparalleled ways.

Indeed, Judaism is all about interlocking links that connect our past to us and us to our past. Judaism is all about the links of tradition, that facilitate the transmission of the teachings of the Torah—particularly the Oral Torah—from one generation to the next. The same spiritual, ethical, moral and legal teachings that our ancestors lived and died for, are in our hands today thanks to the fact that there is a shalshelet that has never been broken.

In truth, there are many individuals whose ties to the past have been weakened considerably, or completely severed. These are the lost Jews who have forgotten that they are part of this chain. For the first time in history, perhaps, we have Jews who have so strayed from their own past that they know nothing about what it means to be a Jew. Some even have rebelled against Judaism and the Jewish people. But even worse, there are indifferent Jews. Jews whodont even care enough to rebel, argue and debate. The rebels among us are struggling with their identities; a sure sign that all is not lost. The energy with which they resist Judaism can then be channeled into a positive identification with Judaism.

It is the indifferent Jew that seemingly lacks even a trace of energy and interest when it comes to Jewish matters. The shalshelet note does not resonate with him; its sounds are totally muffled.

It is concerning these so-called “lost” souls that the last prophet Malachi discussed at the end of the Biblical era. He predicted that during the Messianic Age, Elijah the prophet will come and “restore the hearts of the parents to the children and the hearts of the children to the parents.” This prophecy, made about 2,400 years ago, was that the chain will be made whole again.

Indeed, according to Rashi, the first part of that verse makes an even greater claim: “He will restore the hearts of the parents through the children…” It is the young generation that will arise and recognize that they have a link to somewhere, someone, something, and will search and not rest until they find its matching link. These young people will search with more intensity and drive than their own parents. It is they, the prophet says, who will in turn bring their parents back to the chain of tradition. This prophecy has materialized before our very eyes. Tens of thousands of young people have, in the last few decades, rediscovered their Jewish roots, and have restored the shalshelet/chain to its original position.

Our task is to listen to the voices of the youth—literally and the spirit of youth embedded in our souls—and help them help us reconnect to the shalshelet; which, in its completed state, will link Abraham, Isaac, Jacob to Moses and Mount Sinai, and Moses to/through our generation to Moshiach.

Moshiach Matters 

While Maimonides writes that Judaism has 13 fundamental principles, or Ikarim, and includes the belief in Moshiach’s imminent arrival as one of them, the Chofetz Chaim goes one step further. He calls the belief in Moshiach the “Ikar HaIkarim - the principle of all principles.” According to him, belief in Moshiach is even more fundamental to Judaism than the other 12 principles enumerated by Maimonides. 
Moshiach - It’s a Jewish issue. For more info, visit 

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