by Rebbetzin Malkah
The funny thing about searching for your bashert (your destined soul-mate), is that even when you find your bashert, you have only partly completed the task. For it is in helping our children through our sacred unions that they find their bashert, and finish the task which we started - to realize our own true destiny. In this mirroring dance of fates between our destiny and that of our children do we find our completion and our hope for the future. This couldn't be more true as we look into this week's parasha and see Avraham bury his beloved Sarah - his bashert - and at the same time move on to helping his son, Yitzchak, find his own destiny and carry on the promises given to Avraham and his progeny for all time.
Sarah - A Tzadekket and Spiritual Mother
As we enter into this week's parasha, the narrative begins with Sarah's death. Seeing the setting sun of a matriarch, we are reminded of the love Avraham has for Sarah at her passing:
For Avraham, the task before him is to lay his beloved to rest in the midst of his mourning. This entails bargaining with the people of that area for a cave and plot of land for burial. This acquisition was of paramount importance and Avraham was willing to spare no expense for the sake of her burial. He humbled himself in his speech to buy from strangers a plot which cost him four hundred large silver skekels - the equivalent of one million ordinary shekels during that time.
So why would Avraham pay such an exorbitant price for a place to bury Sarah? The answer to the question lies in how Avraham eulogized Sarah - for in that eulogy the magnitude of this relationship and its impact on Avraham and his spiritual legacy would have been completely revealed to all. In previous parashot, we are told of Sarah's beauty and her modesty - her modesty so great that it overshadowed her beauty so that even Avraham did not perceive it fully. Though she was beautiful and radiant, she was not vain. Continuing to look back, we can see clues of her deep spiritual nature in her life and her actions. The mere fact that Hashem sent angels to Avraham's tent was very telling of the status of Avraham and Sarah's tents. Indeed, she was the crown of her husband and through her own righteousness combined with Avraham's righteousness, their tent was to be a place to minister to angels. The food, though not eaten by the angels literally, was fit for the angels. We read later that Sarah also fought for Yitzchak's spiritual well-being by casting Ishmael away and shielding Yitzchak from his wayward ways. Her spiritual discernment regarding Ishmael's influence comes forth:
G-d tells Avraham, who is troubled by this request, to heed Sarah's voice - accrediting to her righteousness in speech and in deed because of her fervency. It was only for the sake of the Holy One and the spiritual welfare of her family that she would ask for something so difficult. The midrash speaks of the three miracles of Sarah and how later Rivka (Rebekah) would carry on these miracles. Sarah's Shabbat candles never went out - the light from them was a means to peace in her tent and for spiritual growth for her family. The midrash also speaks of her challah - always yielding far more than she made and staying fresh all week; a small piece would nourish like a meal! The third miracle was the clouds of glory that surrounded Sarah's tent. These clouds remained because of the holiness and purity that was part of the relationship between Avraham and Sarah. Sarah was literally the akeret habayit (the foundation of the home), the crown of her husband, and the key to the survival of the Jewish people.
To Carry On The Legacy
But where do we go from here? With Sarah gone and Yitzchak not yet married, how can the promise continue? Could there be anyone who could compare to Sarah for his son Yitzchak? How could there be anyone who could fill her place and carry on the spiritual legacy and bless his son as Avraham himself was blessed? Avraham knew Yitzchak would need a wife like Sarah in order to carry on his spiritual inheritance - someone who would serve tirelessly, bring honor, and have the ability to spiritually discern people and events in order to preserve the connection to the future - she needed to be the new akeret habayit. The task before Avraham is daunting, for Sarah would have known if the prospective shidduch (match with matrimonial potential) was the right one. But without her, Avraham will have to rely on those who witnessed their unity and knew what was needed. Avraham conscripts Eliezer to help him; he places his faith in Hashem and charges Eliezer, the zaken of his household, to go out for him with orders to find a mate for Yitzchak within his family. He knew Eliezer would have to get it right - however, Avraham trusted Eliezer's spiritual discernment and knew that Eliezer understood that the fulfillment of Avraham's destiny lie at stake in this match.
The rabbis say each person has a number of possible matches - but only one true optimal one. The true ezer k'negdo, the helper with whom G-d pairs us with in order that we might become more refined in character, helps us reach our spiritual potential. For Eliezer chesed (kindness) - is his litmus test. To be sure, the woman that will marry his master's son must truly follow in the footsteps of Sarah. Eliezer realized that if Yitzchak, who represents gerurah (strength) would come together with chesed (kindness), the offspring and their union would represent tiferet (beauty) and secure the future. In addition, in Yitzchak's time of mourning, he would unquestionably need someone who would be sensitive and able to comfort him as well as be a virtuous wife. Indeed, as we see, the test of Eliezer is passed by Rivka as she shows true kindness when she waters his camels tirelessly. As Eliezer secures her hand for Yitzchak from Laban, he brings her home and as the midrash speaks, she is, without a doubt, the bashert of Yitzchak:
Managing Our Destiny Today
So while we dab our eyes and regain our composure from this romantic moment, what do we take home from the reading of such a perfect match? The answer is two-fold, since there are those of us who are married, and those who have not yet married (or were previously married) and seeking to find the true ezer k'negdo.
For those who are not married, so much is on the playing board before us. Is it the right time to be married? Am I a whole person? Do I have challenges I need to overcome? These are just some of the questions that we ponder. But while these questions are valid, it is important to realize that Yitzchak was in a state of mourning when his bashert came to him and they were married. The idea of finding one's bashert doesn't necessarily come at a time of convenience in life. Beyond time considerations and life events, the bigger picture in considering our bashert is who is helping us to find our bashert. Who is our Eliezer looking for the signs despite our timing? Who knows what we need and is a fitting match for us? Who will check our selection and see deeply into our choice - correcting us if we might be off the mark? Are we looking at the models around us that speak life and closeness to Hashem while we are seeking to find the one who will be our true ezer k'negdo? When we are looking on J-Date, are the ideals and middot (character traits) apparent and recognizable enough to us that we would be able to find that single, special soul-mate? So much rides on finding that special soul-mate who will help us to actualize our potential. Avraham knew this to be true and wasn't leaving anything to chance. He realized the very completion of his destiny was linked to a proper match for his son.
And then there are those who are married - happily, or maybe not happily ever after. Assuming that we have found our bashert and are bound up in true oneness, how are we living with our bashert that models to our children the type of person they should seek? Do we realize the spiritual potential that a couple can rise to when they are not only well-matched but fully functional? Are we equipping our children to know how to seek and to listen to an Eliezer type - whether it be ourselves or another spiritual mentor? And if, G-d forbid, we are not with the optimal soul-mate that we were destined for, what are we doing to help our children to not repeat our mistakes and to have better eyes with which to see?
May we have the cloud of glory rest upon our homes, bread in our tents to feed a multitude, as well as the glow of Sarah's candles and the light of Messiah for all who enter our tents. For as we participate in the delicate dance of finding our "destined one" for ourselves, building beautiful homes, and helping our children to find their bashert, we will truly succeed in fulfilling our destiny. Only then will there be the assurance that the traditions, spiritual inheritance of Avraham and Sarah, and the spirit of Messiah will live on in our children and their children's children until the Messiah returns again.