Parashat Chayei Sarah

November 18, 2022Jenn Daley, WRJ Executive Committee, Marketing & Communications Chair

On the recent WRJ Civil Rights Journey (CRJ), the theme of legacy was repeated over and over. As our tour guide, Billy Planer wrapped up our powerful five-day experience, he asked this poignant legacy question, ‘How will you live your life so that when you die, you have a legacy of justice for the next generation to remember you by?’

This week’s Parashat Chayei Sarah (Life of Sarah), though contrary to the title, begins with the death of Sarah at age 127 and concludes with the deaths of Abraham and Ishmael. We find Abraham concerned with two legacy issues – how Sarah’s death prompts Abraham to purchase a burial plot in the cave of Machpelah, and find Isaac a wife from the land of his birth to ensure the future of the family.

“You shall go to my land, my birthplace, and get a wife for my son Isaac…The Eternal God of heaven – who took me from my father’s house, from the land of my birth, who spoke to me and promised me, saying, ‘To your descendants will I give this land’ – will send an emissary before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there.” (Genesis 24:4-8) Abraham knows that without finding Isaac the appropriate wife, his legacy (and our legacy) will not continue.

Just as much as Parashat Chayei Sarah describes Abraham’s commitment to legacy by searching for a suitable wife for Isaac and introduction to Rebekah, I can’t help but think of the people we were introduced to during the CRJ whose legacies have made a difference in our country’s fight for equality. The inspirational Joanne Bland in Selma, Alabama, who was arrested 13 times as a civil rights activist by the age of 12, told us about her experience on Bloody Sunday. She described how state and local police used billy clubs, whips, and tear gas to attack her and hundreds of civil rights activists as they marched over the Edmund Pettus bridge. Joanne had us pick up a pebble from the only spot left from where the march began, hold our pebble up high, and make it our legacy to act whenever we see injustice.

This parashah is not only about legacy but also about transition. Abraham wanted to be sure the next generation was in place, and his values would be passed down, ensuring their future was secure. This speaks to how we live our life every day. 

Is the way we live our daily life leaving something for the next generation to follow?

Is the next generation ready to pick up the proverbial baton and transition us into the future?

I could not be prouder to be a part of Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ) and our consistent vision, dedication, and commitment to transitioning us into the future on social justice issues and leaving a legacy for those who come after us. Our newest initiative, WRJ says STOP, addresses discrimination many of us have experienced or witnessed. From microaggressions to direct harassment to assault, our experience confirms that the synagogue is not necessarily a haven. Outside of WRJ, committee and board meetings are not automatically places of respect where our voices are heard.  

I hope you will join me at our next webinar on February 7, 2023 – “Educating and Empowering People about Sexual Harassment,” where we join our partner Keshet and review new language on bullying, sexual harassment, as well as complete upstander training.

Though I am eternally trying to find that work-life balance, there is one thing I know for sure. I make it a priority to volunteer and advocate for those who are underserved and need to be heard. So I, like Abraham and like my incredible mother who has passed down the importance of championing social justice, can pass down a legacy to my children and generations to come. L’dor v’dor – from generation to generation.

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