Community Rabbi Corner, Nov. 22, 2019

Rabbi Randall Mark
Shomrei Torah – Wayne Conservative Congregation
Wayne, New Jersey
Parashat Chayei Sarah

In parshat Chayei Sarah, Avraham acquires the first piece of real estate in the land of Israel. From our biblical ancestors to JNF in modern times purchasing the land has been a priority. While acknowledging that our belief system gives ownership of all land to God and God the freedom to bequeath the land to us or anyone else, we still have always wanted to be able to show ourselves and our neighbors our legitimate claim to the land, be it for a burial place as we find in our parsha, or for a homeland. The relationship of the People Israel to the Land of Israel has always been complex and remains so today.

As Zionists, we proudly proclaim our right to the land of our ancestors given to us by God. As pragmatists and hopefully as good neighbors, we must also recognize that the land is home to two peoples, each with their own narrative at odds with the other. We can’t just live there ignoring the other. They simply won’t go away and as things stand now, we have not yet found a way to live together in peace. But peace is a top value in Judaism, and so we are not free to desist from the endeavor of seeking peace as did our ancestor Aaron, the Kohen.

The rabbis taught that we must seek peace and pursue peace both in our interpersonal relationships and as it applies to the State of Israel. At the end of the parsha, Avraham dies and is buried by Isaac and Ishmael. They find a way to overcome their animosity and come together. We must hope and pray that someday Israel and her neighbors will find a way to come together as well. Shabbat Shalom!