Friday, November 22, 2019 /24 Heshvan, 5780
Parashat Hayei Sarah Genesis 23:1-25:18
Abraham, Isaac and Ishmael had more than their share of family drama. After Abraham sends Ishmael and his mother into the desert, this father and son do not say another word to one another in the Torah. Similarly, Isaac does not speak to his father directly after Abraham nearly sacrifices him on the alter. Thanks to reverberations of jealousy and fear between their mothers, Isaac and Ishmael are half-brothers pitted against each other from the start. For all of Abraham’s qualities of hospitality, warmth, openness, and his passion for justice, Abraham makes more than few life-altering mistakes. It appears that the brothers will never receive any closure. It appears that their relationship will never be mended.
In this week’s Torah portion, there is an amazing twist in their story. After Abraham dies, the Torah tells us:
וַיִּקְבְּר֨וּ אֹת֜וֹ יִצְחָ֤ק וְיִשְׁמָעֵאל֙ בָּנָ֔יו אֶל־מְעָרַ֖ת הַמַּכְפֵּלָ֑ה
His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah… (Genesis 25:9).
After all of these years, and all that the brothers have been through, Isaac and Ishmael are reunited. At a time of crisis, they came together give their father a funeral of honor. It couldn’t have been easy for Ishmael to bury his father in a plot right next to Sarah, knowing that Sarah was the person who convinced Abraham to send Ishmael away years before. It couldn’t have been easy for Ishmael and Isaac to trust one another. They worked together anyway, because they valued family. As a result, they each got their brother back. Together they could reminisce laugh and cry about pivotal moments in their lives, which no one else could understand.
Such reunions are not always possible. Relationships filled with abuse and trauma cannot always be mended. When it is possible to mend our family relationships however, it is well worth the effort. If Isaac and Ishmael could come together during a moment of difficulty, then perhaps we too can create can benefit from an amazing twist in our own stories: one of reconciliation, and healing.
Rabbi Cassi Kail