Chayei Sarah




Last weeks’ Torah tale highlighted Sarah’s sexual bliss, and this week’s episode, occurring years later, narrates her death. The weekly tale is named after her – Chayei Sarah – the Life of Sarah, but quickly moves on to introduce the next generation in the soap opera called Genesis: Isaac and Rebecca.

Theirs, according to the biblical narrative, is a full-on desert romance complete with sunsets, camels, and a mysterious recreational activity, which naturally arouses our interest.


The scene: late afternoon, a caravan of camels, carrying the bride from the East, approaches the fields, and the groom-to-be, alone among the bushes, looks up and understands: his life is about to change. What is Isaac doing in the fields before meeting Rebecca? The word for what he’s up to out there is: LaSUACH. It is a unique word, only found here, and therefore other contexts, other usages do not help us. The word is oddly related to the Hebrew for ‘bush’ and also for ‘conversation’. Differently spelled, this same word means ‘to sink down’ or to ‘bow down’. So what is he doing out there???

Check it out – Genesis 24:63, in various translations:


And Isaac went out to MEDITATE in the field at the eventide: and he lifted up his eyes, and saw, and, behold, the camels were coming. (King James Bible)


Robert Alter translates the action as ‘TO STROLL’; The ArtScroll Torah claims he went out to ‘SUPPLICATE’ in the fields’, …

But the winner of the creative translation for the week is the Aramaic Pseudo Jonathan:

And Isaac was coming from the schoolhouse of Shem the Elder, Noah’s son, along the way of the well where had been revealed to him the Living and Eternal One, who sees and is not seen. And he went forth to pray upon the face of the field at the time of evening;


So, is Isaac praying, meditating, strolling? Some of us think he is doing something called ‘grousing’ suggesting discontent and angst; imagine Isaac kicking stones in an empty field. This is the area where once he played with his brother, where once his mother lived – he is, possibly, not a happy camper. The one theme in common is the act of leaving home and going out to nature. Jewish tradition credits Isaac with introducing the afternoon prayer service – Mincha, the gift of introspection as the day ends.


But perhaps the word that best defines his mysterious activity in the field, just before meeting his wife to be is RECREATION. He is ready to create, ready to start afresh, and doing so while spending time alone, in leisure or angst, out among the bushes.


Lauviticus would like to suggest:


And Isaac went out to re-create, among the bushes, at evening time, and there, look up! camels approaching, sun setting, something is about to begin.


Give yourself the gift of recreation. Take time, Isaac style, for an afternoon stroll, and look up, a caravan of possibilities may be on the horizon.

4. Vayera
6. Toldot

Verse per Verse

The WEEKLY STORAH (2006-2007), presenting you with an EZ pass into Judeo-Biblical Knowledge, one verse at a time. Each week offers a new entry, composed by Lauviticus, a consortium of storah scribes, highlighting a single verse or word from the weekly installment of the Torah, focusing on issues of translation and contemporary relevance.

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