This week we read parshat Chayyei Sarah, and we consider the middah of Chesed — kindness. The parshah comes after a painful, challenging time for our community, following the tragic shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. At our Staff Meeting this Monday, Morah Dana Cohen gave a courageous devar Torah that helped all of us deal with the emotions of the weekend. I asked Morah Dana if I could share what she taught.
This past Shabbat was incredibly difficult. We were bombarded by information surrounding the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh. What do we do with all of this information? What do we do with all of the emotions we feel – the confusion, sadness, desperation?
I have been thinking a lot about how this week’s parasha informs the events of Pittsburgh and our Jewish identity; Chayyei Sarah can serve as a paradigm for the dissonance and messiness we feel.
Chayyei Sarah recounts the shiddukh between Isaac and Rebecca. Isaac carries with him the trauma of his near sacrifice; he is in need of deep reserves of kindness and compassion. Avraham’s servant Eliezer immediately identifies Rebecca having such qualities. When he stops near the well outside her town, she unhesitatingly offered him and his camels water, food, and shelter. Rebecca’s kindness is confident and assured. She does not need to be asked to do the right thing.
Isaac and Rebekah are a paradigm for trauma and kindness. Isaac embodies the trauma of betrayal, of trust, and of being broken; we all feel broken after receiving the news of the Pittsburgh shooting. And our hearts continue to break for the victims and their loved ones. Rebekah embodies kindness and tikkun olam. This is where we as educators come in.
As teachers, we are on the front lines of help. Our job is to lean on Rebekah’s moral compass and help repair the world for our students. We need to shed light on the diverse communities helping and honouring our community. We need to keep believing in transformative education, because education eliminates fear of difference. Education is what causes us to become closer to the other.
Parshat Chayyei Sarah is about how acts of kindness help heal. In light of the tragic events many people have stepped forward with acts and words of kindness. A message that touched our hearts came from the Board and Principal of the As Saddiq school with which we have developed a relationship over the past few years. That message can be found in the Bulletin.
This Shabbat, may we all find ways to give and receive acts of kindness that help heal us, our community, and the world.
Morah Dana and Moreh Greg