This parashah begins with the death of Sarah, at 127 years old. Isaac would have been 36 years old at that time, Ishmael 50, and Abraham 136. He buys a burial cave and buries Sarah there, later to join her; eventually, this cave would also house the remains of Isaac, Rebecca, and Jacob. It is located in Hebron, most of which today is under Arab control.
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We read next that Abraham sends his servant, Eliezer, back to Ur to find a wife for Isaac, and after finding Rebecca he returns to his master with her, who immediately is taken as wife to Isaac.
Abraham remarries, has more children, and this reading ends with the death of Abraham and the lineage of Ishmael.
Normally, I would talk of the interaction between Laban and Eliezer, which gives us an idea of what type of person Laban is, to be confirmed later in the Torah when we read about his dealings with Jacob.
Or I might talk about Isaac, or Eliezer’s faith.
But not today.
What I felt when I read this today, even just reading the title, is that we should discuss Sarah a little bit, and her relationship to Abraham, and to God.
And let me open this discussion with a really hot question: Do you think Sarah was faithful?
I mean, the title of this parashah is “Life of Sarah”, so let’s look at her life, which we are told very little about. First off, when she is told that she will have a child in her old age, whereas Abraham accepted that right away, she didn’t believe it. And when the angels told Abraham it would happen the following year, she laughed, then denied that she laughed (if you didn’t know, Isaac, in Hebrew, is Yitzchak, which means “to laugh”.)
We really don’t know anything about Sarah’s level of faithfulness, but by all references, Sarah was an obedient wife. In fact, obedient to the point of submitting to Abraham’s request that she says she was his sister and not his wife; and, not just once, but twice, even after the first time she was taken to be another man’s wife (which happened the second time, also.)
Now, we could say that she was faithful enough to trust in God not to allow her to be defiled, but there is nothing in the Torah to substantiate that. In truth, all we know about Sarah is that she was faithful to Abraham.
We know that she was of Abrahams’s family because, in Genesis 20:12, Abraham tells Abimelech that Sarah is the daughter of his father but not from the same mother. Therefore, she was raised in Ur, but can we assume she was given the same education regarding God as Abraham was?
I believe Abraham was taught about God by Noah, who was still alive for some 58 years after Abraham was born. In Genesis 9:28, we are told Noah lived for 350 years after the flood. Counting the years since the flood using the lineage of Shem, outlined in Genesis 11:10-24, we can see that when Abraham was born, Noah was still alive, and lived for another 58 years.
In those days, the wife was in charge of the household and the husband was the spiritual leader, so what the sons were taught about God would not necessarily be taught to the daughters, even within the same family unit.
So what does that mean for us? Well, what if you are unevenly yoked within your marriage? We are not allowed to just divorce our spouse if she or he isn’t as faithful as we are. In fact, Yeshua says the only justification for divorce is adultery (Matthew 5:32), and Shaul tells us that we should stay together because the one might help the other to come into a relationship with God (1 Corinthians 7:13.)
I think the lesson for us today is that even if you are in a marriage that is unevenly yoked, as the expression goes, it doesn’t mean you can’t still be blessed by God, or both of you used by God to do his work on the earth. And when we say “unevenly yoked”, does it have to mean a Believer and a non-Believer? Can it mean two people who believe in God, and that Yeshua is the Messiah, but have different levels of spiritual understanding and faith?
I am a Jewish man from birth, raised as a Jew, who later became a Torah observant Jewish Believer but my wife was raised in a Gentile religion and, because of that, doesn’t have the same level of faithful obedience I have. Does that mean she isn’t saved? If we both believe in God and Messiah, but at different levels of faith and spiritual maturity, are we unevenly yoked?
Yes, and no: yes, we don’t have the same level of spiritual maturity, but we both believe in God and Messiah, so it’s not like she isn’t saved and I am. In truth, who am I to say if she is saved or not? Who can really say that except God, who is the only one who can see a person’s heart? If she believes being a good person is all you need because that’s the line she got from her religious upbringing, is that wrong? She doesn’t murder, she is faithful to our marriage, she does try to do what is right and good, and in many ways, she is a better person, overall, than I am!
Sarah may have been less spiritual than Abraham, and I believe she was, but yet she was blessed to become the mother of God’s chosen people! Could it be that her faithful obedience to Abraham, who was faithfully obedient to God, was seen as being faithfully obedient to God, as well?
If we do as Yeshua taught (which, for the record, has nothing to do with traditional Christian teaching) but aren’t as faithful as he was, can we still be considered righteous by God because of our relationship with Yeshua?
Of course we can! That’s the way we are saved- God sees Yeshua’s righteousness in us when we accept him as our Messiah and receive the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit.
Of course, it isn’t really all that easy, and there are marriages which are totally unevenly yoked, meaning one spouse is a true faithful Believer and the other couldn’t give two hoots about God or obedience to Torah. In those cases, it is very hard for the faithful spouse, but stay he or she must, in order that they help the other to find God through their example.
This is good news for anyone in a marriage where faithfulness and spiritual maturity is different between spouses. Don’t let the traditional understanding of the term “unevenly yoked” throw you, because just as there are different levels of spiritual maturity, there are different ways of being yoked to each other. For all any of us know, there may come a time when the unevenness goes in the opposite direction!
Now, wouldn’t that be a kick in the pants?
So, nu: if you are in a relationship where the level of faithfulness is different, work towards coming together in that faithfulness through education, example, and patiently loving each other. If you can do that, I am sure that God will lend a hand.
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Until next time, L’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!