Parashah Chayye Sarah 2020 (Life of Sarah) Genesis 23 – 25:18

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.

Thank you for being here and please share these messages to help this ministry grow. Subscribe, check out my books (available on my website) and I always welcome discussion and comments.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!

Why We Don’t Know How to Love

“Huh?  Why do you say we don’t know how to love, Steve? I love my spouse, I love my kids (most of the time), and I love and have loved many other people in my life. And, of course, I love the Lord!”

Good for you. But look at all the other people in the world that don’t know how to love. The terrorists can’t possibly love with all that hatred in their hearts. Oh, they may like, they may lust, they may even really adore, but I don’t believe they can possibly love, not like we learn from God, when they do such horrible things.

Read the Dear Abby, the Ask Amy, or whomever is the advice columnist in your local paper. I can’t count how many times I have read something along these lines:

I have been with this person for x years and s/he is hateful and cruel. I am yelled at for not doing anything, then yelled at for doing something wrong, even when it is exactly as they told me. I am scared of being hurt, he has had three affairs and drinks too much. She spends our money and I have seen her name on multiple dating sites. There are emails with co-workers that are sexually explicit. But they’re really a wonderful person and I love him/her. What do I do?

You are with someone who cheats, is brutish, scares you, is having affairs, keeps secrets, wastes your money and drinks too much, but you think they’re wonderful, love them and just don’t know what to do? OY!!

Look- love does not conquer all. To be in any relationship where you are considered second class and mistreated is not only a sin the other person commits against you, but is also a sin you commit against yourself! I am not saying to ditch your main squeeze at the first sign of trouble, and we are married for better or worse, but that doesn’t include debasement, infidelity, and abusiveness. These things need to be handled. Even Yeshua, who stood up for the sanctity and holiness of marriage, said that infidelity is a reason for divorce. And Shaul told us that if we are in a relationship that is unevenly yoked the Believer is allowed to leave, but only if the non-Believer wants that. He goes on further to say that they should stay together because the one may be saved by the other, but not if your safety is threatened.

This confusion about relationships, which is so prevalent it sends the love columnist’s kids through college, is rampant because reading the Bible is a rarity. God tells us how to treat each other, and through the writings of the Prophets and some of the Epistles of Shaul, we can see clearly how God loves us and how we should, thereby, love each other.

God’s love is unconditional, but not enabling. He will punish us when we are wrong and He will allow us to choose our own fate. He will protect and nourish us when we are faithful, and when we reject Him He will allow us to be on our own. But He still loves us and is always willing, and hopeful, that we will repent of our sins and turn back to Him.

The Torah shows us how God’s love is unconditional, but His blessings and presence are. We must obey and remain obedient in order to have His constant protection and blessing. Reading the book of Judges, as well as the writings of the Prophets, Kings and Chronicles shows us how God has constantly shown His love, yet allowed us to wander, to prostitute ourselves with other gods (have an affair), mistreat and berate Him (by rejecting His laws) and be abusive (taking His name in vain, choosing to work on His holy days, even watching football religiously but never attending services or reading His word.)

God loves us and wants to be with us, always. He wants us to bask in His glory and be joyful. He also provides everything we need for this to happen. Then He has to watch us throw it all in the garbage, curse Him, ignore Him, reject and even forget about Him, totally. There are many who don’t even believe He exists. Yet, He still loves us.

However, He isn’t writing to Dear Abby saying, “I have created them, I gave them the Earth and everything in it, which I created for them, and I have nurtured, protected and kept them alive for millennia, yet they don’t care a whit about me! All they want to do is what they want to do- I tell them how to be happy and they choose not to; I tell them how to treat others and they spit in my face; I tell them to keep away from the Enemy because he will lead them to ruin and they laugh at me and follow him gladly. I love them and show them my love, yet they have affairs with other gods, like money, professional sports, career activities, and they prostitute themselves with gluttony and avarice and fornication. I just don’t know what to do, Abby.”

What do you think she would say? I’ll bet that getting professional help will be in there, somewhere.

Here’s what I’d like to see them say: “READ THE BIBLE, YOU DUMMY!! Get to know what love is and what love is supposed to be, and then go find it. You can’t be loved until you learn how to love, so read about God and learn how to love so you won’t be saddled with some schmo like the one you have.”

We need to do everything we can to save our marriage, to work with our steady love interest, and to make the relationships in our life worthy of God’s blessing. But it takes two to tango, and if you are the one doing all the work, and the other side is just not caring at all about you, your feelings or you needs, you are not in a healthy, Godly relationship. If the other side is not willing to change or even try, you need to realize that, just as God allowed His loved people to wander off and nearly destroy themselves in order to come to their senses, you need to allow your other half to do the same. You need to talk, offer compromise, go to counseling, and try hard. If this is something the other side says he or she is willing to do, then be patient, show the truest form of loving in that you will abide by that person and help them, even if they are being somewhat cruel to you, and forgive them as long as they really want to change and ask for it.

If none of that is happening, though; if the other person is unwilling to try, unwilling to listen or care about you, and unwilling to love you as you should be loved, then let them do what they want to do, but let them do it on their own. The books I mention above show that God, despite His love for us, despite His unbelievable level of compassion and forgiveness, and despite His willingness to overlook our past and our many sins against Him, still underwent a series of “trial separations” from His people. He left His bride alone, naked and wallowing in her own vomit, exposed and ravaged by her enemies until she realized her wrongdoings and asked for forgiveness, promising to do as she should.

Then He gladly and joyfully accepted her back. Now that’s what love is.

In our relationship with God, we must be faithfully obedient, and in our relationship with each other, we must be loving, compassionate, forgiving and treat each other as we would want to be treated.

If you aren’t getting that in your relationship today, forget Dear Abby or Ask Amy and go to the Bible. See what God says, and bring that book to your other half. Follow what God does, what Shaul tells us love should be, and stand up for yourself.

I am not saying to call a divorce lawyer. I am saying we should all know what love is, as God tells us and not what people say. People are stupid, self-centered and sinful. People are obstinate, stiff-necked and selfish. People are always trying to get something for themselves, people are…well, they’re people!

As someone once told me: Humanity is a wonderful thing- it’s the people that ruin it.

Learn about how to love from the one who created it, who set the standards, and who is a constant source of renewal and strength: Adonai.

If you are looking for love and not finding it in your life or your relationship, stop looking around and start looking up. God is always there to show you how He loves you, and to give you the love you want. Once you have that, then you can go find it in the world because you will know what to look for.