Between the Lines—Hayyei Sarah

Weekly Midrash Learning with Rabbi Abigail Treu

בראשית רבה פרשה נח

ואחרי כן קבר אברהם, הה"ד (משלי כא) רודף צדקה וחסד ימצא חיים צדקה וכבוד... אמר רבי שמואל בר יצחק אמר לו הקב"ה אני אומנותי גומל חסדים, תפסת אומנותי, בא לבוש לבושי, ואברהם זקן בא בימים.


And then Abraham buried Sarah
(Gen. 23:19). Thus it is written, He that follows after righteousness and love finds life, prosperity, and honor (Prov. 21:21) . . . Rabbi Samuel ben Isaac said: The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him: It is My function to dispense love; since you have embraced My function, come and don My raiment. Hence, And Abraham was old, well advanced in years, and the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things (Gen. 24:1).

Sometimes our Torah─the Torah I teach, anyway─is very abstract. Sometimes, though, I feel called back to the basics. This midrash is one of those calls. Judaism is about living a life of days spent pursuing righteousness and love. It is about finding life and feeling prosperous and honored because of our inner sense of living according to the highest ideals.

"My function is to dispense love." "Love" is the Soncino Press's translation of gemilut hasadim, which might also be called, in English, "acts of kindness." God's job is to craft acts of kindness. And when we craft acts of kindness, or "dispense love," we are doing God's work. There is no more basic nor more powerful religious message than this, for this is what it means to live a blessed life.