In temple each Saturday, we read a portion from the bible, and this weekend, we will be reading “Chayei Sarah” – “the Life of Sarah.” As the chapter begins, we learn that Sarah, Abraham’s beloved wife and matriarch to the Jewish people, has passed away. Grieving, Abraham approaches the Hittites in search of a place to bury his wife. “I am a foreigner living for a time among you,” he says. “Sell me a gravesite, that I may bury my dead here.” The Hittites’ response is, “My lord, bury [her] in any of our choicest graves.” Their leader, Ephron adds, “I am giving you the field and the cave that is in it…I give it to you, as a gift, so you may bury your dead.”
This past Saturday, as we experienced the horrific and terrifying event that took place at the Tree of Life Synagogue, we were reminded of “Chayei Sarah.” Because this story of a neighbor’s generosity to a Jewish family during their time of extreme loss and grief is also what we saw this weekend: in the generosity and extraordinary human spirit of Wasi Mohamed (Executive Director of the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh) and the entire Muslim community coming together to pledge both financial resources and protection and friendship to the Jewish community; in the outpouring of community support and leadership in both the vigils on Saturday and Sunday; and in Jewish community leaders coming together all across the country to support and help the victim’s families and friends.
The “Chaye Sarah” chapter closes with the story of Sarah’s son Isaac marrying Rebekah and Abraham’s marriage to a new wife, Hagar. Hagar would go on to become a revered matriarch of the Islamic faith as the mother of Ishmael. This chapter reminds us in so many ways that we are all connected, and that all of our stories are interwoven together. We are all family. Even in the face of our worst tragedies, we must look forward.
Here’s what we want to look forward to together: a world where every community – every person, every child, every single human being – is safe and can thrive. Where everyone, irrespective of their identities or their communities, can pray, go to school, eat lunch, go to the grocery store, love one another, without having to fear for their lives. This should not be a dream – this should be the reality.
Next week, on November 6, please use your vote as an opportunity to honor our ancestors and our past, and make the world a safer place for our children and our future. No matter who you vote for, we hope that your vote will usher along that better world that we all dream of. We hope you will cast a vote against prejudice and for equity. Against xenophobia and for diversity. Against going backward and for moving forward.
Against hate and for love.
In peace, Heather Arnet & the team and family of the Women and Girls Foundation