God promises, but He follows through together with us

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Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

On Shabbat the Shiva mourning period for Rabbi Jonathan Sacks will end. The following words that he wrote on this week’s Torah portion, Chayei Sarah, are presented here in his memory:

“Something interesting happens to Avraham in this parasha. Sarah passes away, Avraham is 137 years old, and immediately after he finishes mourning for her he begins to act. He negotiates a long and detailed transaction for purchase of the Machpelah Cave. 250 words describe the bargaining between Avraham and the seller. Immediately afterwards there is another interruption in the action: Avraham calls to Eliezer his servant and asks him to go and find a fitting wife for his son Yitzchak. The Torah, in a relatively uncommon way, once again describes events in a most detailed manner. What is the reason for these extensive descriptions? Two things were promised to Avraham – land and children. When Sarah dies, Avraham does not yet have a single piece of land of his own and his son has not yet married. Avraham acts to make sure these promises are fulfilled, and the Torah accelerates the pace in order that we should pay attention to how the promises materialize.

Avraham does not sit and wait for things to happen. God promises, but we still need to act. God promises, but he follows through together with us. This is a fundamental principle of life: God’s big promises materialize from our own small initiatives.”

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