United Hebrew Congregation, 13788 Conway Road, St. Louis, MO 63141 | 314-469-0700

November 13, 2020 – Chayei Sarah

Shabbat Message from Rabbi Adam Bellows

The second shlish of Parashat Chayei Sara is Genesis 24:10-52.

One must ask what it means to be Jewish. Are Jews united racially? Are we united culturally? Are we united ethnically? Are we even a united faith? Do we look the same?

Throughout our history, we have seen many times in which the Jewish people preferred to be very particular about whom they marry and with whom they have children. If you have seen the movie Fiddler on the Roof, you probably know of Yenta the Matchmaker. Matchmakers ensured the bride and groom were not too closely related, and they ensured no one married outsiders.

This week’s Torah portion, Chayei Sara, offers us a glimpse into a time in our past in which endogamy (marrying within one’s own ethnic group) was paramount. Our patriarch, Abraham, decides it is time to find a wife for his son, Isaac. If you remember, Abraham recently traveled from his homeland to the Land of Canaan, later called the Land of Israel, as God commanded. Yet when it comes time to find Isaac a wife, Abraham insists the wife come from his own people, back in the “Old Country”.

Abraham calls forth his most senior servant, whom the ancient rabbis name Eliezer, and says, “Swear by the Eternal, the God of heaven and the God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites among whom I dwell, but will go to the land of my birth and get a wife for my son Isaac” (Gen. 24:3-4). Eliezer heeds his master’s command, he heads to Abraham’s homeland, and he ends up meeting Rebekah. Rebekah, as it turns out, is the granddaughter of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, and is thus Isaac’s second cousin.

At United Hebrew, we have families made up of all sorts of backgrounds. The beauty of our congregation is that we can be a home for everyone. We are home for all sorts of Jewish backgrounds as well. We have people here who grew up Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and even secular. We have people here who grew up with other faith traditions and chose to become Jewish. We have people here who identify with a different faith but call us home. We, at United Hebrew, are a tapestry, woven together and connected through shared culture and traditions.

For Abraham, it was important his son’s wife came from his homeland and his own people. Surely he held common values and culture with his people. That’s us. We come from so many backgrounds but we share common culture: the culture of our synagogue. We are united, and we are a people in a way. May we continue strongly for many years!

This Shabbat all are invited to join us for our first Tot Shabbat of the year, broadcasted live on Facebook Saturday morning at 9 am. Also that morning we have Torah Study at 9 am followed by Live-streamed services at 10:30 am. You can join at 12:30 pm for our Mussar class and watch Next Week Now Saturday evening at 7:30 pm.