Each morning blessing, in the T’filah, the prayer so important its name means prayer, I praise God as the hero who gives life to the dead. I don’t believe that those who’ve died can rise and walk the earth again. I do know that we are dead materials come to the miracle of life. That each day we breathe and eat materials and this becomes our living body, miraculously. I do believe that those who are dead in spirit can be inspired again and find hope again.
This week’s Torah portion is about new life coming from death. From an old, withered couple the miraculous conception and nursing of a son. From a slave woman, the bearing of a prince of nations. In the Haftarah, the death of a boy being reversed by mouth to mouth – by a man of God, a prophet. And climaxing in the near sacrifice of Ishmael and the Isaac. Ishmael (his name means God will hear) is sent with this mother with a skin of water, doomed to die in the wilderness. A messenger/ angel lifts the mom’s eyes to find water (vision and hearing are tangled as in Sinai’s lightening and thunder). But Abraham doesn’t know his son lives when he is called to sacrifice “his only one”. But God knows. It is curious. Here is an opportunity: Abraham’s escape from the command to sacrifice his son. Here is a lie, like Sarah’s (who says she’s laughed because she is too old, but really laughed because she thinks Abe is too old to impregnate), but it is God who is withholding the truth.
Like serpent twisting God’s command in the garden, a lie is the highway for chaos to enter the paradise of new life coming to an aged couple. And the midrash says Isaac dies on that mountain and is resurrected. The angel/messenger rewards Abe “because you have DONE THIS THING and not withheld your precious one”. And father and son do not continue together as they started out this journey. Sarah will die, perhaps of a broken heart) immediately following the sacrifice of her son. Life and death and resurrection. We name our children after those we’ve loved, and hope that each loved one’s spirit is eternal. Death, mortality, is the elephant in the room. Yet our tradition speaks of values and songs and hopes that are eternal. Science hints that each moment may be eternal, we have just lost that access
This piece of a poem by R. Rachel Barenblat spoke to me powerfully this week:
Every birth is also a death: the end
of the life that used to be.
Every separation is also a rupture.
Read not “good” but “God:” God saw
that creation was constantly changing
just like its creator, dividing and torn.
Read the full poem here
I end with an excerpt from song, a Modim I wrote using E.E. Cummings Most Amazing day:
and I who have died am alive again this day
and this is the sun’s birth day
and the birth day of life and love and wings…
I thank You God for most this amazing day,
Modim anachnu lach…