Dear friends,

 

     In this week's parsha - Parshat Chayay Sarah - I am drawn to the image of Abraham's servant, a nameless fellow, who has something to say about prayer.  The servant has been asked by Abraham to travel to a distant land to find a bride for Abraham's son Isaac, after his mother Sarah dies.  The servant is obviously uneasy, even worried about the daunting task that he is called upon to do, and so he sits down and prays," O Lord, G-d of my master Abraham:  Be with me today...."  His prayer is like an ordinary conversation, nothing fancy, not poetic words, no siddur, only simple words coming from his heart.   But they are words that point to the extraordinary in the ordinary.  Extraordinary because not only is the prayer spontaneous in its expression but also this prayer seems rooted in the journey of life and appears to emerge from a place of deep concern for the plight of another.  Notice that the servant does not ask to be removed from the journey (of having to go find a bride for Isaac).  What he asks for is some kind of guidance in how to proceed.  The feeling of the prayer seems to be one of longing - longing to connect and be heard by that which is bigger than life.  The Talmud calls prayer a " labour of the heart" , something which can not be obtained from books and philosophy but rather from a deep place in ourselves.  A place in which access is not so easy for many, thus, spontaneous prayer, as we see with this servant, is not something that happens unless one has already travelled to that deeper place.  Some of our sages have written that we are not comfortable with spontaneous prayer, that we shy away from it, finding it difficult to speak to G-d as if one was REALLY being heard.  And yet, if we do not speak as if we are really being heard, then are we saying anything worth hearing?

 

     The Zohar says that when we concentrate mind and heart on the Source of Sources, blessings can be drawn from the depths of the "cistern", the stream of Eden, the "Source of life".   It is interesting that the servant in this parsha asks for a sign from G-d that he's on the right path - the sign is that a girl will tip over her jug of water and "let me have a drink" in the words of the servant.  Here is an image of water, not unlike the image of water in the Zohar, an image that infers being able to tap into ""G-d's Well", the place where physical and spiritual sustenance become one....and is our question (and the servant's question) about being on the right path, is it really a deeper longing, a thirst even , that we may find ourselves somewhere in this life being able to drink from G-d's Well, from the love and compassion and hope that is readily there if we dig deep enough?  And is the labour to dig and find this Well, is it ultimately a labour of the heart, the way of prayer?

 

     "Choose Life!" our Torah says, an inspiration and a response to all of our journeys.  Choose life, because life is about being challenged, being called to move forward, because life is changing and moving and full of peaks and valleys, like a glacier river rushing over ancient stones.  We are sent out daily on missions, into vast new lands, into  places where we do not have the usual bearings.  Like the servant in this parsha, we are challenged and tested in not only our abilities, but in our compassion, in our hopes, in our willingness to labour from the heart.  In our willingness to argue and wrestle and find the Divine in and out of ourselves.  There's something to be said for the primacy of prayer in our existence, for if we could not call out to the One, where would we be, where would the soul in us seek refuge and sustenance?

 

     The servant remains nameless throughout Parshat Chayay Sarah.  But our sages say that this anonymous servant was Eliezer.  Why is he not named here?  And why does he say, later, when he's recounting the story to others, why does he say that " I had not yet finished speaking to myself when Rebecca suddenly came out, carrying her jug..."  Wasn't he praying to G-d? Why does he suddenly refer to praying as "speaking to himself"?  One possibility is this:  Until we really labour from the heart, we are only speaking to ourselves.  Many of our experiences in today's jet-paced high speed information age are experiences that never leave the surface of things.  Ours is a culture, unfortunately, committed to motion, enthralled by commotion, and addicted to fast-paced living.  Indeed, we often find ourselves spinning our wheels on the surface, not hearing, not seeing...but when we finally crave something deeper, and discover the Well, which has been there all along, suddenly, we will find ourselves not alone, no longer speaking only to ourselves.  Perhaps the servant is without name in this parsha because he is really each of us, struggling to find that place, where a real conversation with the Divine can happen, a conversation off the paved roads and into the outpouring the heart, a conversation that Hashem is always ready to hear.

 

Shabbat Shalom, dear friends,

Alizah

 

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