Shabbat Hayei-Sarah 5776

As our congregation prepares to celebrate with our veterans this Shabbat, I’d like to draw attention to the very first Jewish war veteran, Avraham Avinu. We don’t usually think of our founding patriarch as a war hero, but indeed he was. Two weeks ago, we read in Parshat Lekh-Lekha about his military rescue mission when his nephew Lot was taken captive from Sodom.

The question I’d like to explore this week is whether Avraham carried his military memories with him the rest of his life, or if that was merely a tangential anecdote that was forgotten as quickly as it happened. Is there evidence in the Torah that Avraham’s experiences as a survivor of combat at all compare to those of the Jewish war veterans we know or recall?

In the epilogue of the third volume in Rick Atkinson’s liberation trilogy, The Guns at Last Light, the author records some of the words of combat veterans as they reflect on their time of service. Consider these quotes:

“The times were full of certainty. I have seldom been sure I was right since.”

“Never did I feel so much alive. Never did the earth and all of the surroundings look so bright and sharp.”

“What we had together was something awfully damned good, something I don’t think we’ll ever have again as long as we live.”

On the other hand, many veterans have spoken about the challenge of living a normal life in the aftermath of war.  

If we look carefully, we can see both experiences in the life of Avraham the war veteran. As we scan the Torah’s narratives about him, what do we notice? We’ll dig deeper on Shabbat morning.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi David Wise