As he nears the end of his life, Avraham begins to tie up loose ends. As the late Bible scholar Nahum Sarna wrote: “For all intents and purposes, his biography is complete. But two important issues remain: the concern with mortality and the preoccupation with posterity” (JPS Bible Commentary, Genesis, p. 156).
From the events that unfold in this week’s Torah reading, Hayyei-Sarah, one might get the impression that Avraham is a control freak. He negotiates the purchase of a plot of land in which to bury his recently-deceased wife, Sarah, and in which he will one day be laid to rest. Then, he commissions his servant to search out a wife for Yitzhak. Was his son incapable of finding a mate on his own?
Rabbi Eliyahu Munk, in his commentary Kol HaTorah, sees the second stage of Avraham’s pre-planning as a support for the concept of the shadkhan, the matchmaker. Citing the teaching of Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler, he says that left to our own devices, we are likely to choose a partner for the wrong reasons; an objective third party is better suited to make such a crucial judgment call.
It’s fascinating that two acts of preparation for the future can take such distinct approaches: Avraham wants to pre-plan his own funeral, but his son needs someone else to plan his marriage. Is the message of the Torah that when it comes to our futures, we are to seize control, or cede it? We’ll explore this question on Shabbat morning.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi David Wise