Good morning, afternoon, evening, everyone. This is a week of remembrance, with Kristallnacht on Thursday evening, and Remembrance Day on Saturday morning. I know many of us will be at both services, holding in our hearts the tragedies of too many lives ended.
This week, as we read the opening line of our parashah, we read of the death of Sarah, at 127 years. The reading of her years of life is given in a strange sequence: one hundred years, twenty years, and seven years. Each unit of years – hundreds, tens, and units, each of which held its own particular teaching. We think of what someone has seen in their lifetime, what were the momentous historic occasions that they may have witnessed, who were the family members that were in those countings of years. It is in this parashah that we learn many of the customs of burial and mourning that we hold to this day – a span of thousands of years, still providing the foundational teachings for us.
As Avraham negotiates her burial site, he identifies himself as a ger toshav, a person from another land, yet now also a resident. How many of our people over subsequent millennia would also be considered ger toshav? How many, even after establishing property rights, would be seen as alien to that land?
Many demonstrations around the world over these past weeks have accused Israel and Zionism as a ‘colonial’ enterprise. How can we understand this notion of ger toshav as counterpoint to these accusations against Israel? The history of Israel is in our hands as we learn Torah, as we learn about the generations of return and continuation of presence. Let’s keep talking amongst ourselves and with others about what actually is the story, the Torah, the history of Jews and Israel.
Rabbi Lynn Greenhough