Fall is finally here, though it has been a warm fall.
I finally brought in the last of the green volunteer tomatoes that were growing on my compost pile. Now I have to let them ripen and then make them into tomato sauce. I also brought in the houseplants from their summer outdoor sojourn.
We are now into the month of Cheshvan; Nov. 10 is the 21st day of Cheshvan. So what is so special about the month of Cheshvan?
There really isn’t much going on in Cheshvan at all—it is a month without notable holidays. But in nine days, on Nov 19, it will be Rosh Chodesh Kislev, the first of the month of Kislev. And Kislev is the month in which Hanukkah comes.
I actually appreciate a quiet month such as Cheshvan. This is because our weekly Torah portions are so interesting. We started reading the Book of Genesis, Bereshit, on the Shabbat of Oct 14. I really enjoy reading Genesis, because of the wonderful stories of family, of people struggling with their lives, their families, with God.
Saturday’s Parsha, Torah portion, is Chaye Sarah. This starts off saying that Sarah died at age 127. Isaac, as you know, had been taken by his father off to Mt. Moriah to be sacrificed. God intervened at the last moment and stopped Abraham from carrying out the deed.
But, did you realize that Isaac did not come home with his father after that? He did not, according to the Torah. Instead he seems to disappear from the story for a while. Well, I cannot blame him—would you stay with a parent who came close to killing you?
So Abraham returned home alone, with his servants, without Isaac. So maybe that’s why Sarah died so suddenly—from shock and grief. What do you think? But Abraham went on living. He later had another wife, named Keturah, with whom he had six sons.
Speaking of Isaac and the Sacrifice of Isaac, I recently had a wonderful discussion about this story, and its parallel story in the Koran, with women who are part of the growing movement called the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom. We are a group of Jewish and Muslim women who are seeking to get to know each other better, and just to be friends. We are learning how much we have in common with each other, and learning about each other’s faiths, sacred texts and traditions.
We have a chapter here in Central Pennsylvania that has been meeting for about six months. We meet every month or so to talk and to share.
But did you know that the Koran has a story of Abraham sacrificing his son, just as we have in the Torah? It is contained in Surah 37, starting at about verse 102. The Muslim tradition says that the son whom Abraham tried to sacrifice was Ishmael, although the Koran does not give his name specifically. The story differs from the Torah in that Abraham tells his son that God has commanded him to sacrifice him, and his son willingly agrees to be sacrificed. But, like in the Torah, Abraham is stopped from carrying out the deed at the last minute.
Both are stories about how our common ancestor, Abraham, struggled with his faith and his relationship with God. Our conversation about these two stories was both online and also during one of our meetings. And to me it was a great joy to talk about these stories and to learn from each other.
We are so blessed to live in a country where we can meet and befriend people of many faiths, ethnicities and origins. All our faiths call for us to banish hatred, to embrace our neighbors and to live in harmony. Let’s all work together on that!