Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sprouting Salvation

"And G!d shall give you from the dew of the heavens and from the fatness of the earth and much grain and grapes." (Genesis 27:28)

Isaac began blessing his son - Jacob, who is disguised as Esau - with precipitation and agricultural plenty. Isaac had lived through famine and had re-dug wells in the face of opposition. Before those episodes, he had another encounter with life-giving water...

After the Akeidah-Binding, Isaac needed to spend some time away from his father. He carried a walking-stick with him, which he had taken from the top of the mountain, from the thicket where the ram had been caught by its horns. It felt comfortable in his hand, supporting him as he journeyed into his unknown future.

Walking through the desert, he came across a well. As he approached, someone grabbed his legs from behind. Isaac toppled forward, snapping the walking-stick. His heart was pounding, but his fear faded when he heard a child's laughter.

"Daddy, you're home!" said a little boy. Isaac turned to look at him. "Oh, You're not my daddy. But your clothes look like his, no one else wears that kind of scarf around here."
"What's your name?"
"I'm Keydar son of Ishmael. This is our well, we call it B'er L'Chai Ro'i. Come and eat with us."
Ishmael greeted Isaac as a brother, and he stayed with Ishmael's family for many days.

Keydar was the center of attention, full of energy, running around and, most surprising to Isaac, rough-housing with his father. However, Ishmael's oldest son, Nevayot was sick. It was a mysterious illness and no one knew what was wrong. Isaac saw how concerned Ishmael was. He watched as Ishmael brought food to his son's bed, staying to talk quietly with him. Isaac wanted to help too, and to feel that closeness, but what could he bring?

Though he was very weak, Nevayot smiled at Isaac as he entered with two cups of tea. He sat down beside the bed.
"I hate being sick," said Nevayot, "Why did G!d do this to me? I don't like being in bed all the time, and I'm lonely. I'm afraid I'm going to die."
"I have a story to tell you," said Isaac, and he told him about the Akeidah. "As I was lying there, all tied up, I thought that I was dead. But G!d gave me life again. My father lifted up his eyes and saw a ram caught by its horns in the thicket, and we sacrificed the ram instead of me. The branches were put there by G!d to save my life."

Nevayot perked up. "That sounds a lot like one of my father's stories. When he had to leave his home, he almost died of thirst, but then his mother lifted up her eyes and saw a well. They were able to drink the water and live. Grandmother remembered another well that she had called B'er L'chai Ro'i, the well of the Life that watches me, so she called this one that too. And that's were we live now."

"When I first came here, your brother tackled me, and the branch I was carrying with me, the one that caught the ram, was broken. I left it there in the dust because I couldn't use it anymore. I went back there today, and through the rain and the dew, G!d made the seeds live again as a new plant. I made you tea from leaves of that plant and water from B'er L'chai Roi. Sometimes G!d makes things die, but G!d also makes us live."

Nevayot did recover, and the whole family celebrated together. Of Ishmael's many children, they each had different personalities and strengths, and Ishmael loved them all.

Isaac went from B'er L'chai Ro'i to pray in the field. It was his favorite time of day, when the sun was on it's way down, before sunset. He composed a blessing:

You are eternally mighty, my L!rd, the Resuscitator of the dead are You; abundantly able to save. He makes the wind blow and He makes the rain descend. He sustains the living with kindness, resuscitates the dead with abundant mercy, supports the fallen, heals the sick, releases the confined, and maintains His faith to those asleep in the dust. Who is like You, O Master of mighty deeds, and who is comparable to You, O King who causes death and life and makes salvation sprout. And You are reliable to resuscitate the dead. Blessed are you G!d, who gives life to the dead. (Second blessing of the Amidah)

Isaac lifted up his eyes and saw his future wife and his new life ahead of him.

And Isaac came from the way of B'er L'chai Ro'i; for he dwelt in the land of the South. And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide; and he lifted up his eyes, and saw, and, behold, there were camels coming. (Genesis 24: 62, 63)


Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

cool, great connection of different elements... and i have a soft spot for positive portrayals of Uncle Yishma‘el ;-)

Warren Burstein said...

Can I contribute a midrash fragment?

After Rachel told her sister Leah the signs by which she might impersonate her on Leah and Jacob's wedding night, Leah said, "but a yeshiva student like Jacob will know the Gemara in Bava Batra 123a that says that my eyelashes fell out from weeping when I thought I would have to marry Esau, what will I do if he caresses my face in the dark and discovers I am not you?"

Rachel replied, "Here, I bought you a set of false eyelashes. They're the latest fashion. They're made out of goat hairs."