For the week of November 2, 2002 / 27 Heshvan 5763
Torah: Bereshit / Genesis 23:1 - 25:18
Haftarah: 1 Kings 1:1-31
It Sometimes Takes a Tragedy
His (Abraham's) sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah near Mamre, in the field of Ephron son of Zohar the Hittite (Bereshit / Genesis 25:9).
This week's portion includes the account of Abraham's death and burial. This is the only occasion in the Torah where we read that Isaac and Ishmael were involved in anything together. It is through Abraham's son Isaac that the people of Israel are descended, while the Arab peoples trace their ancestry through Ishmael.
There was strife between Isaac and Ishmael from even before Isaac was born. This continued afterward and led to the sending away of Ishmael and his mother, Hagar.
It appears that it was not until Abraham died that his sons saw each other again. The tone of the passage gives us the impression that this was a peaceful encounter. It was probably their last, peaceful meeting.
The strife between Isaac and Ishmael through their descendants continues to this day. Hardly a day goes by that we don't hear of its effects. This struggle between brothers has led to the death of many of each one's descendants.
Sadly, it sometimes takes a tragedy to bring brothers together.
Now, of course, it wasn't the death in and of itself that made a difference to them. It was their mutual respect for their father that did. But notice it wasn't his life that brought them together, it was his death.
I recognize that this occasion did not cause a true reconciliation between the brothers, but it did bring them together.
What will it take to bring lasting peace between Isaac and Ishmael? There certainly isn't anything in the current situation that gives us any hope.
I believe it will be another tragedy. In fact it will be another death. Not a death yet to come, there have been enough deaths that have occurred due to this continual strife. This death actually happened many years ago.
God's answer for this strife and all discord between peoples is that he took on human form as the Messiah, entered our misery, and died on our behalf.
To humbly come to the place where we can acknowledge God's sacrificial provision is the only solution to our ongoing struggles.
Once Isaac and Ishmael can come together and meet in this place of humility, recognizing the great price God paid for our sins, reconciliation will occur.
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