As you all know, today is my Bat Mitzvah. The portion from today that we were all reading is called Chayyei Sarah. It translates to, “The Life Of Sarah.” Just to clarify, it is not about my life. It is actually about the life of Abraham’s wife, who was also named Sarah. Funny coincidence.
The portion starts when Sarah has passed away, and with Abraham mourning her loss. This is followed by Abraham finding and buying a place to bury her. Then the Torah reading moves onto other topics and storylines involving Abraham, Isaac, camels, water, promises, and Rebecca.
Sarah had a wonderful and sharing relationship with her husband, Abraham. They were famous for their hospitality and kindness to strangers. HaShem blessed her with a child, Isaac, at the age of 90. She lived to be 127 years old. And she was the mother of the Jewish nation, which eventually came from Isaac’s – and then Jacob’s – descendents.
Through the portion, Abraham and Isaac are looking for a way to bring Sarah’s spirit back to the family, which they are sort of able to do at the end, when Rebecca comes and marries Isaac.
In the parsha today, Sarah’s family grieved for the loss of their wife and mother. Of course, loss comes in many forms. And with that loss, there is also grief. It might be the loss of a loved one, of a person’s eyesight, or of another physical ability. Sometimes there is nothing we can do for a loss than to take the time to heal – physically and emotionally. And sometimes, when we are lucky, there are ways other people can help someone heal. Maybe a bit faster. Maybe a bit better. Maybe with the help of a dog!
For my Mitzvah project, I am raising money for the Israel Guide Dog Center. They help train dogs to serve Israel’s 24,000 blind and visually impaired citizens and it is the only internationally accredited guide dog program in the country. I started raising money through my school, the Temple, and I even wrote a message on my mom's facebook and created a go fund me. We would be so thankful for any amount of donations to this amazing and worthy service organization. The donation boxes are open until the end of November.
I chose this project also because I happen to love dogs - especially Bella. (Bentley not so much :)) And for some strange reason, I’ve grown to love animals :) Can’t imagine why! (point to Dad). In Chayei Sarah, Rebecca shows kindness to animals by giving water to the camels of Abraham’s servant, Eliezer, who understood this action as a sign from G-d that Rebecca was the one for Isaac. The Hebrew expression for kindness to animals is “Tza’ar Ba’alay Chayim,” which means “feeling the pain of other creatures.”
If you can feel the pain of animals, the Torah is telling us, you will be better prepared to help ease the pain of other people too.
Compassion for animals and also to people who have extraordinary pain in their lives is something that I’ve experienced personally.
If you know me, you know that I get hurt a lot. In fourth Grade, I fractured my growth plate, and I guess not everything healed 100% properly. After six orthopedists, and three and a half years, I was diagnosed with something called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. This is a condition where my nerves don’t communicate with my brain properly, so I am feeling pain where it shouldn’t be. I have been in nearly constant pain for about four years, even though nothing visible is wrong. That is why none of the orthopedists found anything on their imaging. Anyway, pain has affected my life tremendously, and though I would much rather not have had it, It has given me a better recognition of other people’s pain, more compassion toward people who suffer, and a stronger will to help them feel better.