Sparks in the Darkness


As we open our Torah scroll this week, our patriarch, Issac, sits in darkness. In the aftermath of being bound to the altar by his father, Abraham, Isaac now mourns the loss of his mother, Sarah. Abraham is bent on making a match for his son in order to continue the family line and sends his servant Eliezer on a mission. Eliezer returns with Rebecca, who is known for her loving generosity to strangers and kindness to camels. Midrash offers a powerful description of Isaac’s connection with Rebecca and the life-giving presence she provides for him: “Three years Isaac mourned for his mother. Every time he entered her tent, and saw it in darkness, he would tear his hair. But when he married Rebecca, and brought her into the tent, the light returned to its place” (Midrash Ha-Gadol 24:67). In her teaching for the Institute of Jewish Spirituality this week, Yael Shy comments on this midrash: “Rebecca brings Isaac back to life after the death of his mother. She literally illuminates the place in his life that was in darkness and despair.” This Shabbat, as the nights grow longer, I am reminded of the healing possibilities that can arise when we are able to sit with one another in the darkness until sparks of light can be found again.