Chayei Sarah 5783 – Eilecha
Sometimes we get lost in the noise of the world around us. This is especially true now as the world feels like an increasingly scary place, and also true when we’ve been through something traumatic. Prayer allows us to tune our frequency to what is happening within and open up our hearts to possibility and hope. We don’t know how much we need this. When Isaac goes out to pray in the field, he is in a state of shock. The last time we heard his voice was when his father Abraham was about to sacrifice him. Since that time his mother Sarah has died and now he is alone. He goes out into the field filled with heartbreak. I imagine him sitting amongst the tall grasses, humming to himself, searching for comfort.
But perhaps he was not completely alone. In the Torah we read,
“וַיֵּצֵ֥א יִצְחָ֛ק לָשׂ֥וּחַ בַּשָּׂדֶ֖ה לִפְנ֣וֹת עָ֑רֶב וַיִּשָּׂ֤א עֵינָיו֙ וַיַּ֔רְא וְהִנֵּ֥ה גְמַלִּ֖ים בָּאִֽים׃
And Isaac went forth to pray in the field towards evening, and he lifted his eyes and saw, and behold, camels were approaching.” (Gen. 24:63)
The word “su’ach”, “prayer/conversation,” can also be read as “si’ach” “shrub”. Rebbe Nachman teaches that Isaac’s prayer was accompanied by every bush and shrub in the field, waving and swaying and giving strength to his prayer.
Only when Isaac felt that strength and support elevating his prayer was he able to lift up his eyes and truly see what life could look like beyond the pain of his mother’s death and his father’s betrayal. As Rabbi Naomi Levy writes, “But prayer is not an end in itself. It is a beginning. An opening up.” The words of this daily prayer from Psalm 30 are a calling out, an initiation of a conversation. And only once we open our hearts are we able to imagine and embrace what a response might feel like.
“אֵלֶיךָ ה׳ אֶקְרָא וְאֶל־אֲדֹנָי אֶתְחַנָּן׃ שְׁמַע ה׳ וְחנֵּנִי ה׳ הֱיֵה־עֹזֵר לִי׃
I called to You, Holy One. To You I reached out for connection. Hear me, Holy One, receive my call and connect in return.” (Psalms 30:9, 11)
What would it look like for us, like Isaac, to awaken our prayer and the prayers of those around us as a vision of hope for the future? To call out for connection and to answer the call of those reaching out for connection in return?