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		                                    Thinking Torah Blog		                                </span>

11/17/2022 05:00:00 PM


Rabbi Josh Whinston

As this week’s parashah arrives every year, I am reminded of a deeply important family moment for our ancestors. Abraham dies in this week’s Torah portion and our text tells us, “His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah…”(Gen. 25:9) We might remember that Ishmael and his mother Hagar were sent away in last week’s Torah portion. According to our sages, Sarah was concerned that Ishmael was not treating Isaac well. After being banished from the family, one might expect that Ishmael would stay away, even with the death of his father Abraham. But that isn’t what Ishmael does. He shows up to honor his father’s memory and help bury Abraham. Our sages also note the order of Isaac and Ishmael’s names in the verse above, saying that, even though Ishmael is the older child, Ishmael honors Isaac by yielding precedence to Isaac and having his name listed first.

I don’t know if anyone makes it through life without having some kind of family strife. Even families that appear perfect from the outside often have some conflict, somewhere. Family is wonderful in so many ways for us, but family can also hold many conflicts. Many of us hold on to hurt and mistrust for so long and forget that it's ok to forgive. Depending on the conflict, forgiving can be quite hard, but it is usually worth it. It is worth working on forgiving, especially our family members. Too much is at stake. 

It’s hard to know if Ishmael forgave Abraham for sending him away -- maybe that forgiveness is implied in his showing up to bury his father -- but it feels like Isaac and Ishmael were able to reconcile. We don’t know what happens through the rest of their relationship, but we can imagine a future where they are able to be present for each other in more than just their grief.

Tue, December 5 2023 22 Kislev 5784