At First Sight – Parshat Chayei Sarah 5776

At First Sight

You hear that parenting changes your life completely, but obviously it’s a different feeling for every parent.  Over two years ago as Duncan and I prepared to welcome Shiri into our lives, we knew we were about to experience something intensely emotional, like nothing we’d ever experienced before.  At the same time we weren’t sure how that would manifest itself, and what it would actually feel like to become parents.  There was a certain expectation of an instant bond, an immediate love-beyond-anything connection. For me, having carried Shiri, that feeling was represented by awe, amazement, and gratefulness to God for this beautiful miracle that my body produced.  On the other hand, Duncan likes to take everything in and process it on his time, which for him has meant a love that has grown exponentially ever since that first day.  The more he got to know her, the more he loved her.

The notion that the more you know someone the uglier or prettier they can become is a very real phenomenon. Scientific research based on concepts like “propinquity,” which refers to the nearness of people to each other, suggests a person can become more or less attractive to you based on how much and how long you interact with them.

Our Torah portion this week, parshat Chayei Sarah, illustrates this.  In this part of the narrative, we read about Abraham and Sarah and their journey raising their son Isaac to the huppah and a life of good deeds.  Our reading begins with the death of Sarah, and Abraham looking for a proper place to lay her body to rest.  Immediately after the burial of his own life partner, Abraham sets out to find a mate for his son, hoping to ensure that he has comfort and support as he mourns his mother.  The text shares the story of Isaac and Rebekah meeting, marrying, and falling in love, and it ends with the death of Abraham. Within this section of text is also the building of a family for Rebekah and Isaac.  

The text is clear in chapter 24, verse 67: “Isaac then brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he took Rebekah as his wife.  Isaac loved her, and thus found comfort after his mother’s death.”  In other words, Isaac comes to love Rebekah after he marries her.  Their love is the result, not the prerequisite, of their relationship.  

The Torah reminds us that relationships take time to blossom, and we are urged to take time to know one another, to truly engage face to face with those around us because that’s how meaningful connections grow.

The instantaneous attachment when parent meets child may be real, but it’s shallow and fleeting. Of course I love Shiri because she’s my daughter, but also because I’ve grown to love her as the bright, independent, beautiful spirit she’s becoming. And that’s a love that only gets bigger.

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