First aliyah: Gen. 21: 1–8 The birth of Isaac. Births and new beginnings
In this aliyah we hear of the birth of Isaac. All those who have experienced a birth or new beginning, whether expected or a wonderful surprise: if you want to acknowledge, give thanks, and receive a blessing, please rise.
Mishaberach: Ruth Hirsch
It is possible we each and all have moments of surprise, moments of newness, of being awake. We may each, all of us, have reason to rise. And how wonderful, our being able to arise in spirit and perhaps in body.
In this Parsha, this story—— so mysterious: this much older couple, Sara and Abraham, have their first baby at very, very advanced ages—
The wife of a hundred year old man bears a child! We can read this story literally or as a metaphor, a teaching story for the miracles that may be possible in life.
In the opening of This Parsha we hear that Hashem ’notices Sara.’ How powerful is that attention. How powerful are we when we have a moment of noticing.
G-d noticed Sarah: when we pay attention, we do not know what is possible. When we have that moment of being alive, of actually feeling our aliveness……. We may waken to life, to see what we had been missing.
Let us close with a blessing. As we turn to close, may we all be blessed and bless one another to realize these precious and if we notice, profound moments of aliveness, dramatic or subtle. And may we have gratitude for noticing and appreciating the life that surrounds us.
Second aliyah: Gen. 21: 9–16 The exile of Hagar and Ishmael. Breaches, deaths, loss
This aliyah tells the story of Hagar and Ishmael. We know the past year has been marked by darkness and difficulties for many. We call all those whose year was marked by loss, brokenness, death, and who would like to acknowledge that and receive a blessing for a better year to rise.
Mishaberach: Laurie Schwartz
Mi sheberach avotanu Avraham, Yitzhak, v’Yaakov V’ emotanu Sara, Rivka, Rachel, v’Leah:
May the one who blessed our ancestors bless you as you travel along this road of loss, defeat, separation, and even death, to confront circumstances that seem impossible or incomprehensible.
May you realize that the feelings of emptiness, sadness, and suffering, in essence grief, wants you to turn away from life as you’ve known it…as Hagar turned away from Ismael who she laid against a tree, dying of thirst. In the desert, she felt deserted.
May this pain, caused by being human, soon lead you to the doorway where the spirit of Creator fills you with hope, and you find the waters of your life that give you strength to carry on.
May you see and feel the power of Creator as your heart expands and you continue your journey toward rebirth and wholeness.
May our ancestors, and our community, walk with you on this road we all get to travel at some point.
And let us say Amen.
Third aliyah: Gen. 21: 17–21 The salvation of Hagar and Ishmael
Hagar and Yishmael are alone in the desert. They’ve eaten the bread and drunk all the water they had with them. Hagar separates herself from Yishmael because she doesn’t want to see him die of thirst and cries and wails until an angel comes to tell her to look up and see a well of water that will sustain them until they reach other people. We understand her tears of despair.
Another woman in despair appears in the book of Judges. The general Sisera leads his army in war against the Israelites. The Judge Devorah and General Barak lead the Israelites and defeat Sisera’s forces. Sisera flees to the tent of Yael, who offers him food and drink and tucks him into bed…and then takes a tent peg and hammers it into his skull to kill the enemy. When Sisera’s army returns home his mother is waiting and waiting for his triumphant return to her house. When, at last, she realizes that her son will not return, she cries tears of despair.
Two women, the mother of a boy who tormented Yitzhak and the mother of a general who fought to destroy Israel, are connected by their despair. Indeed, the second call of the shofar, shevarim, the three blasts, are said to represent the grief and wailing of…Sisera’s mother, the mother of our enemy.
In the response to the despair of these women who are not from our tribe, we see compassion even for those who torment us, even for the mother of our enemy, for what human being lives without fear, grief, loss, and love. This aliyah is for all who want to nurture compassion within themselves, to see clearly both that the world contains people who hate us and want to kill us AND also mothers (and fathers, and other adults) who all love their children just as we do.
Misheberach: Louise Dewhirst
Misheberach avoteinu Avraham, Yitzach v’Yaakov, v’imoteinu Sarah, Rachel, Rivkah v’Leah. May the ones who blessed our ancestors bless you with compassion and courage in the year to come.
May you hear in the shofar blasts this Rosh Hashanah the birth pangs of the world, the cries of mothers giving birth, and also the lamentations of the bereaved. We are all someone’s children, and we can all relate to parents. May you be gentle with yourselves and be brave enough to find room in your heart for empathy for all those who need your compassion.
And let us say amen.