November 13, 2020
Full disclosure, this week’s parshah has always been one with which I have struggled. Why is Sarah finally recognized with a named Torah portion, Chayei Sarah (The Life of Sarah), in the parshah which announces her death? I have wrestled with this seeming conflict for most of my life, and candidly, I now believe it was because I was too immature to understand. I thought that one’s life was the sum of experiences we gained while alive. However, as I matured, I came to understand that our lives should not be seen as the “what we have experienced” but rather the “what we have cultivated” through our experiences.
Our sages identify Sarah, not only as the matriarch of the Jewish people, but as possessing an elevated spiritual status even greater than Abraham’s. In all the stories about Abraham, when he argues with Gd, when he invites angels into his home, when he negotiates his separation from Lot, it is Sarah’s unassuming absence from these moments that elevates her spirituality. And it is in this week’s Torah portion that we come to understand that Sarah’s “life” is really about her legacy.
Unlike Abraham, Sarah is never “tested”. Sarah challenges when opposition is needed, she laughs in times of comedy, and she cries when she feels pain and suffering. Sarah’s legacy is the Jewish community of today. Throughout the generations between her life and ours, we have seen many enemies who tried to eliminate our people, and yet we continue to challenge when we need to, to laugh when we experience the absurd, and to cry when we feel sorrow. Our lives are summed up in the legacy that we leave.
The last six months of COVID and the many other associated obstacles have challenged the Jewish Federation of San Antonio in many ways. We needed to completely shift the Holocaust Memorial Museum of San Antonio from an in-person educational experience to a virtual online platform. We needed to partner with the FBI and local law enforcement on multiple occasions to vigorously address the recent surge of local acts of antisemitism and hate. And we have pursued a $1.4M community-wide Annual Campaign to fund the needs of our local Jewish agencies in an unprecedented socially distanced and virtual environment. However, for the LIFE & LEGACY® initiative it has been a real struggle.
Securing end of life gifts for the sustainability of our San Antonio Jewish organizations is a personal, relational, and very much in-person conversation, and COVID has been relentless to these “meetings.” For instance, did you know, that as of September 2020, the LIFE & LEGACY® initiative has secured $7,350,066 in anticipated permanent endowments for the San Antonio Jewish community? Or that 190 individuals and/or couples have signed Letters of Intent to establish 287 legacy gifts for the 11 partner Jewish organizations and agencies!
In honor of our matriarch, Sarah, and in memory of the legacy she has left to all of us, we encourage you to learn more about the LIFE & LEGACY® program by reaching out to the Jewish Federation directly, or to your Jewish agency of choice (click <<HERE>> to see all 11 local Jewish agencies participating in this critical initiative for our Jewish future).
This week, we are asking the entire community to consider our personal life and legacy and join the Jewish Federation so that we can all be: