Scripture teaches the endurance of a mother’s love - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Scripture teaches the endurance of a mother’s love

May 11th, 2021 development
Scripture teaches the endurance of a mother’s love

Rabbi Irwin Wiener, D.D.

There is nothing sweeter or more enduring than a mother’s love. Scripture teaches this in a significant and moving way.

In the Bible – Genesis – the mother of three faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, gives birth to Isaac in the winter of her life, a time when traditionally all things sleep and even wither and die. Her vision of continuity was fulfilled with laughter and tears (Isaac means laughter).

And her immortality was ensured because she completed her role in determining the future of the human experience that was woven in the promise of a relationship with the Divine.

The details of her passing (Genesis:23) follows the chapter outlining the famous spiritual experience of the faith-filled devotion of a father to answer the call of sacrifice – in this instance, the ultimate sacrifice (Genesis:22).

The binding of Isaac tugged at the very heart of a mother’s bond to her child. Isaac’s unchallenged response to that demand by God was more than a mother could bear.

In ancient mystical writings there is a story, emphasizing this connection, about a dialogue between Sarah and an image of her son Isaac in which she inquires about the happening with his father Abraham.

Isaac relates the whole episode of how Abraham took him to the top of the mountain, built an altar, arranged the wood, bound him and took a knife to slaughter him. And then God prevented this from happening. Before the dialogue ends, Sarah dies.

The mystics were trying to bring attention to the despair she must have felt.  Not only had she sacrificed so much to give birth to Isaac, now she saw a vision of her dreams of the future shattered in an instance of uncompromising faith.

The binding of Isaac and the thought of his sacrifice was more than her heart could carry.

The details of a mother’s anguish and pain speaks to the suffering we all experience as we journey through life, trying to find our purpose for being. Yet, all of us at one time or another try to answer the Divine in us.

Her lesson for us is simple. Sometimes we go through experiences that require a search for new meaning because of disappointments, tragedies, illnesses, not being able to communicate with a loved one because of something that really is insignificant.

And then like Sarah, we feel challenged. It is a broken heart that finally creates the need for her story to be told, and particularly at this time of the year when we all remember our mothers.

Sarah could not cope with the thought that God would want such a sacrifice.  Her knowledge that human relationships are the foundation of creation causes her to doubt, and it is this doubt that results in her defeat. She could not reconcile the defeat with her faith. 

She did not fully understand that the message of this experience was that we do not sacrifice humans for any reason.

All life is sacred, and God is trying to teach her and all humanity that human sacrifice is not the path to salvation and acceptance by God.

Yes, there is a chapter set aside in the Bible titled “The Life of Sarah,” because from the moment she dies, Abraham changes and understands that faith in God requires a human vision of life.

Perhaps this is the lesson we should take with us on this Mother’s Day: Life is not death – life is to live.  And a mother’s love brought us to this understanding.

Rabbi Irwin Wiener is the spiritual leader of the Sun Lakes Jewish Congregation.