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Desert Life

Life in the desert is hard. The scorching sun radiates all that is there. The arid climate causes the skin to chap and the parched land to crack.

The inhabitants of the few ancient cities who lived in this type of environment lived with sweat on their brows, with sand in their teeth, and rough, dry hands. They fought for survival every day—one gulp of water at a time. You see, they depended on wells to survive. In such a place, the well was the source of life.

When the ancients traveled great distances in this climate, they risked death by dehydration.

And so, when Abraham’s servant traveled from Canaan across the great arid distances to find a wife for Isaac, he visited many wells along the way. And, he depended on the kindness of those around him to let him drink from their well. In some cities, the inhabitants were welcoming, and shared generously. But in others, the inhabitants only conceded access to their spring after they tired of his persistent requests. The trek to the land of Abraham’s birth was arduous, and had taken a toll on him.

On that long, lonely journey, he had a lot of time to think. He had many reservations about how he would identify a lifelong partner for Isaac. After many hours of thinking to himself, finally, he thought of a way- a sure way-- to identify her. It was a clever plan. An idea birthed from a scorched spirit. He prayed to God that it would work. He would visit the well outside of the city of Nahor. At the time when the women would go out to collect water, he would kneel there with Abraham’s 10 camels. He would ask each of the maidens there to drink from her jar. Whosoever replies, “Drink and I will also water your camels” will be the one.

A person who would have compassion for a parched body and soul, who would naturally want to rejuvenate and revitalize the weary --a person who knew and appreciated the wellspring, her access to it, and would want to share it with others, would be the one.

And, indeed, Rebecca fulfilled that prayer.

Like the traveler, we are all subject to dehydration. Over time, we can become parched. Sometimes dessicated. Thirsty for even the smallest drop of replenishment. The personal losses we sustain in our sometimes grueling scheduled lives can grind on us like sand between our teeth. We need a source to wash over us. We need to take it in. A revitalizing, invigorating, wave of rejuvenation. Once a week, Shabbat is our refreshment.

Like the ancients who fetched water from a well, once a week, we return to Shabbat, for rejuvenation. Shabbat is our well. We each have that human need-- for water but not just water. For replenishment, inspiration. When our neshamot, our spirits, are parched, we revive them with Shabbat.

Shabbat is our time to celebrate our sacred time of replenishment. To restore our own spirits and to be revitalized.

May we each enjoy the rejuvenating power of Shabbat. Amen.

The above is a reflection by Rabbi Heather Miller on this week's Torah portion, Parashat Chayyei Sarah, Genesis 23:1-25:18. Please visit to subscribe and follow on social media.

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