This week’s alumni dvar torah is by Tzipporah Machlah Klapper
Modern Orthodoxy suffered a great loss this year in the death of Rav Aharon Lichtenstein ztz”l. In the aftermath of his death, we are still mourning. We have no one to replace him, not in intellect, nor in eloquence, nor in humility. For many, Rav Lichtenstein was the paragon of Modern Orthodox virtue: in love with Judaism and literature, excellent in both academic and worldly tasks, and a genuinely good and humble person.
Similarly, Sarah was a woman unparalleled in charisma and virtue. She converted unknown numbers of women to Judaism and raised her son Yitzchak while doing so, even though she was very old by then. She spent her life traveling and sacrificing to spread Torah among the nations, continuing despite multiple captures. When Sarah died, Yitzchak was bereft.
There was hope, though. Not long after Sarah died, Rivka arrived. There is a very famous Rashi (Bereishis 24:67):
האהלה שרה אמו: ויביאה האהלה ונעשית דוגמת שרה אמו, כלומר והרי היא שרה אמו, שכל זמן ששרה קיימת היה נר דלוק מערב שבת לערב שבת, וברכה מצויה בעיסה, וענן קשור על האהל, ומשמתה פסקו, וכשבאת רבקה חזרו
The tent of Sarah his mother: He brought her to the tent and she became like Sarah his mother; that is to say, just as when Sarah was alive the lamp burned from Friday to Friday, the dough was blessed, and the Cloud was over the tent (after her death, it stopped) – when Rivka arrived, [the miracles] returned.
When Yitzchak takes Rivka into the tent, he is comforted. The candles (representing sholom bayis), stay lit again. The dough multiplies, assuring material prosperity. The Cloud returns, as well, showing God’s open approval for the new matriarch.
Rivka replaces Sarah. She ushers in a new era of leadership for the Jewish people, but with the miracles of the past intact. In the new generation, too, peace, prosperity, and G-dliness are assured. If even so great a person as Sarah could be replaced, perhaps we, too, can hope: There will be new leaders, and we will be comforted.
Tzipporah Machlah Klapper (SBM 2014, 2015 and MA 2015) serves as program director for CMTL’s Midreshet Avigayil, an intense summer gemara program for girls.