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Tuesday, 15 December 2015

From Despair to Hope

Daf Yomi Gittin 2

Avraham and Sarah had been childless for many years.   In a selfless move, Sarah suggests to Avraham to have a child with her maidservant, Hagar.  But no sooner does Hagar conceive than she begins to mock Sarah for her inability to bear children.   Hagar is sent away and finds herself wandering in the wilderness.  

Suddenly, as she sits by a well, she encounters an angel who comforts her and tells her to return to the home of Sarah and Avraham, despite the challenging family dynamics.  The angel blesses her and she responds by naming the place “The Well of the Living One Appearing to Me.”  The Torah concludes the account by stating, “Behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered.” 

If a messenger brings a gett (bill of divorce) from overseas, he must testify, ‘In my presence it was written and signed.’  Rabban Gamliel says: Even if he brings the gett from Rekem or Cheger.
Rashi explains: Rekem and Cheger are the Aramaic translations of Kadesh and Bered.

So one day, an Israeli woman gets a knock on the door.  It’s a telegram from her husband who’s been away on business overseas.  She’s so excited to hear from him!  What could it be?  But, lo and behold, it’s a gett!  Poor woman can’t believe it.  That’s how he divorces her – in the mail?  She’s totally shattered.   Will she ever be able to get her life back on track?

That’s the meaning of Rekem and Cheger.  They are cities that sit on the border between Israel and the Diaspora.  Are they in Israel or are they in the Diaspora?  In a certain sense, they are neither here nor there.  And that’s the feeling of this unfortunate woman who has just received a gett in the mail.  She thought everything was on track when suddenly her life went off the rails.  Now she feels neither here nor there.  She is filled with fear, uncertainty, and desperation.  What does the future hold?

Rashi, however, chimes in and reminds us that Rekem and Cheger are not biblical locations of uncertainty; they are places of hope.  What happened in the Torah’s account of Rekem and Cheger?  Hagar had been ‘divorced’ by Avraham, sent away from her comfortable life and the family she had grown to love.  You can imagine how she must have felt – forlorn, confused, and scared for her future and the future of her unborn child. 

But then the angel appears to her and comforts her.  He tells her to return to Avraham.  He tells her that her child will become a father of multitudes.   And that place becomes so manifest with sanctity and meaning that following Sarah’s passing, the Torah tells of how Yitzchak returns there seeking to reunite Hagar with Avraham!  In other words, Rekem and Cheger represent the transformation of uncertainty into hope for the future.

Sometimes, life hits us with challenges that come out of left field.  We think we have everything planned out so perfectly, only to be thrown a curve-ball that changes everything.  Whether it’s a relationship curve-ball or a stockmarket curve-ball or a health curve-ball, suddenly it feels like your world is caving in.

When that happens, just remember Rekem and Cheger.  Just like the poor Israeli woman who is sent the gett in the mail or poor Hagar who is left to wander pregnant in the wilderness, Hashem will carry you too through the storm of life.  Life may appear uncertain and full of despair today, but the Almighty has already prepared the salvation for you! 

Rekem and Cheger sit on the fine line between despair and hope. You get to decide on which side of the border the dreidel will land.  May you transform your uncertainty and despair into hope and faith, and may you trust in the One Above as He carries you through the storm in the palm of His hand!

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