Parshas Chayei Sarah - Living with G-d

By Rabbi Moshe Taragin

Posted on 11/09/20

Parshas HaShavua Divrei Torah sponsored by
Dr. Shapsy Tajerstein, DPM - Podiatry Care.
(410) 788-6633

Avraham’s revolution had begun to gain traction. He traversed the promised land, participating both in wars as well as in diplomacy, all the while disseminating awareness about a one G-d. Though his message radiated throughout the land of Israel, it still hadn’t infiltrated cultures outside the land of G-d. His only previous attempt – during his brief sojourn in Egypt- was unsuccessful. Toward the end of his life, he succeeds in circulating his groundbreaking ideas outside the land of Israel. Dispatching his trusted servant to his former family is primarily a “wedding project” – to locate a bride for Yitzchak. Additionally, it is a “cultural exchange program”- an opportunity to spread his bold new religious ideas to his former homeland.

Avraham’s servant doesn’t deliver sophisticated religious lectures or rousing sermons, but, in his own way, he spreads Avraham’s gospel. This servant possesses unflappable faith in G-d who he knows assists his mission of locating a suitable wife for Yiztchak. The lavish gifts he bestows reflects the generosity and altruism which Avraham had founded his religious system upon. Beyond his generosity and faith, this servant inspires Rivka’s family through a very simple but effective method - he constantly mentions G-d by name. As the drama of Rivka unfolds, the name of G-d appears 15 times! The servant prays to G-d for assistance, thanks Him for his success and bows in appreciation. This G-d -awareness is contagious as Rivka’s family – not especially known for their priestly background- also mentions G-d three times. This is, by far, the highest concentration of G-d’s name in the entire sefer of Breishit. This condition was jump-started by Avraham who instructed his servant to swear in the name of G-d to dutifully fulfill the complicated mission.

This simple mentioning of G-d's name is very different from the frontal religious preaching of Avraham during his journeys. Typically, Avraham would introduce the notion of G-d by teaching religious doctrines and theological principles. His teaching is described with the phrase “likro b'shem Hashem” literally calling in the name of G-d. By contrast, this uneducated servant may not be capable of discoursing in sophisticated religious concepts. Instead he is a simple servant, but one who lives with constant and tangible G-d-awareness and he threads his daily interaction and conversation with the name of G-d.

We all strive to forge an abiding relationship with God. This relationship is generally founded upon high-minded experiences such as Torah study, mitzvah performance, prayer, charitable behavior, and commitment to Jewish history. However, sometimes these powerful ideas and experiences become so mesmerizing and so all-consuming that we don’t always sense G-d’s presence within them. Halacha can become a routine of life, Torah study an all-immersive intellectual pursuit, and charity a social campaign rather than a religious crusade. One of the manners of cementing G-d's presence is frequently mentioning His name in our day-to-day affairs. By including G-d's name in our daily conversation we create greater familiarity and greater presence. Typically, we insert His name when planning the future (im yirtzeh Hashem) or when thanking Him for our successes (baruch Hashem). Certainly, some overuse these phrases, saddling their sentences with unnecessary mentions of G-d’s name thereby creating muddled meaning. Perhaps this overuse discourages some from more balanced mentioning of His name. A healthy dosage of G-d’s name within our verbal diet creates a more palpable presence of Him in our lives.

In addition to mentioning Him in our common sentences we mention His name ritually over 100 times a day – in our daily blessings. Sadly, our fast-paced life doesn’t always allow proper time for full concentration when reciting our daily berachot. However, focusing when we mention G-d’s name seems like a more attainable goal even if we aren’t able to muster full concentration during the entirety of our prayer or during the entire sweep of beracha recital.

A third method of creating greater intimacy with G-d is describing Him in more personal terms. The term G-d is an English and universal term employed by peoples and religions across the world to refer to a vast array of deities. By contrast, there are more “personal” titles, employed solely by Jews which can convey a greater sense of relationship. These terms include Hashem, Hakadosh Baruch Hu and the Ribono shel Olam. Sometimes swapping in these terms for the word G-d can alter the dynamic of our relationship lending it a more private and familiar feel.

Full disclosure: In my articles I do employ the more universal term of G-d to maintain “literary consistency”: as the articles are written in English, the term G-d allows greater fluidity when reading. In my personal conversations I try to employ the more intimate terms of Ribono shel Olam, Hashem or Hakadosh Barcuh hu.

This challenge of creating a concrete presence of G-d in our lives extends to an additional aspect- beyond the question of how often we include His name in our daily conversations or berachot. Often our educational curriculums and general religious study veers away from discussing G-d while focusing solely on values, Torah study, mitzvah performance or historical commitment. Obviously, we pursue these timeless agendas because we view them as G-d's will; submission to these experiences is, by definition, submission to His will. However, sometimes we don’t sufficiently trace our conversation back to G-d even though we assume its implicit correlation. More explicit discussion about G-d can create a more powerful presence of G-d in our lives. Modern man sometimes blushes at the mere mention of G-d. Jews should take care not to allow these modern trends to shape our discourse, language, and conversation.


With the untimely passing of Rabbi Jonathan Saks z”l, the Jewish world has lost one of its greatest spokesman. Avraham was heralded as the uniter of Heaven and Earth because he transformed the image of G-d from a celestial authority, disconnected from the human realm, into a loving Creator who continued to be present and interactive with His creation. Rabbi Saks eloquently and passionately reminded us that Torah and its values are not only eternal, but that they also comment on every aspect of human affairs- from social trends and moral thought to politics and history. He reminded us that the word of G-d and His presence radiate throughout every corner of the human experience. He inserted G-d awareness into the imagination of so many moderns- both Jew and non-Jew alike. As the Jewish nation has emerged from two millennia of “historical hibernation”, we are slowly reimagining our universalist agenda. Rabbi Saks was able to distill the core values of Judaism and inspire a worldwide community of the faithful.

He married Torah and G-d’s will to our Earth with an eloquence reflecting the magnificence of G-d’s Heaven.

yehi zichro baruch