Sarah and her many daughters: Women of two lives

Chayei Sarah
Torah: Genesis 23:1-25:18
Haftarah: I Kings 1:1-31

Location: A coffee table in The World To Come, seating for 14…

Bella Abzug: Well, that was disappointing. I thought not getting the Equal Rights Amendment passed was bad.

Emma Goldman: The struggle against widespread oppression and exploitation is never over.

Sarah Schenirer: In the early 20th century when I founded the Bais Yaakov educational movement for girls in Krakow, we taught Pirkei Avot: “It is not your responsibility to finish the work of perfecting the world, but you are not free to desist from it either,” said Rabbi Tarfon.

Beruryah: Well, Sarah, I was born just after Tarfon, in the 3rd century, and let me tell you: He had issues. Especially with people with whom he disagreed. Kind of like You-Know-Who.

Schenirer: It must have hurt you, Beruryah, when those male medieval commentators rewrote you as a lightweight bimbo.

Beruryah: Yes, but I am glad you fought for Torah education for girls. And you too, Doña, what a role model you are for women in business.

Doña Gracia Nasi: Right you are. The 16th century was hard enough with the Inquisition in Portugal and having to flee to Constantinople. But I never went bankrupt!

Regina Jonas: Enough of him. What about her? I had hoped that she would make history as the first woman president in the United States. I was the first woman rabbi, and that was in Germany during the Holocaust.

Goldman: Who is coming to sit in the remaining seven places here in honor of our founding mother, Sarah?

Beruryah: Seven prophetesses prophesied for the Jews, as it says in the Talmud: Sarah, Miriam, Devorah, Hannah, Avigail, Chuldah and Esther.

Avigail: We’re here! So sorry, I was delayed by that King David. He still needs to be kept in check. Being married to a man with vendettas is hard.

Chuldah: Me, too. Keeping King Josiah on the right track. Forever.

Devorah: I’m grateful that America has strong female judges. Take it from me: It’s not easy being a judge.

Hannah: Or being falsely judged. Men mistook my emotional prayer for being drunk! What can you expect from a bunch of Bronze Age men?

Esther: Don’t remind me about men and drinking. I got rid of Haman only when he got drunk with power and went too far. Happens to a lot of power-hungry men. Who’s on the tambourine?

Miriam: Me. I also brought water. Who would like a nice glass of water?

Abzug: I am a lifelong community organizer, so I have to ask: Who is in charge of this meeting?

Sarah: Me. It’s my Torah portion, Chayei Sarah. Where is that visionary seamstress from Krakow?

Schenirer: Right here. Beruryah and I have the midrash you wanted to hear.

Beruryah: The Torah says: “And Sarah was 127 years old; these were the years of the life of Sarah. And Sarah died in Kiryat Arba.” Why, after being told your age, 120, are we then told, “these were the years of the life of Sarah.” Appears to be redundant.

Schenirer: It’s explained in wordplay in Genesis Rabbah 58:1: “In the Hebrew, ‘years of the life,’ sounds just like ‘two lives.’ So, we can say, ‘And Sarah was 127 years old, and these were the two lives of Sarah.’”

Sarah: What, my daughters, were the two lives that I had? The life I lived, and the life I have in all of you. Each of you had a first life, be it short or long. And each of you has a second life in the women and men you influenced through your politics and faith, community and justice, love and family.

Regina: I was not the first nor the last woman rabbi.

Abzug: And Hillary will not be the last major party female candidate. I’ll bet my hat on that.

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Rabbi Peretz Wolf-Prusan

Rabbi Peretz Wolf-Prusan is the chief program officer and senior educator at Lehrhaus Judaica. He can be reached at peretz@lehrhaus.org.