The midrash contextualizes every Torah portion via a device known as an “opening” (petihta). The opening is a literary-biblical tour de force in which a rabbi cites a verse from a wholly other context and leverages that verse to reveal something insightful and interesting about the Torah portion under discussion. Rabbi Abba bar Kahana opened this past Shabbat’s torah portion (Hayyei Sarah) with the verse “and the sun rises and the sun sets” from Ecclesiastes (1:5). From this the rabbi derives a general principle: God never allows the sun of one tzaddik, one righteous person, to set before making sure that another tzaddik’s sun has risen. The Torah portion of Hayyei Sarah, begins with the death of Sarah. However, at the very end of the previous portion, Rivkah, who was to be the wife of Yitzhak, is born. The rule holds: one righteous person, Sarah, dies; but not until another righteous person, Rivkah takes her place.
I would like to embrace this rule: one sun sets, another rises, but suggest that the setting is not Sarah but Avraham. In this case, Rivka is not coming into the world to be the wife of the second patriarch, but, rather to be the second patriarch. Continue reading