Fat Tuesday: Whose Life is This, Anyway?

In the book “The Women’s Torah Commentary”, Rabbi Rona Shapiro posits that the reason this parsha is called “The Life of Sarah” when it begins with her death is because it is the moment Abraham begins living through the lens of Sarah’s experience.

Following Sarah’s death, Abraham buys a plot of land from the Canaanites in which to bury her. Worried about his bachelor son, he engages his servant Eliezar to find a wife for Isaac. he himself marries again and fathers more children, and finally he writes a will and dies at the ripe old age of 175.

Without a doubt, this is a very different Abraham than the Abraham we have known. There are no mountaintops, no wars with kings, no dramatic rescues. In faact, following the akedah, Abraham does not speak to God again. […]

Perhaps, then, this parashah is called Chayei Sarah because with Sarah’s death, Abraham finally learns to live her life.

The words resonated with me as I think about this food-centric journey I’m on. Changing habits feels strange. The eating experiences to which I’ve grown accustomed – epic feasts, sublime (and even divine) desserts, and adventures of my palatte are all gone. I’m left living a simpler, more humble, more honest, more truthful (and if truth be told, more health) eating experience.

But what we can learn from Abraham’s story this week is that there is still joy to be found. Torah doesn’t tell us that Abraham moped about as he watched Isaac marry Rebecca and build a family; that he morosely married (or, as some midrash say, RE-married – Hagar, going by the name Keturah) and built up a family. His experiences were just as full. And perhaps more meaningful for being understated.

So, too, am I learning to savor a small taste in lieu of a smorgasbord; to revel in the simple joy of being fed and full without needing to be stuffed to overflowing; to appreciate the simplicity of a diet where, in the words of Michael Pollan, I “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”