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    Shalshelet – Chayyei Sarah

    When you learn the trop for the Torah readings you discover there is a rare musical note called shalshelet, a chain.

    In B’reshit it occurs only three times, once in this sidra (Gen. 24:12), on the word “and he said”. The subject of the verb is Eliezer, the servant sent by Abraham to find a wife for his master’s son, Isaac. The long drawn-out shalshelet illustrates the hesitation, the trepidation of Eliezer as he carried out his mission.

    Another shalshelet is in the story of Lot (Gen. 19:16), on the word “and he lingered”, again suggesting irresolution and ambivalence.

    Another is in the story of Joseph (Gen. 39:8), on the word “and he refused”, showing how Joseph struggled between succumbing to the wiles of his master’s wife and remaining true to his father’s moral teaching.

    Few people make the right decision straightaway in every situation. Hardly anyone does not waver, oscillating between one option and the other, and never being certain the final decision was right. We all act like a shalshelet. But however hard it is, we still have to come to a decision. We cannot sit on the fence.

    How, then, are we to be reasonably sure we are going in the right direction?

    The Midrash says that when Joseph was tempted to transgress, he saw in his mind’s eye the image of his father, and he knew he could not sin.

    Like him, most of us had good parents whose guidance comes to mind at moments of crisis. We all have an even greater heritage of guidance, the moral imperative of the Torah.

    After the hesitation of the shalshelet, it is that which shows us the path we should follow.

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