Chayei Sarah 2

D'var Torah by Rabbi Jay Spero


Sparks of Holiness 

Contact Rabbi Spero at 862-9546 or


Avraham proceeded and took a wife whose name was Keturah. She bore him Zimran, Yokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak and Shuach… Avraham gave all that he had to Yitzchak, but to the concubine children who were Avraham’s, Avraham gave them gifts then he sent them away from Yitzchak his son...eastward, to the land of the east” (Gen. Ch.25 V.1-2, 5-6).

After Avraham had been married to Sarah for ten years and she was unable to conceive, Sarah urged him to take a second wife. This wife’s name was Hagar. With Hagar, Avraham had a son named Ishmael. Later, Avraham had a child with Sarah. This child was Yitzchak (Isaac). After Sarah died, Avraham remarried Hagar, though she was now called Keturah (which means “sweetened”, because Hagar had sweetened her deeds) and fathered six more children with her. These are the children mentioned above.

It is a well known fact that Avraham is the father of both the Jewish nation, through his son Yitzchak, and the Arabic nations, through his son Ishmael. What is not so well known is that Avraham is also the father of the Eastern religions, through his children with Keturah. The Zohar Chadash brings down that these children of Avraham contained sparks of his holiness, although they were hidden. Although they were from this holy man, and they could have chosen to be righteous, they chose not to fully go in his way, yet nonetheless, they retained something from him. (Apparently, they were having some sort of negative effect on Yitzchak, thus making it necessary for them to be sent away from him.)

What were these “gifts” mentioned in the verse, and how do they connect with the sparks of holiness contained in these offspring of Avraham?

What quality enabled Avraham to be the forefather of the Jewish people? Avraham’s outstanding quality was loving-kindness. This manifests itself in a desire to give. Avraham used this drive to logically infer that the world was “given” to people. And that if it was given to people, there must be some sort of purpose to the world. Avraham used all his capabilities to realize that there is a G-d and we can have a relationship with Him. His main descendants, the Jewish people, went in his way (and the ways of his child Yitzchak, and in the way of his child, Jacob) and eventually accepted the Divine will of G-d — the Torah.

Ishmael accepted some of the ideals of Avraham, namely the concept of monotheism. This is the basis of Islam. The children who were sent eastward accepted some of Avraham’s good qualities, in particular the desire to know the purpose of the world. This is what is meant that they contain sparks of holiness. The desire to come to terms with the fact that we were created for a purpose is a good thing.

Many of the concepts in the eastern religions are in fact based on Jewish principles. The idea of karma and reincarnation are concepts mentioned in many places. However, the primary problem with the eastern religions, and precisely what makes them so appealing, is that they preach spirituality without responsibility. That a person can reach a high level of  “spirituality”, or intimacy of G-d, without some degree of discipline is anathema to logic. Nothing good comes for free. This is why we have free will in the first place.

The reason for this grievous error is the refusal to see a Creator. Without a Creator, everything is subjective, thus not needing a set of rules that will lead to discipline. It is imperative for us as Jews to expose the beauty of the Torah to all Jews. And to show Jews who think that the Torah is “not spiritual” to show them that the many of the spiritual ideas found in the eastern religions are really warmed over Judaism.

Rabbi Jay Spero is the rabbi of the Saranac Synagogue in Buffalo.

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