I grew up saying “I love you” a lot! I was taught to never hang up the phone with a loved one without saying those words. Even when it is a thirty second conversation, even when we are stressed, even when there is a disagreement, a conversation always ends with those words. Ending phone calls with “I love you” have been second nature, so much so that sometimes I go on auto-pilot and will even end a phone call with a telemarketer with such sentiments!
Some worry that saying “I love you” so often and frequently lessens the meaning of those words. While it may be true that the feeling one gets when hearing those words from a significant other for the first time or from a young child being tucked in at night is different than a rushed “I love you” before one hangs up the phone, that does not mean that those words are not genuine. Saying those words is so important! I was taught to end conversations with loved ones by telling them that I love them because I did not know when the next time was that I would see them or speak to them again, or – God forbid – if I ever would again. What if this was the last conversation? What if this was the last time we spoke? What are the last words that I would want to say? The answer is simple: I love you.
We don’t always need to say these words, but it is important that we express these sentiments. We show that we love someone and care about that person with hugs and kisses, conversations, laughter and smiles. The late Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, of blessed memory, was notorious for giving hugs. He would hug complete strangers because he felt it was important to let everyone know that they were loved. A story is told that he was giving a concert for a group of prisoners. Following the concert, he went up to the group of inmates and gave everyone one of them a hug. One of the inmates, a large man with huge muscles and tattoos on his biceps, reacted to the hug. For a moment, Rabbi Carlebach was worried that the man was angry that he hugged him, but then he thanked Reb Shlomo. “You know,” he said, “Maybe if I was hugged more and loved more as a child, I wouldn’t be in here today.” Every moment is the perfect moment to say “I love you.”
This week’s Torah portion, Hayyei Sarah, begins with the death of Sarah. Last week’s parasha concluded with Abraham almost sacrificing his son, Isaac. The narrative timeline suggests that the last time Sarah spoke to Abraham or Isaac was prior to the Akedah, the binding of Isaac. Some in our tradition suggest that Sarah died of heartache. She saw her husband taking her only son away to sacrificing him in the name of God and she could not imagine a life without him. We do not read about how Sarah died, simply that she died. The narrative suggests that she did not die in Abraham’s presence, but instead while he was away on his journey.
Abraham and Isaac left and while they were gone, Sarah – Abraham’s beloved wife and Isaac’s mother – died. I wonder what their last words were to each other before they left. Did they have a fight or disagreement? Did Sarah beg Abraham not to do it? Was their goodbye filled with tears or shouting? Or was Sarah unaware of God’s “test” and Abraham left with a simple “See you later.” I sure hope they said “I love you” before they left.
Take a moment and give her children a hug. Give your husband or wife a kiss. Call your parents. Tell them that you love them, because you can never say “I love you” enough times!
-Rabbi Jesse Olitzky