A ‘BISSEL’ OF TORAH Parashat Chayei Sarah (Genesis 23:1 – 25:18)

‘CHAEI SARAH’ poses an interesting dichotomy between ‘LIFE’ and ‘DEATH’. The literal translation of the title of this week’s Parsha is: ‘Sarah’s Life’. However, when we begin reading the Parsha, Sarah has already died; and, Abraham, in deep mourning, is searching for a burial place for her.

The biblical text moves immediately to Abraham’s next task: ensuring the next generation’s establishment of familial patterns. He charges his chief servant (Eliezer) (1), to find a wife for Isaac, ‘by a test of compassion’ (2). When Eliezer travels to the town of Nahor, Rebecca (daughter of Abraham’s nephew, Bethuel), approaches the servant and offers water for both him and his camel, and a place to rest, Eliezer considers that she has passed the test of ‘compassion’, and is a worthy wife for Isaac. Indeed, the two did fall in love and marry.

Sarah had died at the age of 127, before the marriage of her son, Isaac. While many individuals achieve the tile of ‘old’ (zakein), the particular words: (ba bayamin) signifying advanced in years only appear in connection with the truly great leaders of our people(3). Sarah deserved both this accolade and her own Parsha. She was the most dedicated, supportive, and loving of spouses. She was Isaac’s teacher; helping him to find his own personal relationship with G-D; to respect his wife; create a family; and, to carry on the traditions of Judaism, by which he was raised(4).

About Sarah, it is written, “All of the years of her life were complete, without defect, full of content and greatness in the most trying of times”(5).

This leads us to a message of significant beauty. No matter how short or long, your life happens to be, apply meaningful actions, that are complete, generous, and positive. Any steps we take along this path are worth being remembered with favor, by our people for many years to come.

(1) Genesis 15:2
(2) Reform Judaism.org
(3) The Torah: A Modern Commentary
(4) Reform Judaism.org
(5) Genesis (23:1)
Analysis and Composition: Joy Scott