Ch Sarah – Sarah’s life

Even though the name of our parsha is Chayei Sarah – “the life of Sarah” – all the events that are described in the parsha took place after she passed away.  This is because the true “life” of a tzadik, or righteous person, is the offspring and events that they leave behind in the world to help others in their avodat Hashem – their path in serving the One above.

In the parsha, we find three main events: Abraham’s purchase of the ma’arat Hamachpela (the “cave of Machpela”), Eliezer’s search for his master’s son’s soul mate, and the life of Yishmael.  In each of these events, we can find the unique imprint of Sarah and her approach, even though they all took place after her passing.  In her case, the events that she uniquely set in motion are also what distinguish her life.

In the cave of Machpela were buried Adam and Eve, the progenitors of all mankind.  However, Abraham, with his purchase of the cave, made it distinct from all mankind and put it in the possession of the Jews.  This he did, of course in order to acquire the appropriate place to bury Sara.  This was the beginning of Sarah’s effect on the world – with her passing, she managed to distinguish between Jews and all other people of the world.

Next, we see that when Eliezer, Abraham’s servant, went at Abraham’s behest to find a wife for Isaac, his thoughts were upon Isaac for his own daughter.  Eliezer had a daughter of marriageable age whom he hoped to marry off to Isaac. However, Abraham had other ideas – Eliezer was from the line of Ham, while Abraham was from the line of Shem.  Both Ham and Shem were sons of Noah, but while Shem was “blessed” by Noah, Ham was “cursed.”  So, Abraham let Eliezer know that his daughter, from the line of Ham, was not appropriate for marriage to Isaac, son of Abraham.  Here, we see that Sarah, upon her death (because the whole story of a zivvug for Isaac occurred after Sarah’s death), created a further distinction.  Not only were the Jewish people separated from the rest of the world, they were separated even from their original blood relatives.  The son of a blessed line could not marry with the daughter of a cursed line, even if their ancestors were initially brothers.

Later on, we see yet a further development of the same theme – Sarah’s establishment of the exclusivity of the Jewish people.  After Sarah passed away, Abraham remarried Hagar, her former maid-servant, and sired many sons with her.  Even so, at Sarahs’ earlier behest (while she was alive), Abraham sent the sons from Hagar “off” to distant lands in the east (giving them “gifts”).  Earlier, Sarah had said, “Expel this maidservant, for her offspring will not inherit together with my son, with Isaac.”  So, Abraham sent the rest of the offspring of Hagar to the east, and Isaac remained the only valid inheritor of Abraham.  Thus, Sarah, even after she passed away, established the exclusive continuity of the Jewish line to the greatest degree possible.  Even Abrahams’ own progeny were distanced by Sarah, establishing Isaac as the only inheritor.

Looking deeper into this process, we see that it was not merely the desire of a woman, but rather the divine desire, to separate the Jews from the rest of the world.  Every time that one of the three events above took place, there was at least one person who tried to intervene and prevent it from occuring.  And in each case, they were “removed” from the scene.  That is, an act from Above ensured that they would be unable to prevent the divine process from taking place.

First, as Abraham came to buy the cave of Machpela, he told the local residents, “I am a sojourner and dweller among you.”  He meant to tell them (Rashi), “If you agree to sell me the cave, then I will buy it like a sojourner buys a private stake in a foreign land.  But, if you refuse to sell it to me, then I will take it as one who truly lives in and owns this land (since it was given to Abraham and his descendents from God).”  The message from Abraham was – “there is something divine going on here.  Either get with the flow and sell me the land, or you will be removed from the picture entirely.”  As it happens, they sold the land with the cave to Abraham, but had they not done so, they would have been removed from the scene in any case.

Second, as the shidduch with Rivka was taking place, her father, Betuel, tried to get in the way and delay or prevent it from taking place.  Rashi records that an angel struck and killed him, and the zivvug went through as plannced.

And finally, while Abraham was alive, his son Yishmael honored and respected him, even placing Isaac in front of him at the funeral, indicating that he recognized Isaac as the sole inheritor of their father Abraham.  But after Abraham passed away, the Torah records that Yishmael “fell.”  That is, he fell away from his father’s path and began to argue with Isaac over the inheritance.  The fact that the Torah uses the word “fell” also indicates that since Yishmael tried to get in the way of the divine plan, he was removed from the scene.

Thus we see that the main effect of Sarah’s life took place after her passing.  And thus the name of the parsha is Chayei Sarah, or “Life of Sarah,” even though the events of the parsha took place after her death.

For a more detailed and lengthy version, please go to www.jerusalemconnection.org/weekly/w_ChayeiSarah_5769.php

From Likutei Sichot of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, vol. 15, pp. 145-154

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