Sarah lived to be a hundred and twenty-seven years old. She died at Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went to mourn for Sarah and to weep over her. — Genesis 23:1-2
The Torah portion for this week, Chayei Sarah, which means “the life of Sarah,” is from Genesis 23:1—25:18 and the Haftorah is from 1 Kings 1:1–31.
This week’s reading begins with the death of Sarah. Do you remember how last week’s portion ended? Right before the story of Sarah’s death is the story of Isaac’s sacrifice. The Jewish sages teach that when Sarah heard that Abraham had taken her only son and offered him to God as a sacrifice, her soul left her. Seems pretty unfair, right? Abraham followed the word of God and this was what happened. Yet Abraham did not complain or question God. He followed obediently with faith.
The sages give us some more behind-the-scenes information. They explain that Sarah was destined to die on that very day and at that particular time. Satan devised an evil plan. Knowing that it was the time of Sarah’s death, he arranged for someone to come and tell her the news about Isaac so that it might appear as though the news killed her.
In truth, Sarah had lived a full life; it wasn’t cut one moment short. This is hinted at in the Bible, but is only apparent in the original Hebrew. The portion begins by saying that Sarah lived for 127 years; however in Hebrew, the verse literally reads, “And Sarah lived for one hundred years and twenty years and seven years.” Her age is spelled out in full to teach us that, though Satan may try to confuse us, Sarah lived an absolutely full life.
Abraham was able to keep his strong faith. He didn’t fall for the illusion that Satan created in order to cause Abraham to rebel against God. No matter how it looked, Abraham didn’t question God’s justice and righteousness for even a second, and neither should we.
We learn another interesting thing from the original Hebrew. If we look at the verse that tells us that Abraham wept for Sarah, we see that the first letter of the word “weep” is written extra small in a Torah scroll. The sages explain that while Abraham was human and certainly wept for his beloved wife, he didn’t weep very much – it was a “small” weeping. This wasn’t because Abraham loved his wife any less than anyone else, but because Abraham’s faith was greater than the average person’s. Abraham knew without a doubt that Sarah had gone to heaven. He knew that she was enjoying great reward. He knew that she was alive and well. Abraham knew that he would see her again. This is why our portion is called “And Sarah lived . . .” She never really died!
While faith can’t eliminate our hard times, faith can carry us through them. When we trust God’s promises, we can get through anything. For every problem, there’s also a promise. What promise from God might you choose to trust today?
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President