"No, my lord," he said. "Listen to me; I give you the field, and I give you the cave that is in it. I give it to you in the presence of my people. Bury your dead." Genesis 23:11
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.
Many years ago when I was involved in youth work, I was meeting with other leaders when one of the girls there offered to host our next meeting at her house. A few weeks later, I called the girl to take her up on the offer and I was shocked to hear this reply: "Oh, I wasn't serious about that - I was just trying to sound nice!" She wasn't joking, and I had to find another venue for the meeting.
In this week's Torah reading, we mourn the death of Sarah by celebrating her life. Sarah led an exemplary life and serves as a spiritual mother and role model even today. We learn from the Bible how Sarah served God faithfully and was devoted to her husband as she followed them both to a land she did not know. We can imagine Sarah's faith as she waited patiently for a child for 90 years and her endurance as she was abducted twice, first by Pharaoh in Egypt and then by King Abimelek. We see Sarah's warmth and hospitality as she rushed to serve the three visitors who paid Abraham a visit, and Jewish tradition teaches that Sarah taught women about God just as Abraham taught the men. The list goes on.
If you think about it, however, it's interesting to note that for all we know about Sarah, she says very little in the Bible. What we know about her is mostly from her actions, not her words. This prompted the Jewish sages to comment, "Speak little, do much." Actions do speak much louder than words!
In contrast, in this week's reading we come across an individual who "speaks much and does little." That person is Ephron the Hittite from whom Abraham was trying to buy the cave of Machpelah so he could bury Sarah there. Ephron talked big, "I give you the field, and I give you the cave that is in it . . ." Yet, several verses later, we discover Ephron asking for 400 shekels for the same field - an exorbitant price considering the average monthly wage at the time was a mere ten shekels. Ephron spoke a lot about being generous, but he wasn't serious about it - he was just trying to sound nice!
This week is the perfect time to focus on saying less and doing more. Surprise someone with a thoughtful gift, or do a random act of kindness spontaneously. Show up at the home of someone who's lonely, or make an unsolicited gift to a charity. This is the lesson of Sarah and a great tribute to her spirit.