Parashat Chayei Sarah

The Life Of Sarah — חיי שרה


Genesis 23:1 - 25:18


1 Kings 1:1-31

Brit Chadashah

Matthew 2:1-23

Torah Portion Outline

Haftarah Portion Outline

Portion Summary

The fifth reading from the book of Genesis is named Chayei Sarah (חיי שרה). It means “Sarah lived,” because the narrative begins with the words “Now Sarah lived one hundred and twenty-seven years” (Genesis 23:1). In this portion we see the death of Sarah, Isaac being married and how God shows favour to Abraham's servant for Abraham's sake.

Portion Commentary

Sarah (Noblewoman) dies at the age of 127 years. She is the only woman in the Bible whose age, death and burial is mentioned. Honour is bestowed upon this remarkable woman. Isaac (Laughter) should have been 37 years old at this time. Sarah’s death is described as follow according to the Artscroll English Tanach:  

The Sages teach that the narratives of Sarah’s death and the Akeidah follow one another to indicate that she died as a result of that event. Told by Satan that Abraham had actually slaughtered Isaac, she cried out in grief, and died. (Targum Yonasan) This explains why Abraham and Isaac were not present at her death.

How would we have seen the death of a loved one? The purpose of burial is not to dispose of the corpse, rather burial is the beginning of the recreation process. The burial process re-connect man to his source allowing him to be recreated and emerge in a perfected manner determined by his actions when he was alive. A body not of this world but destined for heaven or hell. The Hebrew word for grave is “kever” which is also the Talmudic term for the womb. The grave represents the beginning of eternal life in the same manner as the womb is the home for a new child. 

In this chapter are also the uses of a business transaction. Abraham must first sort out family responsibilities and it is to get a grave for his loved one. In verse 10 we read about this business transaction. There are witnesses. They bend for each other. People of the "Gate", which means they are the people who resolve matters and make decisions, almost like a council. In verse 15, Efron (Powdered) calls the price, and his entire performance shows that he did not really want to give away. His whole attitude expresses hesitation and he also deserves a very high price for the piece of land.  

Something that is very remarkable about Abraham is that he did not act as a "beggar" to anyone. In Genesis 14: 22-24 Abraham had the opportunity to take and enrich himself, but it did not happen. He raised his hand, which meant that he had oathed that he would not take anything. Then again here in chapter 23, Abraham insisted on a price on the ground by value at that time. It was not just a cheap piece of land. It was also a very "big" price that Efron asked. Abraham was a man of integrity and certainly not God's beggar. He understood the promise of God’s covenant. Understanding the power and the legitimacy thereof, those who blessed Abraham, did so out of respect and fear of Adonai, the God of Abraham. Even in Acts 7:16 it was made clear that Abraham had bought the land.

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created by Melissa Holtzhausen