Chaye Sarah 5783

By: Larry Tobin

What a strange title for this week’s Parsha. Chaye Sarah means “Life of Sarah”. Doesn’t the Parsha deal, among other things with the death of Sarah? And isn’t the most time spent finding a wife for Isaac?Perhaps the Parsha should be titled “Mas Sarah”, Death of Sarah, or “Isaac Gets a Wife”?

Sarah dies at the age of 127. There is much conjecture about what caused her death. Did she die out of grief from her belief that her beloved son Isaac had been sacrificed to G-d by her husband?  For purposes of this D’var, however, the cause of her death is irrelevant. What the Parsha most notably teaches us is how to deal with death. Abraham goes through great difficulty and expense to find Sarah a proper burial place where her corpse cannot be seen. We continue to follow this practice of burying our dead. What follows the burial, however, puzzles me.

After the burial of Sarah, we meet Rebecca, wife of Isaac. We read the lovely story about Rebecca at the well and about the loyal servant of Abraham, Eliezer. Then suddenly we are told that Abraham remarries.  What? Who is this new wife of Abraham named Keturah?  We are told nothing about her. Where did she come from? Why would she be worthy of marrying Abraham? We are informed, however, that she bore him four more sons. Some speculate that Keturah is none other than Haggar. But whatever her true identity, her story with Abraham is brief as we are next told that Abraham dies at the age of 147 and is buried next to Sarah by sons Isaac and Ishmael. What about his latest four sons?  Didn’t they take part in the burial? The Parsha ends with the death of Ishmael at age 137 and some information is given about his descendants. The story of Isaac will follow in coming chapters.

Suffice it say that Chaye Sarah leaves more questions than answers. What clearly can be said is that Sarah continues to have a great influence over us during both life and death. If Abraham is the Founding Father of our religion, then Sarah is clearly our Founding Mother. Sarah, which means princess, remains the Princess of our people. She lived with dignity and died with dignity.

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