For the week ending 26 November 2016 / 25 Heshvan 5777

Parshat Chayei Sara

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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Sarah, Mother of the Jewish People, passes on at age 127. After mourning and eulogizing her, Avraham seeks to bury her in the Cave of Machpela. As this is the burial place of Adam and Chava, Avraham pays its owner, Ephron the Hittite, an exorbitant sum. Avraham sends his faithful servant Eliezer to find a suitable wife for his son Yitzchak, making him swear to choose a wife only from among Avrahams family. Eliezer travels to Aram Naharaim and prays for a sign. Providentially, Rivka appears. Eliezer asks for water. Not only does she give him water, but she draws water for all 10 of his thirsty camels. (Some 140 gallons!) This extreme kindness marks her as the right wife for Yitzchak and a suitable Mother of the Jewish People. Negotiations with Rivka's father and her brother Lavan result in her leaving with Eliezer. Yitzchak brings Rivka into his mother Sarahs tent, marries her and loves her. He is then consoled for the loss of his mother. Avraham remarries Hagar who is renamed Ketura to indicate her improved ways. Six children are born to them. After giving them gifts, Avraham sends them to the East. Avraham passes away at the age of 175 and is buried next to Sarah in the Cave of Machpela.


The Kiss of Life

“And Avraham rose from before the face of his dead (Sarah)” (23:2)

We tend to think Sarah's burial in the Cave of Machpelah, the resting place of Adam and Chava, is a forgone conclusion, and all Avraham had to do was to pay — albeit vastly over the market value — for the right to bury her there.

However, someone whose life is taken by the Angel of Death may not be buried there, only someone who passes from this world by a Heavenly kiss.

“And Avraham rose from before the face of his dead.” (23:2)

The word "face" in this verse seems redundant. Why didn't the Torah just say, "And Avraham rose from in front of his dead?"

In Sarah's face, Avraham saw the story of her death.

The Talmud (Avoda Zara 20b) describes how the Angel of Death takes someone from this world: He hovers over the head of the dying person with his sword drawn. The dying person is so terrified by the sight of the Angel of Death that he involuntarily opens his mouth, into which the Angel of Death lets fall three drops from his sword; one drop kills the person, one causes his body to decay, and the other turns his face green.

Avraham was not present when Sarah died, but he could see that she was worthy to be buried in the Cave of Machpela because her face still had the unchanged natural color that it had during her life.

  • Source: Rabbi Yonatan Eibeschitz

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