Blog Chayei Sarah Cheshvan 25 5779 בלוג חַיֵּי שָׂרָה, כ”ה חשון תשע”ט
In this portion Chayei Sarah, we see the passing away of the two initiators of our people Israel, Avraham Avinu and Sarah Imenu, our father Abraham and our mother Sarah. Although both of them would pass on to the next life, Chayei Sarah teaches us about the value of living this life unlike the religions that venerate death and look forward to escaping from this life.
Abraham and Sarah had left their pagan environment to head off in a new direction. They would no longer follow the gods of their families, they would now follow the only one true God, the Creator. Their role was to share this news wherever they went. They were the Creator´s envoys in contrast with religious missionaries; they presented what they knew about the God who had revealed Himself to them, but they never forced anyone to believe; it was up to others to accept or reject. No one can be brought to the Creator by force.
Abraham and Sarah represent moving from a foreign environment to the environment of the Creator. Although they were not perfect, they represent those who desire to hold on to the moral values that the Creator passed down to humanity. In their imperfection, we can see the perfection of the Creator. He continued to work in their lives until their last days, in spite of themselves. However, they constantly tried to do better. There are many midrashim that try hard to demonstrate that Abraham and Sarah were perfect people however that is not what Torah teaches. We don’t need to defend the Creator.
Sarah was a true pioneer. She made the decision to join and support Abraham in his quest to follow the Creator wherever that would lead them. Can you imagine how she must have felt when after so many years she could not give her husband the heir that he desired? Her love for him drove her to bring him her slave-girl, Hagar in order to bear him a son. If that’s not love, what is? It backfired on them because they had already received the revelation that they would have a child to be his heir. Neither was able to wait since the facts dictated to the contrary. However, the angel had asked Sarah…” Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (Ber. 18:14). After Isaac was finally born, Sarah told Abraham to get rid of Ishmael, but Abraham really struggled with this idea until the Creator told him to listen to Sarah and not to worry about Ishmael; He would take care of him. That promise is what finally allowed Abraham to let them go. The fact that he listened to Sarah, however, did not make her greater than Abraham as our sages suggest. It was more a matter of what the Creator wanted to accomplish.
Sarah was truly a strong woman to survive in that environment. On two occasions, she was ready to sacrifice herself in order to save Abraham’s life. It may have seemed that Abraham was a coward when he told her to say that she was his sister, but we need to see this from the perspective of the culture of that day. If Abraham told them that she was his wife, they most probably would have killed him and then taken and abused her. As her brother, he could be her protector with full rights to sell her to her future husband as we see in the case of Rebecca to Isaac. The servant paid a lot of money for her.
We need to be more open-minded when studying the Torah instead of taking it literally or according to our personal dogmas and doctrines. We need to ask ourselves what the Creator is trying to reveal to us for today through these stories. What values can we apply to our lives? As long as we are alive, we are capable of doing something. Once we are dead, we can no longer able to do anything. The Torah is all about life. The Torah is LIFE! This is the message from Abraham and Sarah.