Commentary on Parashat Chayei Sara, Genesis 23:1 - 25:18
The portion of Chayei Sara recounts the death of our Matriarch, Sarah, the purchase of a cemetery plot for her, and the marriage of her son, Isaac. Yet, this Torah portion is called Chayei Sara, the Life of Sarah, because, in truth, this portion tells the story of her life more than of her death.
Abraham and Isaac come to eulogize Sarah and to cry for her. Although the Torah doesn’t tell us what Abraham said in his eulogy, we know that her ultimate praise is her son, Isaac.
Abraham could have recounted the hard life that Sarah endured–that she was childless for 90 years, that she was held captive by both Avimelech and Pharaoh, and that she struggled to maintain a household that included Ishmael and Hagar. But all Abraham had to do was bring Isaac to her funeral.
What Was Sarah’s Legacy?
Isaac’s presence was her legacy. His continued loyalty to the tradition of “Torat imeha” (his mother’s Torah/teaching) would be her greatest praise. The story of Isaac’s life is, in essence, the story of Sarah’s life.
“The righteous are considered alive even after death,” our Sages tell us. Sarah achieves this distinction. She raised a son who would perpetuate the path of God, and would willfully sacrifice his life for the sake of God. All future generations merit forgiveness and grace from Hashem because of this gesture of self-sacrifice and ultimate faith.
Sarah’s determination to raise a future Patriarch of the Jewish nation explains her concern over Ishmael’s influence. She achieved a greater level of prophecy than Abraham did, the Midrash tells us. In her keenness, she knew that Ishmael’s behavior could corrupt Isaac and pull him from the path of Torah.
Sarah merits to have a parashah named after her because the story of her death reflects the accomplishments of her life. At the age of one hundred she was as sinless as at the age of twenty and at twenty she was as wholesome and beautiful as a seven-year-old.
“Kulam Shavin Letovah” All her years were equally good–despite the suffering she went through. Rabbi Zusha, zt”l (may his memory be a blessing), used to say that in her greatness, she accepted her lot in life without complaining. She would always say, “This, too, is for the good.” In her clarity of understanding life is only good. It is this legacy that we hope to retain and pass on to our children, for all generations.
Provided by the Orthodox Union, the central coordinating agency for North American Orthodox congregations.
Pronunced: TORE-uh, Origin: Hebrew, the Five Books of Moses.