Posted by: mosesfromsinai | November 4, 2012

Chayai Sarah – The Life of Sarah

This week’s Torah reading is called Chayai Sarah – The Life of Sarah.  We have already mentioned in previous posts that this is unusual because the Torah reading starts off with her death and burial.  We answered by saying that her life influence continued on even after her death.

Now it is time for a further twist or two.  How does Avraham, taking Keturah, another wife at the end of the Torah reading of Chayai Sarah – The Life of Sarah, fit in with the actual concept of Sarah’s influence?  An obvious simple answer would be, you see how much Avraham missed Sarah – he had to find another wife to fill his emotional gap.  This is just too simple, there must be something deeper.

The second problem is found in the same aliya, the 6th aliya.  (The weekly Torah reading is divided into 7 portions – aliya meaning someone is called up to make a blessing on that portion being read).  Here we read the death and burial of Avraham.  So just a minute, why isn’t the title of the Torah reading “The Life of Avraham – Chai Avraham”?  What is it about Sarah that her influence is even more powerful than Avraham?  We must conclude that this is so, as the Torah chose to select the title of the Torah reading as Chayai Sarah – The Life of Sarah when it could as easily selected the title of Chai Avraham – The Life of Avraham as they both die and are buried in this week’s Torah reading.

Yes a simple answer could be given that in this Torah reading we read about the death and burial of Avraham but that actually will happen much later.  However, Sarah did actually die at this point in the Torah reading historically right after she heard that Yitzchak had succeeded in his personal challenge.  Yitzchak was indeed a true servant of the Al-mighty, ready to put his life on the line as he did by participating willfully at the Akeida – his being bound and prepared to be sacrificed on Mt. Moriah (Jerusalem).  Sarah had fulfilled her mission as a mother by instilling this quality in her son so her soul is ready for a new journey.

The strength of her influence is further enhanced actually by this 6th aliya where we read about Avraham’s marriage to Keturah, the birth of additional sons from Keturah and then Avraham’s death and burial.  These new set of children do not reach the same status as Yitzchak or for that matter the same status as Yishmael.  Yishmael was at the burial of his father Avraham, a sign that he had repented and was on a higher spiritual level.  The other sons born were a no-show for their father’s burial.  This being even more unusual if, as Rashi states, Hagar and Keturah were one and the same. Why were these sons a no-show?   (Yes one simple answer is they were in the far east and Air India or Air China was not yet available).    Yishmael had the benefit of being exposed to Sarah during his childhood.  Yes Sarah was responsible for kicking him out of the house, perhaps a move that inspired him to change his behaviour at some point in life.  Yishmael realized the value of a Tzaddik, a righteous person, and the need to show attachment even when that person passes away.  This he picked up from the influence of Sarah.

Thus the final 7th aliya also makes sense where it talks about Yishmael’s sons and Yishmael’s death.  All had some of Sarah’s influence imparted into them.  The sons of Keturah had no contact with Sarah so they are sent away and nothing further is heard about them nor are they present at Avraham’s funeral.  Thus the choice of Chayai Sarah – The Life of Sarah for this Torah reading.  Her influence was even greater than Avraham.  Not totally unusual, as she was also a greater prophetess and the Al-mighty had instructed Avraham to listen to her voice in any argument.

Fortunate are we to be attached to such a mother of Israel.


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