Larchmont Temple Chevra Torah

Questioning faith in the parsha

Chayei Sarah

KOSHI: How is Abraham a model for our morning? What is he teaching us as Kews about dealing with death and life?

Oct. 30, 2010/22 Chesvan 5771
Featured Modern Author: Binne Kirshenbaum, “Who Knows Kaddish”

  REMEZ…Dialogue of the Centuries—Reclaiming Culture/Connection

 V.2   Sarah died in Kiryat-Arbah…And Abraham came to mourn for her and to bewail her.

S’FORNO…  “lispod—to eulogiuze her” The verse specifically mentions Sarah to note that the eulogy was in her honor, as the TALMUD notes,  the funeral lament is to honor the dead, not, as other opinions say, the living.

ARTSCROLL“v’liv’kotah—to bewail her” The word is written with a small Kaf to indicate that Abraham did not weep excessively, for she was old, and one restrains his mourning foir one who dies after having lived such a full life.

PHILO The small letter kaf indicates that Abraham did not weep too much since immoderate mourning is not fitting for the wise who should not feel too sorry for restoring to God the precious deposit entrusted to them.

KLI YAKAR… Weeping usually precedes the “hesped-eulogizing”, because the overpowering force of grief dissipates a bit with the passage of time.  Hence, first comes the emotional outcry, and then fond remembrance.  In Sarah’s case, however, the degree of loss—the absence of her presence, was felt more and more as the days passed.  His weeping continued long after the eulogies were through. 

V.3-4            Then Abraham rose from beside his dead, and spoke to the Hittites saying, “I am a resident-alien among you; sell me a burial site, that I may remove my dead for burial from before me.”

ARTSCROLL… The MIDRASH homiletically renders this phrase “And Abraham arose from the face of his death,” for now with the death of his wife, he saw his own death staring him in the face.

MINCHAT ANI…Generally, when a person suffers a loss, he becomes bent over under the burden he is carrying.  Overcome with despair, he falls from the spiritual level he had attained. But with Abraham we are told, “and he stood up.” 

Prof. E.A.SPEISER…The Promised Land was a spiritual grant from God…The living could get by as “sojourners—resident aliens,” but the dead required a permanent resting ground….Abraham’s wife was the first member of the immediate family to be laid to rest; hence the extraordinary emphasis on the Machpelah purchase with all its legal minutiae.                               [The Anchor Bible, Genesis, page 172]

V.19   Then Abraham buried his wife Sarah in the field of the cave of Machpelah, facing Mamre, now Chevron, in the land of Canaan

HIRSCH…The word Machpelah derives from kaphal—doubling. The name Chevron, from chaver, to unite or bind, has a similar connotation. Thus, the first Jewish possession of land in Eretz Yisrael stood for the attachment of husband and wife, the loyalty of succeeding generations, and the building of Jewish family….

NORMAN…The picture of Abraham at this juncture is surely a disturbingly sad one: the tribal patriarch who has lost those closest and most dear to him.  But we ask, “Is it too late for Abraham?  Is this what he has to look forward to—a life of isolation, cut off from his own progeny and the promise of a future….The change in Abraham is evident in the great emotion he exhibits upon Sarah’s death. Perhaps for the very first time in his life he sheds tears for someone for whom he cares.  The text here seems to be redundant.  It says “he came to mourn for her and to cry for her.”

The writer goes out of his way to indicate that Abraham not only went through the formal ritual of mourning, but was deeply affected by her death, emphasized by the small kaf. Abraham cried over the death of his wife, emoting as he never had before.  Why did he grieve so exceedingly?  Perhaps out of guilt over his failure during her lifetime or maybe because he came to realize how much she meant to him after all.  And the irony is that Abraham came together in death as they never seemed to in life, buried next to each other in the Cave of Machpelah…   [Self, Struggle & Change, pgs 88-89]






One response to “Chayei Sarah

  1. RebSirk December 10, 2010 at 11:20 am

    Love your comment!

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