Genesis 23, The Life of Sarah

The verses regarding the Life of Sarah (Chayei Sarah) is an interesting portion. It’s not unusual to find that a portion of the Scripture dealing with death begins with a word connected to life.  Thus, “the Life of Sarah” deals with the death of the matriarch at age 127; similiarly, the portion that beigns, “And Jacob lived”, tells the story of the dealth of the aged, tortured third patriarch.  It’s tempting to think that one person’s dealth is in essence the beginning of somebody else’s independent life.  It’s only when Abraham and Sarah pass away, for example, that Isaac and Ishmael are able to come together for the funeral.  In the same manner, only when Jacob dieds can a real dialogue begin between Joseph and his brothers.  When the old folks die, the young are free to redesign the world according to the understands of their generation and the next.

And so, with the death of Sarah, the domineering and rather devious matriarch, a great many things became possible that couldn’t have happened when she was alive.  Hagar, according to the Aggadah, changed her name and returned to Abraham’s tent as Keturah.  Ishmael was able, as we noted, to reestablish his connections with his brother and childhood friend, Isaac.  Buth the most importat change was that Rebecca was brought from Aram to Canaan to be Isaac’s wife.  “And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and he took Rebecca, and she became his wife; and he loved her. And Isaac was comforted for the death of his mother”, Gen. 24:67  (Very Near To You, Avraham Burg)

1803-1677 BC- Sarah is the first of the four Matriarchs, wife of Abraham. Together with her husband, she was instrumental in converting thousands of people to monotheism.  The greatest insight we can gain into this woman is, most interestingly, in her name. As learned from the Torah, words and names are not given haphazardly. In most cases, we can find very clear meaning and insight into something or someone based on the name.

When Sarah’s name was changed from Sarai, it was symbolic of a greater spiritual refinement. Thus, we can assume that Sarah went through 2 transformations in her life, each reflected in a name change.

There are two qualities for which Sarah is most noted by the sages of the Torah: her prophecy and her beauty.  First, she is said to have been born blessed with divine inspiration. Second, it is said that she was exceedingly beautiful to behold. Both of these attributes deal with sight. The first being a spiritual insight that Sarah herself possessed, which clearly affected the way she perceived the world; and the second, regarding how the rest of the world perceived her.

Sarah is also considered to be the mother of every convert to Judaism.  Interestingly, Sarah and Mary of the NT both share the theme of the miracle of the womb of Jewish mothers.

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