Saturday, October 26, 2013

The End of the Life of Sarah

The Torah portion entitled Chaye Sarah, the life of Sarah, (Gen. 23:1-25:18) actually begins with Sarah’s death, at the age of 127 years.  The second verse of the portion gives us something to puzzle over.  We are told, “Sarah died in Kiriath Arba (another name for Hebron), in the land of Canaan and Abraham came to mourn for her”.  Came from where?  Why wasn’t he with his wife of so many years at the time of her death?  One source suggests that he was coming from the funeral of his father Terah, but that is refuted by another scholar (whose arithmetic was better) who pointed out that the ages of all these people are detailed in Genesis, and Abraham would have been 135 years old when his father died, and 137 when his wife died.  Many commentators believe that Sarah’s death happened immediately following the near-sacrifice of Isaac, after which we are told that Abraham went to Beersheva.  What we are not told, though, is the “why”.  Hebron is quite far from Beersheva.  Did Sarah know what Abraham was doing at Mount Moriah?  A Midrash suggests that Satan came to her and showed her a vision of Abraham holding the knife over Isaac, and that vision was the cause of her death.  But if Sarah was at Hebron, why did Abraham go to Beersheva after he left Mount Moriah? Perhaps because he knew he would not be welcomed where Sarah was.  Throughout Abraham’s life his faith in God was paramount but the same cannot be said for his devotion to his family.  Whether Sarah knew of his intent to sacrifice Isaac or not, it would seem as if she and her husband of so many years had gone their separate ways.

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