Torah Portion: Chayei Sarah Genesis 23:1-25:18

HafTorah: I Kings 1:1-31

Tonight I want us to look at the Torah section and see what we can learn from these years of Abraham’s life. There are also several hints in this section about the after life and the resurrection. One of those hints occurs almost immediately in Genesis 23:1. In this verse there are words that without the vowel points can be read two ways. The same words occur in Genesis 25:7 where the text speaks about Abraham. The words are “shna chayai Sarah” and later “shna chayai Avraham”. As they are marked in most Hebrew Bibles they are read “years of life.” However, in the original Hebrew, without vowel points, they can also be read as two lives. If the text is read this way it can be talking about the after life or the resurrection. In verse 23:2 another hint occurs where the word for “weep” in Hebrew is written with a small letter in the middle suggesting that Abraham’s weeping was tempered. Suggesting Abraham as comforted by the fact that he knew he would see Sarah again. This is also stated in I Thess. 4:13 where Paul says we have a hope that nonbelievers do not share. These hints are more evident in Hebrew than our English translations.

Now I want to shift gears a little and talk about Abraham’s example for us in our world today. How would you state the most obvious trait of Abraham’s spiritual life? I would think he had an unshakable faith in G-d and the promises of G-d. How did this faith affect his life? Mainly I think we could say he was active in his faith as a partner with G-d.  G-d had promised him the land of Israel. He could have gone through his life saying, “I will just sit back and watch what G-d does.” Did he do that? I think we have a couple of things here that show that was not the case. First in chapter 23 we read about him buying a burial place for his family. Why buy it? G-d had already promised it to him. No, he knew his faith was strong but G-d expected him to work at bringing about the promise. As James tells us in the New Testament, our faith requires work. We could look at it like a partnership. G-d does not expect us to just sit back and wait for things to roll in. No, we work. We do what we can do with full faith in G-d and working with Him to bring those promises to fruition.  Abraham, through faith, knew the time would come when the right to the land would be questioned like it is today. Here and at Joseph’s tomb and the Temple Mount, land was bought and the sale recognized.

I think we see the same principle at work in the finding of a wife for Isaac. He was the promised of G-d but Abraham did all he could to make sure Isaac’s wife was a woman who would support him and not one that would be a hindrance. So, Abraham sent his servant to his homeland to find a wife. What would have been wrong with a wife from Canaan?  What was the difference between the people living in the two places? Both were pagans but to marry a local girl meant her family would be close and would influence her life more. They would in turn influence Isaac’s life more. So Abraham sent away for a bride. His only requirement was that she not be local. Eliazar, however, did have a few requirements. What did he hope to find out from his tests? 1. Was she hospitable? Yes, she gave him water to drink immediately. 2. Was she industrious? She was a hard worker. Not only did she give him water but also she drew water from the well to water his camels. 3. Was she considerate? By taking care of his animals and him with water he could tell she was kind of heart. 4. In verse 24:16 it says she was very pleasant to look upon. 5. In the same verse we see she was a virgin. 6. Finally she was willing to go. She was not forced to leave her family and marry but went of her own will.

So, through both the land sale and the finding of a wife for his son, Abraham was active in bringing about G-d’s promise. We cannot sit and wait. We must participate with G-d to bring His will to bear in our lives. Rather our challenge is to be sure what we are doing is His will not ours. Abraham succeeded in doing this through prayer and his closeness to G-d. We can do the same.