Blessed with everything
Hayei Sarah (Sarah’s Life) B’resheet/Genesis 23:1-25:18
Haftorah Readings: I Kings 1:1-31
Tonight we study the Torah portion that covers the death of Sarah and Avraham. However, the opening words give us a clue of the deeper message we will uncover today.
I would like to begin with Genesis 24:1, “Avraham was old, well advanced in years, and G-d had blessed Avraham with everything.” Even the death of Sarah is written in such a way in Hebrew, to make clear that she also had lived a full life dying at the age of 127.
Yet, as we have read these portions about the life of these two people it might cause us to ask how could this be, given all the trials they had been through. If you remember, G-d commanded them to leave everything they had known to move to a land of which they knew little about. They left all their friends and family with the exception of Lot and traveled to a new and different land. No sooner did they arrive than a famine caused them to leave. During this time Avraham feared for his life and Sarah suffered the humiliation of being taken by the ruler of the land they had fled to, to be one of his concubines.
Then, they both experienced the long wait of years for a child. Even though G-d had promised them both repeatedly that they would have as many children as the stars in the sky. Then, we read of the binding of Isaac. Avraham was faced with the prospect of losing his only heir. So, we would have to surmise that neither Avraham or Sarah had an easy life. In fact, their lives had been filled with trials. So how are we to understand these verses that say Avraham had been blessed with everything.
One important thing to remember is something my wife shared with me this week. From the beginning of this journey Avraham and Sarah were different people because of the call of G-d. They put their old life behind them and moved ahead with what G-d promised them. This should speak to each of us in our own lives. G-d has called us to become a new creation in Messiah. This says to us that we are different now. Old habits, old friends that might deter us from what G-d has called us to are put away. If you notice once Avraham left his place of birth he never looked back nor did he ever desire to return to his old life. When he faced the famine he could have used it as an excuse to go back home but he didn’t. He set his feet on G-d’s promise and followed it. We can see it was not easy but he did not waiver.
He never let go of G-d’s promises to him. He saw the promises as fact. Think about it, he had been promised the Land in Genesis 13:14-17. Yet, by the time his wife died he had nowhere to bury her and had to go to the local people and buy a place at an exorbitant price.
Four times G-d promised him descendants. These verses are found in Genesis 12:2, Genesis 13:16, Genesis 15:5 and Genesis 17:5. Finally, in their old age, Isaac was born. Avraham was 100 years old when he finally had a son.
As we read on in this Parasha, we begin to understand how he was able to hold on even with all the trials that came. When Sarah died he mourned her death and then moved into action. He took steps to acquire a plot of land to bury her. It was not an easy process and took time and effort from Avraham. However, this was a very important transaction. In fact, it is described three other times in Genesis. We read of it in Genesis 25:9, 40:30 and 50:13. Think of how important this purchase was and still is in the life of the Jewish people. This cave contains the bodies of Avraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob and Leah.
As I have already mentioned, right after this purchase we read a verse describing Avraham. In Genesis 24:1 we read, “Avraham was old, well advanced in years, and G-d had blessed Avraham with everything.” We might think that Avraham’s life is almost over. But we read on and see him launch into a new task. This time he sent his servant to find a suitable wife for his son Isaac. He took steps to make sure his son would not marry one of the local women. He wanted to make sure Isaac married someone from his own family, one with the same background. Again, he did not send Isaac into his family’s environment to find a wife for himself but instead a servant brought a wife for him into Abraham’s and Isaac’s world of faith.
What does all this say to us? Remember G-d promised Avraham two things, land and descendants. Avraham believed G-d completely but he also understood he had an active part to play in G-d’s plan. It is true that G-d promises but we have to act. Avraham bought land, the first parcel that was in his name, uncontested. He sought out a wife for his son. He acted. G-d gives us the responsibility to join Him by taking part in His plan for our life. Remember, G-d saved Noah from the flood but Noah had to build the ark.
G-d has a way for each of us, a promise, but it does require action on our part. Through our actions we see His promises become reality. Ours is an active faith, not one where we sit back and expect to be relieved of being part of its fulfillment in our life. That is my prayer for us all. We are to move on with the Father, to work to see His promises fulfilled for us. We have to leave our old life and become new creations.
May G-d richly bless each of you this week. David