Knowing the ‘why’ is the how

Torah PortionHayei Sarah (Sarah’s Life) B’resheet/Genesis 23:1-25:18

Haftorah Reading I Kings 1:1-31


The first three words of this Torah section are, “Life of Sarah.” Yet in this section we read of the death of both Sarah and Avraham. So, what does this say to us? Whether we like to think of it or not we are all on the path to death. But the more important question is how do we spend our days during the years of our life here on earth? In the life of both of these people what do we see? How did they live their lives? Both Avraham and Sarah overcame difficulties and were able to hang on to their faith in the Father.



Let’s take a moment and look at each person. In our reading up until now, we see Avraham being promised by G-d to inherit the Land and to have descendants as many as the sands on the sea shore. Yet, here in our portion today, we see this man had to go into a humiliating bargaining process with the pagan Ephron the Hittite to have a place to bury his wife Sarah. Remember this happened immediately after G-d called him to sacrifice his son Isaac. In this process of purchasing a burial plot he had to pay 400 shekels of silver. To give you some idea that would be about $500,000. This was no small amount. All of this happened after being called to leave everything he had in Ur and follow G-d’s voice. So here we see him, having reached the age of 130 plus years, only one heir, Isaac, no land of his own and haggling with this Hittite for a place to bury his dead.


Now, let’s look at Sarah’s life. She followed her husband in answer to G-d’s call on her life. Twice Avraham passed her off as his sister in order to save his own life. She, after many childless years, finally gave birth to one son. This, her only son, was taken by her husband to be offered as a burnt offering.


Yet, given all this, scripture says Avraham lived until a ripe old age and G-d had blessed him with everything. Genesis 24:1, 25:8. Even in the way our portion opens with giving Sarah’s age at death, the style in which it is written indicates that each year of her life had been lived to its fullest.

How can this be when their lives were filled with so many trials and troubles? It seems each of them learned an important lesson that should speak to each of us in our lives, no matter where we are on the path.

Each of us face road blocks along our way in life. The issue is, how do we deal with them? Do we shake our fist, lose our temper, get depressed, raise our voice in protest or do we go on thanking G-d for each day and doing His will? What do we do when times are hard and it is more difficult to hear His voice? When people ask you, “How do you go on, why not just give up this time, sit and let someone else carry the torch?” I think the reason we keep on is that we know the why of our lives. G-d’s call is on each of us to do His will, to live each day to its fullest for Him. That is how we go on.


Avraham and Sarah did more than survive whatever came into their life, even those things that seemed to derail their mission. Despite everything they were able to live each day to its fullest. This should be the goal of our life today, tomorrow and every day. Scripture is filled with people who lived their life knowing the why of their days.


So, as we contemplate what defines a life well lived may we never get side tracked by the world’s definition. It does not matter how much we have or who we know. What matters is our faithful walk on the path that G-d has for us.

We see this attitude in Genesis 23:4 when Avraham stood before the Hittites when he was trying to buy a place to bury his wife. In this verse he said, “I am a stranger (alien) and a sojourner (resident) with you. This was one of my questions this week. What was Avraham saying and how does this apply or should it apply to us? I think these words apply to us all. We are residents in our world. We all live in a town or community. We have a house, pay taxes, buy groceries like everyone else around us.


However, we should recognize that we are also aliens. What does this mean? Our faith calls us to be different. It calls us to sometimes be separate and not participate in activities of our town that would not glorify G-d. We have been called by G-d to be a people set apart. We have been called to have a higher calling, a higher loyalty. G-d put Avraham and Sarah in a place with the Hittites, but they were not to become Hittites. So, it is with us in our daily walk. My prayer for us is that our residence does not cause us to forget who we are as G-d’s children. We are aliens on a path that has a different goal.