Torah Portion: Hayei Sarah (Sarah’s Life) B’Resheet (Gen.) 23:1-25:18
HafTorah: I Kings 1:1-31
Tonight we read the Torah portion, “The life of Sarah,” yet with in this Torah section we read of the death of both Sarah and Avraham. We read of the search for a bride for Isaac and the purchase of a burial place in Hevron for Sarah. It is here I would like to start tonight.
In Genesis 23 we read of the desire of Avraham to bury his wife. He goes to the local people, the Hittites, and in public, in the city gates, he begins his quest to buy the field and cave of Ephron the Hittite. In verse 2 we read that Sarah died, “in Kirjath Arba, that is Hebron in the land of Canaan.” In verse 17 the deal is sealed and in verse 19 we read details of the location and description of the property purchased. The Torah seems to go out of its way to make sure there is no doubt about the property purchased, the price paid and the recognition of the sale by the local elders. In Genesis 23:8 it is stated that the full price was paid by Avraham. In verse 13 Avraham insisted on paying the full price and in verse 16 we read what was the full price. It was 400 shekels of silver. In current money it would be close to $156,000. Avraham went out of his way to unsure there would be no question about the details of this transition and that it would be done legally, properly and publicly. All this makes it all the more odd that this very place is one of the most hotly debated areas of Israel today with the world pushing Israel to give it over to the P.A.
Every year, on this Sabbath in Israel, when this portion is studied, people flood into Hebron to say that Hebron belongs to Israel and the Torah portion is read at the location of Sarah and Avraham’s burial site. Thousands of years later G-d is still faithful.
Now I would like to speak about the finding of a wife for Isaac. This task takes up a good bit of the Torah portion. Avraham called for the oldest servant of his house and asked him to find a wife for his son. He cautioned that she could not be a local Canaanite girl but must come from Avraham’s birth place. The servant asked for G-d’s help. We find the servant’s conditions the girl must meet in Genesis 24:12-14. What stands out to you about his plan? What quality was he looking for? Kindness seemed to be top of his list of qualities for this girl. The word used here for kindness is the word Hesed (verse 14). How was this kindness to be expressed? She was not only supposed to offer the servant water but also to water his camels until they had finished drinking. Think about that. He had 10 camels with him. Each camel could drink gallons of water. This would be no easy task for the girl. Hesed means kindness but on a much deeper level. Many times we see it translated as loving kindness as in Proverbs 31 in the prayer, Eshet Hiel where the husband thanks G-d for this quality in his wife. It is applied to a person who emulates G-d in the kindness He shows to us. It is kindness that looks for a way to bless someone. Kindness not based on if the person is someone we like or approve of but kindness that knows no distinction of people. That is what the servant saw here in this girl. He didn’t base his choice on whether she was the most beautiful or if she even was a believer in G-d. I think this is a strong lesson today for us all, for our country and each of us tonight. G-d looks at the heart. He looks at who we are inside, how we relate to His world.
Rebekah passed the test and become the second matriarch of the people of Israel. She and Isaac are buried in the same place as Avraham and Sarah and later Jacob and Leah.
Lastly, I want to just say a word about Genesis 24:1. I know we have spoken about this before but I want to remind us to never forget what this verse says to us as we go through our lives. In English it says Avraham was old well advanced in years. We see the same words in Genesis 18:11, about 40 years had passed between these 2 verses. In Hebrew the words used for well advanced in years is baim bayamim, literally meaning he entered into each day. I like to think of it as each morning is looked at as a gift from G-d. What can we learn, how can we grow through what each day brings to us? We look forward to the new things of the day. We are enthusiastic about each day. We are open to what it brings. I encourage you to never lose this and bless G-d for each day He gives us.