This week’s portion begins with the words “Sarah lived one hundred and twenty-seven years; these were the years of the life of Sarah. So Sarah died in Kirjath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her.” Why does this portion immediately begin with the death of Sarah? The Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, 1040-1105) explains in his commentary concerning these verses, “The narrative of the death of Sarah follows immediately on that of the Binding of Isaac, because through the announcement of the Binding…she received a great shock (literally, her soul flew from her) and she died.” According to Rashi, Sarah heard that Abraham her husband was going to sacrifice their son on the mountain of Moriah and the news instantly took her soul from within her; she died on the spot. Of course, the heart of a mother is intrinsically, intricately bound to that of her children. The bond between mother and child is one of the strongest bonds in the world. After the battle of Normandy (WWII, D-Day, June 6, 1944) it has been said, “People walking through the carnage at Normandy heard grown men calling out ‘Mommy’…Calling not for their girlfriends or wives, but for their mothers.” D-Day Veteran Frank Devito recalled in a 2014 interview, “…there’s a fallacy people think that when a man is dying. They don’t ask for God. The last word they say before they die is ‘Momma.’” In this observation I want to explore the power of parents as well as the importance of the marriage relationship. The story of the Akeidah (The Binding of Isaac) as recorded in Midrash Tanchuma (Vayera 23) tells us that Isaac said to Abraham his father, “Father, do not tell my mother about this while she is standing at the edge of a pit or a roof lest she hurl herself down and die.” Even in the face of death Isaac had concern for his mother. So too, in the gospel of John we read that our Master, Yeshua, even in his excruciating agony on the cross, looked down and “saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold your son!’ Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother!’ And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.”  Yeshua, from the cross, ensured that his mother would be taken care of. Yeshua’s concern for his mother was evident even in the worst of circumstances. This proves that even if a man’s last words do not concern his mother; his thoughts definitely go back and remember the care of a nurturing parent. The power of parents, especially a godly, praying mother is proven throughout the Bible.
Sarah, Abraham, and Isaac – illustration by Sweet Media
The “Shnei Luchot—2 Tablets” that Moses brought down from Mount Sinai contained 10 “recommendations.” (I write, “recommendations” rather than commandments because, God doesn’t demand our obedience; He invites us to follow His instruction-manual for mankind, but does not demand obedience to His “advice.”) The first of the tablets contained recommendations pertaining to God, while the second tablet contained advice regarding treatment of others. But wait, the last of the “suggestions” on the first of the tablets seemingly has nothing to do with God at all. What is the 5th commandment of the 10 commandments? It says, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” Why is this so important a command? For one thing, the command to honor is only given in regard to parents. The Bible tells us to love God, our neighbor, and the stranger; it never tells us to honor them.
Why is this the case? Dennis Prager in one of his articles, wrote, “Sigmund Freud, the father of psychiatry and an atheist, theorized that one’s attitude toward one’s father largely shaped one’s attitude toward God.” Meaning, the relationship one has with one’s own parents will be reflected in the way one approaches God = The way a person relates to their parents is a great factor in determining how they relate to higher authority, whether that higher authority be God, or someone/something else. Each character we read of in the Bible had parents. Every individual character, whether in the Bible, or today in modern times, is molded into their specific person starting from birth. Isaac became who he was because of Abraham and Sarah, Yeshua, because of Joseph and Miriam, Jacob, because of Isaac and Rebekah. Parents create children, not just “physical children,” they create children into “Imago Dei—The image of God” (Genesis 1:27) or into “Iconos Phthartou Anthropou—The image of corruptible man.” (Romans 1:23) That is the power of a parent. It was Sarah who realized the importance of Isaac being raised alone as the seed through which God’s promises would become realized. (Genesis 21:9-10) Though the story we read may seem harsh, Sarah foresaw the potential for future problems if Ishmael was not sent away. Parent’s create children and prepare the opportunity for “fate or fortune.” Responsible Parents are responsible to create opportunity and give guidance to the next generation.
All this leads me to a question. When are a father and mother equal to God? Weird question? Yes…But God can’t just “make babies.” It takes a father, a mother & God in unison to bring life into the world. In this way, each member, with different roles, play an equal part in the birthing process. After birth, Mothers are more than half accountable for guaranteeing the success of their progeny. This is why in Judaism; Jewish ancestry through blood, is only Halachically (A law/tradition…derived from Torah and/or from rabbinic literature) recognized from the mother’s side. If your father was Jewish but your mother was not, then Rabbinically/Halachically, you are not Jewish. Why is this the case? Because woman are naturally recognized as more connected to spirituality. A mother is the one to instill spiritual cognizance in her offspring. If a mother is not Jewish, then she will instill foreign spiritual concepts in her children, which will bring confusion not just to her children, but also to the collective Jewish community. The Sages of past generations recognized the power of a mother who was connected to God or not. A mother’s influence in the spiritual growth of her children is a key factor in deciding the “fate or fortune” of the coming generation. This portion recognizes Sarah as playing an important role in the growth and maturity of her seed, the promised son through whom the promises of God would be fulfilled, Isaac.
This portion goes straight from the death of Sarah to finding a wife for Isaac. Telling us that the women in a man’s life are what make a man become all he was created to be.
Genesis 24 is the longest chapter in the book of Genesis. What is the chapter about? Finding a wife for Isaac. God spends 67 verses of Torah describing the process to find Isaac a wife; He spends 56 verses telling us how the world was created. What is more important to God, Creationship or Relationship? The first broken relationship in the Garden of Eden was not between God and man; it was between man and his wife. The reason marriage is so important is the fact that it is rectifying the first broken relationship in the Garden. Man and woman coming together in unity, brings the world closer to the days when the first couple strolled harmoniously through Paradise. Marriage brings redemption! Remember God’s curse on the crafty serpent in the Garden? What did God say? “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” This is a prophecy regarding the downfall of the serpent. How is the serpent crushed? Through the seed of the woman, and what is the seed? God, man and woman coming together to create a new life! The redemption comes through a husband and wife’s love for God and for one another!
Abraham and Sarah saw a glimpse of the Messiah through their son Isaac. Every couple should see a glimpse of the Messiah in their children, because every couple should be preparing their children for the arrival of the Messiah. As I have written before, “Every child comes with the message that God is not yet done with man.” (Quote by Rabindranath Tagore.) Real-ationships are what matter to God most. He created the world to be a place where humanity can relate to Him and to each other. We must ask ourselves, are we working to bring the Messiah through our relationships?  
As a single person, I could look through everything I’ve just written and think, well, I guess there’s nothing for me in this observation/Torah portion. There is an interesting verse in chapter 24. It says, “Isaac went out to meditate in the field in the evening; and he lifted his eyes and looked, and there, the camels were coming.” What does it mean, Isaac was “out meditating in the field?” According to Sforno’s commentary, he writes, “[Isaac] had detoured from his regular path to the field in order to pour out his heart to G’d in prayer.” Isaac was in prayer, more specifically, the afternoon “mincha” prayer.
It says in Job 11, “If you would prepare your heart, and stretch out your hands toward Him…your life would be brighter than noonday. Though you were dark, you would be like the morning.” Isaac was stretching out his hands and opening his heart for whatever God had for him. And while he was in prayer, while he was in communion with God, God brought his “bashert—soul mate” to him. “Bashert” is a Yiddish term that has come to refer to a person’s soul mate, however, the term literally means “destiny.” Isaac’s “destiny” came to him while he was steadfastly seeking God in prayer. Isaac had offered himself up as a willing, living sacrifice on the Temple Mount/Mount Moriah. This is what God seeks, a heart that is totally devoted and given over to His will; a heart that is seeking Him. God’s destiny for each of us may or may not include marriage in this life, but marriage, as we understand today it is just a small picture of the greatest marriage of all, the Wedding Supper of the Lamb! This is our destiny, it is the place to where we have been invited and it where we should be inviting others to as well! A man and his bride bring a microcosmic redemption to a world that will one day experience the greatest wedding story of all time; that breathtaking day when Son of Man and His glorious bride unite to bring complete redemption to the entire world!

Grace and peace from God’s bondservant,
Shabbat Shalom,

75 thoughts on “Parsha Chayei Sarah Genesis 23:1-25:18

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