The Life of Sarah

This week’s Torah portion is Chayei Sarah – the Life of Sarah.

The life of Sarah? The name of the chapter is deceptive. It’s not about the life of Sarah at all. The very first sentence reads, “And the life of Sarah was one hundred years and twenty years and seven years; [these were] the years of the life of Sarah” (Genesis 23:1). This is the way that we are told that Sarah died. She lived for one hundred and twenty-seven years and then was gone.

From previous chapters, however, we know that Sarah lived an interesting and full life. She lived with an open mind and an open heart.

As the first matriarch of the Jewish people, Sarah was not a stereotypic woman of her time. She was a pioneer, an explorer, and an adventurer who left her family home for a foreign land to pursue a new way of living and believing. Her husband gave her no guarantees or maps to follow, but she had faith that it all would work out well.

Sarah was resourceful. She was very pretty. She was willing to use her good looks for financial gain and to bargain for her husband’s safety.

Sarah was intelligent and capable. She managed a small staff and ran a household. She could be a “take charge” type of person. When her husband was in doubt or confused about what to do, for example, God told him to heed Sarah’s words and do as she said.

Sarah was proud and direct, but she also could be jealous, competitive, and cruel. She laughed; especially at the notion of giving birth despite her advanced years. She was mother to an only son whom she loved fiercely.

What can we glean from this obituary? Sarah was loved and her death was mourned. Does anything else really matter?

At the end of Chayei Sarah, we learn that Sarah’s son gets married. “And Isaac brought her to the tent of Sarah his mother, and he took Rebecca, and she became his wife, and he loved her. And Isaac was comforted for [the loss of] his mother.” In so many ways, with no frame of reference, Rebecca is like the mother-in-law that she never knew. But Isaac knows.

What do we learn from Sarah’s life? Be bold, take some chances, and try new things. Don’t be afraid to live, laugh, and love. Let the memories of your loved ones light your way ahead.

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