Parashat Chayei Sarah חַיֵּי שָׂרָה

Our Parasha speaks about Sarah’s life as she was our first mother along with our holy Forefathers. The first word in our Parasha is “VaYehiyu” (“ויהיו” – and her years were…); the numerical value of this word is 37, alluding to the age of her son Yitzchak (“יצחק”) at the time of her death, and his test at Mount Moriah. This comes to teach us that Sarah considered her life to be a true living only while having her son Yitzchak. Sarah was ninety years old when she had her one and only son. She died at the age of one hundred and twenty-seven, being a mother for thirty-seven years, and the word “VaYehiyu” (“ויהיו”) point out to these 37 years of motherhood. Sarah truly felt alive for thirty-seven years following the birth of Yitzchak, as most women truly consider themselves being “alive” after having children. The Talmud (Nedarim 60:4) teaches us that, one who is childless is not considered truly alive, since the first Mitzvah in the Torah is having children. We also learn this from Rachel who said to Yaakov that she is considered herself “dead” without children. 

The Torah divides Sarah’s life into three parts: 100, 20, and 7 to teach us that she lived her 100 years without any sin like a 20-year-old who is not obligated by heavenly court, and her 20 years as young as a 7-year-old child who is pure. The word Sarah (“שרה”) also means reside in her, alluding to HaShem’s Holiness residing within Sarah as she was very righteous woman. As long as Sarah was alive, the Shecinah (“שכינה” – HaShem’s glory) rested above and in her tent. She always had plenty of food, her Challot (Shabbat bread) were always fresh from Friday to the next Friday, and her Shabbat candles were never extinguished. The Torah separates Sarah’s years into “מֵאָה שָׁנָה וְעֶשְׂרִים שָׁנָה וְשֶׁבַע שָׁנִים”; the words one hundred, twenty, and seven, in Hebrew spell the word “Shema” (“שְׁמַע”). We see that HasHem hinted to Avraham about her age of passings. In (Chapter 21:12) Hagar made a mockery of Sarah, Sarah ordered Avraham to get rid of her and her son Ishmael. Avraham asked HaShem if he should obey such request by Sarah, and HaShem replied; “all that Sarah asked you to do you should do” (“כֹּל אֲשֶׁר תֹּאמַר אֵלֶיךָ שָׂרָה, שְׁמַע בְּקֹלָהּ”). The word “שְׁ.מַ.ע” “Shema” has the acronym to Sarah’s age מֵאָה-עֶשְׂרִים-שֶׁבַע 137 years, at the time of her passing.

Avraham returned (without Yitzchak) to Be’er Sheveh (“שבע-באר”) to tell Sarah all about the miracles he had just experienced, but she was not there. Our Sages explain that she left, heading towards Hebron (“חברון”), looking for her son and husband. The Midrash tells us that Satan (“שטן”) was frustrated that he could not “win” with Avraham and Yitzchak as they both passed HaShem’s test. So he pretended to be an Angel looking as Yitzchak and told Sarah that he was sacrificed by Avraham at the altar. She did not believe him and asked the four giants who also lived in Hebron (Sheshai, Achiman, Talmi, and their father) to verify the Satan’s claim. They looked towards Jerusalem and verified that they saw a man holding a knife above a child on the altar.

We know that Sarah lived in Be’er Sheva at the time of the Akieda and she left heading towards Hebron immediately after hearing of Yitzchak’s Akieda. Why? She should have gone to Jerusalem to Mount Moriah. Our Sages say that Sarah knew about the Divine location of “Mearat HaMachpelah“ (“מערת המכפלה”) and the field where it was located. She wanted to be there at the time of her passing so she can be buried in it. It is hinted in the song about her the “Eshet Chayil” (“אשת חיל”) in Mishlei 31:17: “זָמְמָה שָׂדֶה, וַתִּקָּחֵהוּ”. Meaning she (Sarah) considerate a field, and plotted to take it, speaking of the field where “Mearat HaMachpelah” is. The word “חברון” has a secret code alluding to its future occupants, the people of Charan (Avraham birth place) as the two words are within “חברון”. The words “חרן” (Charan) and “בו” (Bo) make the word “חברון”. The Zohar says that every jewish Neshamah that passes (die) goes to the cave first and complain to Adam and Eve, blaming them for their sin and her (the soul) death.

The Zohar has a profound and revealing teachings about the word “וְלִבְכֹּתָהּ” “VeLivcotah” (to cry for her (in verse 2). We notice that the letter “כֹּ” “Caf” is written as half the size of the rest of the letters, the Zohar explains that Sarah had a daughter who died at the same time as Sarah. When we read the word “וְלִבְכֹּתָהּ” “VeLivcotah” (to cry for her) without the letter “כֹּ” “Caf”, it will read “וְלִבְתָהּ” “VeLevitah” for her daughter. Meaning that Avraham came to eulogize and cry to both Sarah and his daughter. The Zohar says that Sarah represents the body and Avraham represents the soul, when referring to the spiritual and physical aspects of Bnei-Yisrael.

There were seven prophetesses (and 48 men prophets):

  1. Sarah שרה 
  2. Miriam  מרים
  3. Devorah דבורה
  4. Chanah חנה
  5. Avigail אביגיל
  6. Chuldah חולדה
  7. Ester אסתר (she ruled over 127 nations just as Sarah’s age 127)

When Avraham eulogized Sarah, he asked “where can one find a woman as great as you”? The Midrash tells us that King Solomon (“שלמה המלך”) wrote in the book of Mishlei (chapter 31), an epilogue to his mother using some of Avraham words: “the wife of noble character, a woman of valor (Sarah), an Eshet Chayiel (“אשת חיל”). He detailed his mother’s (and Sarah’s) great righteousness highlighting each of her qualities using all the Hebrew letters (all the Alphabet), as she fulfilled the Torah’s laws from start to finish (from “א” to “ת”). Sarah was so deserving that HaShem talked to her directly unlike any of the other prophetesses. She had full command of the Angels and when she asked one of them to do something, they rushed to fulfill her will without first verifying with HaShem. Our Sages say that our Neshanah (soul) is the “Eshet Chayiel”; others say that the Torah is considered the “Eshet Chayiel” as well.

The Torah writes that Avraham “got up” (“ויקם”) to negotiate with the sons of Chet (“בני חת”), from the place that Sarah laid (waiting for burial), to discuss her burial place. He left this place in order not to show disrespect for the dead (Sarah) as they cannot talk back our Sages explains (as it is the Halacha). From here we learn the Halacha of burial as we must perform it immediately and not be delayed (within 24 hours).

The question was asked why Avraham wanted to talk to the “sons of Chet” and not their leader Efron (“עפרון”). The Midrash tells us that there are few points-of-view for such an act; one to belittle the importance of the burial location in order not to draw too much attention to it by the locals; Avraham also knew that their leader, Efron, would be pleased to hear that Avraham talked to his subordinates first since he, Efron, was notorious as chasing honor and fame.  Avraham wanted him to feel important and regal so he spoke first to his servants. Avraham made a point to tell them that he is both a citizen and a guest in order to emphasize HaShem’s promises that the Land belongs to him as he too has the rights to this land. 

We see (verse 23:5) that the sons of Chet responded, saying… “וַיַּעֲנוּ בְנֵי-חֵת אֶת-אַבְרָהָם, לֵאמֹר לוֹ”; the word “Lo” (“לו”) means “to him”. The Numerical value of the word “Lo” (“לו”) is 36, alludes to the number of years that Avraham lived in Hebron among them. In verse 23:8 Avraham had a prophecy with regards to the burial place, since he understood that not only he and Sarah will be buried there but the future Forefathers as well, as the verse says “to bury the dead ahead of me” (“לִקְבֹּר אֶת-מֵתִי מִלְּפָנַי”). The word “מִלְּפָנַי” (ahead of me) alludes to future occupants. The numerical value of the word “Lefanay” (“לפני” – before me and ahead of) is 170, referring to the same number of years until Yaakov will be buried there 170 years later. 

Avraham knew how to deal with Efron (which also spells the word pencil in hebrew) referring to have all documented in writing. He knew that he must purchase the burial site, in order to secure future possession without any doubts or contentions by future generations. Efron  was the first “real estate agent” in the Torah. Avraham knew that in the future his action would protect that land from being “claimed” by others, and he wanted to ensure that “Mearat HaMachpelah“ will forever belong to the Jewish people. This also comes to teach us the laws of purchasing land and having a written deed describing the exact land parcel in details. 

There are three places in Jewish history where land was bought and paid for in Israel:

  1. Avraham bought the cave “מערת המכפלה” “Mearat HaMachpelah“
  2. Yaakov יעקב bought the Yosef’s יוסף burial in Shchem
  3. King David bought the site for בית המיקדש Bait HaMikdash.

Efron was greedy and even though he offered the land to Avraham for free (not for real) Avraham knew that it was just a technique of negotiation. Avraham paid 400 silver coins for the land, in front of all the people in the city who witnessed the transaction. The Midrash says that Efron stole from Avraham while he was weighing the coins and as a result of that HaShem took something away from him. After the transaction the Torah wrote Efron’s name without the letter “Vov” (“ו”) in several places, “עפרן” as opposed to “עפרון”. By giving these 400 coins even though it was an exorbitant amount of money for such land, HaShem rewarded Avraham’s offspring with 210 years of exile instead of 400 years as was promised. The Zohar says that the “Sade’a” (field) was hunted by “Shedim” (demons) to allow Avraham a “quick” purchase from Efron.

Avraham felt that he was getting too old, and wanted to find a wife for his son while he was still alive. He called upon Eliezer, his loyal servant, and instructed him, and asking him to make an oath, to find the right wife to marry his son and not to take from the Canaanites’ women. Avraham told Eliezer to go back to his birth place (Aram-Naharaim) and find the deserving one. He promised Eliezer that the right woman will join him back of her own free will. The Midrash tells us that because Yitzchak was saved on Mount Moriya he was very holy and was not allowed to have a Canaanite woman or a second wife as his father. Yitzchak also was the only one who never left the land of Israel, unlike his father and his son Yaakov.

Eliezer left with ten camels from Avraham’s herd, to teach us that, when on a holy mission, even his animals were righteous. Eliezer went on his way and HaShem made a miracle with his travels; a trip from Hebron to Charan (“חרן ”) that usually would take seventeen days, took only three hours.  Eliezer arrived at the water-well the same day, understanding that HaShem was with him; he prayed to HaShem, referring to Him as the God of Avraham, and asked Him to help him with finding the right girl for Yitzchak. In order to make sure that he finds the right woman he said to HaShem that he will ask the girl for water for himself and the camels, and if she not only will offer him water but also to his camels, he will know that she is the one. 

Eliezer’s prayer was answered (while he was praying) and Rivkah arrived at the water-well. The Midrash says that she never went to the well before as she was like a princess as the daughter of the most important (and wicked) man, Betuel (“בתואל”). She had servants who would do this kind of work for her, but on this holy occasion HaShem caused Rivkah to go. Her father Betuel (“בתואל”) “earned” his name due to his horrific sins. Eliezer’s test was asking Rivkah to provide water for him and his camels; she did it all by herself without the help of her servants. The Midrash teaches us that the water came up to her and filled up her bucket on its own, to point out her righteousness. She gave Eliezer water and made sure that the camels had enough water until they were completely full (as they drink over 53 gallons and stored it in their 3 chambers in their stomach).

Eliezer noticed that Rivkah was a modest and righteous woman. He took out a golden ring, that weighed half a shekel and two golden bracelets that weighed ten shekel. We learn from such act of giving the jewels by Eliezer a few things. First, that he went against Avraham’s instructions and almost “bribed” her. Second, Eliezer understood that she is the sister of Lavan (“לבן”) who was a wicked man, and that Rivkah was exposed to such behavior. Eliezer wanted to make sure that Rivkah was shown that if she is the righteous one, the jewels will be hers.

In the past our forefathers and righteous leaders met their wife to be at the “באר” “Be’er” (water-well…) today unfortunately Jewish men meets their “future wife” at the “באר” “Bar”… same letters, different drink… and completely different kind of women. 

I would like to point out that according to the “New Testament” the christians claim that the cave of the Patriarchs is located in Shechem (Latin: Neapolis; Arabic: Nablus) and that HaShem gave them this “information” – as we see in Acts 7:16 of the Christian Bible. This should teach us that their so called “God Given Book” is wrong and fake, it is merely a poor copy of our Torah with many mistakes. As they wrote (Acts 7:16) “and their bodies were brought back to Shechem and laid in the tomb that Avraham had bought for a sum of silver from the sons of Hamor in Shechem”. Our Torah writes (Genesis 23:1-20) that Avraham bought the cave and the field from Efron in Hebron and not from the “ sons of Hamor in Shechem”! The Cave is and always been in Kiryat Arba’a which is Hebron and not Nablus!

Find out more….

Yoram Dahan – Author – Book Series – NESS HaTORAH

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