Parshat Hayyei Sarah
How appropriate that on this Solidarity Shabbat--when Jews and people of all faiths will crowd our synagogues to honor those killed in a Pittsburgh synagogue last Saturday--the parsha focuses on Jewish continuity. Though the chapter begins with the death of our matriarch Sarah at
127-years-old, it is called "Hayyei Sarah", the life of Sarah. Even when we mourn the loss of those we love, we must remember with joy how they lived. Abraham insists on purchasing, rather than accepting as a gift from the Hittites, the land in which he will bury his beloved wife. Much negotiating ensues. Finally, paying “four hundred shekels of silver at the going merchant’s rate” Abraham “buried his wife Sarah in the cave of the field of Machpelah”, a sacred spot that we descendants of Abraham and Sarah continue to visit today. And now, on to the next generation.
Abraham instructs his servant to “go to the land of my birth and get a wife for my son Isaac”. (Shabbat Mom thinks of this as the Biblical J-Swipe). And so we meet the beautiful and generous Rebekah, who kindly offers water to this stranger and his thirsty camels. The deal is sealed when it turns out that she is Abraham’s kin; Rebekah agrees to leave her family immediately for her date with destiny. “Raising her eyes, Rebekah saw Isaac...Isaac loved her, and thus found comfort after his mother’s death.” Abraham marries Keturah (who some commentators believe is Hagar) and lives until "a good ripe age, old and contented", dying at 175-years-old. He, too, is buried at Machpelah, by his sons Isaac and Ishmael, who have apparently reunited (another resonant moment given the outpouring of support that Muslims have offered to the Pittsburgh Jewish community.)
Am Yisrael Chai! The People of Israel live!