Par’sha Chayei Sarah
"Life of Sarah"
Par’sha Chayei Sarah, which spans B’reshith 23.1-25.18, contains two major narratives: Avraham’s purchase of the Cave of Makpelah as a burial site for Sarah and his decision to find a wife for their son, Yitz’chaq. Calling this par’sha the life of Sarah is interesting considering that neither of these narratives are directly related to her life, only her death. In fact, this week’s par’sha opens with the death of Sarah and closes with the death of Avraham about thirty-eight years later, but the focus of this par’sha isn’t about death. It is about life and how to live it.
The par’sha opens by telling us that Sarah lived one hundred and twenty-seven years, the years of Sarah’s life. Since most of B’reshith focuses on the lives of the patriarchs, we sometimes overlook the lives and struggles of their wives. We aren’t told how old Sarah was when she married her half-brotherB’re.20.12, but we do know she was with Avraham:
when her father-in-law took them from Ur-kasdim with the intention of traveling to the land of Kena’an.B’re.11.31
They settled in Charan instead and later she followed her husband as they left Charan to complete the journey to the land of Kena’an
she was with Avraham when they had to leave Kena’an because of a scarcity of food
it was Sarah who was taken from Avraham and into Pharaoh house, not knowing what would happen to her.
and it was their son, not just Avraham’s, that Avraham took to the mountains of Moriyah to offer him as a ascending offering to Y’H’V’H.
Sarah was with Avraham through all of his trials and tribulations - they were one flesh. As in life, sometimes it is the trials and struggles we go through as husbands and wives learning to become one flesh that builds the strongest marriages.
I’ve shared a teaching about marriage in the past, but I believe it is important enough to share again. From B’reshith 1.1 to B’reshith 2.23, the word man is translated from adam, which means being reddish or to be earthly and solid. B’reshith 2.23 uses the word man twice, but they are not the same word in the Hebrew text: And the man אדם said, “This is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. This one is called woman, because she has been taken out of man אִישׁ (not adam). Ish is very similar to the Hebrew word for fire אֵשׁ, which leads to the teaching regarding marriage.
Woman is from the Hebrew word ‘isha, אִשָׁה, which is also very similar to אֵשׁ, fire. Using אֵשׁ as a foundation, the word for man, איש, is derived by adding a yod י to the word for fire אֵשׁ. The word for woman אִשָׁה is formed by adding a ה to the word for fire אֵשׁ. The yod י added to fire produces the word man and the heh ה produces the word woman. The י and ה together spell Elohim’s Name - Yah יה. Here’s the lesson: If a marriage is to survive and become what Yah intended it to be, then Yah must be a part of and at the center of that marriage. Without Yah the marriage becomes a fire that will consume them both. This is a lesson Avraham and Sarah would have understood better than most.
And now, Avraham had come to Qiryath Arba, to mourn and weep for Sarah - and to secure a burial place for them. For Avraham, there could be only one place - the cave of Makpelah. Though we are not told why, this was the only place Avraham asked for and he was willing to pay a substantial price to secure it from Ephron the ִHittite. When the deliberations were over, the field and the cave were deeded to Avraham, becoming the first of two places in which the Hebrews secured a clear title to parcels of land in the Eretz Yisrael.1B’re.33.19-20
Avraham’s deliberations with the sons of ִHeth reveals more aspects of Avraham’s life that provide important lessons - and encouragement - for us. For instance, consider the way Avraham described himself to the sons of ִHeth. He declared he was a foreigner and a sojourner among them.23.4 Sojourner in this case is translated from toshav תוֹשָׁ֥ב and refers to someone who has settled down in a place with the intentions of dwelling in peace with the other inhabitants (ישב). Avraham had come to Kena’an at Y’H’V’H’s bidding and was now living peacefully in the land. He realized, however, that he and his seed had not yet inherited the land. His seed was still faced with the inevitability of being sojourners in a foreign land where they would serve those people for four hundred years.B’reshith 15.13
But Avraham also described himself as a foreigner, from the Hebrew ger גֵּר. The word ger (from גור) refers to someone who is grafting into, or assimilating, into someone else’s culture. It is most commonly used in reference to a gentile who is grafting into the people of Yisra’el. In fact, that is how ger is used in Dibre ha’Yamim Alef 22.1. Melek Da’vid gathered in the gerim who were living in the land of Yisra’el and appointed them as stonemasons to help build the Temple of Y’H’V’H Elohim. Gentile converts had a part in building the Temple.
We know from Torah that Avraham was not attempting to graft into the sons of ִHeth so why declare himself to be a ger? He acknowledged he was a sojourner among them, an outsider desiring to live at peace among them, so how was he a ger as well?
While some may debate his reasons, it seems obvious. Avraham was was a Hebrew, one who had crossed over to worshipping pagan gods to the One True El, but his grafting into, or his becoming a Hebrew, was something that took time to complete. It had been about sixty-two years since Y’H’V’H had called him from his father’s home in Charan and Avraham was still learning, still becoming, a true Hebrew.
At some time in his life Avraham had been taught the Y’H’V’H’s commandments, His laws and His Torot and he was guarding them and obeying the Voice of Y’H’V’HBre.26.5, He also realized that all the trials and tests he had endured in his walk before El Shaddai had been designed to help him achieve that goal. So, at one-hundred thirty-seven years of age Avraham realized he was still in the process of becoming the man Y’H’V’H desired him to be and of fulfilling what Y’H’V’H had called him to do.
The second lesson in Avraham’s deliberations with Ephron the ִHittitie is found in B’reshith 23.12-16. Even when Ephron offered to give Avraham the cave and the field at Makpelah, Avraham refused. He insisted on paying whatever price Ephron asked. This ties back to something Avram had once said to the sovereign of Sedom; I have lifted my hand to Y’H’V’H, the Most High El, the Possessor of the heavens and the earth, not to take a thread or a sandal strap or whatever is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Avram rich…’
Avraham understood something we must all understand: man cannot depend on man to give us what we need to achieve the goals Y’H’V’H has set before us. We cannot look to men for our sustenance or our riches. If we are to truly be His people we must NOT live like the rest of the world, focused on our needs, our desires and the pursuit of riches. We must trust that Y’H’V’H will supply all of our needs according to His riches. Avraham did and look at how Y’H’V’H blessed him and his seed. Avraham and his family were wealthy in every sense of the word.
Also, Avraham didn’t live his life attempting to garner the praises of men; only the praises of Elohim. His focus was on learning to obey the Voice of Y’H’V’H and guarding His Charge: His commands, His laws and His Torot. And he looked forward to the coming of the Promised Messiah (and he saw it).Yochanan 8.56
Avraham knew something about his walk before El Shaddai that he guarded and taught to his children and those of his household: and that is there are no shortcuts in learning to live the life Y’H’V’H has established for His people. Learning to live the life of a Hebrew is an everyday, day-in-day-out lifestyle in which we recognize the tests and trials are designed to strengthen and encourage us - to develop us into the people He has called us to be.
This doesn’t mean that we can’t ask to be delivered from trials and tribulations of life; even the Messiah asked that if it was possible, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I desire, but as You desire.Matt.26.39 Our Father understands our weaknesses and our fears - especially the fear of failure - so He understands our prayers for deliverance, but our prayers must be offered with the same heart that the Messiah offered His: not our will but our Father’s.
Of course it was possible for Y’H’V’H to have taken the cup from Messiah. The Messiah Himself told Kepha, Or do you think that I am not able to pray to My Father now, and He shall provide Me with more than twelve legions of messengers?Matt.26.53. It was possible for the Messiah to escape the suffering that lay before Him, but NOT if He was to accomplish that which His Father had established for Him to do.
I believe the same is true for us today. We can escape some of the trials and tribulations that will come our way, but not if we are going to accomplish what our Father has called us to accomplish. There are no shortcuts of the people of El Shaddai. We must have the same heart as the Messiah: Father, if You removing this cup from me means that I will not accomplish Your will for my life, then Your will - not mine - be done. That’s the life of a ger, of a person desiring to be one of His people; the life Avraham understood. It is a life that takes time and dedication to accomplish. Neither Avraham or the Messiah were looking for shortcuts. They lived their lives obeying Y’H’V’H’s Voice and guarding His charge.
The Messiah warned some of the Pharisees, Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter through the door into the sheepfold, but climbs up by another way, that one is a thief and a robber.Yochanan 10.1 He is the door we must enter in through and once we do our lives must imitate His. If not, we rob ourselves.
We are all sojourners and foreigners in this world we live in, but only for a short while longer. Let’s live the life; let’s stay the course and run the race. Let’s be the Hebrews, the people of Yisrael, He wants and needs us to be. No shortcuts, just every day living for Him.
25 Cheshvan 5776
7 November 2016
1 The second was the portion of the field in Shekem which Ya’akov purchased from the children of Chamor, Shekem’s father.