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  • Writer's pictureRabbi Skorka

Chayei Sarah- Sara's Life

This parashah, which begins by narrating the death of Sarah, immediately follows the last event from last week’s reading when Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac in response to a divine command. The sages of the Midrash (Tanhuma [Buber], Aharei Mot, 3, Tanhuma [Warsaw], Vayera, 23) connect the death of the first matriarch with the anguish caused by that episode.

This parashah reveals to us two things that can be understood as implications of that previous text about the sacrifice of Isaac. On the one hand, Isaac did not return with his father (22:29) after that test, nor does the text bear witness to any dialogue between father and son. The figure of Isaac only appears at the end of this parashah, when he meets Rebekah and takes her to his mother's tent as his wife, thus finding consolation after his mother’s death. Neither do we find, after the sacrifice of Isaac narrative any further dialogue between God and Abraham. We are told that the old patriarch met another woman with whom he fathered six children, that he left all his possessions to Isaac, and that after he left this world he was buried by Isaac and Ishmael. Any dialogue with God ceased with the story of the sacrifice.

Abraham passed that test, but perhaps he should have argued with God and not meekly accepted the command to sacrifice his son. Similarly, the sages of the Talmud (Shabbat 89, b) criticize Abraham for not having beseeched the mercy of God when God said that his descendants would be enslaved in a strange land (15:13). Abraham’s faith was extraordinary, for that reason he remained as a matchless paradigm, but he was not the model of the “middle way” of faith advocated by Maimonides (Hilkhot Deot 1)

The prophet Micah stresses that God desires the people to "act with justice, love, goodness and walk humbly with your God" (6:8)—and not the sacrifice of a child. God wants human beings to honor Him through life and not through death.

Shabbat Shalom!


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