A Thought for Shabbat

Approaching the Herodian building over the cave

It has been noted by the Rabbis of our tradition–and by alert readers of the Torah–that even though our Torah portion for this week is called Chaye Sarah (literally, “the Life of Sarah”), the text actually talks about her death and the preparations for her burial.Of course, from the previous week’s Torah portions, we know something about her life…but not as much as we know about Abraham.

It is noteworthy that for all the praise that is heaped on Sarah by our Sages, Abraham seems caught off guard when she passes away.  Even though both of them were in advanced age, they made no preparations for burial plots; the resulting negotiations and purchase are what make up the entire beginning of the Parasha.

How could Abraham have overlooked this?  Perhaps it was that he was so focused on life that he couldn’t look forward that far.  Abraham does several things that show his focus on saving life (Sodom and Gomorrah, telling Sarah to pretend to be his sister, etc.)…even though he was prepared to sacrifice Isaac.Jewish tradition asks us to maintain a balance.  We must live in the moment and make the most of life, but we must also prepare for the fate that awaits all of us (we should live to 120!).  We cannot so focus on our end that we forget to live our lives to the fullest; we live so much in the moment that we forget that we do not have forever to be in this world.It is a difficult task to handle successfully.  The story in our Torah portion reminds us of this in a most dramatic way.

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