"Of Sarah, she was as beautiful at 100 as she was at 20 … and she was as pure at 20 as she was at 7 - these were the years of Sarah’s life.” ~ Midrash on Genesis 23:1
In Judaism, very few women are honored as that of Sarah, the wife of Abraham!
According to Jewish tradition, the words of Eshet Chayil ("Woman of Valor" in Proverbs 31) is believed to speak of Sarah while holding a direct link to our Parashah 5 in Genesis 23:1-25:18. In this section of Scripture we find a unique paradox where Sarah is honored in Judaism as our greatest and first matriarch. What is even more noteworthy is the name of our Parashah, “Chayei Sarah” (the Life of Sarah) but is acclaimed not as she is living or following a great accomplishment - but instead at the time of her death. Here at the offset, Judaism from its early beginnings is set apart from the practices of all other faiths in areas of mourning and remembrance.
Yet, in speaking of this Parashah reading, it is most outstanding when read from the Art Scroll translation in its keynote verse in Genesis 23:1in declaring,
“And the life of Sarah was one hundred years and twenty years and seven years, the years of the life of Sarah.”
Of modern translations, a proper memorial or yahrzeit of Sarah’s life seems to be lost in only stating that Sarah lived to be 127 years of age with no further description. Yet through rabbinical eyes, our true meaning comes forth where each and every one of us are challenged to be as Sarah in making the best and most of our lives before the Lord! It is for this reason our Midrash above notes that our matriarch was as beautiful at 100 years old as she was when she was but a girl of 20, and she was, in turn just as holy before Adonai at the age of 20 when she was but a small child at age 7 when she was untainted by a sinful world! Such an honoring holds within its sentiment a very real tension between mourning, loss and pain and a somber remembrance of the one we love and have lost. Abraham knew this as we mourned his wife in Genesis 23 and sought to bury her and as he “zachor” - Remembered her for who she was before Adonai!
Christian funerals and memorial services often miss this reality where instead of holding this God given tension, the time of “mourning” is turned to a party or a celebration of life - and in the proves a time to mourn (Ecclesiastes 3:4) is lost altogether. In this many forget that the point of Chayei Sarah is to remember and to be reminded, where we see in Sarah’s life an example of righteousness from Hashem in everything!
As you read this, today, the Lord would remind us all that the work of holiness is that of the work of the Spirit in the life of the believer. Although Sarah was a righteous women who committed everything to the ways of Adonai, it was nevertheless the power and presence of God in her life that enabled her to be an example for us to live in holiness, fear and faithful obedience to Torah. Yet, even in this we must daily choose as with (Chayei Sarah) “The Life of Sarah” to lead lives of faithfulness and obedience as she did. We like Sarah have all been set-apart by God’s grace and like her, we must never forget that we are called to be holy, for He is holy! (Leviticus 19:2)
Rabbi Mark Rantz
November 14, 2020, 27th of Cheshvan, 5781
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