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Chaye Sara 5766

By: Shprintzee Rappaport


The question that comes immediately to mind when looking at Parshat
Chayei Sarah is--Why does it have the title "The Life of Sarah"? First
of all, the name is a total misnomer, since the parsha says nothing
about her life, and only discusses her death & burial. Secondly,
Avraham dies in this parsha as well! Remember Avraham--the first human
being to discover Hashem, the one who was ready to sacrifice his beloved
son for Hashem, the one who taught us what true kindness really is,
etc. Yet his death is not given the status of being part of this
parsha's title. And what is really surprising is, like with any good
book in which the ending is often the most important part, this portion
ends with Yishmael's death! If his death is so important, why not name
the parsha after him? Why does Sarah's death take center stage?

Kli Yakar (Rabbi Shlomo Efraim of Luntchitz) answers this question with
another point. We are told (23:2) "Sarah died in Kiryat Arbah, it is
Chevron". The commentaries ask, "Which one was it--Kiryat Arbah or
Chevron"? In the end, they figure out that it was one place, Chevron,
which later got the second name, Kiryat Arbah. This second name means
the "district of four", referring to the fact that this place would
eventually have four "pairs" buried there--1) Adam & Chava, 2) Avraham &
Sarah, 3)Yitzchak & Rivkah, and 4)Yaakov & Leah. But the question
arises--if you want to make the point about this place being designated
for death, why use both names here and not just Kiryat Arbah?

Kli Yakar informs us that this place really had four names; these 2 and
2 others--Mamreh and Eshkol, & that the 4 names represent 4 ways a
person can die: 1) as a result of one's own sins, 2) as a result of
other people's sins--often used as an explanation for the death of
children or Tzaddikim (righteous people), 3) nothing to do w/ sin, just
a natural death when a person has finished his purpose on earth, and 4)
a special death of Tzaddikim who connect with Hashem so closely that
they finally are removed from this world thru a "kiss of death"
--considered to be the highest level of death.

So looking at the 4 names: 1) Mamreh--comes from the word
"Mamrim--rebels", (like when Moshe tells the Jews in Sefer Bamidbar
"Mamrim Hayeetem Lifnei Hashem--you were rebels before Hashem", as a
result of their sins. That corresponds to the 1st type of death, namely
dying as a result of one's own sins. 2) Eshkol comes from
"Shekol--bereaved" --when a parent loses a child he is referred to as
"Shekol"--the most bereaved type of person. This corresponds to the 2nd
type of death--like a child who could die for someone else's sin.
Kiryat Arbah--the number 4 hints to the natural death in which the 4
foundations of the body separate--earth, wind, fire & water--after
achieving one's purpose in life (the 3rd type of death). And, Chevron,
from the word Cheebur--connection, refers to the 4th type, when a person
connects so closely to Hashem they are removed from this world.

When describing Avrahamís death, the Torah says (25:7) "These are the
days of Avraham, which he lived, 175 years". Many commentaries pick up
on the seemingly superfluous words "which he lived" and say it implies
that there was a certain number of years which he lived out of the total
amount that he was really supposed to live. In other words, we learn
that Avraham was really supposed to live 180 years, but in order that he
shouldn't see his grandson Esav become the evil man he was, Hashem made
Avraham die 5 yrs. earlier. That's why it says "and Avraham was
gathered unto his people"--that's a phrase always used by the death of
righteous people. Avraham proves how righteous he is, by dying early as
a result of someone else's sin--like a Tzaddik often does. And if you
ask why he dies now & not at some other point, Hashem had to wait until
Avraham finished his final purpose in life. What was that purpose?
Looking at the story immediately preceding his death, we see he marries
a woman named Keturah. The commentaries tell us that Keturah was none
other than Hagar-- the woman that Sarah gave to Avraham as a concubine &
who had a son with Avraham (Yishmael), and the same woman who Sarah
throws out of Avraham's house because she and her son are a bad
influence on Sarah's household. Hagar's new name is from the word
Ketoret-incense, implying she was as sweet as incense--she kept away
from being intimate with any other man for all these years to save
herself for Avraham. Thus, she was now worthy of becoming his wife, not
just a concubine. So Avraham has to marry her to put closure on this
chapter of his life, and to reward Hagar, before he can die. But
because his death has even a hint of sin associated with it (Esav's), it
doesn't merit being this parsha's title.

Interestingly, the phrase "being gathered unto his people" also appears
by Yishmael's death. We are told that he did Teshuvah before he died.
If we look at the story immediately preceding his death, we see Yishmael
comes to help bury Avraham, to show him respect. So Yishmael completes
his purpose in life, by showing Avraham the respect he didn't show him
in his lifetime. Though his death is not as ideal as Sarah's (he only
dies from finishing his purpose in life, not through a close connection
with Hashem), & therefore the parsha cannot be called on his name, he
does merit being the story with which the parsha ends, (the climax)
which is something that even Avraham, a huge tzaddik, doesn't merit.
Why? Because, as the Rabbis say "in the place that a Baal Teshuvah
stands (he who repents), even the biggest tzaddik cannot stand--that's
the incredible high status that Judaism affords a Baal Teshuvah.

Kli Yakar says that only Sarah had the ultimate death--one that had no
sin connected with it--implied by the two names used near her death,
Kiryat Arbah & Chevron. Chevron implies the very close connection she
had with Hashem. Kiryat Arbah refers to the natural death she
experienced having finished her purpose in life. What was her final
purpose? The story immediately preceding her death is the Akeidat
Yitzchak--Binding of Isaac", and the commentaries say her purpose in
life was giving birth to & raising the type of son who was of such a
high caliber, that he would agree to sacrifice his life for Hashem. The
credit is given to Sarah, because only as a result of her close
connection to Hashem, could she have raised a child like this. So the 2
names used near her death are the only 2 that refer to a death with
absolutely no connotation of sin. Only such a death merits being the
title of this week's parsha. Only now does the title seem less of a
misnomer: a death without sin can only come from living a life without
sin.

May we all merit to live such a life.

Shabbat Shalom,
Shprintzee


 

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