Chayei Sarah 5784: With Perseverance & Determination

In this week’s parsha, Parshas Chayei Sarah, we learn of the death of Sarah Imeinu (Bereishis 23), the shidduch between Yitzchak and Rivka (Bereishis 24), and the death of Avraham Avinu (Bereishis 25).

The pasuk tells us that Sarah died at the age of 127 years, וַתָּמָת שָׂרָה, בְּקִרְיַת אַרְבַּע הִוא חֶבְרוֹן בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנָעַן; וַיָּבֹא, אַבְרָהָם, לִסְפֹּד לְשָׂרָה, וְלִבְכֹּתָהּ, and Sarah died in Kiryat Arbah, which is Chevron, in the land of Canaan, and Avraham came to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her (Bereishis 23:20.  And then, Avraham had to deal with the logistics of burying his wife.  For this, he entered into negotiations with Efron, for the purchase of the Cave of the Machpela, for 400 silver shekels in common currency.  Considering this Land was already promised to Avraham, he paid an exorbitant sum for the Cave.  Yet he was not deterred and he was willing to give up much for the purchase of the Cave (Bereishis 23).

Here we have the first purchase, by the first Ivri (Hebrew), of a portion in Eretz Yisrael.  This is the Land that G-d had promised to Avraham time and again, from the time He first revealed Himself to Avraham.

And in the next perek (chapter), we learn that Avraham sent his faithful servant (who the Sages identify as Eliezer), to find and facilitate the shidduch for Yitzchak.  Ultimately, after a very lengthy chapter (67 verses long!), replete with many details and nuances, Yitzchak and Rivka marry, and she entered into the tent of Sarah, and took her place as the second Eim b’Yisrael.

The major themes, then, of this parsha, are the two-fold promise Hashem made to Avraham at the dawn of our history: Eretz Yisrael and the continuity of Am Yisrael.  Neither promise came easy to Avraham (and Sarah), and for both they had to struggle and overcome formidable challenges in order to acquire and succeed.

In tribute to the great visionary, statesman, leader, diplomat, and scholar, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks (Yaakov Tzvi ben Dovid Aryeh), z’l, may his memory be for a blessing, whose second yarzheit was this past Shabbos, 20 Cheshvan 5784, I quote here from his writings.  With the ongoing battle for Eretz Yisrael and Medinat Yisrael taking place in full force, Hashem yerachem aleinu, his timeless words are extremely profound and powerfully relevant.

In regard to Avraham’s persistence in purchasing the Cave of the Machpela, and the servant’s persistence in ensuring that Rivka would become Yitzchak’s wife, Rabbi Sacks writes, “These are no minor episodes.  They tell a difficult story.  Yes, Abraham will have a land.  Yes, he will have countless children.  But these things will not happen soon, nor suddenly, nor easily.  They will not occur in his lifetime, and they will not occur without human effort.  To the contrary, only the most focused willpower and determination will bring them about.  The divine promise is not what it first seemed: a statement that G-d will act.  It is in fact a request, an invitation from G-d to Abraham and his children that they should act.  G-d will help them.  The outcome will be what G-d said it would be.  But not without total commitment from Abraham’s children against what will sometimes seem to be insuperable, insurmountable obstacles (italics added).

“A Land: Israel.  And children: Jewish continuity.  The astonishing fact is that today, four thousand years later, they remain the dominant concerns of Jews throughout the world – the safety and security of Israel as the Jewish home, and the future of the Jewish people.  Abraham’s hopes, and Abraham’s fears, are our own (italics added).

“Now as then, the divine promise does not mean that we can leave the future solely to G-d.  That idea has no place in the imaginative world of the first book of the Torah.  On the contrary: the covenant is G-d’s challenge to us, not ours to G-d.  The meaning of the events of Chayei Sarah is that Abraham realized that G-d was depending on him.

“Faith does not mean passivity.  It means the courage to act and never to be deterred.  The future will happen, but it is we – inspired, empowered, given strength by the promise – who must bring it about” (Covenant and Conversation, Genesis, p.126-127).

On October 30, 2023, in the beginning of the fourth week of Operation Swords of Iron, the IDF released the following:

Rabbi Naaran Ashchar was critically injured in the tank accident on Israel’s northern border, which killed Yinon Fleischman, HYD, z’l, 31 years old, of Jerusalem, and injured two others.  Rabbi Ashchar, 32, who serves as a Rosh Mesivta in the Baka hesder yeshivah in the Shadmot Mechola yishuv in the Jordan Valley, is hospitalized in the ICU, sedated and ventilated.  Just four months ago, Rabbi Ashchar, a father of two children, donated a kidney to a stranger. When the war began on October 7, the IDF didn’t send him a call-up notice due to his recent surgery. But that didn’t deter him and he fought against the decision, even personally appealing to the head of the transplant department where his surgery took place. After a long struggle, he received permission to enlist as a volunteer.  Please daven for a refuah sheleimah for Naaran Chaim ben Rochel Perla b’toch shaar cholei Yisrael.

The following Sunday, November 5, the shloshim of the Simchas Torah Massacre, the IDF announced that Naaran Ashchar succumbed to his wounds and was niftar z’l HY”D.  Despite being exempt because of his selfless act of donating a kidney just four months ago, he fought his exemption so that he could courageously fight this milchemes mitzvah on behalf of our nation and our Land.   

“Faith means the courage to act and never to be deterred.  The future will happen, but it is we – inspired, empowered, given strength by the promise – who must bring it about.

תהא זכרו ברוך

בברכת בשורות טובות, ישועות, ושבת שלום


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