February 17, 2018

Hayei Sarah

Although Parashat Hayei Sarah relates to Sarah’s passing, it is named “Hayei Sarah” (the life of Sarah). Life, and not death. This is essentially the secret taught in this parasha – how one should live and turn death’s powers into life. This parasha chronicles Abraham’s purchase of the Ma’arat HaMakhpela, the cave where he buries his wife, Sarah.

Abraham and Sarah were unique in that they went against the world, against the zeitgeist, the spirit of the times, to the extent that they had to flee to Haran from Ur of the Chaldeans because of their ideas and dreams. Abraham and Sarah dreamt that one day every person, having been created in the image of God, will be entitled to human dignity. A revolutionary idea at that time as well as in the following years, as only today, four thousand years later, can one see the manifestation of this vision. We learn from this that one of the most significant things in being human is our ability to project into the future. Only then can we advance, develop and realize our purpose in being created in His Image. History books are filled with stories about people that dared to dream of what seemed impossible at the time, and it is to them that we pay tribute for the progress of mankind.

Most of us avoid dreaming for fear of failure, but what we should fear is living a life without dreams. A life of dreams and visions is a life with meaning, even when the dream doesn’t materialize as we originally intended. The failure of a dream is an opportunity to begin a new dream, as it is written “A righteous person falls seven times and rises up” (Proverbs 24).

The Zohar teaches us that when Adam and Eve ate from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, they felt for the first time the taste of Death, of falling into a dark place, a place of failure. Death is a descent to a lower level. Every time that we hurt, fail, or despair, we die a little. This death is a darkness (the root letters of the Hebrew word for darkness, Hoshekh, is sh.kh.h, forget) that sinks into our DNA, causing it to forget how to restore the cells in the body when old age sets in. Aging needn’t be an erosion or wearing down of the body, as cells are constantly regenerating. In this parasha it is written that Abraham died “old and satiated”, meaning that he lived a full life. The secret to a full life is rooted in giving to others; it is a life of hope, dreams and faith, which is what will spare us disappointment and failure and bestow on us a sense of eternal life at every moment.

Understanding this secret allows one to find true love. This parasha tells the miraculous story of how Eliezer, Abraham’s servant, meets Rebecca by the fountain in Haran. She generously provides him and his camels with water to drink, and he thus receives an answer to his prayer, a sign that she may be the intended wife for Isaac. The “match” is a success, as it is written when Rebecca became Isaac’s wife, “And he loved her” (Genesis 24:67).

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