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Chayey Sarah (life of Sarah)

Genesis 23:1 to 25:18, 1 Kings 1:1-31


The Parasha is about Sarah's legacy, not her life.

Abraham is "blessed in all [things]" in verse 24:1, and the presents the servant took on his quest for a wife for Yitzchak included "all the good of his master" in verse 24:10. The word "all" is not as all-encompassing in Hebrew as it is in English, but that's still a lot of good things!

Traditional Jewish Commentary

According to some rabbinical tradition, Sarah died when she heard of Avraham's mission to sacrifice Yitzchak (in some stories she is told by people, in other stories by an angel). Other tradition teaches Sarah was sick, and her illness was why she stayed at home when Avraham and Yitzchak went to Mount Moriah.

The phrase "Avraham returned to his young men" in verse 22:19 perhaps implies that Yitzchak remained on Mount Moriah. One tradition, also noting that Yitzchak is not mentioned in the eulogizing or burying of Sarah, says he stayed on Mount Moriah for three years of spiritual preparation.

The word v'leev-ko-tah in verse 23:2 is written with a small kaf in the Torah, to signify that Avraham wept only a little, for he was still rejoicing from God's sparing Yitzchak and the news of Rivkah's birth.

According to tradition, Adam and Chavah were also buried in the cave at Machpelah, and Avraham knew this but the Hittities did not. Avraham moved near there when he and Sarah were old so that he would have the excuses of urgency and proximity to purchase that land. Had Avraham attempted to purchase that land before Sarah's death the Hittites would have wondered why Avraham desired that particular cave.

Why did Avraham make such a big deal about Yitzchak not marrying a Canaanite, when Avraham himself will marry Keturah? Tradition claims Keturah is Hagar, based upon the wording of 25:1 which can be translated "he continued to take another wife...", and based upon the fact that her children did not inherit anything in verse 25:5 (because even as a wife her former status as a slave would mean her children would not inherit). Keturah is a play on ketoret (incence), hinting she was no longer an idolater. This, and the fact that neither Sarah nor Yishmael were still in the home, meant Avraham and Keturah could live in peace. (The rabbis further expound on Hagar's virtues after she converts to Avraham's faith in Adonai; these extra-scriptural additions are as eager to attribute new virtues to Hagar as they are to attribute new vices to Yishmael and Esau.)

Chizkuni writes that finding a non-Canaanite wife for Yitzchak was vital, so no one would say Canaanite lineage (not Adonai) was responsible for Yitzchak's descendants inheriting the promised land.

How would the servant (whom tradition agrees is Eliezer) take with him "all the good of his master" (verse 24:10)? He carried a written promise that Yitzchak was Avraham's sole heir. Thus it was assured that whomever married Yitzchak would some day posess all the good of Avraham.

Why does verse 24:16 mention that Rivkah is young, beautiful, and a virgin? It was neither normal nor safe for her to be going to the well alone. Thus God emphasized his hand in the circumstance. The author of Toldot Yitzchak adds that when the text notes she "arose" promptly after filling her pitcher it is saying she did not dally beside the well to talk with people.

Rivkah is very young, but her age is not specified. Most commentators put Rivkah's age at either 13 or 18, based upon weakly-defended historical reasons (Yitzchak was 40 when he married her, according to verse 25:20). Taking a more extreme view, Rashi argues that God waits ten years to answer prayers against barrenness, which he then says implies that the delay of 20 years for Rivkah (25:26) must be half due to Rivkah's needing ten years to reach puberty—in other words, she was only three years old when she married!

Jeffrey Feinberg notes that the amount of water required to sate the thirst of ten camels would be tremendous -- over 100 gallons!

The servant asks if there is room for him "to overnight" (laleen). Rivkah replies that there is place "to sleep" (laloon). The latter implies a visit of many days and nights, and more comfort. Toldot Yitzchak adds that Rivkah could not actually extend an offer of hospitality, so she mentioned what was probable.

In verse 24:35, the word avadeem ("servants") is written without a yod. Chizkuni notices, and says this shows Avraham had only one servant, Eliezer, who was as helpful and important as ten typical servants.

In verse 24:39, the word oolai ("perhaps") has the same consonants as aylai ("to me"). Rashi writes that Eliezer was admitting he hoped his mission to find a wife for Yitzchak within Avraham's family would fail, so his own daughter would become Yitzchak's wife. But Eliezer was faithful to Avraham and Adonai, and never acted upon this understandable yet disloyal hope.

At the well, the servant first gave Rivkah a nose ring and then asked her name. At Rivkah's home the servant realizes how hastily he acted, and in his narrative reverses the order of those events.