Jews throughout the world will read this week’s Torah portion of Chayye Sarah. It begins by describing the death of Sarah at 127. It is important to note that time most likely was counted much differently back then, but wouldn’t we all like to live for 127 years? Much like the death of Sarah, the Jewish people and the country lost a matriarchal figure this year when Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died. Just like Sarah, the Notorious RBG was an inspirational and powerful Jewish woman who continued to make a difference in her old age. At Ginsburg’s funeral, Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt described the Justice as “our prophet, our north star, our strength for so very long.” While this week’s Parsha does not give much info about what Sarah’s family remembered about her after her death, the same words used to describe RBG and her legacy could’ve been said for her.
Chayye Sarah goes on to discuss how Avraham refused to accept Ma'arat Hamachpela, a cave in Hebron, as a gift for Sarah’s burial place. Despite the cave’s owner offering to give it to Avraham for free, Avraham knows that it is the right thing to do to pay for the cave. We can see two people both trying to do the right thing in this story, reinforcing an overall value of the Torah: be generous and think about others.
This lesson is reinforced within the next story of this Parsha as well. Avraham realizes that it is time for his son Isaac to find a wife. Avraham’s servant, Eliezer, decides that the best way to find a wife for Isaac is to search for a woman who is not only willing to give water to Eliezer, but for his camels as well. Right away, a woman named Rebecca, who happened to be Avraham’s great niece, passes this test. Rebecca’s generosity and selflessness was then rewarded when she married Isaac. This story further emphasizes the Torah’s lessons on the importance of kindness and generosity.
This theme of the importance of kindness and generosity clearly runs throughout the entire Parsha, leaving readers to question ‘why’? Why does the Torah specifically mention Sarah’s legacy as being generous and kind? And why are these same two traits used when picking a perfect spouse? As Jews, we know when the Torah puts a heavy emphasis on wording and character traits that they are especially important to us. The Torah could’ve described Sarah as a monumental woman, a matriarch, and a fighter; as someone who gave birth to Isaac, her son, at the ripe age of 90, someone who did the impossible and overcame every challenge she faced. But instead, we are presented with just two words: she was kind and generous. We believe this is the Torah's ancient interpretation of a modern-day principle, that people won’t always remember what you said or did, but they will remember how you made them feel. It’s the same idea for Rebecca, who was chosen for her gracious generosity and kindness towards Avraham’s servant. She could’ve been the most beautiful woman that ever lived; however the Torah does not describe her looks. It rather highlights her defining traits that make her a good person and will make her a good wife and Jewish leader, not just that she was pretty or wealthy. This reminds us to surround ourselves with people who are kind and who make us feel good about who we are, people who don’t put us down. Parasha Chayye Sarah may literally mean “the life of Sarah”, but what we derive from it is so much more meaningful. Be a good, kind, and generous person, and surround yourself with people of the same qualities, and you will in turn live a better more fulfilled Jewish life.
Ellie Mayers, ONR’s 31st Regional Shlicha
Ethan Dobres, ONR’s 31st Regional Shaliach
Read commentary on this week's Parsha from BBYO teens around the world.
All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.
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