Negotiating Our Future
This week we read the Torah portion of Chayei Sarah, which marks a transition in our Genesis narrative from the tales of Abraham and Sarah, our first Jewish father and mother, towards the next generation, which will feature Isaac and Rebecca. But first we begin with an ending.
At the start of the portion we are told of the length of Sarah’s life, and almost by accident learn of Sarah’s death. “The life of Sarah was one hundred years and twenty years and seven years,” the sedrah begins, and the famous Midrash on it tells us that Sarah was just as beautiful at the age of 100 as she was at 20, and that she was just as free of sin at 20 as she had been at 7. It is a fine encomium for a significant figure who has now passed from the scene.
Chayei Sarah is a portion filled with negotiations that will have great influence on the future of the fledgling religion some day to be known as Judaism. The first extended section of Chayei Sarah is actually dedicated to arranging for Sarah’s funeral. Abraham purchases the Cave of Machpelah in Hebron, the first piece of real estate owned by our people in what will eventually be known as the land of Israel. That cave becomes the burial place not only for Sarah but for most of the patriarchs and matriarchs: Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob, and Leah eventually all find their final resting place in Hebron.