Chayei Sara, Genesis 23:1-25:18, Parshat Hashavua for Shabbat, November 19, 2022

The history of the Jewish people can be seen as one long relay race beginning with Abraham and Sarah, where each generation takes the torch from the previous generation and carries it forward. In this week’s Torah portion Sarah, Isaac’s mother, dies and Abraham sends his servant to find a wife for Isaac. Our Torah portion begins with this verse, “Sarah’s lifetime—the span of Sarah’s life—came to one hundred and twenty-seven years.” (Genesis 23:1)

Commenting on the repetition of the words lifetime and life in this verse, Rashi (12th C. Germany) wrote that Sarah was as free of sin at her death then she was at age 20. Sarah was righteous her entire life. At the end of this week’s Torah portion we read,  “Isaac then brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he took Rebekah as his wife. Isaac loved her, and thus found comfort after his mother’s death.” (Genesis 25:67) Commenting on this verse, Rashi wrote, “He brought her into the tent and she became exactly like his mother Sarah — that is to say, the words signify as much as, For whilst Sarah was living, a light had been burning in the tent from one Sabbath eve to the next, there was always a blessing in the dough (a miraculous increase) and a cloud was always hanging over the tent (as a divine protection), but since her death all these had stopped. However, when Rebecca came, they reappeared” (Genesis Rabbah 60:16). Sarah’s character was described as sinless. Rebekah’s character was defined by kindness. But each of them sustained the flame of Jewish life in their own special way.

We are now the inheritors of the torch of Jewish life, how will each of us keep the flame burning to pass it on to the next generation.