June 14, 2024
Parashat Chayei Sarah

When you Choose Shabbat, you choose to learn that every Shabbat is different and special. This week I learned about Chayei Sarah (Genesis 23:1 through 25:18), the fifth weekly Torah portion in the annual cycle of Torah readings. According to Wikipedia, Chayei Sarah (חַיֵּי שָׂרָה) is made up of 5,314 Hebrew letters, 1,402 words, 105 verses, and 171 lines of the Torah Scroll. I also learned that the Shabbat before the start of a Jewish month (Rosh Chodesh) is known as “Shabbat Mevarchim” (the Shabbat when we bless); on this day during the synagogue service, we recite a special blessing for the new month and announce the timing of Rosh Chodesh.

Chayei Sarah (“The Life of Sarah”) ironically begins as Sarah dies and Abraham buys the Cave of Machpelah to bury her. Abraham sends his servant to find a wife for Isaac. The servant meets Rebecca at a well and Rebecca returns with the servant to marry Isaac. Abraham remarries, has more children, and dies at age 175.

Rabbi Michael D Klein of Temple Torat Emet offers his insights on this week’s Torah reading, Chayei Sarah for Shabbat November 11, 2023 aka the 27th of Cheshvan 5784 :

“Much time is devoted in Chayei Sarah to Avraham seeking an appropriate mate for his and Sarah’s son, Isaac. Avraham directs his servant, Eliezer of Damascus, to return to the family’s ancestral home to facilitate the search. He specifically tells Eliezer what characteristics to search for in finding a wife for his beloved son. Two obvious questions arise: 1. Why entrust your faithful servant to perform this important task? 2.Why return to the ancestral home to find a wife for Isaac?

A famous commentary by Rabbi Michtav M’Eliyahu explains Avraham’s rationale; ‘the person who looks for a mate on his or her own may succumb to external pressures and focus only on physical attributes.‘ This is especially prevalent in modern society where physical beauty seems to be the overriding characteristic of the ideal mate. Obviously, while this is important, it should not be the primary reason for choosing someone as life’s partner. Too often, in today’s world, these unions, based only on physical attributes, end up in dissolution and unhappiness because the partners have so little in common of shared goals and values.

Avraham realizes that unless he sends Eliezer home to find a wife for Isaac, who shares the values of belief in G-d, kindness and hospitality, that were the benchmark of his ancestral home, the chances of finding these values elsewhere would be nil. Thus, he sends his servant back to Aram Naharayim and amazingly, he is guided by Hashgacha Pratit- Divine Guidance, to find Rivkah at the well. The commentators also relate, that as soon as Isaac saw Rivkah approaching, he immediately realized who she was and lovingly brought her to the tent of his beloved deceased mother, Sarah Z”L, to become the next matriarch of the Jewish People.

  1. Why does the Sedra relate the story of how Avraham publicly purchases the Cave of Machpelah from Efron the Hittite? Who else had previously been buried there?
  2. Was 400 talons of silver a fair price for the Cave of Machpelah?
  3. How do the Princes of the Hittites refer to Avraham?
  4. Why does the Sedra refer to the years of Sarah’s life in three separate segments?”
Rabbi Michael D. Klein

Rabbi Michael D. Klein attended Yeshiva College of South Florida and served as Torah Reader, Hebrew teacher, Chazzan and spiritual leader of various synagogues throughout South Florida. In January 2015 he became Ritual Director, Bnai/Bnot Mitzvah instructor and 7th grade Hebrew instructor for Temple Torat Emet of Boynton Beach. In October 2019 he was accepted into an accelerated track and received his shicha from Yeshiva Adath Wolkowisk and has been the Rabbinic leadership of Temple Torat Emet since August 2020. In September of 2022 he was appointed Rabbinic and Spiritual Advisor of the Florida Region of FJMC.

Choose Shabbat; choose to celebrate, to light candles, sing songs and learn a little Torah.

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