Weekly Torah Commentary — Chayei Sarah November 18, 2011

Our Torah portion this week begins with the death of Sarah and her burial in the Cave of Machpela in the city of Hebron.  Why, then, does the Torah portion begin with the words, ‘The lifetime of Sarah…’?

The Sages remind us that our “lifetime” is not restricted to the years we spend on this earth, even if they be as long as Sarah’s years – 127.  The real truth is that our ‘lifetime’ is two-fold: the years we spend on earth and the life we will enjoy in Olam Haba, the World to Come.  Death is not the end; it is a transition of our lifetime to a new form and experience of LIFE.

Therefore, the Torah introduces the event of the death of Sarah with the words, ‘The lifetime of Sarah’. This should remind us of the dictum in Pirkei Avot (The Ethics of the Fathers) which says “This world is like a lobby for the world to come.  Prepare yourself in the lobby that you may enter the Banquet Hall.”  Every day is precious; every act important, even those we may deem insignificant, for every moment of our earthly life we are preparing ourselves for the world to come.

In the classic work, Mesilat Yesharim (The Path of the Just) by the great Sage, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato, we read, “A person was not created for his position in this world, but rather for his position in the world-to-come. However, through his position in the world, he acquires his place in the world to come.”  This is not to say that we should be doing good deeds just for the sake of reward.  Not at all.  Maturity and integrity demand that we do what is right because it is right – and because we honor Hashem by keeping His Torah.  It is up to Him to keep accounts.  But at the same time, knowing that everything we do matters to Hashem should motivate us in our daily life.

Sarah was buried in Hebron and that also has a message for us.  The Cave of Machpela has two chambers, an upper one and a lower one, providing us with a visual picture of what we have just discussed – a lower world and an upper world.  From the root of the word, Hebron, comes another word, ‘to connect”.  Sarah’s burial place is in Hebron further reinforces the principle that the lower world and the upper world are connected and that reality is meant to impact our daily life in the here and now.

In Tune with Torah this week = re-connecting with the truth that our earthly life has a purpose far beyond what we can see with our natural eye;  we are here for divine purpose and everything we do really counts.  Let us ask Hashem to deepen our awareness of this truth.

Shabbat Shalom

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