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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Chayei Sara

THE PRICE OF LIFE

Rabbi Stewart WeissCheshvan 18 5778
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The title of our Sedra – "Chaye Sara" (the life of Sara), which is one of just 6 sedrot named for a person – is particularly perplexing, as it begins with Sara’s death, not life. Chazal’s famous comment that "the righteous, even in
death, are referred to as alive" is certainly apt, but might be used for any Biblical hero. Why choose Sara alone?

Avraham approaches the Hitites to purchase a burial site for Sara. The negotiations don’t go very well for Avraham, & he is told that it will take no less than 400 silver coins to buy the lot. And these are not your run-of-the-mill coins;
the rabbis say that they were "Over La’Socher" – a special mint of international currency worth millions of shekels. Why did Avraham submit to this exorbitant price? After all, he felt that he had a legitimate claim on the land, straight from the Almighty, & this is why he says to Ephron, "Ger V’Toshav Anochi Imachem – I am a stranger and a resident among you." Meaning, Rashi explains, "while I am not exactly ‘one of your kind,’ I have legal rights to this place."

And let’s not forget that Avraham was not someone to be physically trifled with. He recently had almost single-handedly defeated the 4 kings in battle (in parshat Lech-Lecha) & certainly had earned a wide-spread reputation for himself
as a mighty warrior. So why does Avraham - who so deftly demonstrated the art of negotiation when he debated S'dom's fate with Hashem - meekly submit to Ephron’s pricey demand & dish out the money so readily, without any negotiation at all?

I suggest that Avraham is making a grand statement: The value of something is directly proportional to the price paid for it. If it comes cheap, it is cheap. Like an expensive, exclusive piece of art or bottle of prize, aged wine, the very cost of the thing conveys its intrinsic worth. So it was with this initial purchase in Eretz Yisrael. It was important to establish, right from the start, that this land is infinitely valuable; it demands a high price to win it, & to maintain it. That price tag reads Struggle, Sacrifice & Stamina.

Sara’s life – more than any other woman in the Torah – is one of continual hardship & heroism. She, no less than her husband, must set out for a new land. But she must also deal with the added frustration of infertility, her belittling at the hands of her servant Hagar, & her being abducted by a foreign power – not once, but twice! And then finally, while Avraham & Yitzchak survive the ordeal of the Akeida, Sara does not; she dies from the trauma.

All of these profound trials & tribulations combine to make Sara a model – THE quintessential model - for all future generations to admire & emulate. Sara teaches us that, when all is said & done, the value of a life is directly equal
to the price we pay for living it.
Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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