Yom Rivii, 21 Tammuz 5779
Wednesday, 24 July 2019
Parashat Chayyei Sarah 2011

Parashat Chayyei Sarah by Rabbi Danny Rich
18 November 2011

 

GENESIS 23:1-25:18

 Parashat Chaye Sarah may be translated ‘Sarah’s lifetime’ although it actually begins with the death of Sarah.  Sarah’s husband, Abraham, needs a place to bury her and the Torah tells us that he purchased a cave in the field of Machpelah in Hebron as the family grave.

The field and cave is owned by Ephron who makes a big show-including let everyone know- that he is offering the cave for free.  After some negotiations Abraham insists on paying the full price, and Jewish tradition suggests all sorts of reasons why he does including that he wanted to be sure that he really owned it.

Today perhaps it enables us to think of the difference between price and value.  What is most valuable to you and how much did you pay for it?  The most valuable things to you may be your family, your friends, your education, and the beautiful world you live in –and I bet you they cost you nothing.  They have no price; they are indeed priceless.

To return to our Torah: after a period of initial sadness and remembering Sarah (what is known as ‘mourning’) –and Jewish tradition has a special way of mourning including the saying of kaddish, the sitting of shivah, and the setting of a tombstone- Abraham gets back to his life and begins to think about finding a wife for his and Sarah’s son, Isaac.  The Torah tells us that Abraham sent his servant, Eliezer, to the family birthplace to choose a wife for Isaac.  This was no easy job for Eliezer –selecting the bride of his master’s son.  The Torah tells us that Eliezer came to a well where he met a ‘very beautiful’ girl whose name was Rebecca.  You might think that Rebecca was ‘very beautiful’ to look at- and perhaps she was- but what most impressed Eliezer was that Rebecca had a ‘beautiful’ personality.  He felt this because she was kind to him, a stranger (offering him water) and she was kind to animals (offering the camels water too).

The example of Rebecca once again reminds us of the difference between price and value.  We can all pay a gym membership or buy make up to enhance our physical beauty but our showing of kindness to a visitor or to animals cannot be bought –it might just be who we are!  Genuine kindness represented by Rebecca and demanded by Jewish tradition has real value but no price because it cannot be bought.

This is the message of Parashat Chaye Sarah. Learn to know the difference between price and value.  The most precious things in life usually have no price; they cannot be bought; they are priceless, having immeasurable value.