Chayai Sarah 2006

This week’s Parsha, Parshas Chayai Sarah, begins with the death of our matriarch Sarah. Our sages teach us that this episode follows immediately the story of the binding of Isaac, because it was as a result of the shock of Sarah’s hearing about the binding of Isaac that she died. The commentaries make an intriguing observation. Why is it that Abraham, who was considered inferior to Sarah in his level of prophecy, was able to withstand the challenge of the binding while Sarah was not? Wouldn’t we expect Sarah to have at least as much strength as Abraham? A very great lesson is taught to us here. When a person has a challenge, it is common to say “I wish I could withstand this but I can’t”! The truth is, Hashem never gives a person a challenge unless they have the strength to withstand it. If you are put in the situation that would allow you to take someone else’s money, you can avoid taking it! If you are in a situation that finds you hungry, thirsty, and weak, while having some great very appealing non-kosher food in front of you, you can avoid eating it!! During the reign of the Babylonian king, King Nevuchadnezar, the king challenged three great sages, Chananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, to bow down to a statue, threatening them with death if they would not do so. They refused, and were thrown into a fiery furnace. A great miracle occurred, and they were saved. The Talmud tells us that if Chananiah, Mishael, and Azariah would have been tortured, they would have bowed down to the idol. Obviously, the Sages are telling us that torture is a greater punishment than death; but why do our Sages need to make this point? Why is it necessary to tell us that these great men wouldn’t have been able to withstand torture? The lesson is, that they wouldn’t have been able to withstand torture –and that’s why they weren’t given the challenge of being tortured! We only get a test that we can overcome! This is the difference between Abraham and Sarah. The binding of Isaac was Abraham’s test. Hashem had to give him the strength to be able to withstand it. Sarah, on the other hand, wasn’t being tested with the binding. She wasn’t given the extra strength to withstand this test. (Obviously, if she died at this time, it was her time to die anyway. We are only referring to the fact that she didn’t have the extra strength needed at this time).