Parshas Chayai Sarah

November 21 Candle Lighting 4:21 PM Shabbos Ends 5:28
Note: Times are for Bensalem; Check your local calendar for exact times in your area

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This weeks Parsha is Parshas Chayai Sarah. The Parsha begins with the death of our matriarch Sarah. Last weeks Parsha ended with the final test of Abraham, the binding of his son Isaac. What is the connection between the story of the binding and the death of Sarah? Our Sages teach us that the two are actually directly related. That is, that the death of Sarah was brought about by the binding of Isaac. When the angel of sin saw that he was unable to get Abraham to fail in his test he ran to Sarah and informed her that Isaac was bound on an alter and Abraham took a knife and lifted it over Isaac’s neck to slaughter him. Before he even had a chance to finish the story, Sarah died from the shock. The commentaries offer various reasons why Sarah died from even just hearing about the binding, while Abraham was able to stand in the test and actually do it. One of the easy explanations offered is that Abraham had three days to think over the test and let it sink in, while Sarah didn’t. The shock of the moment was too much for her to bear. Beyond this question, there is another obvious question that comes to mind. Why did this angel take such action to inform Sarah of the binding? It seems clear from the Medrash that the action of the evil angel was directly related to Abraham having overcome the test. How is it related? Was this simply an act of ‘revenge’ for the angel to get back at Abraham? Is there something deeper in this story?

When Abraham showed his loyalty and was ready to sacrifice Isaac, his tenth, final test was over. It was too late for any challenge to be mounted to Abraham to still fail in this test. Or was it? Was there any way to still present a challenge to Abraham that would take away his success in withstanding the challenge? The only way conceivable to do this would be to somehow make Abraham regret having done the binding. How could that be done? Well, as much as the time of Sarah’s death had come, if her death could be perceived as having been caused by the binding of Isaac, that certainly could be a cause for Abraham to regret having ever done the binding. This is what Abraham was tested with now: even after having done the mitzvah and passing the test, would he regret it because of the personal tragedy that seemed to have come from it? Abraham withstood this test, never regretting the mitzvah he had done. He realized that if Sarah’s time to pass on had come, then she had to pass on, but he had done the right thing in doing the mitzvah.

How often does it happen to us that we do a good deed or a favor, and from the mitzvah seems to come a new headache or problem? At such times we must realize that our very attitude towards and our appreciation for Hashem’s mitzvos are being tested. If we can train ourselves to always appreciate that we did a good thing when we did the mitzvah, and that no matter what results from it, it was the right thing to do, then we have raised the level and power of our mitzvah. Let us always remember, a mitzvah is a most special present from the Almighty. We must always be happy to have the opportunity and privilege to serve Hashem and to do His mitzvohs, and always realize how priceless these moments really are, never the letting the frustrations we encounter cloud our vision and priorities.