With Rabbi Jonny ROODYN.
THIS WEEK’S sedra starts with the loss of Abraham’s life partner, Sarah.
Together, they formed a formidable team dedicated to the mission of bringing mankind to an awareness of an Infinite Being who created, and has a constant involvement with the world.
At a time when all of mankind was immersed in idol worship, their efforts were nothing short of remarkable, especially as we bear in mind that they are considered to be the forbearers not only of Judaism, but also of other monotheistic religions.
It is interesting to note that the sedra dealing with Sarah’s death and all the activity surrounding her subsequent burial is called Chayei Sara, the life of Sarah, surely it would be more appropriate to refer to it as the death of Sarah? Judaism views death as being very much part of life. As a community, funerals and shiva visits are part and parcel of everyday life.
In fact, rather than call a cemetery a house of death, we refer to it as a beit hachayim, house of life. The Tanach refers to the dead being bound up in the bond of everlasting life (something that is invariably mentioned on our tombstones), and when we recite the memorial prayer, we refer to the deceased having gone to their world, with the implication clearly being that this is not our world.
This provides us with an insight into the nature of life. There are so many things that happen to us that are out of our control. What we are able to do is choose how we respond to our circumstances and to situations that come our way. Our eternity, our world to come, is in essence, the sum total of all the choices that we choose to make in response to these events. Therefore the world to come is considered to be ‘our’ world as that is the reality we create for ourselves, where we are able to take pleasure in the choices we have made during our earthly existence.
It therefore makes sense that the sedra marking the death of Sarah is referred to as the life of Sarah, because in death we really focus on her legacy.