Parashat Chayei Sarah
Parshat Chayei Sarah addresses the question of dealing with a stressful situation. A funeral of a loved one is one such moment and how Abraham responds is an inspiring example to us all.
Parshat Chayei Sarah Summary
- Sarah dies and Abraham prepares a funeral
- Purchase of the Cave of Machpela
- Abraham sends Eliezer to find a wife for Isaac
- Eliezer finds a wife
- Isaac marries Rivkah
- Abraham dies
Poor Abraham. He had a very difficult day. According to the Midrash, he returns home after the ordeal of the Akeidah, the binding of Isaac, to find that his beloved Sarah has passed away. Sarah had been his support and partner throughout the entire journey of bringing ethical monotheism to the world, dies at the age of 127. Abraham now has to organize a funeral and acquire a burial plot for Sarah.
In the story, he appears before the Children of Chet, in Hebron and asks to buy the cave of Machpela, owned by Efron. At first, everything goes smoothly. Efron agrees to give the burial plot over to Abraham. But then he whispers to Abraham, no, he must now pay for the plot and the fee is 400 pieces of silver for the land.
How Much Was This In Real Terms?
According to the Talmud, each shekel was worth 2500 ordinary shekels, hence the value in those days was 1 million shekels! An extraordinary number for a burial plot.
But Abraham pays for the plot without question. Not only that, we find that Abraham never loses his temper or cool. Throughout the negotiations, he is promised everything. First for free, then for a small fee then the enormous price tag. Considering the difficult events, Abraham remains calm in his negotiations with Efron.
Over the past few weeks, we have read how Abraham was promised a son. Then, he is asked to sacrifice him. He is promised the land, then he has to buy, at an enormous expense a burial plot. Abraham never flinches and in the Torah text never questions.
Chayei Sarah Are You Losing It?
Personally, Parshat Chayei Sarah has been one that I remember on a daily basis. Each of us will endure days like Abraham. We are under pressure from work, the boss. The kids are giving us a hard time. We are generally very good at keeping it together.
But then there comes a moment when we snap. We lash out in frustration at someone, anyone or no one. Often it is an innocent bystander who suffers our wrath.
The person at the checkout counter. It is not their fault but we lay into them because we can. Or feel that we can because we had a bad day.
I remember reading a story about a very rude customer, who was abusing the staff. When she calmed down, she apologised that she was having a really bad day. The clerk replied, “Just because you had a bad day why should I suffer?” This story is always close to me. The clerk is right. I have no right to abuse another person because I am having a bad day.
How often are we in a situation, where we see someone lose it? They scream, rant, and rave. As we watch them from the side, our immediate thought is, ‘What an idiot.” We lose all respect for them. On the other hand, when we see a person who is having a bad day but is able to control themselves, that is inspiring.
Abraham had every excuse to lose his temper, but he didn’t. He behaves in a way that is respectful at all times. What a lesson and one that I try to live by. As we mature, there is an expectation that we will act in a manner befitting our station in life. To be in control of one’s emotions when all the buttons are being pushed, and maintaining our calm. That is a sign of greatness.
So you have a bad day. Okay. How will you respond? Your response will be what people will remember, long after the stress has receded.