Parshas Chayei Sarah - Life Lessons of Sarah

By Rabbi Yosef Tropper

Posted on 10/31/18

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1) “V’livchosa” Small Kaf For Shlaimus

“Vayavo Avraham lispod es Sarah v’livchosa” (Bereishis 23:2). Avraham came to give a hesped on Sarah and to cry for her.  The word “v’livchosa” is written with a small chaf. Why The mefarshim have different explanations, and the Gra says a beautiful p’shat.  He says it is hinting to something that brought Avraham comfort. The word itself means “to cry for her.” The small Kaf hints to a deminishment of crying. What caused this? Sarah was a hundred and twenty-seven years, her life had been spectacular. It was a fulfilling life, and a life filled with avodas Hashem. Sarah fulfilled her purpose in life. She reached shleimus, perfection in her life.  So, Avraham was happy for her that she had reached this peak where her life was complete. She became one of the eternal mothers of Klal Yisrael, but yet he was missing her.  It was his wife of many years, and so, therefore, there was a small comfort in her death, and something that helped curtail a little bit of his sadness, a little bit of his crying, and that was the recognition that her life was dedicated to Hashem.  That’s why there’s a small chaf.

Question: Why Kaf?

What’s left to be thought about is why specifically the letter kaf. The vort here that Gra expresseed is how diminishing the word “cry” shows that there was a little less of a cry, and it’s a beautiful lesson because in life we should recognize that life is about ruchniyus.  It’s about our spiritual accomplishments that we bring out throughout our entire life, through the challenges that we have, and that’s really what it’s all about in every situation in life, no matter how long each person, each mesechta is a different life, and each life is a different length.

Each Person Has A Journey

I had a friend of mine who passed away who was twenty-four years old, and his grandfather, who was a very chashuv person, spoke at the levaya, it was very tragic, and he said that each person’s life is a mesechta, some tractes are long and some are short, but each is complete.

I later shared with the family that after all the tzaros this person went through, he is meseches Makkos which is also twenty-four blatt. They were very comforted by that. My friend spent his life running towards Hashem. Hashem was his ir miklat, place of refuge from all the pain and difficulties. His life was challenging. There were a lot of challenges, and this idea of recognizing that the purpose of life is to accomplish spiritual things could really change our perspective. We might not understand why Hashem puts us through things, but we at least understand that there’s a Rebono Shel Olam that runs the world, and that curtails some of the crying.

Answer: What Kaf Represents

I want to suggest that the letter chaf, we know that Rashi says that Sarah was a hundred and twenty seven years, and “bas kuf k’bas chaf, bas chaf k’bas zayin”.  What does that mean?  So, a person turns twenty they’re chayav in onshim min hashamayim, so the number twenty represents not just thirteen or twelve for a bas mitzvah girl that they reach maturity. How mature is a twelve year old?  How mature is a thirteen year old? The age of twenty is the age of understanding. The brain is more fully developed, and that was what her life was revolved around.  That twenty year old person, that recognition, that shleimus, that recognition of the Rebono Shel Olam’s presence in the world, and what her purpose in life was, that is being stressed here in the small chaf. That is what Avraham cried about losing his wife, but recognized and was comforted by the fact that her life was revolving around chaf, that responsibility towards Hashem, and that recognition of daas that she had achieved in that time, and used for the rest of the remainder of a hundred and twenty-seven years.

2) Lesson of Eulogy

Avraham “lispod” to give a hesped for Sarah. The Gemara Berachos 6b says: Iggra d’hespeida daluy. The reward of a hesped is daluy.  So, what does that mean? Daluy seems to be to escort, from the word “levaya” which is like the levaya itself which is the final escort of the dead person. What does that mean?  

Says the Gra a beautiful p’shat and this is just so powerful and important. Every single person needs to draw out a lesson from the meis, and that is the greatest tikun for the neshama of the niftar. It’s also a tikun for the person himself. That is what it means to draw out. We are to draw out a lesson. This is a famous idea that when a person dies all of his middos are up for grabs, so to speak. There’s a spiritual vacuum in the world that opens up and fill that this person has left a void. And, those middos that a person has are ones that we could grab onto and learn with, whether it was from his chesed or Torah or gemilus chassadim or emes, frumkeit, yiras Shamayim, whatever it is, we should learn those lessons. So, igra d’hespeida, the benefit of a hesped, is daluy, what you draw out and take to heart about that person’s life.

3) Kiryat Arbah Four Couples There

This next vort shows us the precision and beauty of Torah once again, when we open up our hearts and minds and see how precise the words are and how it’s merameiz to divrei Chazal, it’s really beautiful and inspirational. Avraham was trying to buy Me’aras Hamachpeilah, the famous burial plot where there (Bereishis 23:24). It’s called Kiryat Arbah because there’s a group of four zugos, four pairs, couples that are buried there, and that is Adam and Chava, were already there by the time Avraham came about.  And, there was going to be six more people buried there, and that was going to be Avraham and Sarah, Yitzchak and Rivka, and then, ultimately, it was going to be Yaakov and Leah, but there is one more person that is buried there. The gemara in Sotah 13a tells us that Esav’s head was buried in Me’aras Hamachpeila as well,

“L’kvor es Meisi” Reference

Says the Vilna Gaon a beautiful diyuk. It says in the pasuk that Avraham is trying to convince Efron to make the sale, “l’kvor es meisi”, in order to bury my dead. It says this expression six times. Once it says a different lashon which is “v’es meischa k’vor”. Efron says, “you shall bury your dead there.” Says the Gra that this refers to the fact that Avraham was asking  “l’kvor meisi”, to bury six more great people there (Adam and Chava were already there). These great tzaddikim were Avraham, Sarah, Yitzchok, Rivka and Yaakov and Leah. Efron says, “v’es meischa k’vor”.  Efron, the rasha, he’s the one that says: And, the dead one you should bury there too, and that was a hint to Esav whose head was buried there.

Four Pairs

Parenthetically, why are they referred to as four zugos, couples insread of just eight people. Chazal tell us (Mishna end of Uktzim) that Hashem will be manchil to “kol tzaddik v’tzaddik Shai olamos,”which is three-hundred and ten worlds. The sefarim hakedoshim really say that it’s six-hundred and twenty, which is keser, which is the crown, which is the taryag mitzvos and the seven derabbanan, six-hundred and twenty and that is the keser of ish v’ishto which is the ultimate zivug that brings the Rebono Shel Olam’s presence into the world, so this is the stress of the word “zugos” of the four great pairs.

Eisav’s head

Let’s just say a word about Esav’s head being buried there. What’s the p’shat in his head being there? The answer is that there’s a big disconnect. Amalek comes from the word “melika”. Melika is the decapitation process done to a bird that is offered in the mikdash. Amaleik was the grandson of Esav from Alifaz who created a mamzer through his perversions, so, Amaleik was the nation that tries to destory holiness, the antithesis of Klal Yisrael. They try to disconnect the intellect, the head, from the body, and to promote the pursuit of base desires.

Moshe was shechinah medaberes mitoch grono. The Rebono Shel Olam speaks from his mouth and brings out kiddush Sheim Shamayim, and Amaleik is the one who tries to destroy the name of Hashem, and that’s why “ein hakisei shaleim v’ein Shemo shel HaKadosh Baruch Hu shaleim” as long as Amaleik is in the world, and so the p’shat is that Esav’s head was separated from his body.  In his head he learned lots of Torah, and he had the potential; he could have been a great person, but he never applied it to his body, and he let his body run him and he acted perverted, and that, ultimately, is what caused his destruction, and the gemara in Kiddushin says that he’s a Yisrael mumar, and he is forgotten and he is a rasha that lost everything. And, so that is the lesson that we’re trying to learn, “v’es meischa k’vor”, Efron is the one that refers to Esav’s life, a wasted life.  The dead one, he should be buried there as well. 

4) Bakol Blessing

Avraham was a “zakein ba bayamim” (24:1). The mefarshim and the Gra explains to us beautifully that “ba bayamim” means that he took all of his days with him, that he was accountable for all of his days that were used for service of Hashem. Let’s focus on “v’Hashem beirach es Avraham bakol”. Vilna Gaon once commented that the word “bakol” is a remez to three things which all refer to succah.  “Basuccos teishvu shivas yamim.”  You should sit in a succah for seven days, and that’s the beis.  Chaf is “Kol ezrach b’Yisrael”, all Jews, “yeishvu basuccah”, should sit in the Succah.  And, the lamed of bakol is “L’ma’an yeidu doroseichem ki basuccos hoshavti es Bnei Yisrael” (Vayikra 23:42).

Avraham’s Life

So, what’s the p’shat?  What does that mean?  What’s the hint?  I believe that the p’shat is that Avraham used his life to be mekadeish Sheim Shamayim.  He always brought Hashem’s presence down to the world.  And, that’s the whole idea of the Succah.  The Succah is that everything that you do, every spiritual thing that you do is one that brings out kavod Shamayim.  And, that was Avraham’s lesson: that there’s a Rebono Shel Olam in this world, and let’s enjoy Him, and let’s see the chesed that Hashem does because that shows Hashem’s presence and brings Hashem down so that we could feel Him and experience Him in a powerful way, and, therefore, serve Him more and more each day.  That is the “bakol”.  The ultimate blessing that Avraham stood for, that he created a life of succah where he was always in the shadow of Hashem, and feeling Hashem’s presence in his life.

5) Hagar and Keturah

Avraham had a pilegesh who was Hagar, and the pasuk says that he sent away his “bnei hapilagshim asheir l’Avraham.”  (25:6) He gave them gifts and sent them away.  They were not going to inherit with Yitzchak.  Rashi says that the pasuk is spelled “pilagshim” instead of spelling it with a pi, peih-yud, it’s missing the yud, and it’s chasseir, and he says that there was only one pilegesh.  It wasn’t pilagshim.  It wasn’t plural, and it was Hagar which was the same person as Keturah, and Rashi explains that normal wives are with a kesuba, but pilagshim are without a kesuba.

Why “Pilagshim” in Plural If Only One?

So, if that’s the case, then why does it say “pilagshim” in the pasuk.  I understand it’s spelled chaseir to tell me that Avraham only had one pilegesh, but why does it say “pilagshim”.  So, some people try to explain that he was married to Hagar, and he was married to Ketura and she was another person. Either, according to some mefarshim, she was a different woman, but according to Rashi and most rishonim and many midrashim she was the same person.  So, then they try to explain that maybe she was a different type of person, the first time he married her versus the second time.

Ish and Isha

But, there’s something very fascinating from the Gra.  The Gra says that the name Hashem is between ish v’isha.  We know that the word eish, we take the word fire, you have ish.  You add a yud you have a man.  And, you add a hei, you have isha.  And, if you add Sheim Hashem, naturally, man and woman do not work well together.  However, if you add Hashem into the picture, then the match works beautifully, and there’s a tremendous connection, and, so, therefore, there’s a Sheim Yud-hei, Hashem’s name is in the man and woman.  That’s the point.  Zachah, they want to bring the Shechina with them.

Second Half of Shem Hashem

However, you’re still missing – it’s only half of the name Yud-kay-vav-kay.  So, how are you mashlim the rest? Says the Gra, you have a kesuba. A kesuba is spelled kasav. It’s something that you write for her, but it’s a kesub, with an additional vav and hay. It’s the vav and the hay of the kesuva that equals Yud-kay-vav-kay.  However, the pilegesh doesn’t have a kesuba, and, so, therefore, says the Vilna Gaon, the p’shat is like this: When it comes to the regular wife, so there’s a Yud-kay-vav in the ish v’isha just in general when they come together, but then there’s a kesuba which is mashlim Sheim Hashem.

Pilegesh is Peleg Sheim, Half

However, the pilegesh it’s only a peleg Sheim.  It’s only a half name because there’s only the ish v’isha part.  There’s only a man and a woman.  However, there’s no kesuba, there’s no connection there through the kesuba, so it’s therefore peleg Sheim. Hashem’s name still remains half.  Now, I’m not going to discuss what exactly a pilegesh is, and, of course, it’s not recommended that anyone takes one nowadays because it certainly, and Chazal say, tzarros – it does not create good things for shalom bayis.

A Kesuba is a Commitment “I will take care of you”

Perhaps the depth here is as follows A kesuba is a commitment.  It’s a commitment I will take care of you, and I take responsibility for you, and that is what brings down Sheim Hashem.  That is the ultimate commitment that chosson and kallah have for each other – that we are dedicated to the Torah and to each other.  “Ani l’dodi v’dodi li.”  That is what brings Sheim Hashem into the world.  And, so, we should always work on taking out the aish from our relationships and making it “ish v’isha shechinah beineihem”, that there’s peace between them, and the commitment and love they have towards one another, that’s the kesuba with the vav-heih, that’s mashlim Sheim Hashem.  There’s also Yud-kay-vav-kay is also mashlim the word mitzvah.  A mitzvah is mem-tzadi- vav- heih.  The Yud and the heih is unterchangable on the atbash.  It’s interchangeable with mem and tzadi if you look through the list, and the vav and the heih is again that commitment that we have towards Hashem to the mitzvos.  That’s another manifestation of our connection with Hashem.

We should be zocheh to banish the eish from our households, and to only bring a full Sheim Hashem, one of doing ratzon Hashem, growing, and one of shalom, achdus, reius, and only good things into our lives and commitment to one another, commitment to our relationship, commitment to ourselves, commitment to care and to create a home and a bayis ne’eman b’Yisrael.  


Rabbi Yosef Tropper is a rav and psychotherapist. Learn more and subscribe at ParshaThemes.com