Sarah’s death to Abraham’s death at the age of 175
By Morty Breier
October 29, 1994
Sarah, Abraham’s wife, dies and Rebecca becomes Isaac’s wife. Later Abraham dies at the age of 175.
Sarah, our righteous matriarch, dies at age 127 upon being told by Satan that Abraham had sacrificed Isaac.
Sarah’s burial site is negotiated between Abraham and the Hittites, mainly Ephron who owns the property.
Abraham describes himself as an alien and a resident, a role the Jews are to repeat through history.
Abraham is addressed by the Hittites as a “prince of God” and bows in gratitude.
Ephron’s duplicity reminds us that the righteous say little but do much while the wicked promise much and do nothing.
Abraham’s love, honor and respect for Sarah is demonstrated by his paying exorbitantly for her burial site.
God gave Abraham everything: riches, possessions, honor, longevity and children, but not yet grandchildren by Isaac.
Abraham instructs Eliezer, his servant, the household elder and the exemplifier of Abraham’s way of life, to bring back a wife for Isaac.
Abraham rejects a Canaanite wife for Isaac, requiring that a wife be gotten from amongst his and Sarah’s people.
Eliezer takes an oath on Abraham’s sex organ (made holy by painful circumcision) to do as instructed.
Abraham signs over all to Isaac and gives the deed to Eliezer to better attract a prospective bride.
At the well, on Abraham’s home turf, Eliezer meditates on how to select a proper wife for Isaac:
A family of modest means, the daughter draws water
The woman’s attitude is more easily seen away from home
Kindness and character are to be demonstrated
The woman is to be from Abraham’s and Sarah’s family
A comely Rebecca, no sooner arrives, not only offering Eliezer drink but draws 140 gallons of water for his camels.
Rebecca is of both Abraham’s and Sarah’s family lines.
In Rebecca’s household Eliezer praises Hashem, God of his master, as his guide for finding a wife for Isaac.
“A servant of Abraham am I” proclaims Eliezer, verifying that he is a man of integrity, righteousness and high moral character.
Both Kindness and Truth are together God’s gifts to Abraham Truth being used to prevent Kindness from allowing wrongs.
Laban declares the prospect of marriage “a matter stemming from Hashem”, not needing the family’s permission.
Rebecca has the last word, consenting to go to Isaac, and is blessed with hopes of fertility by her family.
Her descendants should achieve such integrity and wisdom that even their enemies would seek their advice, they say
On the road, near to Abraham’s, Rebecca meets and is impressed with Isaac who is coming from afternoon prayer.
Hashem’s hand is seen in all the events leading to the marriage of Isaac and Rebecca.
Isaac confirms Rebecca for his wife by leading her into his dead mother Sarah’s tent.
This also confirms the succession of Rebecca after Sarah.
Isaac’s love for Rebecca consoles him for the loss of his mother.
Abraham takes another wife, a Canaanite called Keturah (it is said that she is the Hagar of old whom he remarries)
Keturah bears him another 6 children, a continuation of God’s gift of potency to Abraham when he bore Isaac over thirty years earlier.
Although these offsprings and Ishmael were living with Abraham, he deeded all to Isaac, and sent all but Ishmael away.
Abraham died of natural causes when he was 175 years old and was buried by Isaac and Ishmael next to Sarah
Ishmael lived to 137 and had 12 sons.
Isaac and Rebecca continue the biblical account as the next unfolding in the chosen people’s story line.
What impresses me most about this narrative is the gravity and righteousness of Abraham’s household: Sarah, Abraham, Isaac their son, and their eldest servant Eliezer. Although we start with the death of Sarah, her holy presence lingers. In all this household, strength of character, regalness of manner, depth of understanding, loftiness of disposition attest to the attributes gained from a lifelong cleaving to Hashem.
There is throughout the telling, a constant reflection of dignity, respect and honor from all who look upon or address Abraham, Eliezer, Isaac or the memory of Sarah,. These are venerable human beings, haloed about with souls that glowed for all to see. Sarah, although physically gone from the stage, is powerfully present in Abraham’s wishes to have a burial site worthy of her matriarchy (the cave had been seen to be imbued with the magic of Gan-Eden). And again in Isaac’s symbolic transfer of her lineage to Rebecca when he takes Rebecca into Sarah’s tent. Even Isaac, in his mid thirties, showed an intensity of demeanor that was instantly recognizable by Rebecca.
Abraham, of course, is the very image of time tested, God infused vitality and sagacity. If you look up the word “SAGE” in the dictionary you will find a picture of Abraham. He is our archetypic image of a wise, trustworthy, long seeing elder of the tribe. The holy one whose holiness made him anointed of Hashem. Who wouldn’t have trusted such a leader? I certainly would have, with my very life, with my children’s. Rather Abraham as the captain of my clan than any leader seen by me in my lifetime.
In fact we might say that is exactly what we Jews are entrusted with, since it is Abraham who has sired us. We do entrust ourselves to his counsel, striving to live up to his legacy. Our goal, it seams to me, has often been to raise ourselves above the common fray through sagacity and its various more contemporary forms such as learning, intellect, philosophy, spiritual pursuits and conceptual world-views. Our visions of Abraham and Sarah are many faceted, often perhaps sub or super conscious, but all, I’m sure contain that central idea of a character-lined face of great moral strength, lively intelligence, selfless attention, regal ease, open heart and impeccable judgment.
It is this racial or perhaps tribal memory, sometimes coming to us in dreams, sometimes as an admirable teacher, sometime as our parents grew older, sometimes in a blues singer’s voice, sometimes in the look of a friend, sometimes in a strangers face, that we see a possible Abraham or Sarah or Isaac. The daughter educated by the scrimping of a Jewish parent, the yeshiva bucher studying into the night, the Jewish writer hoping to have captured it all, the Jewish child overdressed by his mother against the cold, the Rabbi instructing his flock, the Jewish judge agonizing over a decision, the Jewish scientist unlocking the secrets of the universe all are possible Abrahams, Sarahs or Isaacs.
If only our corporate CEOs and our representatives in government could be more like our righteous ancestors. If only they would think in terms of the effects of their actions on the life and spirit of the next 10 generations, even of the next two generations. Instead their concern is the next quarterly report, or their ratings in the next poll. We look at our congressman and corporate heads and often see greed instead of selflessness, expediency instead of moral fiber, instant savvy instead of future vision, ambition instead of holy purpose, survival tactics instead of elevating strategies, power grabbing instead of power giving. In spite of this we move ahead, pushed by memories of past greatness, pulled by dreams of future greatness, fueled by present moments of greatness.
Democracy provides so many voices, so much imagery, and so many choices. We are each asked to be Abrahams, no longer satisfied to be under the wing of an elder. The patriarchal society is no longer acceptable. We each seek wisdom for ourselves, meet our God face to face, confront our destiny as a sovereign being. We are in a downstream age with memories of an upstream past. More people are better fed, clothed and housed than ever before, have more choices and lead more diverse lives than ever before, have more access to books, music and travel than ever before. More people spend more of their time in the world of words, ideas, pictures, concepts, and information than ever before. The ancient goal of being more with the word within us and less with the beast within us, is, I believe, becoming a reality. Still, and thankfully so, the vision of Abraham and Sarah persists to guide us in our own struggles to attain to wisdom and Godliness. Here we are, father Abraham, the wonderful, challenging and multifaceted result of what you started.
Morton A. Breier, 10/29/94