Shavua tov, everyone,
This week, we are reading Chaye Sarah, literally the life of Sarah. But as soon as we enter into this passage we realize Sarah has died in Kiryat Arba, or Hebron, at the age of 127. Many of our commentators, including Rashi, read into the juxtaposition of the Akedah, the binding and near-death of Isaac, with the death of Sarah. According to various Midrashim, Sarah is told Abraham killed Isaac, or he nearly killed Isaac, and in the third midrash Isaac returns to her. But in answer to her questioning of him, he tells her of what happened – and her joy in her son is cut. She wailed – and died, the sounds of the shofar accompanying her death.
In the first midrash she dies from the “truth” as told to her by Satan; in the second midrash, even though she knows Isaac lived, she is still anguished, if only by the thought of what might have have been, and finally, in the third, Isaac questions her question – and she dies. Zornberg states that these midrashim are showing what a “hair’s-breath” separates life from death. Back to Rashi. Rashi speaks of this, “The text speaks of doubt. Everywhere, doubt is called the condition of suspense, whether one will die today.” Rabbi Avraham Joshua Heschel spoke often of radical awe, radical amazement. Here, in this text, Zornberg states that Sarah died of radical doubt. And what is doubt? Perhaps, the radical unknowingness of being.
On December 1st at 11 am I will lead a workshop/discussion on preparing an ethical will. We have financial/estate wills, we hopefully have some form of living will that addresses our end-of-life concerns. An ethical will asks us to consider what principles and values guided us through our lives; what ethics do we want to leave to our children and our children’s children. What is our torah, our story? I think it will be a very moving and challenging time for all of us who come together. Because we all are known, as was Sarah, by the years of our lives.