Va y’hihu chayay Sarah may-ah shanah v’esrim shanah v’sheva shanah shnay chayay Sarah
And the years of Sarah’s life were 100 years and twenty years and 7 years, the years of Sarah’s life.
This week’s Torah reading is Chaye Sarah, the life of Sarah. However, it begins by telling us she died, and that Abraham was unprepared. It’s questionable as to whether or not he was even present at the time, as the text tells us that she died in Kiryat Arba (now Hebron), and we know from last week’s parashah that Abraham was in Be’er Sheva, where he went after sacrificing a ram in place of his son, Isaac. Many of our commentators believe that this near-sacrifice was the cause of Sarah’s death; that when she heard about the event, u-farach nishmata u-matah, “her soul flew from her and she died.”
Whether Abraham was present or not at her death is a discussion for another time, but the first thing he does is lispod l’sarah v’livkotah, “to eulogize her and to cry for her.” Only afterwards does he go about the business of finding an appropriate place to bury her.
Today, eulogies are given at the funeral and burial, not before, which can suggest something interesting… Abraham had no idea of what he was supposed to do! Plenty of people in the Torah have died before now, and in many cases “been gathered to their kin,” but this is the first time the text mentions the need to bury the body. Apparently, Abraham is aware that this is what needs to happen, and approaches the citizens of the land to purchase a plot of land.
The back-and–forth between Abraham and Ephron (who presumably has either the appropriate site to sell or the power to sell) culminates in Abraham paying the exorbitant amount of 400 shekels of silver for a cave for burial. He buries Sarah (notice that the text doesn’t say anything about Isaac and/or Ishmael attending) and moves on with his life.
If there were even an advertisement for why you should pre-plan your funeral, this is it. We can speculate as to why Abraham pays such a huge sum without negotiating, but if you’ve ever lost a loved one, especially suddenly, you’ve experienced the shock, disbelief, bewilderment that goes with it. That’s not the time to be making important decisions, financial or otherwise.
One of the greatest gifts you can give your loved ones is peace of mind; the knowledge that this is one thing they don’t have to worry about and can properly mourn. By purchasing the Cave in Machpela, Abraham gives this gift to the next generations, who will bury (most of) their dead there–the original family plot.
We learn how to navigate life from those who come before us, and sometimes, learning what not to do is more important than what to do. May we be blessed to bequeath our knowledge and understanding of life and our world, along with whatever worldly goods we leave, to the next generations, and may our lives be a blessing.