Little Things Mean a Lot by Rabbi Darren Blackstein


            Important concepts are often learned from minute details in Pesukim or Halacha.  This week's Parsha is no exception.  At the beginning of Perek כג, we read about the passing of Sarah.  The balance of the Perek is devoted to Avraham's purchase of a plot for his wife.  Only one Pasuk is devoted to Avraham's feelings of grief.  Actually, the Torah uses just half of a Pasuk to describe his reaction - ויבא אברהם לספד לשרה ולבכתה - And Avraham came to eulogize for Sarah and cry over her.  In the Torah itself, the כ of ולבכתה is written much smaller than normal.  According to some Mefarshim this letter and portion of this Pasuk becomes the focal point in probing the depth of Avraham's feelings.

            The Chatam Sofer says that this letter is a רמז, a hint to that which the Gemara in Baba Batra (טז:) mentions concerning the Pasuk וה' ברך את אברהם בכל )כד:א( - and Hashem blessed Avraham with בכל - with a daughter whose name was בכל, and she died!  The entire time that Sarah lived, the loss was not devastating for Avraham because Avraham and Sarah had each other.  However, when Sarah dies, Avraham is left alone and starts to cry even for his daughter's passing.  The size of the כ indicates that you can read the word without it and the meaning is then ולבתה - and for his daughter.  Upon losing Sarah, the floodgates of emotion open up and Avraham grieved for his wife and daughter.

            After digesting this explanation however, two questions arise.  How was Avraham viewed as alone if he had Yitzchak?  Furthermore, how should Sarah's presence delay the natural outburst of feelings of grief?  Surely, the passing of a child evokes the type of emotion that cannot be restrained!  Obviously we cannot understand the words of the Chatam Sofer superficially.

            Perhaps we can answer these questions to some extent if we refer to additional sources.  The Torah tells us in Bereishit ב:כד that man and women become one flesh - והיו לבשר אחד.  A married couple is not merely two single people living together.  Once marriage takes place, the couple assumes a new identity.  They function together as a unit and experience each others feelings.  Kohelet, in describing the advantages of partnership, tells us (ד:י) when one falls, he is assisted by his partner.  In other words, a team can endure that which an individual cannot.  These two sources shed light not only on Avraham's experience but also on human experience in general.  When husband and wife have each other there is a bond that mutually and spiritually elevates them.  This union produces changes in each of its members to the extent that they are different than they were when they were single.  Experiencing the loss of Sarah made Avraham feel broken and shattered because the bond was disrupted.  He could not return to what he was before he met Sarah.  Avraham would now forever be part of a broken puzzle whose pieces connected him to Sarah.  In this sense, we can view Avraham as alone - he lost his partner.  In this regard, the presence of Yitzchak made no difference.  Having lost his partner, Avraham could no longer deal with life's challenges as he had done before.  This is demonstrated by crying for his daughter once his wife passes on.  Avraham did not hold back his feelings previously, he merely displayed them differently.

            The fact that these insights center around the size of a letter in a word, truly attests to the beauty and depth of Torah.  In this particular example we should focus not only on the concept of union, but also on which partner has passed on - Sarah.  The mother in every family provides a unique type of adhesive that keeps its members unified.  Her every effort is devoted to family concerns and needs.  The love and care that goes into these efforts are unparalleled, and when absent, create a devastating void.  May we all be זוכה to be inspired by the efforts of all our mothers and wives and also show the proper thanks in return.

Moving On In Days by Chaim Sussman

Hashem's Test of Avraham by Michael Dworkis