Take it Like a Man by Gavi Sragow


The second Pasuk in Parashat Chayei Sarah describes Avraham’s reaction to Sarah’s death. The Pasuk reads (BeReishit 23:2) “VaTamat Sarah BeKiryat Arba Hi Chevron BeEretz Kena’an. VaYavo Avraham Lispod LeSarah VeLivchotah,” “Sarah died in Kiryat Arba, which is Chevron in the land of Kena’an, and Avraham came to eulogize Sarah and to cry for her.”

The word for crying, “VeLivchotah,” is written with a small Kaf. The Ba’al HaTurim explains that the small Kaf indicates that Avraham cried only a small amount for her. Why didn’t he cry more for Sarah? The Baal Haturim answers his own question, and says that Sarah was old, and because of this, her death was not a surprise. But this does not appear to be a very satisfying answer. How could Avraham have not been deeply saddened by the death of his wife, regardless of her expected death?

A second answer is offered by the Ma’asei Rokeach, who states that Avraham did not cry much because Sarah’s Shivah was cut short by Yom Tov, as the joy of Yom Tov is incompatible with the sorrow of Shivah. According to Pirkei DeRabbe Eliezer, Sarah died around the time of Yom Kippur. Akeidat Yitzchak happened on Yom Kippur, so if Avraham took a few days to learn of Sarah’s death and a few days to bury her, by the time Shivah began it would have already been time for Sukkot. In this case, the Ma’asei Rokeach says that Avraham’s crying for Sarah was cut short by Sukkot Yom Tov.

The Kehilat Yitzchak has a very different and fascinating approach. He points out that according to Rashi, Sarah died in shock when the Satan showed her a vision of Avraham as he was on the verge of killing her son Yitzchak. The Satan did this in accordance with his general modus operandi—the Satan first tries to discourage one from doing a Mitzvah, and if he fails, he tries to make that person regret doing the Mitzvah. After the Satan failed to stop Avraham from passing the test of the Akeidah, he tried to make him regret having done it in the first place, by causing Sarah to die as a result. For this reason, Avraham demonstrated his commitment to the Mitzvah, by crying only a little bit, and not breaking down. Of course, he was upset by Sarah’s death, but he restrained himself from crying too much in order to show his loyalty towards the Mitzvah Hashem commanded to him to perform.

We should learn from Avraham’s example and be proud of the Mitzvot we are commanded to perform.

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