Judaism: More than Just a Religion
Rabbi Reuven Mann
Rabbi - Rinat Yisrael
of Plainview, Long Island

In Sidras Chayei Sarah, we read about the death of Sarah, wife of Avraham and first Matriarch of the Jewish people.  Contrary to our expectations, the story does not focus very much on the mourning and eulogies.  Instead, it goes into a detailed (given the general brevity of the Torah) description of the negotiations between Avraham and Ephron over the purchase of burial plot.  At first glance the matter is difficult to comprehend.  We would, naturally, like to learn about the personality of Sarah as described by those who knew and mourned her.  The dialogue between Avraham and the people of Heth does not seem to be so important.  What is the reason for this unusual treatment of the death of one of our greatest personalities?


I believe the answer lies in a deeper appreciation of the historical significance of the Mearat Hamachpelah.  This was not an ordinary burial place.  It was purchased not so much for the sake of the dead as for the living.  “The righteous even in death are called living.”  The objective of Avraham was to see to it that all of mankind would be able benefit from the life of Sarah.  Indeed, all the Avot and Imahot (except Rachel) are buried there in order to proclaim the eternal connection between HaShem, the Jewish people and the Land of Israel.  The Pasuk in Devarim states, “Only your forefathers did Hashem cherish to love them and he chose their offspring after them—you—from among all the peoples, as this day.”  Every time a Jew visits the Mearat Hamachpelah he affirms that HaShem gave us the Land of Israel because we perpetuate the special religious way of the Avot, which alone finds favor in His eyes.  We can now understand why the Torah does not record the eulogies that were said for Sarah.  The real honor Avraham bestowed on her was in the purchase and establishment of the Mearat Hamachpelah which eternalized her deeds and rendered her a role model for “all who would come into existence”.


One must take the stories of the Torah very seriously.  Every Jew must strive to incorporate the Emunah and virtues of the great personalities who HaShem chose to be the founders of his nation.  Our goal is not just to be “religious”, but to find the proper path and perform deeds of righteousness which find favor with HaShem.  Thus, we approach the study of Torah and performance of Mitzvot with a certain passion and intensity: “It is Torah and I need to learn”.  The lifestyle of Avraham, Sarah and all the great Torah personalities of Jewish history is not a thing of the past but a living reality.  We should strive to the best of our abilities, to emulate their way of serving HaShem by studying Torah, incorporating its lessons and applying them to the challenges of contemporary life.