The opening pesukim of our parsha are infused with multiple messages and tremendous insight into both human nature and the book of Beraishit.
We are all familiar with Rashi concerning the long handed form of describing Sara’s age, where he explains that we are being taught about her life itself and her retained innocence until her very final days.
We experience as well the first instance of hesped, eulogy. Despite the fact that we have read of many people that have passed away in this book, Sara is the first one that we are told was euologized. I heard from R. Aharon Lichtenstein this week, in his eulogy for R. Aharon Soloveichick, that the task that Avraham had was very challenging. On the one hand he had to compose a eulogy for those close to Sara, those that lived in her home and had experienced her prescence every day, while on the other he was speaking to a different crowd, one that had come out of respect to Avraham but really did not know Sara at all.
The subsequent episode of the purchase of the cave in order to bury Sara forms one of our foundations to our very claim to Eretz Yisrael.
In this shiur I would like to focus on a different aspect of the purchase of the burial plot. Until this time we have learned about the work of Avraham and Sara in thier various travels in the region. They started their journey in Lech Lecha when Avraham was seventy five years old. In the next 62 years they traveled to Canaan and then to Egypt, Gerar and back to Canaan. Their travels sometimes stemmed from necessity such as avoiding famine but in other cases there seems to be no apparent need to be traveling.
It would seem that one of the reasons that the nomadic lifestyle was so befitting Avraham and Sara was because it allowed them to gain a greater exposure to spread their message. They were able to meet people in different places and under different circumstances allowing them to “call in the name of Hashem”.
They were truly a “couple of the world” staking their tent in one place for a short time and then picking up and moving on to another.
All that changes in the beginning of our parsha. When Avraham purchses the cave to bury Sara he not only buries her there, but to a great extent he buries his mission there as well. Avraham no longer moves, no longer reaches out to new groups of people. Avraham becomes a more passive individual, one whose major goal is to find a wife for his son. A chapter in the lives of the Avot is closed and a new chapter begins. Avraham lives for another 38 years but we are told practically nothing of his accomplishments during this time, from which we can assume that they were not very significant.
The new chapter that begins is a glorious one. Avraham has been “limited” in his traveling but this “limitation” is the key to the future. Eretz Yisrael is no longer a stop along the long route of travels but turns into “home”. Avraham cannot possibly leave Sara, he does not move from the spot, and we read at the end of parsha that he dies at the age of 175 and is buried IN THE FIELD THAT HE PURCHASED, WHERE HE BURIED SARA. Mearat hamachpela, Hevron and Eretz Yisrael are home!!
It is ironic that a death and burial can create such a bond and totally change the direction of our forefather. An event so tragic and stuning redirects our energies, goals and dreams.
The events of this past week in Israel sheds yet another tragic light on our parsha. Last Friday the chief Rabbi of IDF declared the three soldiers that were captured last Shabbat Shuva as fallen soldiers whose place of burial in unknown. One can only be emotionally torn by the thoughts of the families. On one hand having a son missing in action and not knowing if he is alive or dead is a tragic fate, yet knowing that they are no longer alive provides only a partial relief. The families are without the anchor, without the burial site. The burial of Sara was unique, as we mentioned earlier in that it is marked with a eulogy and a grave. Am Yisrael from that moment on has roots. May the families of the fallen soldiers be as fortunate to one day soon be able to bring their sons to burial in Eretz Yisrael and may Hashem hear our tefilot that the rest of the MIAs return alive and healthy to their families.