• Home
  • Parashah Insights
  • Ask the Rabbi
  • Festivals & Fasts
  • Articles
  • Books
  • About
  •  

    Why did Sarah die? – Chayyei Sarah

    Abraham weeps for Sarah, by Marc Chagall

    Chayyei Sarah informs us that the matriarch Sarah reached the age of 127 and that she died.

    The fact that her death is recorded straight after the story of the Binding (Akedah) of Isaac leads Rashi to tell us, using midrashic sources, that she died from shock.

    Despite her age and the often tumultuous events of her lifetime, she was taken aback to find that her son Isaac had been almost killed on Mount Moriah. The shock killed her, both because Isaac mattered so much as the child of her old age, but possibly also because her husband had kept the Moriah episode from her.

    Some might suggest that the shalom-bayit (domestic harmony) of the house could have been shaky, and what she saw as Abraham’s final perfidy was the last straw.

    The problem with this view is that Abraham was not acting on his own initiative – or intending to harm his wife – but fulfilling a call from God. If Sarah was going to get angry, why not with God Himself?

    No-one can argue that Sarah lacked spirituality and had no feeling for Divine communications. Why then does the text of the Akedah leave her out and simply say, “God tested Abraham”. Didn’t He also test Sarah?

    We cannot be sure, but one of the answers may be that each individual has at least one personal test which is not shared even with their nearest and dearest.

    Interestingly, Franz Rosenzweig, the 20th century philosopher, says that the one moment which one experiences alone is death. Maybe there is actually a second one: when God tests you. That’s also a moment of aloneness.

    Comments are closed.