A Bad DayOctober 21, 2013 - 5:00 am
“Sarah lived to be a hundred and twenty-seven years old. She died at Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went to mourn for Sarah and to weep over her.”—Genesis 23:1–2
The Torah portion for this week, Chayei Sarah, which means “the life of Sarah,” is from Genesis 23:1—25:18, and the Haftorah is from 1 Kings 1:1–31.
Have you ever had a really bad day? Abraham did.
The Sages teach that the binding of Isaac that was part of last week’s Torah readings and the death of Sarah that we read about in this week’s selection both occurred on the same day.
On that fateful morning, Abraham arose to complete a very important task, which was really an extremely challenging test from God. He was commanded to give up his long- awaited and much-beloved son, Isaac, as a sacrifice to God. Abraham prepared to do so obediently, but we can only imagine what he was feeling at the time.
Then, just as Abraham was about to make the ultimate sacrifice, he was told to stop. Isaac was spared, but Abraham’s joy at having his son spared was short-lived. According to tradition, just as Abraham arrived home, he was given the news that his cherished wife Sarah had passed away.
To compound the matter, the Sages teach that Abraham was told that Sarah passed away because she had heard that he was about to sacrifice her one and only son to God. It was too much to bear and so Sarah’s soul left her. Now, Abraham had to prepare for his beloved’s funeral, and who did he come across? The very difficult and irritating Ephron.
Abraham wanted to purchase a place to bury his wife. However, Ephron refused to sell Abraham the cave of Machpelah and insisted that Abraham bury his wife in a communal cemetery. Next he told Abraham that he would give him the space for free, but then quickly changed his tune and demanded an astronomical price for the unused cave. In the end, the deal was done and Sarah was buried in the cave of Machpelah, which today is one of the most visited and holiest sites in Israel.
Abraham had an incredibly hard day that culminated with Ephron taking advantage of him. Abraham had every reason to be aggravated and to lash out at Ephron. Yet Abraham, the expert in kindness, never lost his patience and treated Ephron with kindness and dignity. This, says one of the Sages, was truly Abraham’s greatest test – and he passed it with flying colours!
Can you relate to Abraham’s situation? Have you ever had a really bad day only to encounter a challenging personality in the grocery store, your office, or your home? It’s so difficult to keep our cool and find kindness in our hearts when are dealing with difficulties in our lives. Yet, we have to learn from Abraham and dig down into the deepest depths of our hearts in order to find the patience and kindness that every human being truly deserves from us.
It’s not easy, and it may take practice, but like Abraham, when we do succeed, it may very well be our finest moment.