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Living Twice
Finding Personal Meaning in Life and Death

What kind of name is "Chayei Sarah" (The Life of Sarah) for a Torah portion? If I see a book titled "Chayei Sarah," I would expect the book to be about Sarah's life. Surprisingly, what does the portion’s name, "Chayei Sarah," teach me? That Sarah died- it mentions her death, how she was buried and mourned. This is strange unless we understand that the sages meant to infer, by naming the portion with this name, that Sarah's real life begins precisely with her death.

This is hinted at through the uniqueness of the Hebrew language, which says, "And the life of Sarah was 7 and 10 and 100 years, the years (shnei in Hebrew) of the life of Sarah." There are two possible meanings to the Hebrew word ‘shnei’. It simply might mean, as translated above- the years of Sarah’s life. There is another possible meaning. The word ‘shnei’ in Hebrew also means two. Therefore, the verse could be understood as saying, ‘These are the two lives of Sarah.’ She has two lives - before her death and after her death. 

What is the significance of saying that she had a life (even) after her death? How does she attain a life after being buried in the ground? The simple understanding is that the so-called ‘second life’ refers to life in the world to come.

 However, a more profound thought is that thanks to Sarah's death, she now requires a plot of land for Abraham to bury her. To do so, our forefathers must purchase land in the Land of Israel. The moment he buys land in the Land of Israel, he is striking roots in the Land. By establishing roots, he begins to fulfill the covenant that God, the Creator, made with him and with his offspring to award him the land of Canaan. Thus, from here on, Israel's national life began.

A person might ask - should I start my life by buying a grave, which will eventually become necessary, or by purchasing an orchard or field? In an orchard or field, there is life!  But here is a crucial difference. With a field or an orchard, the right to use that place is conditional. Its purpose and value are realized when I work that land.  In contrast, the place where our forefathers are buried is a place where nothing is required from the occupier of the grave. The interred doesn't need to do anything, and therefore, that plot of land is an eternal inheritance. 

Our connection with the Cave of Machpelah in Hebron, where our forefathers and foremothers are buried, gives us an unconditional bond to live a whole life within the entire breadth of our land.

More Weekly Portions

Integrating Personal and Communal Well-Being through Torah
[Nasso]

Parshat Nasso addresses individual and family issues while emphasizing the collective unity through the Priestly Blessing. This blessing, structured in three levels, reflects a balance between material and spiritual needs: "May HaShem bless you and watch over you." for wealth, "May HaShem cause His countenance to shine to you" for spiritual illumination through Torah, and "May HaShem lift up His countenance upon you and grant you peace" for the deep connection of Nefesh, Ruah, and Neshama. The Torah guides to integrate personal and communal well-being harmoniously.

Beyond the Count: Individual Worth and Collective Unity
[Bemidbar]

Parshat Bamidbar discusses the commandment to count the Israelites, focusing on those eligible for the army. This count underscores the tension between collective and individual identities. The Torah uses the expression "number of names," signifying the importance of both the collective and the individual. The Torah teaches that true unity blends these aspects, with the collective gaining meaning through each individual's uniqueness. This concept is reflected in the principle of "generalization and specification" in scriptural interpretation, with hidden meanings in the numbers, explored through the gematria.

Tears of Exile, Seeds of Hope: The Unbreakable Bond Between God and Israel
[Bechukotai]

Parashat Bechukotai discusses the covenant between God and Israel, emphasizing the importance of repentance for redemption. The Talmudic debate between Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua delves into whether redemption is contingent on teshuva. Rashi's commentary interprets the ambiguous term "או" to support both views. This dual perspective highlights the Torah's open interpretation, showing that redemption can depend on human repentance or divine promise, reflecting a complex interplay of conditions in Judaism's understanding of historical progress.

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