Hayyei Sarah brings the cycle of Abraham and Sarah stories to a close. Their story has been a frenzy of activity; constantly in motion, Abraham and Sarah left their place of birth and upbringing, traveled to a new ‘home’ and kept moving throughout the course of their lives. The Hasidic masters tag Abraham (and by extension Sarah) as a ‘walker’, one who is continuously striving and growing spiritually, ever on foot, always ‘walking’.
Hayyei Sarah’s opening passage brings us new vocabulary, offering us as readers a different model and sensibility to emulate. At Sarah’s death, Abraham seeks out ahuzat kever – a burial plot – in the place where they have lived. 19th century scholar Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch notes that the “underlying idea of ahuzah is being settled, the act of permanent settling.” Abraham, whose “calling has been wandering”, now seeks something solid that he can hold onto, and that can hold onto him and his descendants far into the future.
Hacksilver pieces of differing weights; hoard from Tel ‘Akko. (Photo by M. Eisenberg)
Hayyei Sarah focuses on two pieces of ‘solid ground’ – actual land (that is, real estate) and marriage (that is, long term, durable, intimate relationship). After securing a burial plot for Sarah at a price of 400 silver pieces (“not outrageous””not cheap” in the estimation of archeologist Tzilla Eshel, somewhere around $625,000 in today’s terms) Abraham deploys his servant to journey eastward in search of a partner and spouse for Isaac. At the end of a long life spent wandering, Abraham seeks a measure of certainty and permanence.
I’m moved by Abraham’s desire for ‘solid ground.’ In this moment of profound uncertainty, I deeply feel the need to grasp values and commitments that in turn have a hold on me. Perhaps you do as well. In Sarah our Mother and Abraham our Father we have blessedly enduring role models. Even in a deeply unsettling time, there is solid ground available to us. Time to take hold of it and not let go.