By Rabbi Heshy Grossman
Sarah Imeinu, the mother of Klal Yisrael, is eulogized by her husband, and
idealized by Chazal as the perfect woman, Eshes Chayil. After interpreting
each verse as an allusion to her life, the Midrash Tanchuma continues:
"Zamemma Sadeh VaTikachehu - She planned for the field, and took it - She
planned and took the field HaMachpela, and there she was buried." (Midrash
Tanchuma, Chayei Sarah, 4)
This is a bit puzzling. The Torah clearly describes the endeavors of
Avraham Avinu in his search for a proper burial place. He approaches Efron
HaChitti only after the death of his wife. Nowhere does the Torah indicate
that Sarah had expressed any interest in this particular field, and she
certainly was not party to its purchase. By what effort is the field
considered to be hers?
Apparently, it is the unique nature of the Ma'aras HaMachpelah, and the
special qualities of Sarah Imeinu, that make them fit for one another.
In our shiur this week, we will define the model of a Jewish woman.
"Rebbi Akiva was lecturing, and the group was dozing. He wanted to awaken
them, and said: Why was Esther fit to rule over one hundred and
twenty-seven countries? Let Esther, who is the granddaughter of Sarah, who
lived for one hundred, and twenty, and seven, come and rule over one
hundred, and twenty, and seven countries." (Midrash Rabbah, 58:3)
Esther rises to the throne in a direct line, drawn from the royal lineage
of her mother Sarah.
This ascendancy indicates more than political power:
"VaYehi BaYom HaShlishi, VaTilbash Esther Malchus - And on the third day,
Esther dressed with royalty. Shouldn't it read 'Bigdei Malchus' - clothing
of royalty? Said Rebbi Eliezer, in the name of Rebbi Chanina: Teaching that
she was adorned with Ruach HaKodesh. Here it is written, 'VaTilbash', and
elsewhere (Divrei HaYamim, 12:18) it is written: 'V'Ruach Lavsha Es Amasai'
" (Megillah 15a)
A true King is not one who imposes his dictates upon a resistant populace.
Rather, he rules by the force of his own personality, his superior human
qualities commanding the respect of a people anxious for leadership. He
doesn't utilize his position for selfish profit, but tends benevolently to
the needs of his faithful followers.
This idea is true as well from a broader perspective, the deeper vision of
the prophet of G-d. His Ruach HaKodesh renders him fit to direct all the
world in pursuit of the Divine plan. All of creation becomes subservient to
the holiness he reveals, with each element of life directed towards the
fulfillment of its own special role.
Much as the king lovingly cares for each of his subjects, aware of the
needs and dreams of his nation, the prophet understands the true function
of the physical world, its purpose in the unfolding of G-d's word.
Undeterred by the constraint of popular perception, he leads the Jewish
people in the direction he knows best.
Sarah Imeinu was the consummate prophet, her level of Divine intuition
surpassing even her husband. What is behind this one hundred, and twenty,
and seven, this crown of her achievement?
"For this reason, each of the years are distinct categories, teaching that
each category is interpreted on its own. When she was one hundred, she was
as twenty, in regards to sin. Just as a twenty-year old has not sinned, for
she is not subject to punishment, similarly, when she was one hundred, she
was without sin. And, when she was twenty, she was as beautiful as when she
was seven." (Rashi, Breishis, 23:1)
Who would we consider prettier, a girl of twenty, or a child of seven?
Twenty years marks a person's physical perfection, a woman's beauty is then
at its peak. Yet, Sarah, reknowned for her good looks, is praised for
having the innocent appearance of a young child?
The point is this: a girl of seven may very well be stunning, but she
doesn't know it.
Nor does she care.
Sarah understands that the physical world is merely a tool to be used in
pursuit of a higher purpose, it has no meaning or value of its own. She
sees no sense in fawning over her own good looks. Beauty is not hers, and
physicality has no independent substance worthy of notice or attention.
She is worthy of Ruach HaKodesh.
Subordinating herself and her identity in light of a deeper truth, she
merits to see a light beyond the darkness, a prophetic vision that teaches
the world obedience, to follow a benevolent King.
Years later, her own daughter follows in her wake, echoing the silent
modesty of a beauty that is heaven-sent. Esther twists the will of a mighty
king and nation, conquering the power of evil with a force that cannot be
In the language of Chazal, Avraham and Sarah are more than man and wife,
more than the biological parents of our nation.
They are the soul and body of Klal Yisrael, each reflecting the consummate
perfection of a Divine creation.
"Eishes Chayil Ateres Ba'alah" - a good wife knows how to be her husband's
Let us explain.
The soul of man attaches himself to heavenly spheres, his life illuminated
by the spiritual insights of an intellect that cleaves to G-d.
But, man's body can go two ways.
He can be filled with yearning for the One above, dedicated and committed
to life as a faithful servant.
Or, he can sink into an abyss of physical desire, longing to satiate the
gaping hole of material want.
Sarah is the Eishes Chayil, heeding her husband's call, reflecting the
prophetic vision of a world beyond our own. With this, she overtakes
Avraham, her word mirroring her Creator. Hence, Hashem commands Avraham:
"Whatever Sarah says to you, accept from her." (Breishis 21:12)
Sarah is the master of desire, and she recognizes that the hope for
holiness cannot coexist with appetites of the flesh. She orders the
banishment of Yishmael from her sanctified home, lest his evil presence rub
off on Yitzchak, the pure sacrifice, servant of G-d.
With this, she merits the field worth Arba Me'os Kesef, purchased with
solid silver from Efron HaChitti.
"VaYishkol Avraham L'Efron Es HaKesef - this is the great 'Kesef'
(yearning), for the desired worlds. 'Four hundred silver Shekel' are the
four hundred [heavenly] worlds of pleasures and desire." (Zohar)
Sarah teaches her children a woman's place - taming the body of man to
submit to a higher call. This is her place in eternity, 'Va'Ta'as B'Chefetz
Cappeha' - 'her hands work willingly' - a woman faithful to her
She claims her birthright, the Ma'aras HaMachpelah that is justifiably hers.
Let us take this one step further.
" 'VaYakam Sedeh Efron Asher BaMachpelah' [why is it referred to as
'Machpelah' (doubled)?] ....All who are buried within are promised that
their reward is doubled." (Midrash Rabbah 58:10)
"...What is the word's secret? A field that is certainly doubled. What is
doubled? The letter 'Heh' of the Divine name. It is doubled, and they both
stand as one." (Zohar)
Both Sarah and Avraham have added to their name the letter 'Heh'. These two
letters of the Divinity are reflected in their lives, the will of G-d
manifest in the nation they sire. Working in tandem, together as one, they
add up to ten, the 'Yud' that is the origin of G-d's essential Name.
Avraham is the 'Heh Ilayah', the upper 'Heh', influencing the multitudes
with a shower of love and kindness, the soul of the nation.
Sarah brings this letter to physical life, the lower 'Heh', basis of our
world. Accepting the guidance of her creator, she is crowned as its queen,
deserving of the Malchus that reflects the King of all kings.
Sarah's world is one-dimensional and closed, she knows only of her need to
bring this world back home.
She casts out all desire, purifying her body and cleansing her people,
leading her children towards the only goal that counts.
Faithful to her role, she unites heaven and earth, together as one.
"Batach Bsah Lev Ba'alah, V'Shallal Lo Yechsar"
JerusalemViews, Copyright (c) 1999 by Rabbi Heshy Grossman and Project