This weeks parsha is called Chayei Sarah or The Life of Sarah. This poses the obvious question as to why it is called “The life of” when the parsha actually speaks of her death and burial. However, we learn much about the life and our matriarch, Sarah, through her death and burial. Sarah is the first of the four Matriarchs of the Jewish people, and there are several happenings in this parsha which make it clear to us why she was chosen to be the mother of all of the Jewish people. The passuk states, “And the life of Sarah was one hundred years and twenty years and seven years.” Rashi explains that this wording is chosen to teach us that when she was 100 years old she was free of sin, similar to that of a 20-year-old.
This shows us what a special and holy woman Sarah was; however, her holiness was about more than personal achievement. It was Sarah who made sure that Avraham would recognize Yitzchak as his successor and father of the future Jewish nation. Hashem had promised Avraham that he would father a great nation through his son Yitzchak, but it was Sarah who ensured that the environment in which Yitzchak was raised was one of purity, befitting a future patriarch.
Even in her death Sarah continued to actualize the promises that Hashem made to Avraham and the future Jewish nation. It is in her merit that the Ma’arat Hamachepelah, one of the holiest sites in Eretz Yisrael, was purchased. This is one of very few financial transactions recorded in Tanach and it attests to the Jewish ownership of this important part of the land of Israel. Until Avraham purchased this site it held universal significance, as it is the burial place of Adam and Chava, the forebears of all of mankind. In Sarah’s merit, the eternal heritage of Eretz Yisrael for the Jewish people began. With her burial came a physical expression of the promise of Hashem and the spiritual connection that we as Jews have to the Land. Furthermore, it was when Yitzchak her son recognized the special qualities of his mother in his bride, that he was able to truly accept her as his wife and make her into the matriarch of the Jewish people.
The midrash tells us that in the merit of the 127 years of Sarah’s life, her descendant - Esther (yes, the famous Queen Esther of the Purim story) merited to rule over 127 provinces. The Chidushei HaRim explains that each year of Sarah’s life was precious. Sarah lived each day filling it with meaning and growth so that each day was a day of accomplishment. And it is in that merit that for every year she lived, another province came under Queen Esther’s rulership.
Had Sarah wasted one year of her life and decided to take a sabbatical from spirituality or just take it a bit easier – this could have changed the future of the entire Jewish nation. This is why, despite Sarah’s physical absence from this world, the Parsha is called “Chayei Sarah,” for the life of the righteous and their impact on this world is not limited to their physical presence, rather it continues long after they have passed on. We must learn from Sarah the importance of every moment and every day and fill them with meaning and growth so that we too make a lasting impact on this world.