Only 11 percent of the Torah’s portions (6 out of 54) are named after people: No’ach, Yitro, Korach, Balak, Pinchas, and Chayei Sarah. Contrast this to N’viim (Prophets) where 89 percent of the books (17 out of 19) are named after people; and K’tuvim (Writings) where 50 percent of the books (6 out of 12) are named after people.
Why the Torah chose to name these particular portions and books accordingly, is a discussion in and of itself. What I would like to explore, is why this week’s portion is the only one in all the books of the T’nach that includes the word “chayei” – “Life of” – before the name of the individual; in this case, Sarah?
Each portion of the Torah that is named after an individual, deals with some aspect of the individual’s life – in the actual Torah portion itself. Parashat No’ach deals with the life of No’ach ante- and post-Diluvian. Parashat Korach speaks about the dramatic loss of Korach and his followers, when the ‘mouth of the earth’ miraculously swallows them. Parashat Balak follows the story of Balak, King of Mo’av, and his futile quest to curse the Jews.
The Books of N’viim and K’tuvim are no exception to this rule. Each one of the Prophets’ lives are highlighted in some way within the books they authored; and the books of Iyov, Rut, Ester and Daniel in K’tuvim, follow the life journeys of these universal giants.
The only portion that does not follow this rule is Chayei Sarah, which aside for mentioning the age at which Sarah died and her burial, mentions nothing about her life whatsoever. Yet, the Torah chooses to call the name of the portion, “Chayei Sarah” – “Life of Sarah” and not simply “Sarah”. Awfully strange.
In life, we know that nothing is what it seems, and even the very definition of life itself, can be deceptively misunderstood. We tend to see our lives as self-contained units; living in our own bubbles, so to speak. But the Truth is, that our lives are a crucial PART of a much greater whole. Our souls have come back into this world again and again, throughout the generations, in order to complete and correct our unique task. In essence, if a book would be written about our lives, its title would simply be our name – a link in the chain of people and events that make up the history of mankind.
Not so with Sarah. Sarah was entirely unique in the fact that she was the very beginning of this chain. We begin learning about Sarah’s life in the previous portions of Lech L’cha and Vayeira. We know all about Sarah’s journeys to Egypt and G’rar. We know all about the open home that she built with Avraham. We know all about her trials and tribulations with barrenness, with Hagar, with Yishmael. That is Sarah’s life. But that is not the Life of Sarah.
The Life of Sarah is something completely different. All very well for Avraham and Sarah to be the first Jews, but without any offspring to continue their legacy, their Jewish ideals would not come to fruition.
The Life of Sarah is everything that comes after her: purchasing the very first piece of Land in Israel, Eliezer finding a wife for Yitzchak, Yitzchak’s marriage to Rivkah and their becoming the FIRST family to be able to continue the chain of Judaism.
The Life of Sarah is the defining moment of Yitzchak (the very first Jewish child from birth) who embarks upon the grand journey of Jewish Destiny.
The Life of Sarah is the unbreakable chain of commitment throughout history.
The Life of Sarah is the absolute Faith to continue forward towards the Ultimate Redemption.