Susan Barth
Susan Barth
Advocate for Marriage Education in Israel

Chayei Sarah – A Model for the Ages

There is something very special about acquiring real estate in Eretz Yisrael. And according to the demarcated 2nd division  of this week’s Torah reading of Chayei Sarah,  “today” represented one of those special days for our patriarch Avraham, as the ownership for the Cave of our Patriarchs (known by Jews as Cave of Machpelah (מערת המכפלה‎, ) was actually transferred and title recorded in his name.

My Own Personal Inspection

Given the timely mention of the acquisition, today seemed to be a perfect day for personally reliving this historical moment and inspecting our patriarch Avraham’s acquired property for myself. And it also represented an opportunity to supplement my birthday present with a visit to the third of what are considered the four holiest cities in Israel (the others including my previously visited sites of Tiberius and Tzfat). And since my home is closest to Jerusalem, that rounds out the fourth.

What Makes the Cave of Machpelah so Special

At the beginning of this week’s Torah portion, we learn of the death of our matriarch Sarah and the willingness of Avraham for an exorbitant amount to purchase the Cave for the burial of his precious partner Sarah. This burial of Sarah is in fact the first one that we have an account of  (Gen. 23).

In addition to Sarah, the site became the “family” burial plot as the final resting places for four prestigious couples: Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, and Jacob and Leah. (Our matriarch Rachel was buried elsewhere.)

The Special Bonding with our Matriarch Sarah

Of all of the special moments, the ones with the kever of Sarah Imeinu, “Sarah Our Mother” was the longest and most spiritually enlightening and mostly related to the fact that my Hebrew name is Sarah.

In his well-documented article entitled “Sarah of the Bible: The First Matriarch”, the author Shalom Goodman writes that “in telling Sarah’s age at the time of her passing, the Torah tells us that her life was “100 years, and 20 years, and 7 years.” The Sages (Genesis Rabbah 58, quoted by Rashi on Genesis 23:1)  comment that this means that when she was 100, she was as pure of sin as a maiden of 20; and when she was 20, she was as beautiful as an innocent 7-year-old.

Sarah’s Legacy

We all owe a debt of gratitude to our first matriarch, not only because of her modesty, but because of the three gifts which I described in my blog entitled: Where is Sarah Thy Wife?

She merited the fulfillment of three miracles – which translate into the three respective mitzvot of family purity (i.e., the laws of taharat hamispacha), Shabbat candles and challah.

Coming Full Circle

As I finished my conversation with my namesake Sarah Imeinu,  I could not help but reflect on the journey through the burial places  I had taken in such short order between Tishri 18 (September 24) and today Cheshvan 19 (October 25) from visiting the resting places of Rabbi Akiva; Rachel his wife; Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk; Amuka; Rabbi Yehudah bat Ilai; and Rabbi Meir Baal HaNess to today’s patriarchs and matriarchs. And all in Eretz Yisrael, but at the heart starting with the Ohel of the Lubavitcher Rebbe z”l. And the glue which has underlined all of them is the emphasis on the family and marriage and legacies of children.

Project Chayei Sarah

For me personally, the visit today with my special matriarch Sarah validated why I decided to create Project Chayei Sarah as detailed in the blog Project Chayei Sarah – A Vote for Marriage Education

The mission of the project is to promote Shalom Bayit through the auspices of marriage education (especially education for engaged and newly married couples).

Goals of the project – to encourage the following activities:

  • Contact 5 rabbis/mesader kedushim to encourage couples to take marriage education courses
  • Join the Alliance for Marriage Education as synagogues
  • Encourage chatan and kallah instructors to include marriage education in their curriculum
  • Encourage governmental officials to help subsidize marriage education
  • Encourage 5 engaged and newlywed couples to take a marriage education course
  • Recommend new ideas to perpetuate the legacy of matriarch Sarah

We can all celebrate the Life and Death of our matriarch Sarah especially this week by joining Project Chayei Sarah and adopting  as a project one of the six items pictured and described above. In this way our beloved matriarch Sarah’s legacy will continue well beyond this week. Your participation can make a big difference!

For more information and to indicate which project you are adopting contact me at info@together-in-happiness.com

About the Author
Susan Barth is founder and director of Israeli non profit Together in Happiness/B'Yachad B'Osher, promoting stronger, healthier marriages impacting Israeli society. A Project Management Professional (PMP) and businesswoman from the US, Susan sponsored and chaired the First International Conference on Marriage Education in Israel (attended by over 360 professionals) in Jerusalem in memory of her parents and launched I-PREP, an innovative marriage education curriculum. On November 8, 2017, Together in Happiness co-hosted with MK Yehudah Glick a historic Knesset seminar promoting government support for pre-marriage education
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