Parshat Chayei Sarah: When the Pain is Too Great

Every Motzei Shabbat, Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira, the Piaseczna Rebbe, would sit in the Warsaw Ghetto and write down the teaching that he had shared with his community during Seudah Shlishit. In 1939, when the stars came out after Shabbat Chayei Sarah, the Piaseczna Rebbe looked at the world on fire around him and wrote that some tests are simply too much for us to handle. Families were torn apart, children were starving, Jews were being murdered in the streets, and the words poured from his tired soul onto the paper: there are some situations that leave you completely broken and scared; you may come out alive, but there isn’t much left of you.

In this week’s Parsha, our Matriarch Sarah leaves this world. Chazal tell us that she saw the vision of her beloved son, Yitzhak, lying on the altar, and it was simply too much for her to carry. The son she waited for her whole life, miraculously gifted to her from above at almost 100 years old, would return to meet his Maker. 

 “ונסמכה מיתת שרה לעקידת יצחק לפי שע”י בשורת העקידה שנזדמן בנה לשחיטה וכמעט שלא נשחט פרחה נשמתה ממנה ומתה”

“The narrative of the death of Sarah follows immediately on that of the Binding of Isaac, because through the announcement of the Binding — that her son had been made ready for sacrifice and had almost been sacrificed — her soul left her and she died.” (Rashi, Bereshit 23:2)

The Rebbe explains that she died not of grief, but in protest before God at the cruelty and injustice of the situation. Chazal say that “פרחה נשמתה” – which literally translates as “her soul blossomed.” When faced with unimaginable pain, suffering, and injustice, Sarah’s elevated soul shone its brightest light, ascending to the highest heights to challenge the Master of the World, never to return. 

Last week we learned of Avraham’s “holy chutzpah,” the courage it took to challenge God over His plan to destroy the corrupt city of Sodom. This week we see that Sarah shared this same quality, but manifested it in an entirely different manner. Avraham is the father of humanity, speaking out on behalf of the voiceless. Sarah is the selfless mother, ready to sacrifice herself for the sake of her child. Avraham’s protest is the social activist’s quest for justice; Sarah’s is the broken heart’s cry for mercy. 

Good Shabbos,
Rav Shlomo

About the Author
Born in New Jersey, while growing up between Los Angeles and Ra'anana. I released a number of albums, and have been blessed to sing some of my melodies throughout the world. Received rabbinic ordination from Rabbi Chaim Brovender and Rabbi Shlomo Riskin at Yeshivat Hamivtar. We live in Efrat, with our precious son and four daughters. Spiritual leader of Beit Knesset Shirat David, in Efrat, where I get to pray and learn with some of my best friends. Founder of the Shlomo Katz project.
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