Chayei Sarah – Opening the Door to Trouble

The beginning of this week’s Torah portion of Chayei Sarah recounts the death of Sarah Imeinu and her burial. The Pirkei DiRebbe Eliezer in perek 32 shares with us a very Interesting account of how Sarah Imeinu passed away, (Click here and here for Hebrew text):

“And when Avraham came back from Har HaMoriah, Samel got very angry, for he saw that his heart’s desire was not fulfilled to ruin Avraham’s sacrifice. What did he do? He went and asked Sarah, ‘Did you hear what news happened today in the world?’ She said to him, ‘No.’ He said to her, ‘Your old husband took the lad, Yitzchok, and brought him up as a burnt offering, and the lad was crying and wailing, for he wasn’t able to save himself.’ Immediately she started crying and wailing. She cried 3 cries which represent the 3 tekios and wailed 3 wails that represent the 3 sobbing sounds of the teruah and then her soul left her and she died. Avraham Avinu came and found her dead as it says ‘And Avraham came to eulogize Sarah and to cry over her’ (Breishis 23:2).”

Samel is the Angel of Death, otherwise known as Satan, the Yetzer Hara (evil inclination). He wanted to ruin the moment which made history and created so many merits for Avraham’s offspring. When it didn't work by the events of Avraham and Yitzchok, he turned to Sarah and the sudden shock and pain of hearing the news that her husband sacrificed their only child, which killed her. The Be’ur Maspik, by Rav Avraham Aharon Broida, says that Samel was not trying to lie to Sarah, for Avraham did bring Yitzchok as a sacrifice he just didn’t slaughter him, or the ram was an exact replacement of Yitzchok so it is as if he was slaughtered. At the very least Samel was definitely trying to trick Sarah.

(Parenthetically, the Be’ur Maspik points out that the shofar blasts we blow on Rosh Hashanah represent the cries and wailing of Sarah because the whole concept of Shofar on Rosh Hashanah is to remember Akeidas Yitzchok (the binding of Isaac) as it says in tractate Rosh Hashanah 16a therefore we sound these 6 blasts which represent the six sounds Sarah Imeinu made on account of the Akeidas Yitzchok.)

The Be’ur Maspik is bothered by why such a righteous woman as our first matriarch deserves to pass away in such an inhumane and cruel way; maybe not physically, but what might be worse, emotionally, and what seems to be before her allotted time of death without anyone around her to say their goodbyes.

To answer this issue he quotes a Zohar in parshas Pinchas which tells us something else quite scary. At the time Avraham made a big feast in honor of Yitzchok, as recorded in last week’s Torah portion, the Satan made negative accusations and prosecutions which led to Hashem decreeing that Yitzchok should be brought as an offering and decreeing Sarah’s death. Therefore, the Be’ur Maspik suggests that it is possible that when the Satan saw the first decree not fully go into action since the ram was a replacement for Yitzchok, he was concerned that the same thing would happen to Sarah and so he quickly approached her to shock and frighten her so that she would die through pain and suffering. He ends by saying that this must be correct, because if not, how can Sarah be taken away like this without any due judgement?

Avraham Avinu and Sarah Imeinu certainly made this party as a seudas mitzvah, thanking Hashem for the precious gift He gave them after so many years of being childless. Their intent was to make a tremendous Kiddush Hashem to all who participated, which in fact was recorded as happening. . Yet with all the right intentions and positive reinforcement it would seem they went a tiny bit over board which opened the doors for the Satan to stake a negative claim against them which Hashem was forced to accept that led  to the decrees of Sarah and Yitzchok’s untimely death. It sounds like Yitzchok would have been killed in the binding if not for Hashem stepping in, essentially creating a loophole to undue the decree, but the Satan quickly followed through with Sarah’s decree, which Hashem certainly let happen, and she died in such a shocking way, all because she left the door open for the Satan to prosecute and enact strict judgement, a similar but slightly different concept to the evil eye (ayin hara).

The lesson is clear. Be careful when making a party or a simcha, whether it is a wedding, bar mitzvah, anything, to not go overboard. Avraham was very wealthy and prominent, it was certainly within his means, and there was room and valid expectations for it to be fancy. But there is a fine line between fancy and extravagant. Reminding oneself of what happened to Avraham and Sarah could be a trick used as a litmus test when making a simcha or party in order to not do too much lest one opens the doors to the Accuser and let him in to “dance” at the party.