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בס"ד

Chaye Sarah -

Ashet Chayil and The Life of Sarah

Source Sheet by Gabe Greenberg
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  1. (א) וַיִּהְיוּ֙ חַיֵּ֣י שָׂרָ֔ה מֵאָ֥ה שָׁנָ֛ה וְעֶשְׂרִ֥ים שָׁנָ֖ה וְשֶׁ֣בַע שָׁנִ֑ים שְׁנֵ֖י חַיֵּ֥י שָׂרָֽה׃ (ב) וַתָּ֣מָת שָׂרָ֗ה בְּקִרְיַ֥ת אַרְבַּ֛ע הִ֥וא חֶבְר֖וֹן בְּאֶ֣רֶץ כְּנָ֑עַן וַיָּבֹא֙ אַבְרָהָ֔ם לִסְפֹּ֥ד לְשָׂרָ֖ה וְלִבְכֹּתָֽהּ׃

    (1) Sarah’s lifetime—the span of Sarah’s life—came to one hundred and twenty-seven years. (2) Sarah died in Kiriath-arba—now Hebron—in the land of Canaan; and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah and to bewail her.

  2. (ב) לספוד לשרה ולבכתה וְנִסְמְכָה מִיתַת שָׂרָה לַעֲקֵידַת יִצְחָק, לְפִי שֶׁעַל יְדֵי בְשׂוֹרַת הָעֲקֵידָה, שֶׁנִּזְדַּמֵּן בְּנָהּ לִשְׁחִיטָה וְכִמְעַט שֶׁלֹא נִשְׁחַט, פָּרְחָה נִשְׁמָתָהּ מִמֶּנָּה וּמֵתָה:

    (2) לספוד לשרה ולבכותה TO BEWAIL SARAH AND TO WEEP FOR HER — 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 — she received a great shock (literally, her soul flew from her) and she died (Pirkei D'Rabbi Eliezer 32).

  3. (ב) ויבא אברהם לספוד לשרה ולבכתה. דרך העולם תחלה לבכות בינו לב״ע ואח״כ להספיד ברבים... אלא משום שהיה אברהם בא ממקום רחוק לשם ובין כה וכה נתקבצו המון העם סביב הבית ...מש״ה נזדרז להספידה תחלה ברבים. ועוד יש הבדל בענין המת ואבליו. אם המת גורם לאבליו שנוי בהליכות עולמו וצערו מרובה יותר משבח המת עצמו אזי הבכי קודם ועיקר להספדו..... כאן מיתת שרה לא גרם לאברהם שנוי בהליכות עולמו עוד שהרי כבר נתגדל יצחק בנה שהוא התכלית והספדה רבה ע״פ חשיבותה מש״ה הקדים לספוד לה ואח״כ לבכותה....

    Normally speaking, one first cries by themselves, and only afterwards eulogizes in public...but since Avraham came from far away, in the meantime many people had gathered around their home... he therefore had to immediately eulogize her...

    And there is an additional difference. If the death of a person causes a significant rift in the life of their mourners, and their pain is very great such that it overwhelms their praise for the deceased: in such a case, the crying is more central and comes prior to the eulogizing.... Here, Sarah's death did not cause Avraham a major change in the functioning of his world, i.e. Isaac was already grown... he therefore eulogized her greatly, according to her importance. He therefore eulogized her first, and then cried. 

  4. (י) אֵֽשֶׁת־חַ֭יִל מִ֣י יִמְצָ֑א וְרָחֹ֖ק מִפְּנִינִ֣ים מִכְרָֽהּ׃ (יא) בָּ֣טַח בָּ֭הּ לֵ֣ב בַּעְלָ֑הּ וְ֝שָׁלָ֗ל לֹ֣א יֶחְסָֽר׃ (יב) גְּמָלַ֣תְהוּ ט֣וֹב וְלֹא־רָ֑ע כֹּ֝֗ל יְמֵ֣י חַיֶּֽיה׃ (יג) דָּ֭רְשָׁה צֶ֣מֶר וּפִשְׁתִּ֑ים וַ֝תַּ֗עַשׂ בְּחֵ֣פֶץ כַּפֶּֽיהָ׃ (יד) הָ֭יְתָה כָּאֳנִיּ֣וֹת סוֹחֵ֑ר מִ֝מֶּרְחָ֗ק תָּבִ֥יא לַחְמָֽהּ׃ (טו) וַתָּ֤קָם ׀ בְּע֬וֹד לַ֗יְלָה וַתִּתֵּ֣ן טֶ֣רֶף לְבֵיתָ֑הּ וְ֝חֹ֗ק לְנַעֲרֹתֶֽיהָ׃ (טז) זָמְמָ֣ה שָׂ֭דֶה וַתִּקָּחֵ֑הוּ מִפְּרִ֥י כַ֝פֶּ֗יהָ נטע [נָ֣טְעָה] כָּֽרֶם׃ (יז) חָֽגְרָ֣ה בְע֣וֹז מָתְנֶ֑יהָ וַ֝תְּאַמֵּ֗ץ זְרֹעוֹתֶֽיהָ׃ (יח) טָ֭עֲמָה כִּי־ט֣וֹב סַחְרָ֑הּ לֹֽא־יִכְבֶּ֖ה בליל [בַלַּ֣יְלָה] נֵרָֽהּ׃ (יט) יָ֭דֶיהָ שִׁלְּחָ֣ה בַכִּישׁ֑וֹר וְ֝כַפֶּ֗יהָ תָּ֣מְכוּ פָֽלֶךְ׃ (כ) כַּ֭פָּהּ פָּרְשָׂ֣ה לֶעָנִ֑י וְ֝יָדֶ֗יהָ שִׁלְּחָ֥ה לָֽאֶבְיֽוֹן׃ (כא) לֹא־תִירָ֣א לְבֵיתָ֣הּ מִשָּׁ֑לֶג כִּ֥י כָל־בֵּ֝יתָ֗הּ לָבֻ֥שׁ שָׁנִֽים׃ (כב) מַרְבַדִּ֥ים עָֽשְׂתָה־לָּ֑הּ שֵׁ֖שׁ וְאַרְגָּמָ֣ן לְבוּשָֽׁהּ׃ (כג) נוֹדָ֣ע בַּשְּׁעָרִ֣ים בַּעְלָ֑הּ בְּ֝שִׁבְתּ֗וֹ עִם־זִקְנֵי־אָֽרֶץ׃ (כד) סָדִ֣ין עָ֭שְׂתָה וַתִּמְכֹּ֑ר וַ֝חֲג֗וֹר נָתְנָ֥ה לַֽכְּנַעֲנִֽי׃ (כה) עֹז־וְהָדָ֥ר לְבוּשָׁ֑הּ וַ֝תִּשְׂחַ֗ק לְי֣וֹם אַחֲרֽוֹן׃ (כו) פִּ֭יהָ פָּתְחָ֣ה בְחָכְמָ֑ה וְתֽוֹרַת־חֶ֝֗סֶד עַל־לְשׁוֹנָֽהּ׃ (כז) צ֭וֹפִיָּה הֲלִיכ֣וֹת בֵּיתָ֑הּ וְלֶ֥חֶם עַ֝צְל֗וּת לֹ֣א תֹאכֵֽל׃ (כח) קָ֣מוּ בָ֭נֶיהָ וַֽיְאַשְּׁר֑וּהָ בַּ֝עְלָ֗הּ וַֽיְהַֽלְלָהּ׃ (כט) רַבּ֣וֹת בָּ֭נוֹת עָ֣שׂוּ חָ֑יִל וְ֝אַ֗תְּ עָלִ֥ית עַל־כֻּלָּֽנָה׃ (ל) שֶׁ֣קֶר הַ֭חֵן וְהֶ֣בֶל הַיֹּ֑פִי אִשָּׁ֥ה יִרְאַת־יְ֝הוָ֗ה הִ֣יא תִתְהַלָּֽל׃ (לא) תְּנוּ־לָ֭הּ מִפְּרִ֣י יָדֶ֑יהָ וִֽיהַלְל֖וּהָ בַשְּׁעָרִ֣ים מַעֲשֶֽׂיהָ׃

    (10) What a rare find is a capable wife! Her worth is far beyond that of rubies. (11) Her husband puts his confidence in her, And lacks no good thing. (12) She is good to him, never bad, All the days of her life. (13) She looks for wool and flax, And sets her hand to them with a will. (14) She is like a merchant fleet, Bringing her food from afar. (15) She rises while it is still night, And supplies provisions for her household, The daily fare of her maids. (16) She sets her mind on an estate and acquires it; She plants a vineyard by her own labors. (17) She girds herself with strength, And performs her tasks with vigor. (18) She sees that her business thrives; Her lamp never goes out at night. (19) She sets her hand to the distaff; Her fingers work the spindle. (20) She gives generously to the poor; Her hands are stretched out to the needy. (21) She is not worried for her household because of snow, For her whole household is dressed in crimson. (22) She makes covers for herself; Her clothing is linen and purple. (23) Her husband is prominent in the gates, As he sits among the elders of the land. (24) She makes cloth and sells it, And offers a girdle to the merchant. (25) She is clothed with strength and splendor; She looks to the future cheerfully. (26) Her mouth is full of wisdom, Her tongue with kindly teaching. (27) She oversees the activities of her household And never eats the bread of idleness. (28) Her children declare her happy; Her husband praises her, (29) “Many women have done well, But you surpass them all.” (30) Grace is deceptive, Beauty is illusory; It is for her fear of the LORD That a woman is to be praised. (31) Extol her for the fruit of her hand, And let her works praise her in the gates.

  5. (ה) זש"ה אשת חיל עטרת בעלה (משלי יב) זה אברהם שהיה מקונן על שרה מה כתיב למעלה מן הענין ותמת שרה וגו' התחיל אברהם לבכות עליה ולומר אשת חיל מי ימצא בטח בה לב בעלה (שם לא) אימתי בשעה שאמר לה אמרי נא אחותי את גמלתהו טוב ולא רע כל ימי חייה, דרשה צמר ופשתים בין יצחק לישמעאל שאמרה גרש האמה הזאת ואת בנה, היתה כאניות סוחר ותוקח האשה בית פרעה ועוד וישלח אבימלך, ותקם בעוד לילה אימתי וישכם אברהם בבקר, זממה שדה ותקחהו זממה ונטלה שדה המכפלה ושם נקברה שנאמר ואחרי כן קבר אברהם את שרה, חגרה בעוז מתניה אימתי כשבאו המלאכים שנאמר וימהר אברהם האהלה אל שרה וגו', טעמה כי טוב סחרה כשבאו עליהם המלכים דכתיב ויחלק עליהם לילה, ידיה שלחה בכשור שהיתה נותנת מאכל לעוברים ושבים, כפה פרשה לעני שהיתה נותנת צדקות ומלבשת ערומים, לא תירא לביתה משלג מגיהנם למה כי כל ביתה לבוש שנים, שנים, שבת ומילה, מרבדים עשתה לה אלו בגדי כהונה, מפרי כפיה נטעה כרם זה ישראל שנאמר (ישעיה ה) כי כרם ה' צבאות בית ישראל, נודע בשערים בעלה כשבקש מבני חת תנו לי אחוזת קבר, סדין עשתה זו המילה שנאמר סוד ה' ליראיו (תהלים כה), עוז והדר לבושה אלו ענני כבוד שהיו מקיפין את האהל שלה, פיה פתחה בחכמה אימתי בשעה שאמרה לו בא נא אל שפחתי (בראשית טז), צופיה הליכות ביתה שבכל יום היתה מצפה אימתי יחזרו המלאכים שבשרוה שוב אשוב אליך (שם יח), קמו בניה ויאשרוה ותאמר מי מלל לאברהם, רבות בנות עשו חיל אלו העכו"ם ואת עלית על כלנה שנאמר (ישעיה נא) הביטו אל אברהם אביכם ואל שרה תחוללכם, תנו לה מפרי ידיה שנא' ויהיו חיי שרה,

    (5) .."A woman of valor is a crown for her husband." This is a reference to Avraham, who mourned for Sarah. The verse earlier stated, "And Sarah died, etc." Avraham began to cry for her, and to recite Ashet Chayil: "A woman of valor, who can find one? Her husband's heart trusts in her" - when was this? When he said to her "Say that you are my sister." "She repays his good, and not his bad, all the days of her life. She susses out linen and cloth" - this is between Isaac and Yishmael, as when she said, "kick out this maidservant and her son." "She is like a merchant's ships" - [this is like what is stated:] " And she was taken into Pharoah's palace," and then later, "and she was sent to Avimelech." "She rises in the night" - when was this? When "Avraham rose early in the morning." "She considered a field and then purchases it" - she considered, and then bought, the field of Machpela, where she was ultimately buried there, as is stated, "afterwards, Avraham buried Sarah. "She girds her loins with might" - when was this? When the angels came, as is stated, "Avraham hurried towards the tent, towards Sarah..." "She senses that her enterprise is good" - when the kings approached them, as is stated, "And [Avraham] divided his troops." "Her hands are spread towards the distaff" - she would give food to the passersby. "Her palm was outstretched to the poor" - she would give tzedaka and cloth the naked. "Her house needn't fear snow" - this is Gehenom, and why [needn't they fear]? "For the whole house is clothed in crimson." [Don't read shanim, crimson, but rather shnaim] two - Shabbat and circumcision. "She makes for herself a sheet" - this is the Kohanic garb. "From the fruit of her handiwork she plants a vineyard" - this is Israel, as is stated in Isaiah, "the vineyard of God are the multitudes of Israel." "Her husband is known at the gates of the city" - when Avraham requested from the Hittites a burial plot. "She makes garments" - this is circumcision, as it states in Psalms, "God's secret is revealed to those who fear God." "She is dressed in strength and splendor" - these are the clouds of glory that would surround Sarah's tent. "Her mouth speaks to wisdom" - when is this - when she said, "approach my maidservant." "She scouts the needs of her household" - everyday, Sarah would gaze outwards, anticipating when the angels would return who'd promised they'd come back in a year's time when she would become pregnant. "Her children stand and praise her," as is stated, "Who would have said to Avraham that Sarah would nurse?" "Many daughters are valorous" - these are the non-Jewish nations; "but you are greater than them all" - as it is stated, "Look up at Avraham your father, and to Sarah who birthed you. "Give her from the fruit of her labors" - as it is stated, "these are the years of Sarah's life."

  6. Netivot Shalom (20th cent.), Parshat Chaye Sarah

    According to this midrash, it was Sarah who picked out the field of Machpelah as a burial ground. But how could this be - Sarah was not living at the point when the field is chosen and purchased by Avraham?

    ...It seems that Avraham's choosing of Machpelah was nevertheless done through Sarah's power. As the sages say in Tractate Brachot 18a, "the righteous are called living even in death." This means that they have a power of eternality, and their influence remains even after they are deceased....

    And this helps explain what the verse means which states, "And Avraham took an additional wife, Ketura." For there are those who question and say, what is the meaning of "additional" - he has no wife at that point! Rather, it means that the power, influence, and effect of Sarah was still very much felt in his life.

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