The 7 prophetesses are each associated with a specific Sephirah. Sarah our Matriarch is, as we know, the epitome of Chesed, and very fittingly married Avraham Avinu. Both were known for their incredible Mesirut Nefesh (self-sacrifice) in spreading Chesed by bringing converts to Hashem, taking care of travelers and giving out charity. So devoted they were that there’s a Midrash that teaches us that Hashem declared he could “take it easy” (as it were) in doing Chesed Himself to Creation, as this holy couple took upon themselves His job to a great extent.
It seems somewhat puzzling that Sarah our Matriarch, who epitomizes the trait of Chesed (lovingkindness) would have so many episodes in her life going through Gevurah (stern judgment). To start, she gave birth to Yitzhak, who is the prime example of Gevurah. That in itself is a big contradiction. She also suffered during her travels with Avraham, as she was twice kidnapped (though she was not defiled), and finally her life ended with the tragic news that her only son was being sacrificed on the altar.
What can Sarah’s amazing life and character teach us?
The expansiveness of Chesed must be limited
The Sefer Yetzirah associates Chesed with thewater element. As a spring goes forth from the high places to the lower ones, so too this expansive, benevolent force comes down to help the downtrodden. Unlimited Chesed however can be detrimental, since it may spoil the recipient. For example, while parents wish to give it all to their children, the truth is children need clear boundaries in order to grow properly. They must at times also be reprimanded. All of this of course, is done with extreme love in mind. However,Chesed towards others must also be limited as not everything is “up for grabs”. A couple’s unique intimate union and trust must be kept away from all strangers. Mingling outsiders in a couple’s internal affairs is a surefire way to spoil the marriage.
Sarah and Avraham were devoted to each other entirely. While they provided plenty for others, they never disclosed what happened within the four walls of their tents. Proof of this is when the angels came to visit Avraham on the third day after his Brit Milah at age 99, and asked “where is Sarah your wife?” The reply was sharp and succinct: “She’s in the tent”, as if to say “what business do you have with my wife? She’s minding her own business, as should you”.
This teaches us a crucial lesson on how couples should treat their bond with utmost devotion. Their intimate bond must never be shared with anyone, neither physically or verbally.
Waves that come and go
But perhaps one of the most important lessons from Sarah’s life is to never lose one’s essence. Hashem tests all of us with that which is most difficult. For Sarah who was rooted in Chesed, it was all the Gevurah of restraining herself while not losing her composure. Yitzhak, her son, on the other hand was rooted in Gevurah and had to perform a lot of Chesed to others, not least giving his own life on the altar.
The fact that Sarah never complained or doubted Hashem is very telling. We all go through many difficult waves in life and it’s our job to keep giving (properly) no matter what comes. Difficulties come and go, but if we know they are all tests, we can simply lower our heads until they pass and move forward, just like our holy matriarch did. Despite all her travails, she never stopped being a supreme force of good in the world.
We know from the Talmud that Sarah died from the shock when she heard the Sa-tan tell her that Avraham brought Yitzhak to be sacrificed. However, some commentators interpret it to mean that she heard that Yitzhak was, in fact, not sacrificed in the end. Being utterly devoted to Hashem and willing to give her only son to Him, she couldn’t help but worry “why didn’t Yitzhak was accepted? Maybe there’s some blemish in him? Does it mean I’m blemished and failed my mission as well?”. We know that Sarah Imenu didn’t fail at all, but such is the way of Tzadikim and the Zohar (2:114b) even gives a hint to this trait when it asks “Who is the Chasid (pious)? One who does Chesed to His Creator”. This exemplifies who Sarah Imenu was.
As we all know, Sarah Imenu is buried at the Me’arat HaMachpelah in Hevron together with her husband Avraham and the 3 holy couples Adam and Chava, Yitzhak and Rivka and Yaakov and Leah. Her burial place is a famous and very powerful pilgrimage destination to which we often go on our Prayer Treks.
To sponsor a Prayer Trek and have prayers on your behalf at Sarah’s burial place, click here.
May the memory of our holy matriarch Sarah be for a blessing and inspiration.