- Written by Rabbi Benji Landau
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וַתָּמָת שָׂרָה, בְּקִרְיַת אַרְבַּע הִוא חֶבְרוֹן--בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנָעַן; וַיָּבֹא אַבְרָהָם, לִסְפֹּד לְשָׂרָה, וְלִבְכֹּתָהּ
The Parsha begins with the death of Sarah and Avraham’s subsequent purchase of a burial plot for her, the first acquisition of land in Eretz Yisrael. There are a few questions on the plain meaning of the opening p’sukim and Rashi’s commentary.
1. Why does the posuk use the double expression of שְׁנֵי חַיֵּי שָׂרָה? 2. Why does the Torah breakdown Sarah’s age this way, i.e. 100, 20, 7 instead of just 127? 3. Rashi on the posuk וַיָּבֹא אַבְרָהָם tells us that Avraham was coming from Be’er Sheva. But this is obvious, we know from the end of last week’s parsha that he was there - וַיֵּשֶׁב אַבְרָהָם בִּבְאֵר שָׁבַע? 4. Rashi seems to explain that Sarah died after hearing the news that Yitzchak was almost killed on the alter. But Sarah was on a level of righteousness on par with the of Avraham, how could she be so affected by this news, as oppsed to Avraham who was willing to give up his son?
The singular answer to all of these questions is as follows. We say in Mariv והסר שטן מלפנינו ומאחרינו . The plain meaning is that we ask H’ to remove the evil inclination from before us and behind us. However, the Nesivos Shalom explains that the deeper meaning behind these words is our asking H’ that He not allow the evil inclination to bother us, before the mitzvah and even after the mitzvah has been done.
The meaning of this is that sometimes after we do a mitzvah, we notice that we have somehow been negatively affected, perhaps the mitzvah took a large portion of our day to complete, or more effort than we originally expected. It is conceivable that a person under such circumstances may regret having done the mitzvah and if so, we know from the Gemora in Kiddushin, he would lose all the reward for that mitzvah.
With this in mind, we can answer some of our questions. The Satan saw how Avraham had triumphed in the Akeida, and had demonstrated his complete loyalty to the word of H’. The Satan wanted to try and test Avraham after the mitzvah. If Avraham were to believe that Sarah had died as a result of hearing about the Akeida, perhaps he would then succumb to the evil inclination and express remorse. Avraham was able to conquer the evil inclination again though. That’s why Rashi says Avraham came from Be’er Sheva, he came with the same determination and commitment that he had demonstrated even before the Akeida.
For this reason the Torah lets us know that Sarah did not really die as a result of hearing about the Akeida; this is just what the Satan was trying to impress on Avraham. In truth, Sarah died because she had reached the end of her years. The Torah stresses this by delineating exactly how many years she lived – 100, 20, 7. These were all the years allotted to her, these were שְׁנֵי חַיֵּי שָׂרָה.
This serves as a fundamental lesson in our day-to-day Avodas H’. The evil inclination after the mitzvah is just as strong as beforehand, and requires just as much dedication..