Chayei Sarah: Ripe Old Age

Chayei Sarah is bookended by the loss of two major figures in Jewish history, Sarah and Avraham. By way of the following story, the authors of the Midrash (Bereshit Rabbah 62:2) ask whether this Parasha was really the right time for Avraham to pass away: Rabbi Akiva and his students used to sit and study under a fig tree, whose owner would get up early every morning and gather the fruit from this tree. The students began to suspect that the owner would rise up early each day to pluck the fruit so that they would not take figs for themselves. The students therefore decided to sit elsewhere. When the owner of the tree finally found them, he said:“Why would you deprive me of having the credit of you studying under my tree? I never suspected you of taking the fruit! I would get up early each morning to gather the fruit because once the sun comes out, the figs become wormy.” The next morning, the owner of the fig tree did not come to pluck the fruit and sure enough, the students found worms in the fruit. The Midrash concludes that ultimately God, like the tree owner, knows when it is time for the righteous to depart from this world.

  • Why is it significant for us that Sarah & Avraham both pass away in the same Parasha?
  • Do you agree with the Midrash that God chose the right time for these major personalities to pass away?
  • Upon their passing, what structures were in place for the continuation of the Jewish people?
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