Parshat Chayei: Rebecca follows in Sarah’s righteous footsteps


This week’s parshah begins with a sad event: Sarah dies at the age of 127.

Isaac’s servant ties a bracelet on Rebecca’s arm. Oil on canvas painting, Benjamin West (1775). (Yale Center of British Art via Wikimedia Commons)

Abraham mourns the passing of his wife. He buys a piece of land on which to bury her which is called the Cave of Machpelah in the city of Hebron, paying 400 silver shekels for it. This is the place where all of the Jewish patriarchs (Adam, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) and matriarchs (Eve, Sarah, Rebecca and Leah) are buried.

Isaac is now 40 years old and not married. Abraham asks his trusted servant Eliezer to go to Charan, Abraham’s city of birth, and find a wife for Isaac. Eliezer brings lots of beautiful jewelry and gifts for the future wife. But how will he find her? There were many girls in Charan!

So he asks G-d for a sign to let him know which girl is the right one for Isaac. The sign is that when he will ask a girl for water to drink from a well, she will offer some to the camels, too.

Well, along comes Rebecca (remember she was born in last week’s parshah?) who offers water to Eliezer and the camels, and invites him to her father’s house. When Eliezer asks for her hand in marriage on behalf of Rebecca’s great uncle Abraham, Rebecca says yes. She was happy to marry a righteous and kind person such as Isaac and get away from her family, who were neither very honest nor righteous.
Rebecca travels to the land of Canaan with Eliezer and marries Isaac. When Isaac marries her, he understands that she is the right wife for him and feels a bit better after losing his mother Sarah.

How is that? When Sarah was alive, there were three great miracles that happened every week: the challah she baked for Shabbat stayed fresh from one week to the next; the candles she lit on Friday night stayed lit the whole week; and there was a cloud on her tent, which was a sign that G-d was present all the time. When she passed away, these miracles stopped; after Isaac and Rebecca got married, they returned. That was Isaac’s sign that she was the right one for him — that Rebecca was pious and righteous just like Sarah was.

Abraham also remarries Keturah, who is actually Hagar, the wife Abraham married before he and Sarah had Isaac. Why the new name? Because she repented from her not good ways and started a new life as a better person.

At the end of the parshah, we learn that Abraham dies at age 175 and is buried next to Sarah in the Cave of Machpelah in Hebron.

Copyright and reprinted with permission from For more insights on the Torah portion, visit:

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