The central theme of each Torah portion is indicated by its name.1 The name of this week’s portion, Chayei Sarah, the “Life of Sarah,” seems to defy this rule. The entire portion speaks of events that transpired after Sarah’s demise, a theme in stark contrast to the “life of Sarah.”

The opening section of Chayei Sarah2 relates how Avraham purchased a burial place for his wife; the second section3 recounts the events surrounding the marriage of Yitzchak and Rivkah — at which time “Yitzchak found consolation for the loss of his mother.”4

So too, the closing portion of Chayei Sarah5 describes how Avraham took another wife, and recounts Yishmael’s progeny — something in total opposition to Sarah, who declared, “send away this handmaiden and her child.”6 How then can we possibly say that the “life of Sarah” is the portion’s central theme?

The Gemara states:7 “Our father Ya’akov did not die — as his progeny lives on, he too lives on.” The truly timeless aspect of human existence is that which derives from living at one with G‑d — He who is truly timeless and eternal. Since Ya’akov lived in this manner, his true life includes his continuing effect, even after his soul left his body.

This effect was perceived not only in his soul’s continued unity with G‑d — an eternality of the soul — but more importantly, that in this world as well, he continued to live through his children — who pursued the eternal lifestyle of their father Ya’akov.8

The same is true with regard to Sarah. The quality of Sarah’s life, the true “life of Sarah,” can best be measured after her passing, by dint of the legacy she passed on to her progeny.

Avraham and Sarah differed in that Avraham fathered not only Yitzchak but also Yishmael, thus becoming not only the father of the Jewish people but also of other nations,9 while Sarah was the mother of Yitzchak exclusively, thereby connecting her specifically with the Jewish nation. Sarah was thus better able to discern the unique quality of the Jewish people, who descended solely through Yitzchak.

This dominant theme in Sarah’s life is the central motif of the portion Chayei Sarah.

Avraham buried Sarah in the Meoras HaMachpeilah, the burial place of Adam and Chavah, parents of all humanity. As such, the Meoras HaMachpeilah was seemingly connected to all of mankind, not only to the Jewish people. Nonetheless, Avraham purchased it for the exclusive use of the Jews, thereby emphasizing Sarah’s theme — the special quality of the Jewish people.

The Torah then goes on to relate that this quality was apparent even in relation to those who were of kindred spirit with Avraham: for our sages relate10 that when Avraham’s faithful student and servant, Eliezer, told Avraham of his desire that his daughter marry Yitzchak, he was told it was out of the question — Yitzchak was to marry someone from Avraham’s family.

The conclusion of the portion then informs us of an even greater dimension to this special quality found in the Jews — that they far outdistanced even Avraham’s other progeny.

After the Torah relates “Avraham married another woman whose name was Keturah,”11 and mentions the children born to them, it goes on to state:12 “Avraham gave all that he owned to Yitzchak, and, to the children of the concubine, Avraham gave gifts and sent them away.” Similarly, Yishmael’s offspring are alluded to as descending from “Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s slave”13 — of decidedly lesser rank than Yitzchak.

Herein lies the connection of this Torah portion to the “life of Sarah”: it stresses her life’s work — emphasizing the special quality inherent within the Jewish people.

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XV, pp. 145-150