CHAYEI SARAH (Genesis, 23:1-25-18) — “Never Alone”

I lost my mother this year.

Time goes on, and the pain subsides somewhat, but it never goes away.  Next week I will complete the 11 months of saying Kaddish.  But some days it feels like it happened yesterday.

It’s different than the last time.  I was 5 years old when my father passed away.  I don’t have a lot of memories of my father.  I imagine I probably cried — if I understood it — but I really don’t remember much.

This was different.  Mom was always there.  She was there at the happy times.  She was there at the sad times.  (When my family’s rabbi passed away last week, my first instinct was to pick up the phone and call Mom.)

But Mom is gone.  And now I’m an orphan. Now I’m alone.

There is a wonderful Mitzva called “Nichum Aveilim — Consoling the Mourners,” but that’s not really an accurate name.  Friends come to visit the mourner who is sitting Shiva.  But most of us lack the ability to truly comfort someone who is dealing with a profound loss.  It is only G-d who truly has the ability to comfort a mourner.  The rest of us just offer our feelings of solidarity and pray to G-d to do the rest.

At the end of the visit, they bless the mourner: “May G-d comfort you all among all the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.”

Sometimes, a human being succeeds in offering words of consolation.  Our Sages tell us that when the Temple was destroyed, Rabbi Akiva found the words to comfort his colleagues. They responded to him, “Neechamtanu  — You have consoled us, Akiva, you have consoled us.”

While I was sitting Shiva, many friends and relatives came to offer condolences and blessings   One fellow shared with me an explanation of the Alshich on this week’s Torah Portion.

Isaac lost both of his parents in this week’s Portion.  First Sarah died.  Thirty-eight years later, Abraham died.

G-d paid a Shiva call.

And it was after the death of Abraham, that G-d blessed his son Isaac.  (Genesis, 25:11)

What was the nature of the blessing? And why does the Torah need to tell us that Isaac was Abraham’s son? Isn’t that obvious?

Rashi tells us that the blessing that G-d gave him was the consolation of mourners.

My friend told me that the Alshich explains that G-d only gave this blessing to Issac when Abraham died.  When Sarah died,  it wasn’t necessary.  When Isaac lost his mother, he still had his father Abramam to teach him, to guide him, and to strengthen him.

But now Abraham was gone. Isaac was truly bereft and alone in the world.

Therefore , G-d blessed Issac HIS son.  No, not Abraham’s son; we already know that he  was Abraham’s son.  G-d was blessing His son — G-d’s son — Isaac.
G-d was telling Issac that he was NOT alone and bereft.  G-d was telling Isaac that he has a Father in Heaven who loves  him and watches over him.

G-d was telling Isaac that in reality, there is no such thing as an orphan.

I looked at my friend who shared this beautiful thought with me while I was sitting Shiva.

Neechamtani,” I said.  “You have consoled me.  You have consoled me.”

Have a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz

To leave a comment about this article, or to read other readers’ comments on this article, scroll down past the archive links.



“A Torah Jew’s Guide to ‘Losing’ Elections” (2012)

…Many of my friends are depressed and despondent.

They have waited four years …They tried. And they failed. And they are depressed.

And they are wrong…

Whenever I go to vote, I utter a prayer. I prayed this past Tuesday. What do you think I prayed for?…

Read more.


“The Living Dead or the Dead Living?” (2009)

… On September 11, he told his wife he loved her, told his friend to take care of her, recited a Psalm, and met his Creator. Hundreds of firefighters, policemen, and just plain civilians spent their final moments saving others.

On the last day of his life, Timothy McVeigh ate mint chocolate-chip ice cream…

Read more.


“Ham’s not Kosher!!” (2008)

Eliezer had a tough assignment.

Sarah was dead. Abraham was a widower with a 37-year-old unmarried son. The future of Abraham’s legacy was dependant upon Isaac marrying and raising the next generation of G-d-fearing “Jews.” It was imperative that Isaac marry a woman who shared his values. In narrowing the field of applicants, Abraham engaged in a bit of “racial profiling.” Canaanites need not apply…

This restriction affected Eliezer personally. This dedicated servant of Abraham had a daughter. He would have loved to have made a “Shidduch” between his daughter and his beloved master’s son. However, it was not to be. Eliezer, you see, was a Canaanite…

Read more.


“Well, There’s Bad News and There’s Good News…” (2006)

…when Sarah heard about her son’s near-death experience, the shock killed her.

… Sarah died too early. She could have, and should have, lived longer…

… Sarah needn’t have died…the results could have been different…

Read more.


“Will You Marry Me… Again?!” (2005)

… She was none other than Hagar, the mother of Abraham’s oldest son Ishmael. … as a result of Hagar’s idol worship, and her son Ishmael’s wickedness, they were both sent away.

Now that Sarah was gone, Abraham decided to remarry Hagar.

… How could Abraham do something like that? Where was his respect for his wife Sarah? … Now that Sarah is out of the picture, he goes back and marries this wicked woman??!!…

Read more.


“White Power!” (2003)

… Old age. A frightening prospect. As we age, we tend to slow down, in action as well as mental capacity. Society celebrates youth, and sometimes barely tolerates the old.

Wouldn’t it be great to be eternally young? Imagine advancing chronologically while our hair remains dark and our skin stays smooth. We’d put the hairdressers and plastic surgeons out of business! Wouldn’t it be wonderful?

Abraham didn’t think so…

Read more.


“Do You REALLY Believe That?!” (2002)

…What a beautiful story of faith and miracles! What a marvelous episode of Divine intervention and human acceptance of G-d’s will … What a LIE!!…

Read more.


“Walk a Mile for a Camel” (2000)

… Eliezer stood there watching to see if G-d had fulfilled his request … Why was he still wondering? Hadn’t G-d already shown him the sign? Eliezer requested that G-d show him Isaac’s bride by her offering to water the camels. The offer had been made! Why did he stand there and make her work so hard? DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW MUCH WATER TEN THIRSTY CAMELS CAN DRINK?!!!!!

Read more.


This is the weekly message at Copyright © 2000-2016 by Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz.  May be reprinted. Please include copyright information.


Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz is a Mohel ( and chaplain in Monsey,New York. For information about scheduling a Bris or a lecture, or just to say hello, call (800) 83MOHEL.


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Published on November 26, 2016 at 5:05 pm  Comments Off on CHAYEI SARAH (Genesis, 23:1-25-18) — “Never Alone”  
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