Parshat Chayei Sarah Summary

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Parshat Chayei Sarah is the 5th parsha in Sefer Bereshit (also known as Genesis).

This parsha is verses Genesis 23:1 – 25:18, or a total of 105 verses.

Here is a brief summary for each aliyah.

Aliyah 1: Genesis 23:1 – 23:16, 16 verses

Sarah the wife of Abraham died when she was 127 years old. Based on Jewish tradition, she died when she was told (falsely) that Abraham had slaughtered Isaac.

Abraham mourns for his wife and wants to give her a proper burial. However, even though Abraham had lived in various places in Canaan, he does not own any property.

He meets with the leaders of the Hittites. He tells them he wants to buy the Machpelah Cave (in Hebrew, Maarat HaMachpelah) in the field owned by Ephron.

After some “negotiations” Ephron offers the field and cave to Abraham for 400 silver shekels. Abraham does not haggle, but pays Ephron’s full asking price.

Aliyah 2: Genesis 23:17 – 24:9, 13 verses

After paying Ephron, Abraham buries Sarah. According to tradition, Maarat HaMachpelah is also the burial place of Adam and Eve.

Abraham now turns his attention to finding a wife for Isaac. He appoints his trusted servant to go to Abraham’s land to find a wife.

According to Jewish tradition, this servant is Eliezer. However, in these verses he is only called “the servant” or “the man.”

Abraham makes it clear to him that Isaac is not to leave the land of Canaan. In fact, Isaac is the only one of the founding fathers of Israel to never leave the land.

Aliyah 3: Genesis 24:10 – 24:26, 17 verses

finding a bride for Isaac

The servant takes 10 camels and journeys to the city of Abraham’s brother Nachor, the city of Aram Naharaim.

At the end of Parshat Vayeira, after the Binding of Isaac, Abraham had heard the news that his brother Nachor had children and grandchildren.

The servant arrives at the well near Aram Naharaim. He prays and asks God to make his journey successful.

He knows that kindness is an important character trait to his master. Therefore he asks that God will direct him to a young woman who acts with kindness. In this case, the evidence that she is the proper bride for Isaac is a young woman who will give him water and also draw water for his 10 camels.

As he finishes his prayer, Rebecca (in Hebrew, Rivka) comes out to draw water. The servant asks for a drink. She gives him water and then offers to draw water for his camels.

After she watered his camels, he gives her several pieces of jewelry. He then asks her who is her father and if there is room for him and the camels to spend the night.

She tells him that she is the daughter of Bethuel and Nachor’s granddaughter. She assures him that there is room in the house for them.

Aliyah 4: Genesis 24:27 – 24:52, 26 verses

The servant immediately thanks God for His kindness and for leading him to Nachor’s family.

Rebecca tells her family what has happened. Rebecca’s brother, Laban, comes out and brings Abraham’s servant to the house.

The servant refuses to eat anything until he personally tells the family about his mission.

He retells everything:

  • How God has blessed Abraham.
  • The birth of Isaac even though Sarah was old.
  • Abraham insisting that Isaac’s wife not be a Canaanite woman.
  • His prayer at the well.
  • How Rebecca gave him and his camels water.
NOTE: The servant during his retelling of the events changed some details. It is interesting to study those changes, but that’s beyond the scope of this summary.

Her father Bethuel and brother Laban are impressed with the servant’s story. They recognize that what has happened has come from God. They give their consent that Rebecca can go and become Isaac’s wife.

Aliyah 5: Genesis 24:53 – 24:67, 15 verses

The servant gives gifts to Rebecca, her brother, and her mother. (For some reason, Rebecca’s father Bethuel is not mentioned again.)

The next morning the servant requests permission to leave with Rebecca to return to Abraham.

Her mother and brother ask that she stay with them for several months. The servant replies that God has blessed his journey and thus he should not delay returning.

They ask Rebecca if she is willing to leave. She says she is willing.

Rebecca’s family bless her and she begins her journey to become Isaac’s wife.

Isaac is walking in the field in the evening when he see camels coming toward him. Rebecca sees him and asks the servant who this man is. He tells her that the man walking in the field is Isaac.

Isaac marries Rebecca and loves her.

Verse 24:64 says, “Rebecca lifted her eyes and saw Isaac. And she ‘tipol’ from the camel.”

Some commentators suggest that Rebecca was so shocked by Isaac’s appearance that she involuntarily fell from the camel.

The word “tipol” (Hebrew root nun – peh – lamed) can have that meaning.

However, I’ve looked at a number of English translations of this verse and found the word “tipol” translated in these ways:

  • alighted
  • descended
  • dismounted
  • got down
  • lighted off
  • sprang off

In other words, there is no need to explain this verse to mean that Rebecca lost control and fell from the camel.

Aliyah 6: Genesis 25:1 – 25:11, 11 verses

After the marriage of Isaac, Abraham married a new wife name Keturah. With her he had 6 sons and numerous grandchildren.

Abraham gave gifts to Keturah’s children but sent them away from Isaac. Isaac was Abraham’s principle descendant and so he gave everything to him.

Abraham died when he was 175 years old, in the year 2123 from the creation of man.

Isaac and Ishmael buried Abraham in the Machpelah Cave. The Torah again emphasizes that Abraham purchased the burial cave and the surrounding field.

Aliyah 7: Genesis 25:12 – 25:18, 7 verses

This parsha ends with a brief summary of Ishmael’s life and descendants.

The Torah emphasizes that Ishmael was Hagar’s son who was Sarah’s maidservant. He had 12 sons.

Ismael was born when Abraham was 86 years old, in the year 2034. He lived 137 years, so he would have died in the year 2171.

Haftarah Summary

1 Kings 1: 1 – 31

In the parsha we learn about Abraham ensuring that Isaac will be acknowledged as his successor.

The haftarah records the intrigue at the end of King David’s life. His son Adonijah tried to claim the throne. But David had promised that Solomon would reign after him.

Further Reading

Here’s another article on this parsha which discusses why burying Sarah could have been one of Abraham’s 10 trials.

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