SALT - Motzaei Shabbat, November 4, 2017

  • Rav David Silverberg
            Parashat Chayei-Sara begins with the story of Avraham’s purchase of the Makhpela cave as a burial site after the death of his wife, Sara.  The Torah writes that Avraham wept and eulogized his wife, and then “Avraham arose from the presence of his deceased, and he spoke to the Chittites” (23:3).
            Rav Yerucham Levovitz finds it significant that the Torah emphasizes Avraham’s “arising” from Sara’s presence before approaching the Chittites to request his desired burial plot.  What this might signify, Rav Yerucham explains, is the efforts Avraham made to regain his composure and take control of his emotions before engaging with the people of Cheit.  Avraham found it necessary to try, to whatever extent possible, distancing himself from his grief before dealing with people.  A person experiencing hardship and grief, Rav Yerucham writes, should try not to wear his pain on his sleeves, so as not to impose the burden of his anguish upon the people around him.  It goes without saying that when we see a person in pain we are obliged to speak and act sympathetically and see how we can help alleviate the pain.  But the individual himself should not, at least not ideally, carry himself in a manner that broadcasts his grief and invites sympathy.  We are to try, as much as possible, to exude serenity even as we struggle with difficult emotions.
            Therefore, Avraham “arose from the presence of his deceased.”  He made a point of creating some emotional distance between him and his grief before engaging the people of Cheit, in order to appear calm and composed and not burden them with his anguish.