Why did Sarah die?

Samain and the Fallow Moon

Met with Alan to discuss our bagel table a week from Saturday. Dandelion. A quiet breakfast place off 74 in the northern part of Evergreen. We’re both going to come up with a plan by next Tuesday then we’ll mix and match or choose one.

I’m focused on an interesting midrashic tradition raised by Avivah Zornberg in her commentary on Genesis and the Chayei parsha. Midrash aggadah are torah interpretations by generations of rabbis.They are imaginative, clever, often surprising. The tradition is similar to the notion of hermeneutics with which I am familiar, that is the art of bringing Biblical messages into a contemporary context. I mentioned this in my post on Sunday.

Midrash aggadah are dissimilar in the tools and techniques used. And, in the results.

The midrashic tradition Zornberg mentions in the beginning of her commentary on Chayei Sarah (Gen. 23:1-25:18) began with rabbis wondering about two things: 1. The akedah, or the binding of Isaac. Jewish tradition focuses on the act of binding Isaac for his sacrifice. 2. The death of Sarah which immediately follows the akedah.

Why did Sarah die, they wondered. An interpretation rose up that the akedah was the reason for Sarah’s death, though there is no mention of a connection in the text. In one midrash Isaac returns after the akedah, tells his mother what happened, and she makes shofar like noises, then dies. In another Satan appears to her in the guise of Isaac and tells her what Abraham did. And in yet another Satan comes to Sarah and says Abraham has actually sacrificed Isaac.

From these, then, Zornberg suggests that the problem of Sarah’s life began with her period of infertility, till age 99, ended by Isaac’s birth. The relationship between her and Isaac, then, becomes the central issue for Sarah. It does not resolve, Zornberg suggests, until:

Gen. 25:67 “And Isaac brought her to the tent of Sarah his mother, and he took Rebecca, and she became his wife, and he loved her. And was comforted for (the loss) of his mother.”

This is a direction that would never occur in a Christian exegetical/hermeneutical exploration of these texts. Why? Because the Christian exegete focuses on the words as they exist and critical methodologies helping to clarify their meaning. Speculation about what happened offline so to speak is not encouraged.

This is so much fun for me. I like learning another way of coming at the Bible and I find the midrash aggadah appealing as provocateurs about life and its convolutions. A lot of wisdom in them.

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