Living Torah

By Rabbi Ari Enkin, rabbinic director, United with Israel

Due to Sara’s kindness and piety, open miracles were performed specifically for her, including the Divine presence emanating from her tent for all to see.

Sara was the wife of Abraham. The name Sara means “queen” or “princess,” reflecting her role as Matriarch of the Jewish people and the Matriarch of many other nations as well. Sara was also Abraham’s half-sister on her father’s side. She was about 10 years younger than he.

We are told that Sara was an exceptionally beautiful woman. The Midrash (rabbinic literature) says that when Abraham and Sara went to settle in Egypt due to the famine that was ravishing the Land of Israel, Abraham hid Sara in a box in order to conceal her from the Egyptians. When they arrived at the border, the Egyptian border guards ordered Abraham to pay tax on the contents of the box. As the story goes:

“I will pay,” said Abraham. They asked, “Do you have vessels in the chest?” He replied, “I will pay the tax on vessels.” They asked, “Are you bringing silk garments?” He replied, “I will pay the tax on silk garments.” They asked, “Are you bringing pearls?” He said, “I will pay the tax on pearls.” They told him, “We cannot let you go on your way until you open the box and let us see what it contains.”

When they opened it, they saw Sara, and the entire land of Egypt became obsessed with her beauty.

Miracles in the Merit of Sara

As we can see, Abraham loved his wife very much and was willing to pay even the highest taxes in order to ensure her safety and security. Nevertheless, due to her beauty, Sara was indeed kidnapped a number of times and taken to the palace of the rulers of the various places they visited. The Torah tells us that a miracle would occur every time, and Sara was never violated by anyone.

Sara was barren most of her life, and she finally gave birth to Isaac at the age of 90. We are told that when word got out that a son was born to her and Abraham, nobody believed it. People accused Sara of adopting someone else’s child and claiming it as her own. As such, Abraham and Sara invited all the local women to a “birthday” party for Isaac in which she nursed all the babies who came along, thus proving that a miracle had indeed occurred and that she really did give birth to Isaac. Truth be told, not even Sara fully believed that she would give birth to a child in her old age. In fact, when told that she would have a child, she laughed, which is why the baby was named Isaac, which means “to laugh” in Hebrew.

Sara died at the age of 127. In an another Midrashic teaching, we are told that Sara died from the shock and grief of being intentionally misinformed by Satan that Abraham had sacrificed Isaac on an altar in Jerusalem. “Your old husband seized the boy and sacrificed him. The boy wailed and wept; but he could not escape from his father,” reported the Satan. Sara then began to cry bitterly, and ultimately she died of her grief. She was buried in the Machpela Cave in Hebron along with most of the other Patriarchs and Matriarchs of the Jewish people.

Sara’s incessant home hospitality to all who passed her tent is well known. Anyone who happened upon her door was treated like a king or queen, regardless of race or religion. Sara was also the first woman to light Shabbat candles every Friday before sunset, a mitzvah (commandment) that Jewish women continue to perform to this day. According to Jewish tradition, the Shabbat candles that Sara would light late Friday afternoon would miraculously burn until the next Friday, at which time they would be lit anew. As such, the pleasant sight of Sara’s Shabbat candles greeted the many guests who visited Abraham and Sara’s tent all week long. We are taught that due to her kindness and piety, there were a number of additional open miracles performed specifically for her, including the Divine presence emanating from her tent for all to see.