"Those were the days of Sara" ... This is how this parashah begins, an enigmatic beginning, which is contradicted by the name of the parashah, "The lives of Sarah". Two questions immediately arise: Why "Lives", plural, and Why does it begin with Sara's death.
As for "lives", perhaps we never stop to think about how many changes (external or internal) occur in us during the time that we live, and how many roles we fulfill during that time, in the family, in the community, in school, in society, and how many times do we feel, due to an event that impacts us, that we are no longer the same before and after such an event, as if our life, looking back, was made up of many chapters, many " lives ”that follow one another and intertwine with each other like links in a chain. Hence, the expression "lives" could poetically represent all those roads that we have traveled.
Perhaps "lives" has to do with the different facets that each of us have in our daily lives. And Sara had them. She was a devoted wife, a rebel who defied the Kadosh Baruch Hu with her laughter. A woman devoted to the point that she gave her maternal place to her servant to "complete" the bond with her husband, Abraham. A visceral and almost unfair woman, if we make a quick judgment at the time of removing Hagar from their lives, the same one who had given in that act of love, and Ishmael, her son.
Referring to a person like Sara, we enclose all these concepts with the name with which we refer to this week's parashah. As we said: Chayei-Sara.
How could we find a similar expression to similarly include all the lives and the different personalities and facets of the lives of the 11 people killed in Pittsburgh just 3 years ago? Impossible. Or tremendously difficult.
In this impossibility, and in the horror and perplexity of the fact, the memory of each of the loved ones of each of the victims multiplies the lives. The legacy and continuity of each of them in those who succeeded them in the chain of life and in the community chain makes it even more impossible to determine it with a couple of words.
And surely that was also the case in Sara's case.
The lives of Sarah multiplied in the memory of Abraham, Yitzchak, Jacob and in the inheritance of a people that thousands of years later continue to remember her as THE matriarch of the people of Israel. With all its successes and mistakes.
It is the answer to the second question. Sara, for the age she was when the story begins, was close to her death. What was important about "their past lives" was their legacy, their actions and the future generations in which those lives would continue. That's what the text is about. Hence "Chayei-Sara", which implies a very spiritual way of talking about the death of a person.
May the memory of each of the victims be a blessing.
And that each of us find meaning in life, of what we are going to leave to those who succeed us and remember us.