Chayei Sarah

The Life of Sarah
Genesis 23:1−25:18
Translation from The Torah: A Modern Commentary (CCAR Press)

Genesis Chayei Sarah English translation

23:1] Sarah lived to be 127 years old—such was the span of Sarah’s life. 2] Sarah died in Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham proceeded to mourn for Sarah and to bewail her.

3] Then Abraham rose up from upon his dead [wife], and spoke to the Hittites, saying, 4] “I am a foreigner living for a time among you; sell me a gravesite among you, that I may bury my dead here.” 5] The Hittites answered Abraham, saying, 6] “Hear us, my lord; you are a mighty prince in our midst; bury your dead in any of our choicest graves. Not one of us will keep you from burying your dead by withholding a gravesite from you.”

7] Abraham then got up and bowed low to the people of the land, the Hittites, 8] pressing them: “If you [really] are willing to let me bury my dead here, listen to me and entreat Ephron son of Zoar for me, 9] and let him sell me the cave of Machpelah. He owns it—it is at the edge of his land. Let him sell it to me as an inalienable gravesite in your midst at the market price.” 10] Ephron [himself] was sitting among the Hittites, and, in the hearing of all the Hittites and all the town leaders, Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham, saying, 11] “No, my lord; listen to me. I am giving you the field, and the cave that is in it I give to you; in the sight of my people I give it to you; go ahead—bury your dead.”

12] But Abraham bowed low before the landowning citizens, 13] and in their hearing he addressed Ephron the Hittite: “Oh, if only you would listen to me! I will pay the field’s price; take it from me, and let me bury my dead there.” 14] Ephron then made this reply to Abraham: 15] “My lord, hear me: land worth 400 shekels of silver—what is that between you and me? Go bury your dead!”

16] Abraham listened to Ephron, and Abraham weighed out for Ephron the [amount of] silver he had named in the hearing of the Hittites—400 shekels of silver, [using weights] standard among traders. 17–18] So Ephron’s land in Machpelah, looking out on Mamre—the field, its cave, and all the trees in the field within its boundaries—passed to Abraham by purchase, in the sight of the Hittites and of all the town leaders.

19] Afterward, Abraham buried his wife Sarah in the cave of the field of Machpelah—facing Mamre (that is, Hebron)—in the land of Canaan. 20] Thus was confirmed Abraham’s acquisition from the Hittites of the field and its cave as a fully owned gravesite.

24:1] Abraham was old, well advanced in years, and the Eternal had blessed Abraham in every way. 2] Abraham now said to his slave, the elder of his household, who had oversight of all that was his, “Put your hand under my thigh, 3] so that I may have you swear by the Eternal, God of heaven and God of earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from among the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose midst I dwell. 4] Rather, you shall go to my land, my birthplace, and get a wife for my son Isaac.” 5] The slave replied, “Suppose the woman does not care to follow me to this land—should I then bring your son back to the land you came from?”

6] Abraham then answered him, “Take great care not to bring my son back there! 7] The Eternal God of heaven—who took me from my father’s house, from the land of my birth, who spoke to me and promised me, saying, ‘To your descendants will I give this land’—will send a [divine] emissary before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there. 8] But if the woman does not care to follow you, you are released from this oath of mine—only do not bring my son back there!” 9] The slave placed his hand under his master Abraham’s thigh and swore to him concerning this matter.

10] The slave then took ten of his master’s camels and, laden with an abundant store of his master’s goods, got up and went to Aram-naharaim, to the city of Nahor. 11] He made the camels kneel down outside the city at the water-well, at eventide, at the time when the girls who draw water go forth, 12] and he prayed: “Eternal One, God of my master Abraham, please bring me luck today, and do a kindness for my master Abraham. 13] Here I am standing at the water-fount, and the daughters of the townspeople are going forth to draw water; 14] the girl to whom I say, ‘Tip your pitcher and let me drink,’ and who replies, ‘Drink; and let me water your camels, too’—let her be the one You have designated for Your servant Isaac; that is how I shall know that You have done a kindness for my master.”

15] Before he was done praying, Rebekah, who had been born to Bethuel, son of Milcah, wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor, was going forth with her pitcher on her shoulder. 16] She was an exceedingly beautiful girl, of marriageable age, whom no man had yet known. She went down to the spring, filled her pitcher, and went up.

17] The slave ran toward her and said, “Let me sip a little water from your pitcher.” 18] And she replied, “Drink, sir!” Quickly she lowered her pitcher on her hand and let him drink. 19] The drinking done, she said, “I will draw some for your camels, too, till they are done drinking.” 20] Quickly she emptied her pitcher in the trough and she again ran to the well to draw water, drawing water for all his camels.

21] The man stood staring at her, silent, in order to learn whether or not the Eternal had cleared the way for him. 22] When the camels were done drinking, the man took a gold nose-ring, a half-shekel in weight, and two bracelets for her wrists, ten gold shekels in weight, 23] and said, “Please tell me: whose daughter are you? Is there a place in your father’s house for us to lodge?” 24] She said to him, “I am Bethuel’s daughter; [he is] the son of Milcah, whom she bore to Nahor.” 25] And she added, “We have straw and fodder in abundance, as well as room for lodging.”

26] The man kneeled and bowed down to the Eternal, 27] saying, “Blessed is the Eternal, God of my master Abraham, whose faithful kindness has not deserted my master; as for me, the Eternal led me straightaway to my master’s brother’s house!” 28] The girl then ran and related these things to her mother’s household.

29] Now Rebekah had a brother named Laban, and Laban ran outside to the man at the spring. 30] When Laban saw the nose-ring and the bracelets on his sister’s wrists, and heard his sister Rebekah say, “This is what the man told me,” he went to the man, who was still standing by his camels at the spring. 31] “Come in, O blessed of the Eternal!” said he. “Why stand outside when I have cleared the house, and [also made] space for the camels?” 32] So he ushered the man into the house, unsaddled the camels and gave them straw and fodder and brought water in to wash his feet and those of the men with him.

33] But when food was put in front of him, the man said, “I will not eat until I have had my say.” He [Laban] said, “Speak!” 34] “I am the slave of Abraham,” said he, 35] “and the Eternal has blessed my master exceedingly and made him rich, giving him sheep and cattle, silver and gold, male and female slaves, camels and donkeys. 36] Sarah, my master’s wife, bore him a son in her old age, and my master has given him everything he owns. 37] My master adjured me, saying, ‘You must not choose a wife for my son from among the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I now live. 38] Go, rather, to my father’s people, to my relations, and take a wife for my son.’ 39] I said to my master, ‘What if the woman will not follow me?’ 40] He answered, ‘The Eternal, before whom I have walked, will send an angel with you who will clear the way for you. You will take a wife for my son from my clan, from my father’s family. 41] You will be free from your obligation only if you go to my relations and they refuse you. In that case, you will be free from your obligation.’

42] “When I came to the well today, I prayed, ‘Eternal One, God of my master Abraham, if You truly intend to clear the way on which I am going, 43] here I am at the water-fount. When a young woman comes out to get water, I will say to her, “Please give me a drink of water from your pitcher.” 44] If she answers, “Go ahead and drink, and I will draw water for your camels, too”—let her be the one You have designated as the wife for my master’s son.’ 45] Before I had finished rehearsing my thought, Rebekah came with a water pitcher on her shoulder and went down to the well to get water. I said to her: ‘Please give me a drink.’ 46] She quickly lowered her pitcher and said, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels, too.’ So I drank, and she gave water to the camels, too. 47] I asked her, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ And she answered, ‘I am the daughter of Bethuel son of Nahor and Milcah.’ Then I put the ring on her nose and the bracelets on her wrists. 48] I knelt down in worship of the Eternal, and I praised the Eternal God of my master Abraham, who had led me on the right path to get the daughter of my master’s brother for his son. 49] And now, if you mean to treat my master with faithful kindness, tell me; if not, tell me, and I will turn in another direction.”

50] Laban and Bethuel responded by saying, “This matter has emanated from the Eternal; we cannot answer you one way or another. 51] Look—Rebekah is before you; take [her] and go, and let her be your master’s son’s wife as the Eternal has decreed!”

52] When Abraham’s slave heard their words he bowed low to the Eternal, 53] and brought out silver and gold objects, and articles of clothing, and gave them to Rebekah; and to her brother and mother he gave precious gifts. 54] So he and the men with him ate and drank and stayed overnight.

When they got up in the morning he said, “Send me off to my master.” 55] Her brother and mother said, “Let the girl stay with us another few days—ten, perhaps—afterward she may go.” 56] But he said to them, “Do not delay me, now that the Eternal has cleared the way for me; send me off and let me go to my master.” 57] They answered, “Let us call the girl and see what she has to say.” 58] So they called Rebekah and asked her, “Will you go with this man?” And she said, “I will go.”

59] They then sent their sister Rebekah off with her nurse, with Abraham’s slave, and with his men, 60] bestowing this blessing upon Rebekah: “Sister, may you become thousands of myriads; may your descendants take possession of the gates of their foes!” 61] Rebekah and her servant girls got up and mounted the camels and followed the man, as the slave took Rebekah and went off.

62] Now Isaac was coming from the approach to Be’er-lachai-ro’i, for he was living in the area of the Negev. 63] Going out toward evening to stroll in the field, Isaac looked up and saw—camels coming! 64] And Rebekah looked up: seeing Isaac, she got off the camel 65] and said to the slave: “Who is this man striding in the field coming to meet us?” “He is my master,” said the slave. Taking a veil, she covered herself. 66] The slave then told Isaac all that he had done. 67] And Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah; he took Rebekah, and she became his wife and he loved her. Thus did Isaac take comfort after [the death of] his mother.

25:1] Abraham went on and took a wife named Keturah. 2] She bore to him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah. 3] Jokshan begot Sheba and Dedan, and Dedan’s sons were Ashurim, Letushim, and Leummim. 4] Midian’s sons were Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abida, and Eldaah. All these were Keturah’s sons. 5] Abraham gave all that he owned to Isaac, 6] but to the sons of Abraham’s concubines, Abraham gave gifts; while he was still alive, he sent them away from Isaac, eastward to the land of Kedem.

7] These are the days of the years of Abraham’s life: he lived 175 years. 8] Abraham breathed his last and died in good old age, full of age, and was gathered to his people. 9] His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, facing Mamre, in the field of Ephron son of Zoar the Hittite, 10] the field that Abraham had bought from the Hittites; there Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried. 11] After the death of Abraham, God blessed his son Isaac, and Isaac lived near Be’er-lachai-ro’i.

12] This is the line of Ishmael son of Abraham, borne by Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s slave, to Abraham: 13] Here are the names of Ishmael’s sons in their birth order: Ishmael’s first-born Nebaioth, Kedar, Adbeel, and Mibsam; 14] Mishma, Duma, and Massa; 15] Hadad and Tema; Jetur, Naphish, and Kedmah. 16] These then are Ishmael’s sons, and these are their names, by their villages and encampments—twelve princes by their tribes. 17] and these are the years of Ishmael’s life: 137; he then expired and died and was gathered to his people. 18] They occupied the area from Havilah to Shur, which is near Egypt on the way to Ashur. He settled in the presence of all his kin.

Translation from The Torah: A Modern Commentary, copyright (c) 2016 by CCAR Press. All rights reserved. Translation of Exodus; Leviticus; Numbers; Deuteronomy from NJPS © 1962, 1985, 1999; CJPS © 2006. Used and adapted by CCAR Press with permission from The Jewish Publication Society and the University of Nebraska Press. No part of this translation may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, distributed, or be transmitted without express written permission from the Central Conference of American Rabbis. For permission, please contact CCAR Press.