Metaphors in the Torah: Chayei Sarah Part 1 (Genesis: 23:1 – 25:18)



Illustration: Burial of Sarah

By: Gustav Do're
Interestingly, this week’s Torah portion begins by discussing the death of Sarah with the word for life. In previous articles we have talked about Eve’s name and we touched upon the concept of life noting that in the 
Torah the word for: “life” is used as a metaphor for: “understanding”.


In addition, we pointed out that in modern times the lack of brain activity is used as the legal definition of death. Thus the phrase: “Eve is the mother of all the living” means that “Eve, as a spiritual medium, was the source of all understanding” and we pointed out that Eve thanked God for the birth of her children, which suggested her “children” were metaphors for: “messages from God”.


Accordingly, we also discussed that “the battle” between Leah and Rachel was not really about who could produce more sons, but was in fact a competition to determine which of the two sisters was the more powerful medium. One point we did not touch upon, however, was the similarities between the punishments of Adam and Eve.


We have shown again and again that: “different types of foods” are metaphors for: “different types of knowledge”. So, for example, we discussed that in Hebrew the word for: “a bee” shares the same root as the term used for: “a word” and thus: “honey” could be considered a symbol for: “the teachings of God” (i.e the Torah consists of words).

If one accepts this interpretation, then the punishment of Adam does not really deal with the production of food, but rather is a metaphor suggesting that all his efforts to produce knowledge from the school of the earth will result in frustration.


We have also repeatedly discussed the relationship between fruit, children and the word of God as represented in the Holy Day of Shavuot.


We shall later see that: “the embryo in Rachel’s womb” is described as: “fruit” (this same image can also be found in the New Testament).


Eve will have pain “bearing children”, which then becomes a metaphor for: “producing knowledge” represented by: “the fruit of Adam’s loins”. Thus Adam suffers frustration from producing fruit and Eve suffers pain from producing fruit. The link between the two curses is the well known term: “mother earth”, which, even in modern times, is associated with: “producing knowledge”.


Another point we did not discuss fully was that the Hebrew word for: “animals” shares the same root as the word for: “living”, thus they could be described as: “the living ones” which would imply that: “each animal” in the Torah is a metaphor for: “one with understanding of a specific specialty”. Hence, “the Garden of Eden with its fruit trees” was really: “a school” or: “an archive”. “Adam”, whose name means: “ground”, was: “the head of the school” and: “the animals” were: “the scholars” assigned to help him. Accordingly, when we are told that Adam: “named the animals”, this can be compared to officers of a corporation or of a government being: “named to office”.


Expanding on this idea, “Noah’s ark” then can be seen as: “a religious seminary” or: “monastery” and it was the function of Noah to preserve the accumulated knowledge of mankind by allowing the animal/scholars enter into his school during the time of crisis.


We have discussed in other articles that: “water” is a metaphor for: “explanations about God”; hence the ark of Noah was a school whose teachings were based on these explanations, but which was at a higher level.


Therefore, in this week’s Torah portion what is being described is the end of the influence of the teachings of Sarah and the acceptance, or merger of ideas, of the Hittites with the teachings or beliefs of Abraham.


Accordingly, “Sarah’s death” is associated with the number: “one hundred and twenty seven” which can be interpreted two ways.


We saw that Abraham is one hundred years old at the birth of: “Isaac”, whose name means: “laughter”. We discussed briefly that the name: “Asher” means: “happiness” and that, as the second son of the first wife, “Asher” should be associated with: “the number ten’. Since we have also shown that: “a son” should be associated with: “a message of God”, what we seen then is that Abraham was joyous (i.e. religious ecstasy) to have received: “a revelation from God” via Sarah and thus is symbolized by: “the number one hundred”.


Nevertheless, Sarah had a troublesome relationship with Hager and, because of Sarah’s beauty, Abram had problems with both the Pharaoh of Egypt and King Amimelech of Gezer (in a different article, we discussed how: “beauty” is a metaphor for: “one’s skill as a medium”).


When God punished the Children of Israel and forced them to wander in the desert for forty years he declared that those under the age of twenty would not be punished because they did not know the difference between good and bad.


This statement is significant for two reasons:

 a) it suggests that there is no such thing as “original sin” since God himself has declared these younger Israelites to be similar to Adam and Eve before they ate the forbidden fruit.

b) It suggests a connection between: “the number twenty” and: “sin”.


Since: “the number two” can be associated with: “dichotomy” and: “the number ten” can be associated with both: “the Ten Commandments” and: “the ten plagues” (actually called “hits” in Hebrew); this then implies that: “the number twenty” should be associated with: “the knowledge of: “good” (the commandments) and: “evil” (the hits/plagues).

The second interpretation of: “the number one hundred and twenty seven” can be based upon: “ten times twelve” and, in my opinion, “the number twelve” should be associated with Jacob’s son: “Naphtali”, who was the second son of the second wife. In short, “Naphtali” received his name as a result of: “the jealous struggle between Leah and Rachel”. 

Throughout ancient times: “the number twelve” is associated with: “quarrels and disagreements”. Thus Jacob’s twelve sons argued, the twelve disciples of Jesus argued and the twelve gods on Mount Olympus argued.

Therefore, using either interpretation: “the number one hundred and twenty” represents: “a combination of good with bad”. It is good to be a messenger of God, but this invites jealousy and conflict from others.

Hence, when God “limits the life of men to one hundred and twenty years”, he apparently is saying: “there is a limit to how much quarrelling and jealousy” he will accept from mankind.

The final number in Sarah’s life is: “seven” and we have shown that this number should be associated with: “communications from God” since “King Solomon spoke”, as God’s chosen king, from: “the seventh step of his throne” and: “Joseph”, who as the first son of the second wife, represented: “Jacob’s seventh son” and he interpreted God’s messages.

Thus, putting the three numbers together, we see that the life of Sarah should be interpreted as her being a medium of God whose messages led to jealous struggles  (the number: 120), but who also brought a joyous message to Abraham about God’s laws (the number: 7).

Nevertheless, because she was an extraordinary medium, which we pointed out in other articles was the reason why she was described as “very beautiful”(i.e. Sarah was described as “very beautiful”, because there is a connection between “sex” and “knowledge from God”, thus Sarah’s “beauty” represented “her skill as a medium” since the Hebrew word for: "sex" also means: "to know").

Here it should also be recalled that in the writings of Plato he spoke at great length about: “the concept of beauty”.

Accordingly, what I believe we are seeing in this week’s Torah portion is a ceremony to: “bury the hatchet” so to speak. With the passing of Sarah, Abraham is now able to come to some sort of compromise with the Hittites.



Thus, Abraham “buys their field” and we have already discussed that: “the earth” and: “fields” are metaphors for: “schools”. We are also told that the field has: “trees” which we noted in other articles was: “a source of knowledge” and the field has: “a cave”, which we know from stories like Elijah and Mohammed, should be considered a symbol for: “a religious shrine” or: “sanctuary”.  (i.e. a cave represents “the mouth” of the mountain of knowledge).


So, in the case of Mohammed, the answer to his famous riddle is:


 “The mountain came to Mohammed since Mohammed had a revelation while he was in a cave” and the "mountain" itself represents: "a high level of knowledge".


Moses, on the other hand, “went” to Mount Sinai and ascended.


Since the name: “Sinai” means: “scholarship”, this suggests that Moses first had to attain a high level of understanding thru his own efforts, before God provided him with additional knowledge.


So, once again, I am not saying that studying in the yeshivas is a waste of time or is irrelevant. We must work for six days a week and rest on the Sabbath.


Accordingly, as the story of Moses suggests: we study in the yeshiva for six days, but on the seventh day we rest and God will provide the final pieces to the puzzle. The problem with Modern Day Judaism, however, is that on the Sabbath Jews do not stop studying…and they go to the synagogue to listen to the rabbis explain the Torah and the Talmud…


If all these explanations are correct, then what we are seeing in this week’s Torah portion is that Abraham is merging his ideas with the Hittites; which we shall discuss in more detail in part 2….