How many stories are in this week’s parsha? Well, I counted it once, and there would seem to be four stories.
It’s two stories followed by two epilogues, which is actually only one epilogue.
Well, that epilogue is only really an addendum to that second story.
The two stories are the contract to buy the burial ground for Sarah; and the marriage contract between Yitzchak and Rivka.
The two epilogues are the epilogue of Avraham’s life and the epilogue of Yishmael’s life. The epilogue of Yishmael’s life is only relevant to the Torah’s story in that it is the conclusion of that part of Avraham’s path, leaving us free to continue down the other path.
And that epilogue to Avraham’s life is only there to tell us that even though Avraham continued to have a robust life after Yitzchak’s marriage to Rivka, it is that marriage to Rivka that ensures Avraham’s legacy. Avraham’s remaining years, as active and fulfilling as they may have been, are not part of the Legacy. He gives the other children gifts and they find their destinies in the Eastern lands.
So really, there are only two stories in the parsha: The purchase of Sarah’s burial ground and Yitzchak’s marriage.
Well, Sarah’s death puts two acts into motion:
The purchase of her burial location is the first everlasting contract that binds her son and descendants to Chevron, David Hamelech’s first capital.
And the need to have Yitzchak start his own family that will emulate Sarah’s example becomes pronounced and overt upon her passing. The conclusion of her life becomes the catalyst for acts that will perpetuate her legacy forever. As the Zohar says, a Tzaddik who dies is still alive. Sarah’s death makes her more alive and relevant to people’s actions than before.
So this parsha has one story: Sarah’s death, which starts her afterlife effects here in this world.
Thus, the parsha has only one story. Chayei Sarah. “The Lives of Sarah.”