Chayei Sarah: Language and Translation

…and Abraham came to eulogize [lis’pod] Sarah and to bewail her [v’liv’kotah*]. (Stone**)

…mourn for Sarah and bewail her. (Plaut/JPS and TWC**)

…to mourn Sarah and to keen for her. (Alter**)

…set about to lament for Sara and to weep over her. (Fox*)
Breishit/Genesis 23:2 (*The kaf is written small)

Plaut explains that the two verbs describe both a sentiment and a set ritual. The Women’s Commentary** notes that this is one of only two uses of the root samech-pei-dalet, the other being Joseph’s mourning for Jacob, and “the only place where the text mentions details of mourning connection with a woman’s death.” Stone offers these comments:

To eulogize Sarah and to bewail her. The nuances of the phrase denote that Abraham eulogized his beloved wife by emphasizing the noble traits that had become associated with her name, for the name Sarah represented her as the princes of all mankind. (Kli Yakar [commentary by popular polish rabbi, c.1550-1619])

The word v’liv’kotah is written with a small [kaf] to suggest that the full extent of his weeping was kept private. His grief was infinite but the full measure of his pain was conceled in his heart and the privacy of his home. (Samson Raphael Hirsch [“great leader of German-Jewish Orthodoxy and battler against Reform,” 1808-1888]

**For complete citations and more details, please see Source Materials.

Click on the “WeeklyTorah” tag for more resources on the weekly portion throughout the year, or on a portion name for parashah-specific notes. (The series began with Numbers; posts for Genesis, Exodus and Leviticus are being drafted, week-by-week.) You can also zero-in on particular types of “Opening the Book” posts by clicking Language and Translation, Something to Notice, a Path to Follow, or Great Source in the tag cloud.

The “Opening the Book” series is presented in cooperation with the independent, cross-community Jewish Study Center and with Kol Isha, an open group pursuing spirituality from a woman’s perspective at Temple Micah (Reform). “A Song Every Day” is an independent blog, however, and all views, mistakes, etc. are the author’s.

Published by


Virginia hosts "Conversations Toward Repair" on We Act Radio, manages, blogs on general stuff a and more Jewish topics at and

One thought on “Chayei Sarah: Language and Translation”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s