By Rabbi David Cohen:
And Avraham came to eulogize Sarah and to bewail her. (23:2)
The sequence of events in the parashah seems out of order. One would think that the first reaction to hearing the news of someone’s sudden passing would be weeping. Only later, after the emotion of the day has settled, does the mourner begin with eulogy, which appears to be an intellectual appreciation of the deceased. Avraham Avinu did the opposite, first eulogizing Sarah Imeinu, and only afterwards did he cry.
Horav Zalman Sorotzkin, zl, explains this practically. People respond to death with immediate weeping, because it is the natural reaction to the loss of a loved one – regardless of the individual’s stature, pedigree, achievement, etc. Later, after the grieving is subdued, one begins to formulate an appreciation of the deceased, his or her distinct individuality. Personal loss precedes public loss; thus, weeping precedes eulogy.
In Sarah’s case, as well as in the case of a world leader, one whose impact on the klal, community, is profound, the sequence is different. Avraham Avinu was acutely aware that Sarah’s passing was not just a personal loss. It was a world tragedy. She impacted humanity. Avraham’s tears for his personal loss had to be choked back in order to allow for the communal expression over their collective loss.
Unfortunately, with the recent passing of two great leaders, Harav Dovid Feinstein and Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, we feel this collective loss. Both contributed greatly to Klal Yisrael in their own unique way. Klal Yisrael is left with a double void that will be difficult to surmount.
May we only share in Simachot.