Parashat Chayei Sarah begins with the death of Sarah and ends with the death of Abraham. In the space between, Abraham buys a burial plot for his wife (the one in which he, his sons, and his grandsons will also be buried) and arranges for the marriage of Isaac. Isaac marries Rebecca, brings her into his mother’s tent, and is finally comforted after his great loss.
Sarah’s death reminds Abraham that he’s no spring chicken, and that he needs to begin to make plans for after he too is gone. He buys property, ensuring a legacy for his descendants, and works to find Isaac the perfect bride. Isaac finds love with Rebecca, and welcomes her into the home his mother had made. Even after Sarah is no longer physically present, the structure she leaves behind becomes the space in which her son is able to build new connections and a new family.
As young adults, we are likely to have many years before we are faced with our own mortality, and the question of what it is we want our ultimate legacy to be. However, what we leave behind us as we move through the world is worth consideration even now. Did we leave our high school communities better or worse than we found them? As we transition into and then out of leadership positions in clubs and on campus, are we working to craft structures and communal cultures that we can be proud of and that will live on after us?
Rabbi Megan Doherty is the director of Hillel and Jewish campus life at Oberlin College.