When Avraham goes to Kiryat Arba from Be'er Sheva (as per Rashi, Bereishit 23:2) or just goes from no where else (Rashbam) to eulogize and mourn Sarah's passing, the text names Sarah (twice, once superfluously according to some interpretations), but as soon as Avraham works towards securing a burial site, the text stops naming her and refers to her only as "meito" (his dead) and other forms (eg. meitecha, meiti). Only after the sale is complete (in verse 19) does the text revert to naming Sarah.

Why would the text not name her as the reason he is buying the grave site? Was Avraham trying to hide her identity from Ephron? Is this to teach that we don't name the dead when making arrangements? [I get the sense that the Ibn Ezra is saying something, but I don't know what.]


Rav Hirsvch seems to deal with this in Chayei Sarah 23:4 dealing with the meaning of the word אחוזה Avraham is requesting a permanent burial site for "his dead". Thus he does not reference "Sarah my wife" but "my dead" in order to get the land as a cemetery.

So that the underlying idea of אחוזה is being settled, the act of permanent settling. Avraham does not ask for permission just to bury his wife. He wants his wife to rest in her permanent everlasting posession of her resting place., that is why he first asks for the right to acquire a piece of land as freehold property for the purpose of a sephulcre.

Since Sarah is "his dead" he refers to her in the singular because she is lying in front of him ready to be buried. He is referring to her as the status of the dead person who is there ready to be buried who must be treated (as all dead people must) with respect and immediately.

Additionally, he is speaking to the official legislative council of the Bnei Ches. As such, he must refer to the situation in techanical and legalistic terminology.

Rav Hirsch also points out in 23:3

He only left his dead in order to make arrangements for it; hence our sages lay down the law that as long as the dead be unburied; the relative is to think of nothing else than attending to the business of seeing that the dead receives its due.

Thus he is not able to think of her as Sarah his beloved wife, but as "his dead" who requires action on her behalf.

  • is this saying that he is speaking about "all" of his dead, not just Sarah? If so, shouldn't the grammar reflect a plural? – rosends Nov 8 '15 at 23:28
  • @Danno I added the explanation of the singular as well. – sabbahillel Nov 8 '15 at 23:32

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