וַיָּבֹא אַבְרָהָם לִסְפֹּד לְשָׂרָה וְלִבְכֹּתָהּ
Avraham came to eulogize Sarah and to weep over her
Avraham finished the hardest test of his life and aced it. He was willing to sacrifice his son for Hashem’s sake. He came home after this emotionally draining experience to find that his beloved wife, Sarah, had passed away. The Torah tells us that Avraham eulogized and wept for her. Interestingly, the letter כֹּ in וְלִבְכֹּתָהּ is printed smaller than the surrounding letters.
There are two almost universally asked questions on this passuk. First, and more obviously, what’s the deal with the small כֹּ? Second, the normal string of events after one passes away is that friends and relatives cry and only afterwards are there eulogies. Why did Avraham first eulogize and only afterwards cry?
The Midrash tells us that after Akedat Yitzchak the Satan came to Sarah and asked “Is Sarah unaware of the goings-on in the world?” “No,” Sarah responded. “Your old husband took your son to be a sacrifice, and he’s crying about it.” Sarah cried a little and her soul left her. This story requires some more explanation though, for even the Satan is a messenger from Hashem. His job isn’t simply to try to get people to sin, it is to give people tests so they can grow from (passing) them. Being so, he couldn’t have been trying to “get revenge” on Avraham for passing the test of Akedat Yitzchak, for he never wanted him to fail in the first place, so why did he startle Sarah like that?
The mitzvot and sins one does don’t enter the same “account” for which a person will either get a reward or the opposite. There are two separate accounts which are each compensated separately. In general, when one does a mitzvah it doesn’t affect the consequences he will suffer for his sins, nor the opposite. There is one exception to this. When one truly regrets an action he had done, it becomes as if he had never done it. Just like Teshuvah erases sins, regret of a mitzvah can erase the mitzvah. When one is embarrassed because of a mitzvah he did or loses money through it, and regrets the mitzvah, he can lose the reward.
Even when Avraham passed the test of Akedat Yitzchak (and all the attempts of the Satan to stop him on the way there), the Satan still had one more test for him. Would Avraham regret the mitzvah and lose his reward for it if he found out his wife died through it? Avraham recognized this devious tactic and refused to be caught in the Satan’s net. Avraham didn’t want anyone to even consider that he regretted the Akedah. He therefore cried very little over his beloved wife’s death. The Torah hints to this with the small letter in the word “weep”. Additionally, because the eulogy was the main thrust of what was happening, the Torah puts that first.
We must be vary careful not to regret the mitzvot we do, for we can wipe them away with a simple foolish thought. On the other hand, this idea should also bring us great relief, for in one moment one can do real teshuvah for all the sins he had done. Just really regret doing them.