Parshat Chayei Sarah 5777: Another Take on Sarah Imeinu’s Age Upon Passing

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua Chayei Sarah is being sponsored by Eliyahu and Shuli Gherman and family of Ramat Beit Shemesh in honor of the marriage of their daughter Shifra to Yosef Orlian. To the Gherman family, many thanks for your sponsorship and your continued kindnesses.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Parshat Chayei Sarah 5777: Another Take on Sarah Imeinu’s Age Upon Passing

by Moshe Burt

Once again, as in previous vorts on Parshat Sarah, this author discusses our Parsha’s opening posuk regarding Sarah Imeinu’s age upon her death:

“Sarah’s lifetime was one hundred years, twenty years, and seven years: the years of Sarah’s life.” (Sefer Breish’t, Perek 23, posuk 1)

However, this time a different perspective is expressed.

In previous vorts on Parshat Sarah, this author cited the Artscroll Stone Edition Chumash, Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, z”l in the “New Hirsch Chumash”, Rabbi Zelig Pliskin in his sefer “Growth through Torah” and Rabbi Mordechai Katz, in his sefer “L’il Mod U’lamed” regarding the uniqueness of the three periods of Sarah Imeinu’s life as noted below.

Rabbi Artscroll, in the large blue Stone Edition Chumash, page 107, cites Rashi’s explanation of this 1st posuk:

Rashi explains that the repetition of years divides Sarah’s life into three periods, each with its own uniqueness [and each period shared the particular characteristics of its neighbor]. At a hundred, she was as sinless as a twenty-year-old, for until the age of twenty, a person does not suffer Heavenly punishment. And at twenty, she still had the wholesome beauty of a seven year old, who does not use cosmetics and whose beauty is natural (Chizkuni).

Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, z”l, provides further commentary on Rashi’s division of Sarah Imeinu’s life into three periods in the “New Hirsch Chumash” (Sefer Breish’t, Perek 23, posuk1, page 500):

These three figures represent the entire course of human life: childhood, young adulthood and complete old age. A life of spiritual and moral perfection cannot be summed up better than by saying that the person was old in his old age, mature in his prime, and a child in his childhood…. He retains all of the spiritual and moral attainments of his past and takes them with him into the future.

Thus, Sarah took the beauty of childhood into young adulthood, and she retained the innocence of a woman of twenty all the days of her life.

All of these years together are called Chayei Sarah; she lived in all of them. All of the 127 years of her life were chayim, vital and joyful life, good and meaningful life, and there was not a moment of it she would have preferred not to have lived.

….Life is not measured by the span of time that is given us in this world: [Brachot 18a], they go to ongoing development that continues forever.

Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, in his sefer, “Growth Through Torah” (page 52) provides more insight into the character of Sarah Imeinu:

…The Torah ideal is to be aware that the purpose of… [one’s] life is to perfect… [one’s] character and every life situation is an opportunity for growth. Sarah mastered this level of consciousness. Therefore at the end of her life, which was constantly devoted to growth, it could be said about her that all her years were good.

Rabbi Mordechai Katz, in his sefer L’il Mod U’lamed (pages 34-35) writes of Sarah Imeinu:

…Sarah had lived a full and rewarding life. She had accomplished much during her stay on earth and her good deeds were innumerable. She had aided Avraham with his devotion to Chesed by opening her house to as many guests as possible and by taking care of all their needs. Because of her outstanding righteousness, Hashem bestowed upon her special personal qualities. In fact, we are told that in terms of prophesy she was even greater than her husband Avraham.

This author puzzled, in development of this year’s vort, regarding the parallel between the 127 years of Sarah Imeinu’s life and the 127 provinces ruled by Achashveirosh and his Queen Esther. A citing from Aharon Yaakov Greenberg’s “Torah Gems” (pages 178-179) provides a perspective on this parallel:

R’ Akiva…. said: “Why was Esther given rule over 127 provinces? (We are told in Esther that Achashveirosh was king over that many provinces.) It is fitting that Esther, who was a descendant of Sarah, who lived 127 years, should rule over 127 provinces.” (Breish’t Rabbah 58) The answer is that in R’ Akiva’s generation…. the masses had come
to despair, as they saw no end to their suffering and did not know why they had suffered this terrible fate. In fact, their belief in reward and punishment had become weak. R’ Akiva… wished to comfort… and encourage them, and to arouse them to observe the commandments. He therefore told them that reward and punishment do not necessarily follow immediately and sometimes many generations pass until either comes about. This is what he hinted at in comparing Sarah and Esther, namely that the reward for Sarah’s good deeds came in Esther’s generation, when Esther ruled over 127 provinces. (Yalkut Yehudah)

Perhaps the above parallel can serve as a paradigm for our generations, both here in Eretz Yisrael and throughout the rest of the Jewish world, for renewed belief in and understanding of reward and punishment.

Avraham Avinu was high profile and “bigger than life” doing kiruv and chessed — the Gadol HaDor of his generations, and Sarah was his support, behind the scenes — concealed, yet the inspiration and support behind his efforts. One could say that Sarah Imeinu was the wind beneath Avraham Avinu’s proverbial wings, as was the title to that classic song “Wind Beneath My Wings” by Bette Midler.

Thus it would seem that Sarah Imeinu’s attributes inspired the efforts and costs expended by Avraham Avinu to acquire the Ma’arot HaMachpela — later the burial place of Avraham Aveinu himself, as well as Yitzchak Avinu and Rivka Imeinu and Yaakov and Leah.

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of two years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.

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