Chayei Sarah: Our Wives

Sarah set the example.

Rabbi S. Weiss,

Judaism Rabbi S Weiss.JPG
Rabbi S Weiss.JPG
Arutz 7

What are the essential qualities which a person should strive for in his or her life? The answer, I suggest, comes from Sarah. She is the first heroine of the Torah (even if one accepts that Adam and Noach were genuine heroes, their wives are certainly given no notoriety). Sarah set the example of what a human being can accomplish if we set our goals high.

Our sedra's first pasuk spells it out: "Sarah's life was composed of 100 years, 20 years and 7 years; the years of the life of Sarah."

This pasuk is problematic on several levels: Why didn't the Torah simply say, "Sarah lived to 127?" And why the repetition of the phrase, "the years of the life of Sarah"? Many of the commentators discuss this issue; I would like to draw from the insights of Rabbi Soloveichik.

There are three stages of a person's life: As a child - say, a seven-year-old - we already have intelligence and an active, keen mind. Yet, we also have a sense of innocence and clarity. We have not yet been tainted by the cynicism and doubt that comes with age and invariably clouds our view of the world.

Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach once observed: "The Torah is filled with stories. You can tell a story to a child over and over again. Even (maybe especially!) if he's heard it, he still wants to hear it again! But an adult will say, 'Oh,
She never lost her innocence; her energy never waned; and she was wise beyond her years.
please, spare me, I've heard that story more so many times!"

And this is why, in the story of Hagar and Yishmael, though both pray for deliverance, G-d "hears the prayer of the child." It is the innocent child within us that can offer the most penetrating and pure prayer.

The second stage of life - say, when we're 20 - is filled with strength, energy and vitality. We feel that we can do anything; there are no limits, no boundaries. All the possibilities are open to us and nothing can stop us.

The last phase of life comes when we are much older - let's pick a nice, round number, like 100 - when we have acquired the wisdom that comes from vast, extensive experience. (Indeed, the word zaken ['old'] is a composite of zeh kana chochma ['this one has acquired wisdom'] through the experience of his many years).

Sarah's greatness stemmed from her ability to maintain the qualities of all these stages of life at every point in her existence. She never lost her innocence; her energy never waned; and she was wise beyond her years even when young. Now we can better understand the pasuk, "Sarah was 100 years, and she was 20 years, and she was 7 years," she held fast to all the stages of life for her entire life.

Where can we find such inspirational figures in today's world? Guess what - you don't have to look far. Wisdom, Innocence, Vitality and Energy - the ingredients which together comprise what we call Spirituality - are found in their initials: WIVES.

That is the legacy which the original Sarah passed on to my Sarah, and to all the amazing Sarah's of our people.