Cave of the Patriarchs in Hevron (file
Cave of the Patriarchs in Hevron (file Gershon Elinson/Flash 90

Our Parasha - Parshat Chayei Sarah:The life of Sarah- derives its name from the opening passuk:(23:1)’Sarah’s lifetime was one hundred years, twenty years, and seven years; the years of Sarah’s life.’

Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch notes:’This is the only instance in the whole of Tanach, that the number of years of the life of a woman, is written’- surely a tribute to the singular righteousness of the first of the matriachs of our nation, Sarah Imenu.

Rashi comments on this opening passuk:’The reason that the word ‘years’ was written, after every digit, is to tell you that each digit is to be expounded upon individually: when she was one hundred years old, she was like a twenty year old regarding sin. Just as a twenty year old has not sinned because she is not liable to punishment, so too when she was one hundred years old, she was without sin. And when she was twenty, she was like a seven year old with regard to beauty’.

And, as to the seemingly superfluous concluding words of the passuk:’The years of the life of Sarah’, Rashi comments, this comes to teach that:’All of them’- of the years enumerated, were ‘equally good’.

Rav Yosef Salant brings a saying of our Sages, to teach us of the righteousness of Sarah Imenu:”Rabbi Yitzchak said: Iscah is Sarah. And why was she called Iscah? For she saw (sachta) by ruach hakodesh, as it is said:’In all that Sarah has said to you, hearken to her voice’. Alternatively, Iscah; for all gazed upon her beauty’.

Asks the Rav:”The two meanings given for her name, seem to be very far apart: one praises her lofty spiritual level, whilst the other praises her external appearance, a gift from Above!

“No!”, answers the Rav:”both of the meanings together testify as to her righteousness: even though our Sages elsewhere teach that Sarah was one of the four most beautiful women who lived, in her humility, she was unaffected by this. She was so removed from the physical world and its thoughts, that she merited to have ruach hakodesh.

“Thus, we needed both of the meanings alluded to in the name, Iscah, to glimpse into her righteousness and lofty spirit.”

Rav David Hofstedter, on the second Rashi, asks:’How can it be said that all of the years of Sarah Imenu were ‘good’? She saw many difficulties and trials in her life: having to leave her home and country with Avraham, to fulfill the commandment of Lech Lecha; then, because of the famine, she had to descend to Egypy and there to withstand being taken to the house of Pharoah; and then the ordeal with Avimelech; and, beyond these great ordeals, she suffered being barren till the age of ninety, a fate which our Sages liken to ‘not living’.

“Not only during her life, but even her death was accompanied by a trial, as our Sages relate that her soul departed, when she heard from Satan, of the ordeal of the akeida.

“How, then, can it be said that ‘all her 127 years were equally good’?”

Answers the Rav:”If we regard the matter in a ‘true’ manner, we will understand that there is no question: there is no contradiction between the difficulties and trials of Sarah Imenu, AND ‘all her years being equally good’.

“The true ‘good’ is to undergo, and succeed in the trials of life, as only in this way do we ascend in our service of Hashem, and advance towards fulfillment of our objective in this world.

“This is why Sarah Imenu merited to the Torah writing the number of years of her life, to teach that throughout her life she successfully stood the trials that confronted her; and, that it was this that led to the wondrous spiritua heights that she attained.

“This is the deeper meaning of Rashi’s comment, that all her years were ‘equally good’.”

Rav Yaakov Tzvi Mecklenburg, in his masterpiece, ‘Haktav veHakabalah’, derives a beautiful life lesson for us, from the seemingly superfluous concluding words of our passuk - as the years of Sarah Imenu are already given in the earlier part of this passuk - ‘The years of Sarah’s life’:

”Man, because of his inherent lofty ststus, is required in the scales of his mind, to always ensure that his physical activities take account of his spiritual side. Only by doing so, does he fulfill the divine objective for which he was created with both physical and spiritual sides.

“If his only concern is to satisfy his physical desires, he resembles the lesser creatures, whose lives only have a physical dimension.

“He is obligated to serve his Creator at all times, even when engaged in the needs of his body- eating so that he has the strength to serve Hashem, and sleeping so as to give rest to his body, so that tiredness does not prevent him properly serving Hashem.

“The true happiness of man is when he lives a ‘double’ life: a physical life together with a spiritual life; when he engages in his physical activities with a spiritual intent, as in this way, he lives a life of this world, together with a life of the world-to-come.

“This is the testimony of the Torah as to Sarah Imenu: that all her days in this world, she lived this ‘double life’.

“This is the meaning of the closing words: שני חיי שרה: - NOT ‘the years of her life’, BUT the TWO lives of Sarah- not only the physical life, but together with it, a spiritual life.”

A parting thought, from Rav Shimon Schwab:”One whose days on this earth number seventy years, but who wastes much of those years in worthless pursuits, in addition to not having utilized the gift of time to serve Hashem, may have really only ‘lived’ for twenty or thirty years- the actual time which he utilized for good deeds, and truly ‘living’.

“The Torah here teaches that all the one hundred and twenty seven years that Sarah Imenu was granted, were all שני חיי שרה: ‘years that Sarah lived’.”

לרפואת נועם עליזה בת זהבה רבקה ונחום אלימלך רפאל בן זהבה רבקה, בתוך שאר חולי עמנו.