Chayei Sarah: How can anyone have two lives on earth?
Parshat Chayei Sara commences as follows (Bereishit 23:1):
“Vayihyu chayei Sara,” – “And the life of Sarah was,”
“Meah shana v’esrim shana, vesheva shanim,” – “a hundred years and twenty years and seven years,” (i.e. a total of a hundred and twenty seven years)
“Shnei chayei Sara,” – “the years of the life of Sarah.”
The last three words seem to be totally redundant. Are they not included in everything that precedes them?
In a wonderful sefer, Doreish Lifrakim by Rav Mordechai Rubenstein, which is a commentary on Pirkei Avot, the introduction explains that the word ‘shnei’ can mean two things: it can mean ‘the years of’ and it can also mean ‘two’. Therefore, “shnei chayei Sarah” does not only mean, “the years of the life of Sarah.” It could mean, “Sarah had two lives!”
Therefore these words are not redundant.
Rav Rubenstein explains that for the vast majority of people on earth, we’re actually only active and properly alive for two thirds of our lives. That’s because we’re asleep for the other third.
With regard to Sarah, however, when she went to sleep it wasn’t because she loved to take it easy and was looking forward to having that schluff. Rather, every moment of rest was an investment in the next day when she would be able to be active and alert, to perform as much chessed as possible, because Sara spent her life performing kindnesses for others.
In this way, Sarah lived two separate lives – the time when she was awake and also the time when she was asleep, because that was not wasted time; it was time when she energised herself and prepared herself to do great things. All of Sarah’s 127 years were used for good causes; were used constructively. Even when she was asleep, she was using every precious moment for a good purpose.
From her we can learn how critically important it is to utilise every precious moment we have, and even when we rest, let’s use that as an investment in all the future productive activities that we will achieve.