127 Varieties – Parashat Chayei Sarah

“….And the life of Sarah was one hundred years and twenty years and seven years, the years of the life of Sarah….” – (Bereishit 23:1)

״….ויהיו חיי שרה מאה שנה ועשרים שנה ושבע שנים שני חיי שרה…״ – בראשית כג, א

Why would Esther rule over 127 provinces? As Esther was the granddaughter of Sarah who lived 127 years, let her come and rule over 127 provinces. —Beraishis Rabbah 58:3

Parashat Chayei Sarah
In the story of Purim, the miraculous salvation of the Jewish people came about through Esther’s position as queen over 127 provinces, which the Midrash links to the 127 years of Sarah’s life. The correlation drawn by the Midrash is certainly not only a numerical parallel. Rather, the matching numbers serve to indicate that there is a common theme shared by these two periods.

What lies beneath this comparison is expressed in Rashi’s comment on the words “the years of the life of Sarah“. After stating that Sarah lived for 127 years, why was it necessary to recap that “these were the years of the life of Sarah”? Rashi therefore explains that this phrase comes to summarize all 127 years, saying, “They were all equally good”. No person’s life is unmarked by change. We change with age and with stage, with location and occupation.  Yet, remarkably, the Torah attests to Sarah having experienced all 127 years of her life as equally good.

When we oddly encounter the same number of 127 in the Book of Esther, the Midrash understands that this serves to draw our attention to the 127 years of Sarah’s life to explain why the Jews merited that great miracle of Purim. The Jewish people in the Persian era lived scattered in 127 different lands. Each place was unique in climate, culture, language and character. Understandably, Jewish lifestyle in these diverse locations wasn’t entirely uniform. But when the decree to annihilate the Jews reached each province, not one Jew even considered the option to denounce his Judaism and be spared (see Torah Or 91b)! Like the 127 years of Sarah that were astonishingly “all equally good“, the Jews of 127 different “varieties” were identical in their steadfast belief and devotion to G-d, thereby meriting that “the granddaughter of Sarah” should “come and rule over 127 provinces”.

—Sichos Kodesh 5730 vol. 1, pp. 638-639

 

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