Life is What You Make of It

“….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

The years of the life of Sarah: They were all equally good. —Rashi

Chayei Sarah
Sarah’s life was far from uneventful or without suffering. Her years were colored by the painful longing for a child and then the joy of Yitzchak’s miraculous birth. The first half of her life she lived outside the Land of Israel; she moved there at the age of 65. She was twice taken captive by powerful kings who desired to marry her against her will. How can Rashi suggest that the phrase “the years of the life of Sarah” comes to summarize all 127 years of Sarah’s life, saying that “they were all equally good“?!

The answer to this lies in the unusual phraseology of this verse, “And the life of Sarah was one hundred years etc.” Usually, the Torah’s wording when recounting how long someone lived is “All the days of so-and-so were” (see Beraishis 9:29, et al,) or as is said about Avraham (25:7), “These are the days of the years of Avraham’s life”. Why does the Torah refer to the length of time that Sarah lived as “the life of Sarah” instead of “the years of Sarah”?

This unique choice of words highlights that the Torah is not only relating how many years Sarah lived, but that all one hundred and twenty seven years were “Sarah’s life“: perfectly and equally filled with the meaning and purpose by which she defined her life. For Sarah, living meant being in a vibrant relationship with G-d, first and foremost, through the Mitzvos that are especially entrusted to the Jewish woman. As our Sages tell us, a cloud representing the Divine Presence hovered constantly on Sarah’s tent in the merit of her observance of the laws pertaining to the purity of family life; the dough she prepared was particularly blessed in the merit of her separation ofChallah, and the Shabbos candles she lit miraculously burned throughout the following week.

The physical and emotional distresses she experienced surely caused her pain, but physical comfort or discomfort did not make Sarah’s “life” better or worse. The “life of Sarah”, the spiritual passions and endeavors for which Sarah lived, was perfect and good throughout all her one hundred and twenty seven years.

—Likutei Sichos vol. 35, pp. 92-93

 

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