Living Life to the Fullest
Chayei Sarah (Genesis 23:1-25:18 )
Life is composed of three central phases, each unique and special. The first phase is childhood. These are unique, growth-filled years, as children are often adventurous and are continuously discovering themselves and the world around them. During our childhood years we take risks and explore. Children are often uninhibited, they tend to make friends easily and learn new things.
The second phase is adulthood. These are the years where we create and build, taking responsibility for our lives. These are the prime years to build a family as well as career or business.
The third phase can be categorized as the senior stage of life. These are phenomenal years of wisdom, an opportunity to pass on good advice to the next generation, as well as a time for reflection and introspection.
Although each stage is beautiful and unique, it seems as though when one moves from one to the next, something is lost from the previous stage of life. You may notice that as we become adults and take on new roles and responsibilities many of us lose that spark of innocence and excitement of childhood. The curiosity, trust in others and the openness to learn and explore is often diminished slowly as we progress through adulthood. As we grow older into our senior years, we begin to understand the world with wisdom and perspective that can only come with age, but these years tend to be less productive than the previous stage, as we slow down our busy lives.
This week's parsha describes the death and burial of Sarah, yet it is called Chayei Sarah, the life of Sarah. The Torah describes the passing of Sarah: “And the life of Sarah was one hundred years and twenty years and seven years; [these were] the years of the life of Sarah.”1 Rashi, quoting the Medrash2, asks the following questions; Why is the word ‘years’ written after every digit of Sarah’s life instead of giving the concise age in one number, "one hundred and twenty-seven"? Additionally, why does the verse repeat once again in conclusion, “the years of the life of Sarah”?
Rashi gives a famous explanation of this seemingly redundant wording, which enables us to understand the unique qualities of our matriarch Sarah. He explains that when she was one hundred years old, she was like a twenty year old in terms of her level of sin, and when she was twenty she was like a seven year old in beauty. The verse concludes with the words, “these were the years of the life of Sarah”, to teach us that they were all equally good.
How can we understand that the years of the life of Sarah were equally good? Wasn’t Sarah’s life filled with hardship after hardship?
I believe that the verse is referring to the three stages of life, childhood, adulthood and the senior years. The way in which the verse breaks up Sarah’s age is noticeably referencing her senior stage with the age ‘one hundred’, adulthood with the age ‘twenty’, and childhood with age ‘seven’.
What was especially unique about Sarah was that she brought the uniqueness of every stage with her to the next stage as she moved on in years. When she was one hundred she was like when she was twenty. Meaning, not only did she have the wisdom and hindsight of an older woman, but she remained active, building and creating.
When she was twenty she was like when she was seven, meaning that she never lost that sparkle in her eye. She retained her curiosity, quest for knowledge, and openness to connect with others. She carried the uniqueness of every stage with her to the next.
These were the years of Sarah’s life, as Rashi points out, they were all for the good. She lived her life to the fullest, never stopping to be productive, never losing the youthfulness of childhood, and always striving for more. May we merit to live our lives to their fullest as portrayed by our holy Matriarch, Sarah.
- Bereshit (23,1)
- Medrash Rabba 58:1