It’s a Wonderful Life, After All by Lev Brandwein


Our Parashah opens with the following verse, "And Sarah was a hundred and twenty seven years old; these were the years of Sarah's life" (BeReishit 23:1). The Midrash expounds this verse as follows: “‘And Sarah was a hundred…’: ‘God knows the days of the perfect, and their inheritance shall be forever’ (Tehilim 37:18) – just as they are perfect, so are their years perfect” (BeReishit Rabbah 58:1). The Midrash speaks of the correlation between Sarah's personality and her years. Just as Sarah was perfect in her character, so too was she perfect in her years. The Midrash tries to draw a connection between the length of a person's life and the manner in which he lives that life. Expanding on the Midrash, Rashi explains that the Torah described Sarahh’s 127-year lifetime in a staccato way, “the life of Sarahh was a hundred years and seven years and twenty years” (BeReishit 23:1) to teach that when Sarah was 100 years old she was like a twenty-year old in regards to sin, since a person younger than 20 is not held accountable for his sins.  The Zohar calls attention to the fact that the Torah usually does not record a woman’s age. Therefore, that the Torah recorded Sarah’s age demonstrates Sarah’s high level. Furthermore, the Torah states, “VaYehiyu Chayei Sarah” (BeReishit 23:1) instead of writing “VaTechi Sarah” to show Sarah’s holiness. Additionally, the first Pasuk states “Shenei Chayei Sarah” showing that Sarah lived a double life, one is this world and the second in Olam HaBa.

The Torah (BeReishit 23:2) states that Avraham comes to Chevron to eulogize Sarah “VeLivkota,” “and to cry for her.” According to tradition, the letter Kaf in “VeLivkota” is smaller than the word’s other letters to show Avraham’s strength, as he does not mourn. Avraham does this because he knows, in his righteousness, that death is only a temporary separation from his wife. According to Rashi, Sarah’s death immediately follows the story of Akeidat Yitzchak. When Sarah hears mistakenly that her son had been sacrificed, she is so heartbroken that her soul left her.  Happy to save his son and to receive new Berachot from Hashem, Avraham is excited to share the news with his wife. However, Avraham arrives at his house in his spiritual high to discover the terrible news of Sarah’s passing.

Rashi also comments on a similar idea (BeReishit 37:2) about Yaakov. While the Avot aspire to live in happiness, Hashem asks “Are they not satisfied with what Olam Haba offers them?” Therefore it is unsurprising that the Avot and Imahot endure many tests. Additionally, Rashi says that the Satan, though he fails, attempts to dissuade Avraham from obeying Hashem by deliberately causing Sarah’s death.  Twisting the facts, the Satan cruelly told Sarah of her son’s death at her husband’s hands, though it is stopped at the last minute by Divine intervention.

Therefore, it does not make sense to say that Sarah lived a full life if the Satan killed her. The Torah (BeReishit 16:5) states, “Sarai said to Avraham ‘My injustice is upon you. I gave my maidservant into your bosom and she saw that she had conceived. I became lighter in her eyes. Let Hashem judge between me and you.’” Rav Channan teaches that if one accuses another of doing a wrong action, Hashem will punish the accuser. Since Sarah accused Avraham of not defending her before Hagar, her life was shortened by 38 years. Sarah’s life was difficult because she was barren until her later years. However, Sarah persevered through her challenges, eventually acquiring a great reward in Olam HaBa. Hashem tested Sarah by preventing her from having children. Though Sarah could have strayed from Hashem and Mitzvot, she emerged as a great Tzadeket. Even when Hashem tests our lives, we must persevere like Sarah, performing Mitzvot and Chesed.

Hashem’s Hidden Hand by Eli Friedman

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