As we look at the world, at the Jewish community, and even at our closest relatives, we sometimes realize a sense of emptiness. While there is much potential to acheive greatness, the idea "We could have, should have and would have, but we didn't" is all too often what actually occurs. We often fantasize about how it would be better if our lives were filled with joy and sensitivity. Only the very fortunate live a life full of intrinsic meaning and purpose.
In this week's Sedra the Torah begins ויהיו חיי שרה, "the days of Sarah were..." The אור החיים asks why the Torah doesn't use the expression ותחיה, "she lived," as the Torah says in Bereishit, ויחי אדם, "Adam lived."
The אור החיים answers that Sarah died prematurely when she heard about Akeidat Yitzchak. Therefore, the language the Torah uses is not ויחי but ויהיו.
As a memorial for the late Talner Rebbe, Rabbi Dr. Yitzchak Twersky zt"l, Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld שליט"א offered the following thought, which I believe answers the question of the אור החיים. The Torah in Parshat Kedoshim places the Miztvot of כבוד אב ואם (honoring one's father and mother) and הקדשת ושמירת השבת (keeping and making the Shabbat holy) adjacent to each other. Harav Schonfeld pointed out that even if the Torah had not commanded us, there would still be two reasons to observe these two Mitzvot. The first reason is that it is logical and sensible to respect and honor those who gave us life. It is also equally sensible to rest one day a week.
The second reason for observing both of these Mitzvot is that by doing so, we can reach a higher מדרגה, a higher level of observance of the Mitvah of קדושים תהיו, filling one's life with holiness. There is Kedusha in respecting and caring for parents, those who are responsible for one's existence on this earth. Similarly, Shabbat is not merely a day to sleep late and to eat well. It is the day that enhances the Kedusha of life, and not merely a means to find the strength to work all week. Achieving this מדרגה of Kedusha was the trademark of the late Rabbi Dr. Yitzchak Twersky as he cared for Rav Soloveitchik zt"l.
I believe that this is the deeper meaning of ויהיו vs. ויחי. ויחי tells only of one's existence on Earth and the passing of days. This language was used for Adam, Shet, and so on. However, when we speak of Sarah, our first Matriarch, we consider her life as one expressing the highest meaning for the Torah Jew.
How should we fill our time and our lives on this earth? How much do we appreciate and how do we show our appreciation to our parents, to our children, to our spouse, to our elders, and all those involved in our physical, spiritual, and intellectual growth? We must strive to leave a legacy of ויהיו and not merely one of ויחי. We must not let our days pass us by. Instead, we must try our utmost to fill each day with Kedusha and with meaning.