For the week ending 23 November 2019 / 25 Heshvan 5780

Parshat Chayei Sara

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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Sarah, Mother of the Jewish People, passes on at age 127. After mourning and eulogizing her, Avraham seeks to bury her in the Cave of Machpela. As this is the burial place of Adam and Chava, Avraham pays its owner, Ephron the Hittite, an exorbitant sum.

Avraham sends his faithful servant Eliezer to find a suitable wife for his son, Yitzchak, making him swear to choose a wife only from among Avraham's family. Eliezer travels to Aram Naharaim and prays for a sign. Providentially, Rivka appears. Eliezer asks for water. Not only does she give him water, but she draws water for all 10 of his thirsty camels. (Some 140 gallons!) This extreme kindness marks her as the right wife for Yitzchak and a suitable Mother of the Jewish People. Negotiations with Rivka's father and her brother, Lavan, result in her leaving with Eliezer. Yitzchak brings Rivka into his mother Sarah's tent, marries her and loves her. He is then consoled for the loss of his mother.

Avraham remarries Hagar who is renamed Ketura to indicate her improved ways. Six children are born to them. After giving them gifts, Avraham sends them to the East. Avraham passes away at the age of 175 and is buried next to Sarah in the Cave of Machpela.


The Time Machine

“Sarah’s lifetime was one hundred years, twenty years, and seven years” (23:1)

There are many disadvantages of age: receding hairline, receding memory, oncoming waistline, oncoming expenses as you marry off your children, and more. But a great advantage is perspective. I seem to remember that the distance between my seventh and eighth birthdays was about a hundred years. From eight to nine it was around fifty. Now as soon as we put the succah away, we seem to be ready for bedikat chametz for Pesach. I have a theory that our sense of time is a function of time already lived.

So, every year that you live is perceived as a percentage of the total years of your life to date. As the percentage gets smaller, the years get “shorter.” But why did Hashem makes us this way? However long your life is, it’s very, very short, in a sense. And, as you get older, you actually see time contracting, faster and faster, rushing towards “the end.” An intelligent person will take heed of this and try to use his time wisely.

“Youth is wasted on the young” is a quotation often attributed to George Bernard Shaw (although there is no source for him saying exactly that). “If youth knew; age could” is another version of this idea.

“Sarah’s lifetime was one hundred years, twenty years, and seven years”

Maybe we can understand the seemingly redundant repetition of the word “years” three times in this verse to mean that Sarah’s perception of time when she was seven was no different from at twenty or at one hundred. Just as at one hundred years old she knew how precious every G‑d given second is, so too was it at age twenty, when she stopped being a teenager, and also at age seven, when our lives in this world seem eternal.

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