Genesis 23:1 - 25:18
Chayei Sarah ("Sarah's life") gets its name because it begins with the verse: "Sarah's life was one hundred and twenty seven years - these were the years of the life of Sarah." (Gen. 23:1) In the Hebrew text the word for "years" is repeated after each number - 100 years and 20 years and 7 years. Since Torah is usually sparing with its language, why is the word 'years' repeated so many times here? Rabbis have been asking and answering that question for centuries!
Recently I stumbled upon a commentary called Divrei Shaul al HaTorah, written by Rabbi Yosef Shaul HaLevi Nathansohn (1808–1875). He had a beautiful and challenging take on this verse:
Generally we refer to people in terms of the years: the person was born in this year, died in this year, etc. In the case of our greatest individuals, however, the years are described in terms of the people, because the years become special by the presence of these individuals. That is [the meaning of] "these were the years of the life of Sarah."
His insight raises an important question: how are we influencing the years of our lives?
Hi there! I am the senior rabbi at Temple Beth Ami in Rockville, Maryland, where I have served since 2016.
(c) copyright 2015 Rabbi Gary Pokras