Friday, November 02, 2007

Chayei Sarah 5631 Third Ma'amar

וַיִּהְיוּ חַיֵּי שָׂרָה מֵאָה שָׁנָה וְעֶשְׂרִים שָׁנָה וְשֶׁבַע שָׁנִים שְׁנֵי חַיֵּי שָׂרָה/This was the life of Sarah, 100 years and 20 years and 7 years, the years of Sarah’s life.” The pasuk is constructed in an awkward way. Is her life defined by her years? Secondly, the first half of the pasuk lists each category of years – single digits, tens and hundred – separately. The end of the pasuk includes all the years together – “the years of Sarah’s life.” Why is this? Why not simply state, “Sarah lived 127 years”? In answer to this question Rashi cites the Midrash which explains that all the days of her life were equal in their goodness.

Saying that all the days of here life were equal in their goodness seems to contradict the principle that we are here in this world in order to grow. Growing implies change. It implies that all our days are not equal. We start at a certain level or as a blank slate and we grow closer to God or the opposite depending upon our deeds, words and thoughts. What, then, is the meaning of this Midrash?

The Sfas Emes explains. The idea underlying this Midrash is that truly living, (as in, “This was the life of Sarah,”) can be defined as completely actualizing one’s potential. Generally people tend to become wiser and more settled with age. As we grow older we come to realize the folly of certain poor character traits and actions we may have had and, by exchanging the poor attributes for better ones and by improving our actions, we grow. This is, for most of us, a lifelong task and, with God’s help, we may reach a level of truly living by the end of our lives.

There are a few, however, who live each day to its fullest. The Sfas Emes explains that each day of a person’s life, has a unique rectification associated with it. The one who merits achieving the rectification is the one who is truly living. Accordingly, it is possible for one with exemplary character traits to grow as well. This person can ascend from level to level by actualizing his potential, by fulfilling the day’s rectification, each day of his life. The Midrash is teaching us that this was the level of Sarah Imeinu. All her days were equal in their goodness because she had no blemish that she needed to cure and return to goodness. Instead, they were equal in goodness because she realized the full potential of each day of her life. May we learn from Sarah Imeinu’s example and live each day to its fullest potential. Amen.

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