The section Chayei Sarah
opens with the verse,
"Sarah lived for one hundred years, twenty years, and seven years; [these were] the years of Sarah's life."
In explaining the unusual manner of summing up the years of Sarah's life -- "one hundred years, twenty years, and seven years" -- as well as the repetition at the end of the verse, "the years of Sarah's life," the Midrash offers the following:
"[The verse states,] 'G-d knows the days of the temimim [the perfect and complete]; their inheritance shall endure forever.' Just as they are 'perfect' and 'complete,' so, too, are their years perfect and complete. When Sarah was twenty she was as beautiful as at seven; when Sarah was one hundred she was as sinless as at twenty."
Regarding the verse's repeating "the years of Sarah's life," the Midrash responds by stating: "'Their inheritance shall endure forever,' as it says 'Sarah lived...' Why, then repeat again 'the years of Sarah's life'? To teach us that the life of the righteous is beloved to G-d in this world and in the World to Come."
This begs the following question. Granted that the repetition of "the years of Sarah's life" alludes to the two forms of life, life in this world and life in the next. However, how do we derive from here that "the life of the righteous is beloved to G-d in this world and in the World to Come"?
This will be understood by prefacing yet another question. How can Sarah's life be described as "perfect" and "complete"?
When a soul descends below and is vested within a body, it is provided a fixed number of years and days during which the soul is to be bound to its body. These years are in accordance to the time it takes the soul to accomplish its task on earth.
Sarah, however, passed away prior to this appointed time, as our Sages relate how her soul suddenly departed her body upon hearing of the binding of her only child, Yitzchak. As Sarah was originally meant to live a longer life, she was thus incapable of fulfilling during her limited 127 years her task that was meant to take a longer time. How, then, can Sarah's life be described as "perfect" and "complete"?
This is answered through the additional words "the years of...," teaching us that "the life of the righteous is beloved to G-d in this world and in the World to Come" -- not only is the World to Come apportioned to the righteous, but their lives there are also as beloved to G-d as their lives in this world.
Which is to say, should the righteous have passed on before their time, they can complete and perfect in the World to Come those tasks and that portion of their lives which remained uncompleted and unperfected in this world.
This is similar in concept to the statement, "Whoever causes the many to have merit ... the merit of the many are attributed to him." Thus, even after their passing, the good deeds of the righteous endure and their task -- resulting in their "completion" and "perfection" -- continues to be fulfilled, as the good deeds of others are also a continuum of their own actions.
Herein also lies the connection between the Midrashic commentary that "the years of Sarah's life" refers to her years in the World to Come, with the simple meaning of the verse that it refers to her life on earth:
Sarah's life in the World to Come -- similar to the lives of all other righteous individuals who pass before their time -- is not merely a reward for her good deeds in this world, but is an actual extension and completion of her years in this world.
This matter, however, requires further elucidation: The fixed time that the soul has in this world is not because it needs this time to fulfill its mission on earth, but also because the soul needs to accomplish its mission within the temporal framework of time.
However, once the soul departs the temporal plane, the physical concept of time seemingly does not apply to it. How, then, can it carry on its mission -- a mission that must be fulfilled within the confines of physical time?
There is a jotting by the Previous Rebbe, written on the 20th of Cheshvan, 5705, the birthday of his father, the Rebbe RaShab. He states there that on that day (twenty-five years after his father's passing) his father told him:
"On this day, the day of the completion of the eighty-fourth year of my soul's descent to the physical world, I will have 'good guests.' According to the established arrangement, each of the Rebbeim-ancestors will deliver a Chassidic discourse on a verse of the eighty-fourth chapter of Tehillim."
We thus see that the concept of physical time exists even after death. Moreover, not only is this merely a general conception of time, but it is actual time, "real time" that is an actual continuation of the time the person lived in this world.
Which is also why Sarah's life as a soul without a body (the Midrashic interpretation) is deemed "the years of Sarah's life" -- not only spiritual years, but physical years as well.
Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. V, pp. 92-104
After Avraham's servant, Eliezer, brought Rivkah back with him for a wife for Yitzchak, "Yitzchak brought [Rivkah] 'into his mother Sarah's tent,'"
and then married her. Rashi
, cites the words "into his mother Sarah's tent," and comments:
"He brought her 'into the tent' and behold, she was 'Sarah, his mother.' That is to say, there occurred [with Rivkah] exactly that which occurred with Sarah, his mother. For as long as Sarah was alive the [Shabbos] candle[s] remained lit from one Shabbos Eve to the next; blessing was found in the dough; and a cloud hovered over the tent. With Sarah's passing, these manifestations ceased; upon Rivkah's arrival, they returned."
The Midrash, however, which is Rashi's source-text, mentions these three miracles in a different order: "a cloud hovered over the tent; blessing was found in the dough; the [Shabbos] candle remained lit from one Eve of Shabbos to the next." What impelled Rashi to change this order?
Rashi is answering a difficulty regarding the words "into his mother Sarah's tent." The Torah just related that immediately upon his arrival -- even before entering the tent -- Eliezer told Yitzchak all the wonders regarding Rivkah that had transpired on his journey. Yitzchak then married Rivkah. Thus, the verse should have simply stated "Yitzchak brought Rivkah to him and took her as his wife." What do we glean from the added words "into his mother Sarah's tent"?
Evidently, "into his mother Sarah's tent" makes an additional point that is germane to the concluding passage that "Yitzchak took Rivkah, and she became his wife." In other words, were Yitzchak not to have first taken Rivkah "into his mother Sarah's tent" the outcome would not at all have been assured:
True, Eliezer had already related the wondrous events that served him as a clear sign that Rivkah was indeed intended for Yitzchak. Yitzchak, however, was still not sure whether Rivkah was similar enough to his family -- whether she possessed the meritorious qualities of his family, particularly the qualities of his mother -- that he marry her.
Since Yitzchak's decision that Rivkah did indeed possess these qualities resulted from his bringing her into his mother's tent, evidently the events that transpired there constituted even greater wonders than before -- qualities that led to Yitzchak's decision that Rivkah was indeed similar to his mother and fit to be his wife. These events were: "the [Shabbos] candle remained lit; blessing in the dough; a cloud hovered over the tent."
The reason for Rashi's choice of the order of these events is now understandable as well: Since these events were meant to show that Rivkah was similar to Sarah, the more personal the event the more it showed a similarity between Rivkah and Sarah.
Thus, the first manifestation was that of the Shabbos candle, i.e., a miracle concerning one of Rivkah's mitzvos and good deeds, thereby emphasizing the righteousness with which Rivkah performed a mitzvah. Then came the "blessing in the dough," something also connected with her actions, but not an act of a mitzvah. Finally, Rashi cites the miracle that was not directly connected with her deeds -- "a cloud hovered over the tent."
From the above it is clearly evident that Rivkah lit Shabbos candles even before her wedding. Moreover, according to Rashi Rivkah was but three years old at the time of her wedding, when she was not yet obligated to perform mitzvos. Nevertheless, she already performed the mitzvah of lighting Shabbos candles.
This instructs us that -- similar to Rivkah -- Jewish girls are to light Shabbos candles even before the age of Bas Mitzvah. Beginning at the age of three, if they are already able to understand some of the significance of Shabbos candle lighting, Jewish girls should be trained to light the Shabbos candles.
The commentaries note that the "lit candles, the blessed dough and the hovering clouds," signify the three mitzvos that are especially germane to the Jewish woman: lighting candles, Challah, and Niddah (family purity): Shabbos candles lead to "the candle remained lit..."; Challah leads to the "blessing in the dough"; and family purity leads to "the Cloud of the Divine Presence hovering over the (family) tent."
For this reason as well, Rashi chose the order of "candles, dough and clouds," inasmuch as they symbolize these three mitzvos in chronological order:
A girl commences the performance of these three mitzvos by lighting Shabbos candles; when she matures and begins helping at home she occupies herself with dough; finally, when she marries, she performs the mitzvah of family purity.
From all the above it is evident how great is the merit in seeing to it that every Jewish girl from the age of three and onward light candles on the eve of every Shabbos and Yom Tov. This leads to G-d showing us the "Lights of Zion," with the speedy arrival of our righteous Mashiach.
Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XV, pp. 163-173.
- (Back to text) Bereishis 23:1.
- (Back to text) Midrash Rabbah, beginning of Chayei Sarah.
- (Back to text) Tehillim 37:18.
- (Back to text) Torah Or, 79b; Tzemach Tzedek on Tehillim 139:16.
- (Back to text) Avos 5:8.
- (Back to text) Quoted in its entirety in Likkutei Sichos II, p. 496.
- (Back to text) In accordance with the custom the Alter Rebbe received that one is to recite daily the chapter of Tehillim corresponding to his years -- i.e., when one turns 13 and enters his 14th year, the 14th chapter is recited.
- (Back to text) Bereishis 24:67.
- (Back to text) Bereishis Rabbah, 60:16.
- (Back to text) Bereishis 25:20.
- (Back to text) Chizkuni (Riva); Gur Aryeh; Bartenura; B'Eir Mayim Chayim, et al.
- (Back to text) Yalkut Shimoni, beginning of Behaalos'cha.