Community Rabbi Corner, Nov. 2, 2018

Rabbi Elie Mischel
Synagogue of the Suburban Torah Center
Livingston, NJ
Parashat Chayei Sarah

A Beautiful Life
 
And the life of Sarah was a hundred years and twenty years and seven years; these were the years of the life of Sarah.”
 
Even the casual reader is struck by the Torah’s odd way of stating that Sarah was 127 years old when she died. Rashi explains that the word “years” was written after every digit to teach us that each of these numbers – 100, 20 and 7 – are to be expounded upon individually. Rashi goes on to explain that when Sarah was 100 years old, she was as pure of sin as a 20-year-old at the beginning of adulthood. And when Sarah was 20 years old, she was like a 7-year-old as regards to beauty.
 
Rashi’s comments, of course, are meant as a compliment to Sarah. And if Rashi had told us that Sarah was as beautiful at the age of 60 as she was the age of 20, it’s a compliment we would all understand. But it seems strange to say that Sarah was as beautiful at the age of 20 as she was at the age of 7, when she only a young child!
 
The great Chassidic master, Rav Elimelech of Lizhensk, offers a powerful insight. He explains that Rashi is not praising Sarah for her beauty; rather, he is praising Sarah for her attitude towards beauty. Most 20 year olds – both men and women - are very concerned about their physical appearance, which is only natural. Thoughts like “My hair is too frizzy!” or That shirt doesn’t look good on me!” constantly plague young people. But when Sarah was 20, she was different. Her attitude was like that of a 7-year-old – she was blissfully unaware and uninterested in her physical appearance! Though the Rabbis write that Sarah was indeed a beautiful woman, she was not focused on her appearance; she had more important things to accomplish!
 
Most of us have insecurities about our appearance (I know I could stand to lose a few pounds after the holidays.) But perhaps we could all take a page from Sarah’s life – and remember there are far more important things to think about!
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