By Rabbi Jonny Roodyn
This week’s Sedra opens with the death of Abraham’s wife, Sarah, at the grand old age of 127. One of the most important rules in Torah study is that there are no superfluous words in the text, so it is all the more perplexing that the verse says: ‘Sarah’s lifetime was one hundred years, twenty years and seven years.’
Rashi points out that the extra use of the word ‘years’ divides her life into three periods, each one with their unique characteristic. At 100, she was as sinless as a 20-year-old and had the pure, natural beauty of a seven-year-old. Rav Soloveitchik explains further that the greatness of Sarah can be culled from the words of Rashi: “The years of Sarah’s lifetime: all were equal for the good.”
She was 100, she was 20, she was seven. Most people pass from one stage of their lives to the next, leaving the previous stage behind, perhaps taking with them some fond memories, but essentially moving on. Each one of these ages has something unique about it.
The seven year-old has innocence; the 20-year-old has strength; the 100-year-old has wisdom. The secret of the greatness of Sarah was that throughout her entire life she was 100 and 20 and seven. All of Sarah’s years were equal. At every point in her life, she remained the same. She was always as innocent as a seven-year-old, with the strength, determination and idealism of a 20-year-old, and always possessed the wisdom of a centenarian.
So many of our young people are idealists, students are passionate about changing the world. Young people see the world as it ought to be, injustice, corruption and bigotry are values to be fought at all costs. However when they graduate, enter the work force and the ‘real world’ they grow up, so many seem to leave it all behind, seeing their youthful idealism as just another hangover from their student years. We are a nation of dreamers, in fact in the song of our redemption, the return to Zion that we sing before bentsching on Shabbat and Yom Tov, we are kecholmim as dreamers.
The life of Sarah in this week’s portion teaches us this important lesson, no matter how old we are, we must never stop dreaming of a better world. Because all that is needed for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.