chayei sarah

This Shabbos we read Parshas Chayai Sarah. The Parsha begins with the death of our matriarch Sarah. “And it was the life of Sarah, One hundred years, twenty years, and seven years, these were the years of Sarah”. (Genesis 23:1) The commentaries ask an obvious question: When the Torah tells us how long Sarah lived, it is obvious that these are her years. Why did the Torah have to repeat the phrase “these were the years of Sarah”?

One approach suggested, is that these words are meant to bring out an amazing point about Sarah. Most people live their lives having ups and downs. It is not always easy to be in a happy mood, show a positive attitude, have a smile pasted on our lips, and be upbeat. We have those moments when we get down, overwhelmed, feel upset or unhappy, and act or look gloomy. Certainly we hope that the positive days outnumber the negative ones, but the fact is that both of them exist. Sarah was different. She always had a smile on her lips, always was positive, always saw the good in everything that happened to her in life. This amazing quality came from a deep feeling and understanding that whatever happened to her in life was exactly the way Hashem wanted it to be, and was for her best. She didn’t just say those words, but really felt this way. This amazing praise was conveyed in these few words, “these were the years of Sarah” – that all her years were equal.

Another beautiful approach is suggested by Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky. We know that the reason the death of Sarah is in the beginning of our Parsha, right after the story of the binding at the end of last week’s Parsha, is because one is connected to the other. When Sarah heard about the binding, the thought of Isaac almost being killed by Abraham was too much for Sarah to bear. The shock of the thought of such a thing happening killed her. Such a connection could easily have made people say that she only died because of the binding. If not for the binding, they could claim, she would have linged longer. The Torah comes to tell us that this is not true. “These were the years of Sarah” – this was exactly how long she was supposed to live. Whether it was the news of the binding or some other way, Sarah was destined to die exactly at this time.

So often we manage to blame incidents on what we perceive to be a human cause. He died because of the doctor, or the slow response of the ambulance, or the lack of medication. She lost her job because of... The lists go on and on. The Torah, in these few words, teaches us this simple lesson. When something happens, this is exactly the time and place when it was supposed to happen. That realization hopefully will allow us to accept what comes our way with joy and happiness, and save us from the frustration that overwhelms so many people.