Thoughts on Parshat Vayera

November 21, 2019
By Beth Mordecai
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Thoughts on Parshat Vayera

Rabbis have the incredible honor of joining families for many lifecycle events. We help to bring God’s blessing, increase joy, or offer comfort. Our Torah portion this week is Chaye Sarah, the life of Sarah. The Torah opens this parsha by describing the number of years that were in Sarah’s life.

We read that “the life of Sarah was one hundred years and twenty years and seven years,” (Genesis 23:1) as if this tells us everything that we need to know about who our matriarch Sarah was. Rashi, quoting the 4th-century Midrash Genesis Rabbah (58:1), explains that Sarah’s age was recorded in this unusual format with “the word ‘years’ written after every digit … to tell you that every digit is to be expounded upon individually.”

Given the many ways in which one changes throughout the course of life, there is a certain logic to this explanation.

We all grow and change throughout our lives. I remember one specific time my mother had planned my 6th birthday party to be at a movie theater with a few friends. When we got to the theater, the movie I wanted to see was sold out or not playing for some unexpected reason. My ever prepared and creative mother immediately told me the bad news that the movie I wanted to see was not playing, but instead, we could see the new Disney movie, Beauty and the Beast. I threw an epic tantrum. It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to, described this moment perfectly.

Embarrassed and ashamed, I remember this episode in great detail. Yet, as an adult and a parent, I know that some things are out of our control. Thankfully, I am a much different and more mature person than the six-year-old having a tantrum. I feel so sorry for any hurt I inflicted on my parents and others as they were trying their best in this situation and countless ones to follow.

We all have some similar stories. We look back on moments in our lives, and we can see the many places where we, thankfully, have grown and become better.

When we see a gravestone or an obituary, we see the year the person was born and the year of their death. There is a dash, or on some Jewish gravestones, there is a Jewish Star. The sum total of a person’s life is contained in that symbol.

Rashi’s explanation as to why the Torah verse mentions the word, “years,” twice, helps teach us that we are each of the years of our life both together and separately. In every moment, we make a choice between multiple ways in which we can act. This week, try to see your choices and make the kind and loving choice. In this way, we continue to grow, become closer to God, and fill the space between our years with continued goodness.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Metz

Category : Rabbi Rabbi's Journal Shabbat