Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Chayei Sara
To dedicate this lesson

Never Give Up, Never Give In

I suggest that these 3 words – “sh'nay chaye Sara” - can have another meaning. They can be translated as "the two lives of Sara!"


Rabbi Stewart Weiss

Cheshvan 21 5782
"Vayee'hyu chaye Sara meah shana, v'esrim shana, v'sheva shanim; sh'nay chaye Sara: the lifetime of Sara was 100 years and 20 years and 7 years; the years of the life of Sara."

The famous Rashi on this pasuk - noting the seemingly superfluous use of the word "shana" - explains that Sara at 100 was as sinless as one who is 20, while at 20 she had the pure, natural beauty of a 7-year old. Rashi adds that all of her years were "l'tova," for the good.

OK, fair enough, but what about the end of this pasuk? Why was it necessary to again add the words, "the years of the life of Sara?!" Don't we already know this?!

I suggest that these 3 words – "sh'nay chaye Sara" - can have another meaning. They can be translated as "the two lives of Sara!" You see, in effect Sara Imenu lived two distinct existences. The first was her life of 90 years until Yitzchak was born; her second life was the 37 years she had as a mother to share with her only son.

Sara - no less than Avraham - went through her own nisyonot, her own compelling trials and tribulations. She, too, had to leave her home & journey to a new, foreign land. She had to deal with surrogate-mother Hagar's uncomfortable presence in her home & Hagar's insolence towards her. She had to battle with her husband Avraham to evict troublesome Yishmael from their home. And she was kidnapped - not once, but twice!

Yet the greatest challenge she faced was her ceaseless determination to bring a child into the world. For almost a century, she was barren, & the situation looked totally hopeless (indeed, the Gemara says that she did not even have a uterus!). Yet through it all, she would not give up; even when her "friends" told her how blessed she was to be so beautiful in face & form at her advanced age, she resisted their comments. She argued that she would not rest until she succeeded in giving birth. And so, even though her years with Yitzchak were relatively brief, they nevertheless constituted a whole new life that finally made her complete as a woman and leader of Israel.

Sara's story not only helps us to understand the pain of infertility, it also teaches & inspires us to never abandon our dreams, to soldier on until the very last moment in order to achieve our goals & complete our mission. Sara's legacy then remains: Never give up and never give in when you are striving for something worthwhile and holy.
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