The Life Of Chayei Sarah ©

Parshas Chayei Sarah
Bereishis 23:1 - 25:18

By Dr. Akiva Gamliel Belk

This study of the weekly parsha is dedicated in the loving memory of Mr. James Belk, may he rest in peace.

Our parsha begins with death. Sarah, Avraham’s wife, Yitzchok’s mother, the matriarch of Yisroel, died. Yet Ha Torah entitles this parsha Chayei Sarah {the life of Sarah} instead of Vah Taw Mawt Sarah {and Sarah died}. This is strange! Parshas Chayei Sarah speaks little of Sarah’s life within its 105 verses. In fact Parshas Chayei Sarah speaks more of her death, eulogy and burial place...

Now, classmates, we must pause to consider why Ha Torah entitles this parsha “The Life of Sarah” as opposed to The Death of Sarah. First let’s observe three translations of verse one.

The most common translation:
“The lifetime of Sarah consisted of one hundred years, twenty years and seven years; the years of Sarah’s life.”

Most translators when translating from Hebrew to English add an
s to Shaw Nawh {year} - The lifetime of Sarah consisted of one hundred year{s}...” However the first mention of the word Shaw Nawh {year} here is NOT plural. It is singular! The second time the singular usage of Shaw Nawh occurs in this verse is just two words farther when Ha Torah states, Vih Eh Sih Reem {and twenty} Shaw Nawh {year}. Shaw Nawh in this verse is also NOT plural. It is singular!

In this translation the
and of Vih Eh Sih Reem {and twenty} is replaced with a comma between the words one hundred year{s}, twenty year{s} and the letter s is added. A semicolon inserted to connect the year{s} of Sarah’s life with the preceding statement as follows: “The lifetime of Sarah consisted of one hundred year{s}, twenty year{s} and seven years; the years of Sarah’s life.

The third usage of years is plural. Ha Torah records Vih Sheh Vah {and seven} Shaw Neem {years}. It is interesting that the last usage of years is plural while the first two usages are not plural. We are not going to investigate this in this lesson. We are going to observe the fourth usage of the word years instead. Notice the tenth word from the beginning of the parsha.

However if one were to consider the spelling without Nee Kud Deem {vowels} as it is scribed in Ha Torah, one may argue in favor of the usage Shay Nee {Second}. Then the passuk would read, The lifetime of Sarah consisted of one hundred years, twenty years and seven years; the second life of Sarah. So which is it? Is the proper translation Shi Nay - or - Shay Nee? Are both possible?

The third most common translation places a period after seven years and begins another sentence with the translator’s insertion of {
These are}.... The lifetime of Sarah consisted of one hundred years, twenty years and seven years. {These are} the years of Sarah’s life.

Classmates, our sages acknowledge the singular usages of the word Shaw Naw by indicating it is singular to define three separate time periods of:

one hundred year
twenty year
and seven years...

Their acknowledgement of the singular and their explanation is good. However the three concluding words of verse one, Shi Nay or Shay Nee Chayei Sarah, are handled awkwardly.

First, the Torah has already defined the years of Sarah as 127.

Second, why is it necessary to repeat either ?the years of Chayei Sarah? or {These are} the years of Chayei Sarah Normally when a word or phrase is immediately repeated it is understood to mean Great. The word or phrase immediately repeated is recognized as an emphasis...! Here, however, that is not the situation. Chayei Sarah does not immediately follow Chayei Sarah. It is repeated twice within twelve words which is not so uncommon. Yet in this instance it is unusual because the length of Sarah’s life has already been determined.

Now, classmates, what makes this so interesting is the possibility that Ha Torah is telling us something besides “the life of Chayei Sarah.” What could Ha Torah be saying here?

First, this Torah parsha is entitled Chayei Sarah, meaning The Life of Sarah instead of Vah Taw Mawt Sarah, meaning And Sarah died. So our first clue is the emphasis on LIFE!

Second, the words Chayei Sarah are mentioned twice. The first mention is in regard to Sarah’s 127 year life on this earth. The second mention traditionally has been considered a curious repeat. However this takes on new possibilities when we consider it to be pronounced Shay Nee {SECOND}! As I already indicated the spellings are exactly the same, only the pronunciation is different. So, dear reader, Ha Torah’s intention could be one of several possibilities. Each possibility is very good.

The second life of Sarah could be in reference to the second level of Sarah’s cycle of life before her neshamah {soul} returned completed and perfect to our Creator. Support for this possibility comes from the words Vih Sheh Vah {and seven} Shaw Neem {years}. Mystically this could be representative of seven distinct cycles. One understanding of Ha Torah’s meaning is that Sarah completed her second life.

In addition one could glean that ?The lifetime of Sarah consisted of one hundred year{s} and twenty year{s} and seven years. The second life of Sarah, was in reference to the recent birth of Rivkah, the second Sarah... the wife of Yitzchok. It is possible that Rivkah was the transmigration of Sarah’s neshamah. It is clear from our sages discussion on this matter that Sarah died before Avraham offered Yitzchok. What is not clear is when the birth of Rivkah occurred. However it was after the Akeidah and after the death of Sarah. Ha Torah does not indicate who it was that told him of the birth of Rivkah. Yet our sages associate the birth of Rivkah with the death of Sarah through the age of Yitzchok at Sarah’s death. Our sages establish this possibilility. I have written extensively regarding my agreement with the sages’ position that Rivkah was three years old at the time of her marriage to Yitzchok. The point is that after one carefully studies the death of Sarah and the birth of Rivkah one has to admit the possibility that Rivkah was the transmigration of Sarah’s neshamah. There are several additional facts that support this. Rashi teaches that Rivkah was like Sarah in every aspect... When Sarah was alive the presence of Hashem in the form of a cloud remained at the entrance to her tent. The Shabbat lamp miraculously lasted from one erev Shabbat to just before the next erev Shabbat. Sarah’s challah dough was blessed. Each of these three departed at Sarah’s death and returned the instant that Rivkah set foot in Sarah’s tent. Our sages point to the passuk Bereshis 24:67 where Ha Torah states, ? And Yitzchok brought her [Rivkah] to the tent, Sarah his mother.? It is from this passuk that one can argue Rivkah’s neshamah was the neshamah of Sarah, his mother.

The third possibility is when Ha Torah states, “The lifetime of Sarah consisted of one hundred year{s} and twenty year{s} and seven years. {The} second life of Sarah... This being in reference to the life after death. That being the case the sentence may not be finished because life after death is not bound by time constraints. Now, classmates, the point to all this is Judaism teaches there is life after death. Sarah immediately entered the portals of Gan Eden. She entered the second life. Her Neshama {soul} continued to live, only her body died. The mortal part of man dies, NOT the eternal, the immortal!

Ha Torah’s usage of the word DEATH {Vah Taw Mawt} is translated and death. The and is represented by the letter Vav which here is a connector between verse one and two. This is very common in Ha Torah. Having defined the Vav as a connector we will focus on the letters:

Bereishis 23:2 is the first of six occurrences of Taw Mawt in Ha Torah. Here it is understood to mean death, the death of Sarah. Yet the actual word for death is Moot.

The spellings of Taw Mawt and Moot are completely different. Moot is the common spelling for death.. This leaves us in a quandary. Why has Ha Torah chosen the uncommon word Taw Mawt to define Sarah’s death instead of the common word Moot? Well, there is even a more uncommon word for death {Taw Moot} which is found only four times in Ha Torah.

Taw Moot
Tav Vav Mem Tav

Moot is found 64 times in Ha Torah............. 221 times in the Bible

Taw Mawt is found 6 times in Ha Torah....... 19 times in the Bible

Taw Moot is found 4 times in Ha Torah....... 34 times in the Bible

Now the point to this is that Hashem chooses special words to emphasize special meanings. Here Hashem helps us to understand what happens when our soul is released from our body.

First, the final letter of the Aleph Bais {Hebrew Aleph Bet} is the letter Tav. When man is born he begins with the Aleph and through life, G-d willing, climbs to the greatest height, to the letter Tav which is twenty-two steps from the beginning. In the Ha Shamayim, heaven, it is the exact opposite. Hashem begins with the Tav and reaches down to earth with the Aleph. So in the word Taw Mawt we see the ending Letter Tav representing Hashem and the beginning letter Tav representing man connected by the middle letter Mem in the center. Mystically this means Tav From Tav. In other words, from Hashem’s Tav in heaven {eternal life} to man’s Tav on earth {reaching towards eternal life] and from man’s Tav on earth to Hashem’s Tav in heaven. It is like when man passes from the Tav in this life he enters the Tav of the next life.

Second, the letter Tav represents the final step on our ladder reaching from our Tav to Hashem’s Tav: ‘PERFECTION - TRUTH - BEING SEALED FOR ETERNITY!’ This happens when we accept, honor and obey Hashem who is perfect. Hashem’s perfection is represented by the Tav.

As for the Alm-ghty, His way is {Taw Meem} ‘PERFECT’... Tehillim 18:31

Hashem’s written direction to man, Ha Torah is perfect! Ha Torah’s perfection is represented by the Tav.

The Torah of Hashem is {Tih Mee Maw} ‘PERFECT’... Tehillim 19:8

Third, the letter Tav represents TRUTH! The word for truth is Emet. The truth is from the beginning of the Aleph Bais represented by the letter Aleph to the middle letter represented by the Mem to the last letter represented by the Tav.

Emet points to man’s conclusion. Man begins with the Aleph and ends with his concluding cycle the Tav. In other words, when man dies in the physical he should be approaching the Tav in each cycle of life, PERFECTION, if he has honored and obeyed Hashem and His Torah.

Fourth, the letter Tav represents ?BEING ETERNALLY SEALED.? According to Nachlas Benjamin, the Oot {meaning mark} that Hashem placed upon Kayin’s {Cain’s} forehead in Bereishis 4:15 was the letter Tav.

It is generally agreed upon by our sages that the Oot {mark, sign} in Ezekiel was the Hebrew letter Tav. The Tav was a Divine judicial pronouncement when G-d decreed the destruction of Jerusalem and ordered the angel Gabriel - as seen in the vision by the Prophet Ezekiel (Ch. 9) - to put a Tav on the foreheads of the citizens of Jerusalem. The Tav was used to differentiate the righteous ones destined for life in the World to Come from the wicked who were doomed to perish in This World and in the next. One may see the Tav and sign up for a course to study the Mystical letters of Hebrew at {B’nai Noach Torah Institute}.

Now, holy reader, one does not need to fear death. When Hashem created man He blew into his nostrils the breath of life. When our Creator did this man became a living soul. While it is true that man’s body is committed to Mother Earth, man’s soul lives on.

Wishing you the best,

Dr. Akiva Gamliel Belk

Written in 5761
Updated in 5764

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