Chayei Sarah
Genesis 23:1 - 25:18

The Life of the Soul ©

By Dr. Akiva G. Belk

This study of the weekly parsha is dedicated in the loving memory of Mrs. Ethel Sakash Belk, my mother, may she rest in peace.

Our parsha begins with death. Sarah, Avraham's wife, Yitzchok's mother, the matriarch of Yisroel died. Yet the Torah entitles this parsha Chayei Sarah, meaning "The Life of Sarah" instead of Vah Taw Maws Sarah, meaning "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...
{read from right to left}

Chayei Sarah {the life of Sarah}
Hey Reish Shin - Yud Yud Ches

Vah Taw Maws {and Sarah died}
Sav Mem Sav Vav

Now, holy reader, we must pause to consider why the 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:
1.) add an
"s" to year - "The lifetime of Sarah consisted of one hundred year{s}..." However the first mention of the word "year" is NOT plural. It is singular!

2.) remove the "and" then replace it with a comma between the words one hundred year{s}, twenty year{s}

3.) add an "s" to year - "...twenty year{s}..." The second time year is mentioned in this verse is also NOT plural. It is singular!

4.) insert a "semicolon" 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."

5.) define the tenth word from the beginning of the parsha consisting of the following letters {read from right to left}

Yud Nun Shin

as "Shi Nay" meaning "year{s}
instead of...

Shay Nee, meaning "second" as the second life of Sarah...

Shi Nay { or } Shay Nee
Yud Nun Shin

Now the second 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."

Holy reader, 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, holy reader, what makes this so interesting is the possibility that the Torah is telling us something besides "the life of Chayei Sarah." What could the Torah be saying here?

First, this Torah parsha is entitled Chayei Sarah, meaning "The Life of Sarah" instead of Vah Taw Maws 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 regards 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 "Shi Nay," meaning year{s} to be pronounced "Shay Nee" meaning "SECOND"! The spellings are exactly the same, only the pronunciation is different. So, dear reader, the Torah's intention could be:

"The lifetime of Sarah consisted of one hundred year{s} and twenty year{s} and seven years. {The} second life of Sarah's." 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.


"The lifetime of Sarah consisted of one hundred year{s} and twenty year{s} and seven years. "Second Chayei Sarah's." Or "The second life of Sarah," this being in reference to the recent birth of Rivkah, "the second Sarah"... The wife of Yitzchok.

Now, holy reader, 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!

These are interesting points...
Now another interesting point is the Torah's usage of the word "DEATH" {Vah Taw Maws}. We translate this "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 the Torah. Having defined the Vav as a connector we will focus on the letters {read from right to left}

Taw Maws
Sav Mem Sav

Genesis 23:2 is the first of six occurrences of the word Taw Maws in the Torah. Here it is understood to mean death, the death of Sarah. Yet the actual word for death is Moos
{read from right to left}.

Sav Vav Mem

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

Taw Moos
Sav Vav Mem Sav

Moos is found 64 times in the Torah............. 221 times in the Bible

Taw Maws is found 6 times in the Torah....... 19 times in the Bible

Taw Moos is found 4 times in the Torah....... 4 times in the Bible

Now the point to this is 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 alepha bet} is the letter Sav. When man is born he begins with the Aleph and through life, G-d willing, climbs to the greatest height, to the letter Sav which is twenty-two steps from the beginning. In the Ha Shamayim, heaven, it is the exact opposite. Hashem begins with the Sav and reaches down to the first letter, the Aleph. So in the word Taw Maws we see the ending Letter Sav representing Hashem and the beginning letter Sav representing man connected by the letter mem in the center. This means "Sav From Sav." In other words, from Hashem's Sav in heaven {eternal life} to man's Sav on earth {reaching towards eternal life] and from man's Sav on earth to Hashem's Sav in heaven. It is like when man passes from the Sav in this life he enters the Sav of the next life. However it is not that easy...!

Second, the letter Sav represents the final step on our ladder reaching from our Sav to Hashem's Sav: '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 Sav.

"As for the Alm-ghty, His way is {Taw Meem} 'PERFECT'..." Psalms 18:30
{Read from right to left}

Taw Meem
Mem Yud Mem

Hashem's written direction to man, The Torah is perfect! The Torah's perfection is represented by the Sav.

"The Torah of Hashem is {Ti Mee Maw} 'PERFECT'..." Psalms 19:8
{Read from right to left}

Ti Mee Maw
Hey Mem Yud Mem

Third, the letter Sav represents "TRUTH"! The word for truth is Emes. 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 Sav. The letters of Emes are {read from right to left}:

Sav Mem Aleph

Emes points to man's conclusion. Man begins with the Aleph and ends with the Sav. In other words when man dies in the physical he should be approaching the Sav in life, "PERFECTION", if man has honored and obeyed Hashem and His Torah.

Fourth, the letter Sav represents "BEING ETERNALLY SEALED". According to Nachlas Benjamin, the Oos, meaning "mark" that Hashem placed upon Kayin's {Cain} forehead in Genesis 4:15 was the letter Sav.

It is generally agreed by our sages that the Oos {mark, sign} in Ezekiel was the Hebrew letter Sav. The Sav 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 Sav on the foreheads of the citizens of Jerusalem. The Sav 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. See Sav on JewishPath Gematria page.
{read from right to left]

Sav Vav Aleph

Now, holy reader, one does not need to fear death. When Hashem created man "He blew into his nostrils the breath of life." When He 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  G. BelkWeekly Studies

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