A Moment of Torah with Rabbi Neil Sandler

Chaye Sarah 5783

By Rabbi Neil Sandler

I participate in a men's group at Emory that focuses on meditation and reflection. The other day we were talking about aging (that was fun…). One of the participants mentioned something we all have heard and may have said, "The 'Golden Years' years aren't so golden." I have discovered some blessings of senior citizen life, but I still must agree with my fellow group member's sentiments. Sixty-six is not the new forty-six. "Mature" age brings its challenges, including loss.

Thankfully, our parsha this week offers us a different perspective. It reminds us of another truth about growing older that beats back the depression which might otherwise envelope us. At the beginning of the Torah Portion, our Matriarch Sarah dies. Sarah was one hundred twenty-seven years old at the time of her death. The Torah's unique way of saying "127 years old" gives rise to a comment by Rashi. He reflects on the Torah's expression of Sarah's age ("one hundred years and twenty years and seven years") and offers the following comment:

At 100, Sarah was free of sin as a 20-year-old, and at 20 she was as beautiful as a 7-year-old.

Lay aside a literal understanding of Rashi's words. Such an understanding will only result in troubling questions and, ultimately, the dismissal of any truth in Rashi's sentiments. I think there is truth here if we approach Rashi's thoughts differently. I think Rashi is suggesting something about stages in life and their potential beauty. Yes, there are certain qualities that tend to characterize specific ages in people's lives. However, the presence of one quality, for example beauty, does not preclude its presence in an individual much later in life. "Mature age" can be a time for any number of characteristics we might ordinarily associate with younger ages.

Yes, the challenges of our senior years are very real. But let's not lose sight of the fact they may also be filled with "golden" aspects to which we choose to give expression.

Shabbat Shalom, and enjoy a blessed Thanksgiving!