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Chumash-Chayei Sarah


(Gen. 24:1): "And Abraham was old, advanced in days" - Yet it already stated (Vayeira Gen 18:11) "And Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in days";

Explanation of "advanced in days" according to Pshat and the reconciliation to the comment of Zohar (Chayei Sarah 129a);

Explanation of the wording of the verse "And the life of Sarah was" (and not the "days of Sarah")

and the words of Rashi (Beg of parsha Gen.23:1) that "they were all considered good"  

(5751) vol 35 XXXV Pg 89)



1. It states in the Parsha (Gen. 24:1)

"And Avraham was old, advanced in days" (ואברהם זקן בא בימים)

The Kli Yakar writes:

"Many of the commentators are puzzled for it already stated (above in Parshat Vayeira), ‘Now Avraham and Sarah were old, coming on in years’ and there were about 37 years between these two times" – Why therefore does it state here, ‘And Avraham was old, advanced in days‘, implying that just now he became old”? 

And this puzzlement is (also) according to the plain meaning of the verse. Therefore, one must examine why we do not find a resolution to this in Rashi’s commentary on the Torah

(As been explained many times, Rashi, in his commentary on Torah, resolves any difficulty in the plain meaning of the verse. Moreover, in a place where Rashi did not find a (sufficient) explanation to reconcile the verses according to their plain sense, Rashi writes, "I do not know" and so forth). 

In the Midrash, it states: 

"It is already written, and Avraham and Sarah are old, what is it coming to teach by stating, ‘Now Avraham was old’. However, it is because the Holy One, blessed be He, restored him to the days of his youth. Therefore, 'And Avraham was old’ had to be written a second time.”

It is possible to say that this explanation also has its place according to the simple meaning of the verse. For as is explicitly stated in Rashi regarding Sarah, that G-d blessed her and that she "returned to her youth"

(Like the plain meaning of the verses in Parshat Vayeira that even though it states, “(and Avraham and Sarah were old) . . Sarah had ceased to have the way of the women. After I have become worn out, will I have smooth flesh? And also, my master is old"

Nevertheless, Sarah gave birth to a son (as it states "Sarah would nurse children”)

From this it is understood, seemingly, with regard to Avraham. That although in the beginning it was that “Avraham and Sarah were old, coming on in years”,

(Like Sarah’s words, “After I have become worn out, will I have smooth flesh? And also, my master is old" meaning that even with regard to Avraham, the time had already passed for him to be able to father children)

nevertheless, he returned to his youth. Therefore, it is necessary for Scripture to inform us again, that after passing (about) thirty-seven years from the birth of Yitzchak - “And Avraham was old, advanced in days”. 

However, it is impossible to explain so according to Pshat (the plain sense). For we find later (at the end of the Parsha) that Avraham married another woman and begot from her a number of sons (the sons of Keturah). 

2. Another explanation is found in the Midrash:

"Here (in Parshat Vayeira) old age combined with virility (לחלוחית) is meant, while further on (in the end of the Parsha) it means old age without virility."

In other words in Parshat Vayeira it refers to old age where the person still has “virility”, whereas, “And Avraham was old” in our Parsha, means old age that has "no virility".

However, this distinction does not have any relation to the plain sense (לדרך הפשט). For in both places it states the same expression: “old, advanced in days” (“(They were) old, advanced in days”). Why is this distinction between the two stages of old age (such as "very old" etc.) not alluded to in Scripture? 

In the Ramban, we find that there is a distinction between "advanced in days" in Parshat Vayeira and "advanced in days" in our Parsha.

  • For "advanced in days" (“ba’im bayamim”- literally “coming in days”) – means the beginning of the days of old age. For the word “Bai’im” indicates the present tense like in the verse, ”Haba’im (those that come) in at these gates”. Therefore, he explains that it is “the beginning of the days of old age” (“where there still is vitality”) for they enter and come now into old age.
  • Whereas, "advanced in days" (“Ba Bayamim” – literally “he had come in days”) is in the past tense, like the verse,”Your brother came (“ba”) with subtlety”. Here, it means that “he was very old since he had already come in days”.

However, it is difficult to say that Rashi, also agrees with this distinction in the explanation of these verses. For if so, he should have explicitly written so. As we find that we find further on in Rashi’s commentary (in Parsha Vayetze), where he explains the distinction between the two times when it says that Rachel "came" (באה):

  • The former (where the accent is on the letter Alef) means she is doing
  • The latter (where the accent is on the letter Beit) means she has done.

 ("באה", "הראשון (ש"הטעם באל"ף") לשון עושה והשני (ש"הטעם למעלה בבי"ת") לשון עשתה")

3. This can be understood by prefacing an explanation of the double repetition (כפל הלשון), “they were old, advanced in days” (and here also, “(Avraham was) old, advanced in days”). For seemingly what is implied by the addition of the expression “advanced in days” to the word, “old”? 

Moreover, even here, we do not find that Rashi, in his commentary on the Torah, explains this wording. Therefore, one must say that the explanation of “advanced in days” is so simple that there is no need to explain it. 

According to many commentators that explain the simple meaning of Scripture (פשטנים), the term “advanced in days” indicates very old age (זקנה מופלגת).

As the Ibn Ezra explains,

“Advanced in days” – they have attained many days” (הגיעו לימים רבים).

However, one must examine, how in the expression “advanced in days”, is it alluded to that the meaning is “many days” over that of general “old age”?

(The Ramban writes:

“In his youthful days a man is called “standing in days” and they are referred to as “his days” because they belong to him. . However, when he gets old and has lived longer than most people of his generation, it is said of him that he is “ba bayamim” (literally “came into days”) because it is as if he came into another land, (travelling and arriving in a city each and every day)”

However, seemingly, this is not the simple meaning of the expression “advanced in days/ ba bayamim”. Enough to say that Rashi does not need to explicitly comment on it, and to rely on the student of Scripture. (which also includes a "five year old") to understand this on his own!). 

Moreover, the age of a hundred years for a man (Avraham’s age) and ninety years for a woman (Sarah’s age) was not considered, seemingly, to be extremely old age at that time. Moreover, the wording “old, advanced in days” is also found regarding David (in the Haftarah of our Parsha) when he was close to seventy years old, and this age is certainly not considered “very old”. 

4. One could say that the explanation of this is: 

The meaning of “ba bayamim” is like the literal meaning of the words - that one has attained and comes (enters) into the days (שהגיע ובא (נכנס) בתוך הימים), like one who comes into a house, and so forth. This means that this is not a description of the number of years of a person (whether many or few), but the manner in which a person lives in these days. 

In other words, the days that have passed by the person and the events in them are not like something that passes and is transitory (העובר וחולף) that leaves no impression. Rather they are in a manner that the person “inserts” (הכניס) his essence and soul into each and every day, and in his events and occurrences (ומאורעותיו והרפתקאותיו). Then, each day and each event (whether it is happy or the opposite, G-d forbid) affects and influences him, so much so that it is openly visible in his facial features etc. 

(As we actually see, not all who are of the same age are similar. Sometimes one person seems older than the other, for the impression of the events that he has undergone has affected his appearance. For each event etc. affected his heart). 

This is also the meaning of the term “old, advanced in days” regarding David, although the number of years of his life was only about seventy years. For the multitude of events he underwent (like the many wars, the grief of his son etc. and so forth), left their mark on him, in a manner of “advanced in days”. 

This is what is meant by, “Now Avraham and Sarah were old, coming on in years”. Not only were they "old" because of the number of years of their lives, but more than that – the days of their lives did not pass and fly by them. Rather they were in a manner of “ba’im bayamim”, as aforementioned. 

5. According to this, one can also explain why in our Parsha it is again written, “And Avraham was old, advanced in days”. One could say that the main innovation is not in the word "old" (for even before this he was old, as aforementioned) but that he was “ba bayamim – into his days”: 

It is the nature of things, that as one grows older, the events around him do not affect him (so much). This is either because he has become more moderate (מתון) (as it states, "as long as they age, their disposition is more settled" (דעתם מתיישבת)) or whether it is the nature of an older person, who has endured much in his life, to not be concerned by things that surround him. 

Therefore, even though it already stated, “Now Avraham and Sarah were old, coming on in years” due to the multitude of events that they underwent until that time. Nevertheless, there is a need to inform and to state an innovation that even after Avraham underwent another thirty-seven years, that “Avraham (was not just) old (but also) “advanced in days”. 

In other words, that even the events of these thirty-seven years also influenced him and left a mark on him in the form of “advanced in days”. 

Moreover, on the contrary:

One could say that specifically in these days were there important and decisive events in Avraham's life even more so than the events of his previous years - the birth of Isaac ("for in Isaac will be called your seed "), until the binding of Isaac and the passing of Sarah, etc. 

6. According to this interpretation of, “advanced in days”,

(Namely that days of a person are in a manner that one "enters" them and that they make an impression on him etc.)

one can readily understand the explanation of the Zohar on the words, “advanced in days” that all the days of his life were complete in Avodat HaShem. He did not miss, from serving G-d, even one day of the days of his life”. 

According to the above, it is understood that the explanation of the Zohar is not just according to allusion. Rather, it is based on the literal interpretation (הפירוש הפשוט) of “ba bayamim”. Namely, that there was not a day in Avraham’s life that just passed and went by, but rather that Avraham came and entered into his "days" through serving G-d each and every day, as was demanded every day according to his aspect.

In other words:

  • The aspect of “advanced in days” according to the simple understanding of the (aforementioned) verse refers to the physical life of Avraham, where the events of each and every day affected him etc.
  • Whereas in the Zohar, Pnimiyut HaTorah, the inner content of Avraham's life, is emphasized. These are the life of the soul, and his Avodat HaShem, which are the true life of Avraham .

(As in the words of the Alter Rebbe that "the life of the Tzaddik is not a physical life, but a spiritual life").

Therefore he explains that the reason that Avraham came and entered every day (so much so that the impression of all the days of his life, were recognizable) was because his entire life was filled with Avodat HaShem, in a manner that each and every day was a "living" day (שכל יום ויום הי' יום "חי"). 

MSichas Shabbat Parshat Chayei Sarah 5748

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 7. According to the above, in the commentary on the words of the Zohar, in the interpretation of “ba bayamim”, one can also explain the wording of the verse in the beginning of our Parsha:

And the life of Sarah was one hundred years . . (these were) the years of the life of Sarah”.

For seemingly one must examine the precise wording:

In general, when one enumerates the years of one’s life in the Torah, the wording in Scripture is:

“And these were the days . . “ or “(the (days) of the years of the life etc.” .

If so, even here it should have stated, “and these were the days of Sarah” or the “and these were the years of Sarah”. Why does it state “and these were the life of Sarah”?)

One could say that the explanation of this is:

The main innovation in this verse is to inform us that all the days of Sarah were filled with the service of G-d with the epitome of completeness. In the words of the Midrash "Just as they are perfect so too their years are perfect". So much so (as Rashi explains) “they were all equal for good”, namely that the characteristic of “good” of all their years was in an equal manner.

 Seemingly, these words are puzzling:

How is it possible to say that all one hundred twenty-seven of Sarah’s years were equally good?

It is clear that it is not possible to compare her status and condition while she was in Ur Casdim, as well as in Charan, with her status and condition after she came "to the land that I will show you."

On the other hand – these hundred and twenty-seven years also include the time that she was in the house of Pharaoh, as well as in the house of Avimelech, etc.

 However, the explanation for this - simply is:

"The life of Sarah" means - the matters in which Sarah lived. Thus, "the life of Sarah" were "equally good" throughout all her years.

(This is similar to the aforementioned explanation of the Zohar on the words “advanced in days” that were said regarding Avraham. Namely, that each and every day was complete in Avodat HaShem).

 It is understood, that the true meaning of "the life of Sarah" is not her physical life (eating and sleeping, and so forth). The life of Sarah Imeinu was not in these matters. It is simple that when she was in the house of Pharaoh or in the house of Avimelech, the undesirable part of this was not part of "the life of Sarah"

(On the contrary, being hostage in the house of Pharaoh and the house of Avimelech caused her great pain). 

However, "the life of Sarah" is her spiritual life, beginning with the three Mitzvot unique to Jewish women, as is cited in Rashi’s comment in our Parsha:

  • A candle that burned from Erev Shabbat to Erev Shabbat
  • A blessing constantly in the dough, and
  • A cloud that hung over the tent

(Which, as cited in the commentators refers to the three Mitzvot of Shabbat candle lighting, Taking Challah, and Family Purity (נר שבת, חלה ונדה))

This life was "equally good" every moment of her being on earth. 

This is the emphasis of "the life of Sarah etc." – that even though Sarah’s days and years included many differences and changes in her status and condition, nevertheless the "life of Sarah" were in an equal manner throughout her entire life – “they were all equally good”.

MSichas Shabbat Parshat Chayei Sarah 5743





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