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The Consummate Life of Sarah
by Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh

>>> Listen to Audio Lecture here (length: 19:06 min) 
 

The first Jew to ever die was Sarah, the first matriarch. The Torah explicitly enumerates the years of her life, beckoning us to explore their deep significance. In this audio meditation, Rabbi Ginsburgh delves into the inner meaning of Sarah's most perfect and all-inclusive lifespan and the message that her years holds for us.  


 

127 Years: The Revealed Meaning

Sarah, the first matriarch, lived for 127 years. The Torah writes her lifespan as "100 years, and 20 years and 7 years." This particular division of her years obviously points to the message behind those years. Rashi, the most important classical Biblical commentator, quotes the explanation of the sages: At the age of 100, Sara was still as pure of soul as a 20 year old, and at the age of 20, Sara was as beautiful as a child of 7.

127 Years: The Inner Meaning

Kabbalah and Chassidut explain that the first 100 years of Sarah's life, 10 times 10, correspond to Sarah's perfection at the level of keter, the superconscious level of the soul. The next 20 years of Sarah's life, 2 times 10, correspond to her perfection at the two intellectual faculties of the soul, chochmah, "wisdom," and binah, "understanding." This indicates that Sarah, the first Jewish woman was perfect in her mind, as in the verse (Proverbs 19:14):

If a man is worthy, his wife is a truly and completely intelligent woman

The 7 years of Sarah's life correspond to her perfection at the level of the inner dimension of the 7 emotive attributes of the heart; love, awe, compassion, confidence, sincerity, truth and humility.

Levels of Interinclusion in the Soul

In Kabbalah we learn that each ascending level of the soul has a greater level of interinclusion. The brilliance of the soul shines at each stage of the interinclusion. As a result, the higher levels of the soul shine with much more brilliance than do the lower levels. The verse on Sarah's age illustrates this point:

Mathematically, 7 is 7 times 10 to the 0 power (10 to the 0 power is 1). There is no interinclusion of 10 in 7 -- rather, the 7 stands alone. At the level of 20, the two mental faculties of the soul, interinclusion already exists. 20 is 10 to the first power. Thus, in each of the powers of the mind, there is interinclusion of all 10 powers of the soul. At the level of 100, keter, there is an added dimension of interinclusion. 100 is 1 times 10 squared. At this supernal level of the soul, there is a double manifestation of all 10 intrinsic powers of the soul. Thus, there is an added dimension of light in the superconscious crown in relation to the faculties of the mind, and 10 times more light in the faculties of the mind than in the emotions of the heart. Sarah's lifespan reflects the brilliance of her soul. The lights of the powers of her soul shine at all levels of perfect interinclusion.

Synthesizing the Body and Soul of the Torah

Kabbalah is the concealed level -- the soul -- of the Torah. It enlivens the revealed level – the body -- of the Torah. From the Lubavitcher Rebbe we learn that both the revealed and concealed interpretations of a verse must be related and synthesized. Let us now explore the significance of Sarah's age in the prism of both the revealed and concealed interpretations of this verse.

The Nullification of 100

In the Ethics of our Fathers our sages explain that when a person reaches the age of 100, he becomes null, as though he has already passed away. Even if the person is still alive, he experiences life outside the realm of normative human connection to earthly matters. This level of total nullification of earthly consciousness experienced by the centenarian is the full manifestation of the Crown in his soul. The Crown is the level of light above vessels -- it does not relate to reality as we experience it. Rather, at the level of Crown the experience of the soul is the pure consciousness that God is all and all is God -- above the vision of reality as perceived by our physical senses. At the age of 100, a person is no longer deceived by his senses. He fully reveals his Crown. Because he has succeeded in reaching this total nullification, he is pure and without blemish, as a person of 20, who is not yet held responsible for his sins.

The Purity of 20

Only when a person's mind is fully developed can he be held responsible for his actions. This full development of one's mental faculties occurs at the age of 20. It is then that a person is liable for his sins. Until the age of 20, a person is still immature and not responsible for his sins. Sarah was pure at the age of 100 as a person of 20 who was never held responsible for his sins. Although her mind was completely mature, she merited not to sin. Her purity stemmed not from her immaturity, but rather from the matured and consummate powers of her soul.

The Beauty of 7

Tiferet, "beauty" is the most central of all the seven emotions of the soul. The source of the charm and grace of a young girl of 7 is the natural compassion in her soul for all living things. At the age of 20, Sarah was as consummately beautiful in all the emotions of her soul as a child of 7.
Sarah was the first matriarch. By emulating her ways we can strive to ascend to the consummate levels of nullification, purity and beauty of her soul.

age

revealed meaning
(Rashi)

concealed meaning

synthesis of revealed and concealed

100

 

sefirah of Crown

total nullification to God, without blemish or sin

20

Pure soul

 

mental faculties of wisdom and understanding

purity of a person of 20 who has not yet been held responsible for his sins due to his as yet immature mental faculties

7

Beauty

7 emotive powers of soul

compassion for all living things, the source of beauty of the child
   
 

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