And these were the life of Sarah: one hundred years, twenty years and seven years; the years of the life of Sarah. (Genesis 23:1)
What can we learn from Sarah's death?
This week’s Torah portion begins by giving us the lifespan of Sarah. If one is not familiar with the breakdown of the Torah portions we would expect to begin reading more about the life of Sarah, since the portion is entitled Chayei Sarah, “The Life of Sarah.” But the very next words we read are, “And Sarah died.” It’s not quite what we expect of our Torah portion.
Despite the fact that we begin our portion reading about the death of Sarah, there is something we can indeed learn about the life of Sarah from this passage. Although our translations render the first verse so that it reads better in English, in Hebrew this verse contains an unusual repetition. It uses the same phrase, chayei Sarah (“the life of Sarah”), two different times. After it is used at the beginning of the verse, it seems to be used redundantly at the end of the verse. Our sages teach us, however, that the Torah does not waste even a single letter, much less entire words. Therefore, the seemingly redundant expression, “the life of Sarah,” must offer us some insight into a deeper meaning of the text. But what is the Torah wanting to teach us through this?