We learn from Sarah Imeinu that we can never put our lives on “cruise control”
“And the life of Sarah was one hundred years and twenty years and seven years — the years of the life of Sarah.” (Bereishis 23:1)
he word “shanah” (year) is mentioned in this pasuk four times. The root of the word “shanah” also means to repeat. The Torah is telling us that even when Sarah reached the age of twenty, she nevertheless possessed the youthfulness of a seven-year-old, remaining in a bursting state of growth, exploration and renewal, as if she’d just begun life. When she was one hundred, she still hadn’t lost her excitement for rejuvenation, challenges, change, and inspiration. Every shanah, there was repetition of her youth and eagerness to discover a deeper “I” within herself and to actualize new, unlimited potential.
The Midrash says that the word, “shanim” (years), can also be read as “shnayim” (two). Sarah lived a double life. Every year was doubled by the enthusiasm of youth working harmoniously with the experience of age to perfect the service of Hashem. (Rav Shmuel Brazil)
Sunday mornings find me in the pool doing water aerobics. It’s a class I enjoy a lot, despite the fact that I’m not really supposed to be a part of it. The class is geared toward English-speakers ages 60-plus. English-speaking I can still claim to be, but while I’m not baring my soul and confessing how old I am, we can just leave it at 60-minus. Still, the class’s organizer has graciously allowed me to join; no one asks me my age, and I return the courtesy and don’t ask theirs.
The Midrash tells us that Avraham delivered the words of Eishes Chayil as his hesped of Sarah. The pasuk (Mishlei 31:21) says: “She did not fear for her household… because all her house was clothed in scarlet (‘shanim’). Here too, a deeper meaning of the word “shani” (scarlet) is from the root of “shanah” (repetition and renewal).
In Eishes Chayil, Avraham also says that Sarah got up in the middle of the night to tend to her family. Nighttime alludes to times when one lacks insight and light, a challenge that can cast us into the shackles of habit. Yet Sarah Imeinu didn’t allow herself to succumb to this darkness. Rather, she arose at night and continued her nurturing with enthusiasm.
My Sunday morning lethargy is no match for underwater boxing, and I revel in the exercise, envisioning the frustration of a long Shabbos afternoon entertaining my lively boys escaping in the bubbles I churn up. But mostly I love the class for its participants. The age-bracket parameter here is misleading. My fellow swimmers are one of the most enthusiastic, creative, and fun groups I’ve been a part of.
One member volunteers weekly at the Jerusalem zoo. Another is a caterer. Still a third is an active shadchan, while another went to high school with my mother.
We share anecdotes about our kids or grandkids (I stay silent when the conversation turns to great-grands), and it’s incredible how the conversations I used to have with my young married friends on the park bench are repeated here in the undulating waves, as we alternately worry and kvell.
The power of renewal has the ability to erase the past, and then transform the present into a new experience, giving one the sensation of a “first” even though the same ritual has been performed thousands of times before.
Furthermore, this force of renewal also prevents one from becoming haughty in his avodas Hashem. He never feels that he’s reached a plateau and can spiritually retire.
We learn from Sarah Imeinu that we can never put our lives on “cruise control.” The fulfillment of Torah and mitzvos doesn’t have to follow the natural path of becoming stale, fossilized, boring, and monotonous. Instead it can be continually replenished by the enthusiasm of the fountain of youth.
I’m sure every woman sharing that pool has experienced major life upheavals and challenges, yet the humor and refreshing enthusiasm that characterize the atmosphere week after week are humbling.
I finish the hour feeling revitalized and ready to tackle a new week. The vigor is fueled less by the aerobic workout and more by the group energy. These women tackle years’ worth of Sunday mornings with upbeat cheer, putting their best foot forward… while treading the waters of life.
When I grow up, I want to be exactly like them. Forever young.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 818)
Oops! We could not locate your form.