Rebecca Masinter

Chayei Sara - The Fountain of Youth

After Sarah’s death in this week’s Parsha the Torah tells us: וְאַבְרָהָ֣ם זָקֵ֔ן בָּ֖א בַּיָּמִ֑ים, “Avraham was old; he came along in days”. This sounds familiar to us because in last week’s Parshah, Parshas Vayeira, the Torah said: וְאַבְרָהָ֤ם וְשָׂרָה֙ זְקֵנִ֔ים בָּאִ֖ים בַּיָּמִ֑ים, “Avraham and Sarah were old, come along in days.” Interestingly, the same phrase is used to describe Avraham and Sarah before they had a son,and Avraham himself, 37 years later, after he had Yitzchak, but no longer had his wife, Sarah. The Kli Yakar explains that just as a spouse brings life and vitality to a person, so does a child. Until Yitzchak was born, Avraham had a boost of joy and life only from Sarah, but not from a child. After she died he had that extra vitality from his child Yitzchak, but not his spouse. However, in those interim 37 years, he had both a wife and a son and he had double the joy, double the vitality. In those 37 years of joy, the Kli Yakar says, he didn’t age at all. ובכל הימים הללו היה עומד במעמד אחד לא נתוספה בו חולשה כמנהג הזקנים, כי היו לו ימי שמחה וברכה. Those years were ones of joy and blessing for Avraham and he didn’t age in that time, he didn’t get weaker or frailer as one would expect. Those 37 years are bracketed in the Torah with the same phrase “Avraham was zakein, ba bayamim” because the periods in Avraham’s life before and after those phrases were times of lesser vitality and joy compared to the interim years when he was surrounded by his wife and son. This Kli Yakar is notable because popular wisdom doesn’t consider having children as an elixir of youth. Quite the opposite! Parenting articles and jokes point out parents’ exhaustion, stretch marks, gray hairs, and the message seems to be, “Watch out, moms! You were youthful before you had kids, but children age you!!” Sometimes we watch our children grow into stages we remember clearly, as if we were that age just yesterday, and feel old. But the Kli Yakar points out to us a different perspective, the Torah perspective. When a person is blessed with a spouse and children, they are living “yemei simcha ubracha” days of joy and blessing, with additional chiyus, life and vitality which keeps us young. Avraham didn’t age at all when he had his wife and son, because children bring life to a person. We get to experience this each day. Being around our children lets us revisit childhood. Recently, my youngest son and I sat outside on Shabbos watching birds together and his youthful excitement was contagious. We get to marvel at wonders with fresh eyes when we see them with our children. We laugh again at jokes that we haven’t thought of for twenty years. Our children do keep us young. We get to choose our perspective. It’s true that we can look at ourselves after pregnancies, births, and years of mothering and feel old. And it’s also true that we can look around our homes, filled with our children’s energy and joy, and let that vitality keep us young. This Kli Yakar is a reminder to us to choose the perspective of vitality. I wish you a day filled with simcha u’vracha and youthful spirits!