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Friday, October 25

The Weekly Shtikle - Chayei Sarah

Today, the 21st of Chesvan, is the  Yahrtzeit of my great uncle, Rabbi Lord Immanuel Jakobovits, z"l. The shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso, Yisroel be Yoel.

In this week's parsha, as Avraham ages, he makes arrangements to ensure Yitzchak finds a worthy bride. While at a parsha shiur discussing the meaning of the phrase ba'im bayamim, it occurred to me that we were already told at the beginning of last week's parsha that Avraham and Sarah were zekeinim, ba'im bayamim. Why does it need to be stated again here?

Sure enough, this question is raised in Shaarei Aharon. He discusses a number of different answers, most of which center around a common theme. The Torah is not simply stating a fact here since we already knew that. Rather, the Torah is explaining the reasoning behind Avraham's inspiration to act at this time. Seeing his wife pass on, Avraham feared his days too were numbered was inspired to find a wife for Yitzchak.

Tur offers an interesting approach based on the Midrash. Just as Sarah experienced rejuvenation and return to youth in order to enable her to conceive Yitzchak, Avraham experienced a similar rejuvenation. When the Torah recounts here that Avraham was zakein, ba bayamim, that is for the second time.

I suggest a slightly different definition of ba bayamim which might explain this apparent repetition. The term does not have a specific connotation but simply means "on in years" and can take on different meaning in context. In Vayeira, the rest of the pasuk makes it quite clear what the subject was. They were well shy of the average life expectancy in those days so it could not have referred to general old age. Rather, with regards to their ability to conceive children, Avraham and Sarah were on in years and those days were behind them. Here, though, it is clear, as many commentaries explain that Avraham was reaching a point where he felt his days were numbered. Fortunately, though, he still had many good years left.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

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