A noble lady passes away at the beginning of this week's Torah portion (Genesis 23:1-25:18) — Sarah, the wife of Abraham, ancestress of the Jewish people. She was 127 years old when she died, which is not so old considering she had her first and only child, Isaac, when she was ninety.

The Torah tells us her age in a very deliberate way: her life was "a hundred years, and twenty years, and seven years." The Sages 1comment that this means that as regards beauty and innocence of any kind of sin, when she was a hundred she was like twenty, and when she was twenty she was like seven.

This teaching about Sarah tells us something about beauty, innocence and constancy.

Everyone goes through a stage of innocence. They look at the world in an unselfish and unself-conscious way. Their ego has not yet masked their innate purity. Unfortunately, for most people this stage eventually passes. They become conscious primarily of their own selves, of their selfish desires. The ego loudly announces its presence: I want, I desire, I have - and I am not going to share it with you!

In the case of Sarah, this innocence did not pass. It remained with her all her life. Further, the Sages connect her state of innocence with physical beauty. Sarah's inner purity radiated from every aspect of her being.

This might happen as a result of being remote from the world, standing apart. But this was not the case with Sarah: she was in the world, in a sacred yet also wholesome way. Not only her soul, her spiritual life, but also her physical life expressed her dedication to G‑d.

But was Sarah's physical body ageless? The Lubavitcher Rebbe points out that in fact the Torah last week described her as having aged, beyond the point of being able to bear children. Then, miraculously, she gave birth to Isaac. This is saying quite clearly that apart from the extraordinary miracle, Sarah changed with age, as do other people.

The Rebbe explains that the very ups and downs and changes which come about through the passage of time can eventually reveal the inner constancy of the person. Not despite these physical changes, but by means of them, the person's inner spirituality shines through, timelessly, expressed in their physical being.2

In this sense we all have the opportunity to be like Sarah. Through the teachings of the Torah we can regain and retain innocence in all aspects of our lives, shedding those aspects of our ego which separate us from our true selves.

Thus we reach a state in which our pure, sacred inwardness is expressed in our outer, physical lives. Whether male or female, we seem to change with age, but in fact, as the years go by we only express ever more deeply the wholesomeness and beauty within.