I don’t think a week passes in which I don’t see some advertisement for a miraculous product that will make me look years younger. Expensive creams that will take years of wrinkles off my skin, wonder diets or special exercises that will shape my body to make me look drastically more youthful . . .

And have you ever noticed that it is a societal faux pas to ask people beyond their teens what their age is? Too many of us remain at 21++ years, without the willingness to publicly acknowledge the passage of time.

Let’s face it: our society as a whole adores and pursues youth.

But what is it about youth that makes us yearn to be young again? And is there something about old age that deserves more respect and reverence?

In the portion of Chayei Sarah, we are informed about Sarah’s death.

And the years of Sarah’s life were 100 years and 20 years and 7 years old; these were the years of the life of Sarah. And Sarah died in Kiryat Arba, which is Hebron, in the land of Canaan, and Abrahamcame to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her.1

The repetition of the word “years” three times, after “100,” “20,” and “7,” indicates that the three numbers allude to Sarah’s perfection in three distinct aspects of her life.

As Rashi (23:1) comments:

The reason the word “years” is written after every number is to inform you that every number has its own message. When Sarah was 100 years old, she was like a 20-year-old regarding sin. Just like a person of 20 has not sinned, for one is not liable for punishment [by the Heavenly court below the age of twenty], likewise when she was 100 years old she was without sin. And when she was 20, she was like a seven-year-old with regard to beauty.

Sarah’s unique ability to forge body and soul in such unison had a lasting impact on her physical appearance:

Sarah retained the youthful beauty that she had regained before conceiving Isaacuntil her last days, and she died completely righteous, untainted by sin. The body is subject to the effects of time and environment. The soul, on the other hand, being a G‑dly entity, is immune to this. In Sarah’s case, the energy of her soul so totally permeated her body that it, like her soul, became timeless. Her beauty remained unmarred, immune to life’s tribulations and the passage of time. The perfection of her physical beauty was a manifestation of her spiritual perfection.2

Sarah’s body almost became spiritual-like. It worked hand in hand with her soul. There was no conflict. Her physical beauty was therefore a direct reflection of her spiritual perfection.

Rashi (23:1) then explains the repetition at the end of the phrase: “‘These were the years of the life of Sarah.’ Each of her years was consistently perfect and equal in righteousness.”

Sarah achieved this equality of years through her consistent spiritual work:

Sarah constantly achieved ever higher degrees of perfection. It could therefore seem that any period in her life was superior to the period preceding it and inferior to the period following it. But all her years were nonetheless equally good. Her every achievement built upon and perfected her previous accomplishments and prepared her for the greater heights she would eventually reach. In this way, Sarah succeeded in breaking through the boundaries of time and creating a cohesive oneness out of the different periods of her life.3

In other words, at each period of time she achieved exactly what she needed to spur her forward in her evolving spiritual development.

The Talmud (Baba Kama 97b) tells us, “The coin of Abraham had the images of an old man and woman on one side and the images of a young boy and girl on the other side.”

G‑d had promised Abraham, “Ve’agadla shemecha,” that He would make Abraham’s name great.4 The Midrash (Rabbah, Lech Lecha) explains that this means that Abraham would become famous and a coin would be minted in his honor. This is the coin that the Talmud is referring to. The commentator Eitz Yosef explains that the young boy and girl on the coin represented Abraham and Sarah, who miraculously experienced renewed youthfulness.

Abraham and Sarah were able to seamlessly meld the advantages of youth and maturity on a psychological level too:

Sarah was at one and the same time 7, 20, and a 100 years old. She was simultaneously very old and very young, representing the aged, the adult, and the child . . . Sarah at 20 was mature and fully developed both intellectually and emotionally; she was energetic, bold, and daring. Yet the adult in Sarah did not destroy the child. Maturity did not do away with childhood. In the deep recesses of her personality, no matter how developed, no matter how capable and brilliant, no matter how attractive and ingenious, there always resided an innocent child. The adult might have reached the highest peak of intellectual greatness or growth . . . yet all that did not interfere with the secret presence of a child in Sarah. Notwithstanding the maturation of her natural wisdom, she retained within her the young girl. She acted like a mature, wise, experience-rich old woman, but in times of need and crisis, the young, bold, courageous girl came to the fore and took over.5

What is it about youth that we all adore?

An old person is wise with life’s experiences. The Hebrew word for elder, zakein, hints to “ze kana chochma,” “this one has acquired wisdom” (Kiddushin 32b). Maturity is important for studying, analyzing, conceptualizing, and inferring. It represents a proud mind, an independent thinker, and confidence in one’s ability to understand and judge, to discriminate and equate.

And yet, maturity also represents the passage of time and opportunities missed, prospects squandered, and ventures that have passed us by.

Youth, on the other hand, is newness, inquisitiveness, and curiosity. It represents unconditional commitment. Youth defy the world to follow their convictions without thought of consequence.

In this way, youth is diametrically opposite maturity. It embodies surrendering one’s pride and self-confidence, exposing one’s vulnerability, and putting aside any awareness of greatness and independence. Instinctively, a child feels that he is in the embrace of someone who loves him very much, who will protect him and do anything to make his life happy and better. Youth brings out our complete trust.

Our spiritual work in this world requires both adult maturation and youthful idealism. We are commanded to “toil” in our study of Torah until we gain insight and independent thinking. G‑d wants man to grow intellectually, to expand his capacity for conceptualizing and inferring.

At the same time, faith in G‑d requires youthful idealism. It demands self-negation and the suspension of judgment, putting aside our own greatness and independence. It may even demand the surrender of both body and mind, to do even if we do not understand why we need to do.

Sarah and Abraham were able to seamlessly meld the two.

Abraham was an intellectual giant, a genius of frightening stature. His judgment was mature and ripe. He was not a child, yet he was capable of transforming himself into a child and accepting the Almighty’s command to suspend his judgment and his humanity to do something inhuman [the sacrifice of Isaac, when G‑d so commanded].6

We, too, can mimic Abraham and Sarah, who had the best of both worlds.

Tap into your youthful defiance by resisting society’s abhorrence of old age. Wear your wrinkles proudly, appreciating the benefits that come from a mature, well-reasoned approach. Use each day—both the positive and negative ones—for productive growth, with the constant awareness of how precious each moment is.

Build upon and learn from your previous accomplishments; even setbacks can be exploited. Use “down” periods of imperfections to propel you higher on the trajectory of your life. What you do today affects not only the present, but the past and future as well.

At the same time, infuse your attitude with the exuberance of youthful innocence by rediscovering the wonder of all of G‑d’s creations. Strengthen your intuitive reliance on a greater Being Who takes care of each and every one of us at every moment.

Science still hasn’t figured out how to turn the clock back. But by infusing our mature perspective with the vibrancy of youth, we can make ourselves years younger.

And perhaps this is more precious than even the best wrinkle cream.