1. This week’s Torah portion begins, “And Sarah’s life was one hundred years, twenty years, and seven years.” Rashi explains that the word “years” is repeated to teach us that when she was 100 she was just like she was at twenty [without] sin; at twenty, she was beautiful as at seven. Afterwards, the Torah states, “the years of Sarah’s life,” which teaches us, “all are equally good.”

The latter statement is somewhat problematic. How can we say that all of the years of Sarah’s life were equal in regard to beauty and lack of sin. The Torah itself relates that Sarah had “withered,” and that she had laughed in disbelief when she heard the prophecy that she would give birth and then, denied laughing in G‑d’s presence. Since Sarah had been a full partner in Avraham’s service, “Avraham would convert the men, and Sarah would convert the women,” and had proceeded upward in service together with him, her laughter appears to be out of character, and a descent from her level. After such a descent, how is it possible to say that all her years were “all equally good”?

There is a further difficulty. Our Sages teach, “The deeds of the Patriarchs are a sign for their children,” i.e., the narrative of their behavior — and that of the Matriarchs — provides us with significant lessons that we must apply in our lives. Thus, it is difficult to understand: What is the lesson that we can derive from Sarah’s behavior? How is it possible for people on our spiritual level to aspire to a service which is “all equally good?”

These questions can be resolved based on the explanation that the three numbers mentioned in connection with Sarah — 100, 20, and 7 — represent the spiritual powers which we are granted. 100 refers to the powers of will and desire, 20 to the intellectual faculties of chochmah and binah, and seven to our seven emotional attributes.

[In addition to these qualities, Sarah’s service also involved activity in the world at large. This characterized the difference between the Patriarchs whose service was more spiritual in nature, and the Matriarchs, whose service involved drawing G‑dliness into the material dimension of the world. Sarah, the first of the Matriarchs, surely reflected this quality.1 Indeed, we can see the effects of this dimension of her service in two of the events related in this Torah portion: a) The purchase of the Cave of Machpelah: This begins the Jews’ acquisition of Eretz Yisrael. Furthermore, the way this portion of land was acquired leaves no room for a protest from the gentiles that the Jews stole Eretz Yisrael from them. b) Avraham’s giving birth to many nations: Avraham’s remarriage to Hagar — and the children whom she bore him (which represent his activity with the world at large) — was ultimately, the product of Sarah’s activity. It was only because she was Sarah’s maidservant, that Avraham considered wedding her.2 ]

Although each of the levels of soul mentioned above reflects a unique and different level, Sarah also revealed the essence of her soul. Thus, the various potentials reflected in her service (100, 20, and 7) differed one from the other. Nevertheless, the revelation of the essence of her soul established a commonalty between all the levels, “all are equally good.” The soul of every Jew is “an actual part of G‑d from above,” a part of His essence, as it were. This G‑dly essence is the essence and the source of all good, and from it come a variety of different expressions of good.

This can explain the difficulties mentioned above: The levels of 100, 20, and 7, are each unique and different for they each represent a different rung of service. Nevertheless, the revelation of the essence of the soul affects all these particular levels and establishes a commonalty between them. This allowed the positive qualities Sarah manifested in her youth to also effect her old age and, conversely, the peaks she reached in her later years to elevate her service of the past.3

2. According to the above explanation the concept of “they are all equally good,” reflects an additional dimension, beyond the service of 100, 20, and 7, as they exist within their own context. This is somewhat problematic because this phrase from Rashi’s commentary, and the phrase from the Torah, “the years of Sarah’s life,” which it explains, appear to be the sum total of the 100, 20, and 7 years mentioned previously. Therefore, it is preferable to offer a slightly different explanation than mentioned previously.

In this context, the number 100 can be interpreted as the general thrust which permeates all different dimensions of service, elevating the particular levels of 20 and 7. Since this general thrust affects all these particular levels, it is possible for them to be, “all equally good.”

The concept of 100 as the general thrust of our service can be understood more thoroughly based on the Zohar’s association of the 100 years of Sarah’s life with the 100 blessings which we are required to recite each day.4

In his Shulchan Aruch, the Alter Rebbe5 quotes the Talmud’s derivation of this obligation:

A person is obligated to recite 100 blessings each day as it is written, “Now Israel, What is it that G‑d asks from you?” Do not read מה (“What”), read מאה (100).

The Alter Rebbe continues, quoting the further portion of the verse, “To fear the L‑rd,” and explains:

These 100 blessings are intended to bring a person to fear G‑d, to love Him, and to recall Him at all times through the recitation of these blessings. [This is accomplished] by constantly reciting blessings in the evening, in the morning, and in the afternoon.

In this manner, the 100 blessings express the general thrust of our service of G‑d as explained above in regard to Sarah’s 100 years. Similarly, these 100 blessings are related to our service within the world since, for the most part, they praise G‑d and express our thanks to Him for the material benefits He has granted us within the world.

Thus, the recitation of a blessing has two dimensions, service within the soul and service within the world at large. Reciting the blessings “bring about the revelation of the light of G‑d within the souls of the Jewish people to strengthen their faith in G‑d... bringing that faith into open revelation.” This revelation will be manifest in the soul of the person who recites the blessing, the souls of those who answer Amen, and then, drawn down in the world at large.

This process is reflected in the text of the blessings, “Blessed are You L‑rd, our G‑d, King of the universe....” First, we express our relationship with “our G‑d,”6 and then we relate how He is “King of the Universe.”

The obligation to recite 100 blessings a day is incumbent on all Jews, men and women. Similarly, children are educated and trained to recite these 100 blessings. Indeed, even very young children are trained to recite blessings7 and answer Amen to other blessings with the intent that this become an integral part of their personalities and lead them, “to fear G‑d, to love Him, and to recall Him at all times through the recitation of these blessings.”

Since the obligation to recite these blessings brings us to the awareness of G‑d “at all times,” it enables us to make our years, “all equally good,” to express the fundamental thrust of our service of G‑d in all the different phases of our lives.

This includes even the very beginning of our lives8 and is further enhanced by the activities of parents and friends who give praise and thanks to G‑d when they watch the early stages of a young child’s development.9 This leads to further Divine blessings, that the parents will raise their child and bring them to “Torah, marriage, and good deeds,” together with many brothers and sisters, a family blessed with many children who are occupied in Torah and mitzvos.

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3. The above-mentioned activities with Jewish children share a point of connection with Parshas Toldos which we begin reading in today’s Minchah service.

Parshas Toldos begins: “These are the chronicles of Yitzchok, the son of Avraham. Avraham gave birth to Yitzchok.” To explain the apparent redundancy, Rashi quotes our Sages who relate this teaches us that G‑d made Yitzchak’s facial features like those of Avraham so that everyone would say, “Avraham gave birth to Yitzchok.”10

This teaches us that a father must endeavor that his son’s behavior reveal who his parents are. From watching a child, we must be able to recognize that he is a descendant of Avraham, or in a particular sense, that he is the son of a Chassid and a Tamim. The only difference between a child and a father should be their age. They must share the same commitment to Torah and mitzvos.

This is accomplished through Chinuch, education. From the earliest moments of a child’s existence,11 a parent must endeavor to ingrain in him the fundamental thrust of our service, “to fear G‑d, to love Him, and to recall Him at all times.” This will enable the child to grow and develop in a manner that his years will be “all equally good.”

Based on the above, we can see the progression from Parshas Chayei Sarah to Parshas Toldos. Chayei Sarah describes the attainment of personal fulfillment, reaching a level that all one’s years, the totality of one’s life experience, is “equally good.” Parshas Toldos reflects how this level of fulfillment can be transmitted to one’s descendants and how one’s children continue the pattern of conduct which one has established.

Toldos, giving birth to children, also shares a connection to the ultimate redemption because Mashiach will not come until all the Jewish souls will descend and will be born within this material world. Here, we also see a connection to Yitzchok, for our Sages emphasize that in the era of Redemption, we will point to Yitzchok and say, “You are our Patriarch.”

4. The above also shares a connection to Chof MarCheshvan, the Rebbe Rashab’s birthday, which fell in the previous week. The Rebbe Rashab founded Yeshivas Tomchei Temimim with the intent that:

The young men who study Nigleh (the revealed dimensions of Torah law) should be G‑d-fearing Jews... to implant in them an inner-felt fear and love of G‑d.... The essence and the foundation should be their study of Chassidus. This should lead them to the love and fear of G‑d... and Nigleh should be studied in this spirit.

His intent was that the study of Chassidus should inspire even the younger students. Indeed, this is relevant even to children of the youngest ages for, it was at the age of four or five that the Rebbe Rashab broke out in tears, asking that G‑d reveal Himself to him just like He revealed Himself to Avraham.

This service will have an effect in the world at large. This is alluded to in his name, Shalom DovBer. Shalom, “peace,”11 is drawn down to the level of DovBer, the Hebrew and Yiddish term for “bear,” an animal “overladen with meat;” i.e., peace is brought down to the lowest levels of this material world.

This parallels the message mentioned previously, that the essential point of our service, our fundamental fear of G‑d should permeate through every dimension of our service so that all our years, even those of childhood, are “all equally good.”

The desire to communicate these concepts was one of the reasons for distributing the kuntreis Etz Chayim, to all the men, women, and children, at the conclusion of Chof MarCheshvan. Needless to say, the intent was that the kuntreis be studied and ultimately, applied in our actual conduct as the Rebbe Rashab writes in the conclusion of the kuntreis:

Pay attention to the statements which are made in this kuntreis. May these words always be upon your hearts for it is difficult for me to make statements and continuously repeat them. This will allow these statements to be constantly before your eyes so that they will not be forgotten be you. This is “your life and the length of your days,” and with this you will merit eternal life.

These matters were transmitted and communicated by the Previous Rebbe who served as the first director of Yeshivas Tomchei Temimim. This is particularly relevant now, after forty years have passed since his death, and we can “attain full grasp of our teacher’s knowledge.”

Also, after Shabbos, a maamar of the Rebbe Rashab’s which was recited in the year 5678, but was hidden for many years, and was just recently discovered will be distributed.12 May this also be studied in a manner that leads to deed.

[On the surface, one might ask: Why was this maamar only revealed now? This, however, is one of the signs of the immanence of Mashiach’s coming, that new Chassidic teachings will be revealed throughout the world. This will herald the revelation of “the new Torah that will emerge from Me,” in the era of Redemption.]

May there be an increase in the study of Chassidus, together with an increase in the study of Nigleh. May new institutions be established and the existing institutions strengthened and may these activities hasten the coming of Mashiach.

Indeed, the climate in the world at large is one which clearly portends the advent of the era of Redemption. Our Sages related that one of the signs of Mashiach’s coming is “Nations challenging each other.” In particular, the Yalkut Shimoni relates how “the King of Peras will challenge an Arab13 king,” and “All the nations of the world will panic and will be overcome with consternation.” We see this today when the leading nations of the world are running to and fro without really knowing what they really want. This situation, however, contains the seeds for the ultimate good as the Yalkut continues:

[G‑d] will tell [the Jews]: “My children, why are you afraid? All that I have wrought, I performed for your sake. Do not fear; the time for your Redemption has come....” Mashiach will stand on the roof of the Beis HaMikdash and proclaim, “Humble ones. The time for your Redemption has come!”