Parshas Chayei Sarah ushers in a new generation as Yitzchak meets his wife, Rivka, and they are married. But before that, the Torah details Sarah’s death and Avraham’s purchase of the Mearas Hamachpela as a burial site. There is much discussion as to why these two stories are placed next to each other. Let’s examine the pasuk that connects them together.
“וְאַבְרָהָ֣ם זָקֵ֔ן בָּ֖א בַּיָּמִ֑ים” And Avraham was old, advanced in days…” (Bereishis 24:1). The fact that the pasuk begins the story of searching for Yitzchak’s wife with this phrase is puzzling. In Parshas Vayeira, when Hashem promised Avraham and Sarah that they would have a child, the pasuk uses this same phrase to tell us that they were old. (“וְאַבְרָהָ֤ם וְשָׂרָה֙ זְקֵנִ֔ים בָּאִ֖ים בַּיָּמִ֑ים” [18:14].) The pasuk there is explaining how great a miracle this was that even though they were both elderly, they were still able to have a child. But this is now almost 40 years later, and Avraham is definitely considered old at this point. So why does the pasuk need to mention it again?
The Kli Yakar explains that this is an example of the phrase “טובים השניים מן האחד והחוט המשולש לא במהרה ינתק” “Two are better than one, and the triple thread will not snap easily” (Adapted from Koheles 4:9, 12, and quoted throughout Chazal). Chazal explain that a family can provide a tremendous amount of life energy for its members. In fact, when the people involved in your relationships are righteous (and also treat you well, of course), they can add on another layer of living, of life, onto a person. Throughout his life, Avraham enjoyed this extra layer of living from his relationships. While married to Sarah, Avraham gained a tremendous amount of life from her. And when Yitzchak was born, the triple-corded thread was complete. In fact, he gained so much from them that he didn’t fall prey to the common effects of old age. Not that he didn’t get old, but he didn’t act old. He was still vibrant and full of life, thanks to the nachas support provided to him by his family.
But you can’t compare the time before Yitzchak and after Sarah to when both of them were living. Therefore, by both time periods, the pasuk has to tell me that Avraham was old, to contrast to the period in between, when they were both living, that he didn’t seem to age at all. Avraham missed this family support so much that he immediately sought to replace it, not with a wife of his own necessarily, but that at least Yitzchak should be married. And while Yitzchak would obviously benefit from it, hopefully Avraham would benefit as well. Therefore, the story of Sarah’s death is juxtaposed to the search for Yitzchak’s wife.
How about the phrasing “בָּ֖א בַּיָּמִ֑ים?” This literally translates as “coming in days”, but at Avraham’s age, wouldn’t it be more appropriate to say that he was “leaving”? The Kli Yakar explains that tzaddikim always look towards the future. In their younger days, they knew less torah, had less merit, had gained less wisdom. While nothing compares with the energy and potential of youth, compared to the light of wisdom they face as they grow older, their younger days are considered dark. So for Avraham, as he grew older, he actually was “coming” into his days, not leaving. He was not entering the prime of his physical life, but it was the prime of his existence. He was finally able to utilize all he had gained throughout his life.
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