Living to a ripe old age

In the Torah and Haftara readings for Parshat Chayei Sarah, we see the leaders of the Jewish people living to a ripe old age. Our parsha begins with the death of Sarah at 127 years old (Breisheet 23:1) and ends with the death of Avraham at 175 (Breisheet 25:7). The Haftara (Melachim I 1:1-31) tells the story of the end of King David’s life when he is about 70 years old.

There are a few common themes between the parsha and the Haftara:

In the parsha, Breisheet 24:1 we read: “Now Avraham was “zaken, ba bayamim” old, advanced in years, and God had blessed Avraham with everything.” Avraham, who is already about 137 years old sends his servant to find the perfect match for Yitzchak so that the leadership will continue to the next generation. The perpetuation of Avraham’s mission will not be through Yishmael, his older son, rather it will be through Yitzchak, his younger son. Despite his advanced age, Avraham is very aware of what needs to be taken care of and he makes all of the arrangements.

The Haftarah, Melachim I 1:1 states: “King David was “zaken, ba bayamim” old, advanced in years. They covered him in garments, but he did not become warm.” King David is about 70 years old, yet he already lost a lot of strength. He is not involved in the family politics. He is not even aware that Adoniya, his older son is trying to steal the kingship from Shlomo, the son of BatSheva who the monarchy was promised to. Natan the Prophet is the one who has to tell BatSheva to tell David what is going on in order to ensure that Shlomo becomes the next king in the dynasty. Radak explains that due to all of the wars that King David fought, he lost his strength at a much younger age.

In both families, it was imperative that the leadership go to the right son. When Yishmael was still at home, Sarah had to convince Avraham that the inheritor would be Yitzchak, even though God had already made Avraham aware of this. When Avraham was still unsure, God told him to listen to Sarah.

In King David’s case, Shlomo was the son who was supposed to take over the throne, yet Batsheva had to remind David while Natan the Prophet backed her up.  

In Divrei HaYamim (Chronicles) I 22:8-10 David tells Shlomo: “The word of God came to me, saying, ‘You have shed much blood and have made great wars; you shall not build a Temple for My Name’s sake, for you have shed much blood upon the ground before Me. Behold, a son will be born to you; he will be a man of rest, and I shall grant him rest from all his enemies all around. His name will be Shlomo and I will bestow peace and tranquillity upon Israel in his days.’”

In the end, the correct leaders take over, Yitzchak is Avraham’s inheritor and King David ensures that Shlomo is crowned as king.

When Avraham passed away, he was buried in Chevron. David was buried in Ir David (The City of David).

This past week, Rav Dovid Feinstein, the son of Rav Moshe Feinstein passed away at the age of 91. Rav Dovid took over the leadership of his father’s Yeshiva, Mesivta Tiferet Yerushalayim on the Lower East Side of Manhattan when Rav Moshe passed away in 1986. Following in his father’s footsteps, Rav Dovid was one of the most prominent poskim (authorities in Jewish law) of his generation. May his memory be a blessing.