The bulk of Parashat Chayei-Sara is devoted to the story of the search for a wife for Yitzchak, and the Torah introduces this story by informing us that Avraham had grown old: “Ve-Avraham zakein ba ba-yamim” (24:1).
Keli Yakar, commenting on this verse, notes that the Torah described Avraham in the precise same terms already earlier. In Parashat Vayera, amid the account of the angels’ visit to Avraham and their announcement that Sara would soon beget a child, the Torah interjects, “Ve-Avraham ve-Sara zekeinim ba’im ba-yamim” – that Avraham and Sara were aged at the time. The angels’ visit took place one year before Yitzchak’s birth, and Yitzchak was forty years old when he got married (25:20), such that the story of Avraham dispatching his servant to find Yitzchak a wife occurred some forty years after the angel’s visit to his tent. It seems puzzling, Keli Yakar writes, that the Torah would now describe Avraham’s advanced age with the exact same words it used to describe his advanced age forty years earlier.
Keli Yakar answers this question by suggesting that Avraham’s aging process was thwarted, or at least slowed, by the birth of Yitzchak. The more a person enjoys the company of people in his close inner circle, Keli Yakar writes, the more energy and vitality he has. Avraham and Sara aged before Yitzchak’s birth, but once Yitzchak was born, the presence of a child had the effect of keeping them youthful. However, after the death of Sara, of which the Torah tells in the beginning of Parashat Chayei-Sara, Avraham again aged at an accelerated pace. The loss of his closest companion resulted in diminished vitality, and so once again Avraham aged and grew old.
Keli Yakar’s comments perhaps remind us of just how much an impact we can have upon the people closest to us, and how much we are impacted by them. As people ambitiously strive to achieve in various fields and exert a positive influence upon their community or the world generally, they might forget about those closest to them, particularly, their family. This results not only in irresponsible neglect, but also in their losing what should be their greatest source of joy and fulfillment. Keli Yakar teaches us that the greatest impact upon our level of happiness and vitality comes from those closest to us, and they should always remain at the center of our focus and attention.