וַיִּֽהְיוּ֙ חַיֵּ֣י שָׂרָ֔ה מֵאָ֥ה שָׁנָ֛ה וְעֶשְׂרִ֥ים שָׁנָ֖ה וְשֶׁ֣בַע שָׁנִ֑ים שְׁנֵ֖י חַיֵּ֥י שָׂרָֽה
And the life of Sarah was one hundred years and twenty years and seven years; (these were) the years of the life of Sarah.
The Midrash brings a related incident:
רַבִּי עֲקִיבָא הָיָה יוֹשֵׁב וְדוֹרֵשׁ וְהַצִּבּוּר מִתְנַמְנֵם בִּקֵּשׁ לְעוֹרְרָן אָמַר מָה רָאֲתָה אֶסְתֵּר שֶׁתִּמְלֹךְ עַל שֶׁבַע וְעֶשְׂרִים וּמֵאָה מְדִינָה, אֶלָּא תָּבוֹא אֶסְתֵּר שֶׁהָיְתָה בַּת בִּתָּהּ שֶׁל שָׂרָה שֶׁחָיְתָה מֵאָה וְעֶשְׂרִים וָשֶׁבַע וְתִמְלֹךְ עַל מֵאָה וְעֶשְׂרִים וְשֶׁבַע מְדִינוֹת.
Rabbi Akiva was sitting and teaching, and those assembled there were dozing off. To arouse them, he asked: How could Esther rule over one hundred and twenty seven provinces? It was fitting that Esther, a grandchild of Sarah who lived to one hundred and twenty seven would rule over one hundred and twenty seven provinces.
Why did Rabbi Akiva choose to use this particular point to arouse his students from their slumbering? The Chiddushei HaRim explains that all of Sarah’s years were lived to the fullest and that for each of those years, her ancestor, Esther, merited an entire province, totalling 127 provinces. Breaking it down even further, the Chidushei HaRim says that for every day of her life that she lived fully, Sarah merited a city for Esther and for every hour of her life that she lived fully, she merited a town. Rabbi Akiva was pointing out the eternal value of every single moment. If his students appreciated this, Rabbi Akiva was teaching, they would arouse themselves and focus on every minute and every second of their learning.
Rabbi Akiva’s lesson, as expounded by the Chiddushei HaRim, has astounding impact when we apply it to shmiras halashon. Throughout the day, we are invariably faced with several situations that test the way we guard our speech. And every one of the moments is an opportunity to create unfathomable reward. The Midrash says:
שֶׁעַל כָּל רֶגַע וְרֶגַע שֶׁאָדָם חוֹסֵם פִּיו, זוֹכֶה לָאוֹר הַגָּנוּז, שֶׁאֵין כָּל מַלְאָךְ וּבְרִיָּה יָכוֹל לְשַׁעֵר
That for every moment in which a person closes his mouth, he merits the “hidden light” (a spiritual reward) that even the angels and other celestial beings cannot comprehend. The Gra, in Alim LeTerufah points out:
רְאֵה שֶׁלֹּא נִזְכַּר בַּמִּדְרָשׁ חֹדֶשׁ אוֹ שָׁבוּעַ אוֹ יוֹם אוֹ שָׁעָה, רַק רֶגַע
Notice that the Midrash did not say (that he held his tongue for) a month or a week or a day or an hour– just a moment. Every single moment that we choose to properly use our speech, we receive incalculable reward.
In 1984, it was estimated that the average person speaks approximately 860,000,000 words in their lifetime. With the understanding that this estimate was published years before the internet was launched and before email and texting became commonplace, it’s fair to assume that the average person now “speaks” close to a billion words in his lifetime. There are a billion opportunities to merit the greatest reward. That’s a jackpot much greater than the Powerball.
Esther was rewarded with 127 provinces as a reward for her “Grandmother” Sarah’s 127 years of taking full advantage of every mitzvah opportunity. The Midrash teaches us that the spiritual reward for refraining from improper speech is so great that even the malachim cannot comprehend it. We have nearly a billion opportunities to earn that reward.
Create a reminder for yourself to be careful with your speech and place it on your cell phone. This can be a pasuk that you tape to your phone, a screen saver, or even just a small sticker that will remind you to be careful about your speech when you use your phone.
Shmirah Bashavua will be published as a sefer containing several lessons from each parsha. For sefer sponsorship opportunities or to sponsor the weekly parsha sheet, please contact David Linn at firstname.lastname@example.org