The Midrash relates that once, as Rabbi Akiba taught a class, he noticed that his students began falling asleep. In order to awaken and energize them, Rabbi Akiba interrupted his Shiur and spoke about – of all things – the number 127.
The first verse in Parashat Hayeh Sara tells that Sara Imenu lived to the age of 127, and in Megilat Ester we read that Ahashverosh ruled over 127 provinces. Rabbi Akiba told his students that this is not coincidental. He told his students, “Why did Ester rule over 127 provinces? Let the descendant of Sara, who lived to the age of 127, rule over 127 provinces.” Ester rose to power over 127 provinces in the merit of her ancestor, Sara, who lived to the age of 127.
What exactly is the connection between Sara’s age at her death and Ester’s becoming queen, and why did Rabbi Akiba choose this insight as the way of waking up his drowsy students?
One of my Rabbis explained that through this observation, Rabbi Akiba gently reprimanded his students for sleeping through the class. For each year of Sara’s life, Ester was granted power over an entire province. For each month, she ruled over a city, and each month was rewarded with a town. If we break it down even further, we will find that for every second of her life, she was rewarded with an entire block over which her descendant, Queen Ester, ruled.
Rabbi Akiba thus sought to impress upon his students the value, potential and significance of every moment of life. Sara received immense reward for each and every second of her life, because she devoted all her time and energy to the service of Hashem. This was the subtle Mussar (religious teaching) that Rabbi Akiba, in his pedagogical brilliance, conveyed to his sleepy students. We cannot squander such a valuable resource as a time – not even a minute! Each moment is precious and laden with great potential. What a shame it would be to waste our time in a Shiur by sleeping, or, certainly, to waste the time in vain pursuits and not show up at the Shiur at all.
Every moment of life is a precious, invaluable commodity – and should be taken advantage of in full.