"Sarah’s lifetime was one hundred years, twenty years, and seven years: the years of Sarah’s life." (Genesis 23:1)
The Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah, 58:3) relates that Rabbi Akiva was teaching Torah and those who came to learn from him were tired. He wanted to spark their interest. He said, “How was it that Esther merited to rule over 127 provinces? It was because she descended from Sarah who lived 127 years!”
What is the meaning of this teaching? And why was this specifically chosen to wake the people up?
The Chiddushei HaRim and Shalmei Todah (Purim 45:4) explain that the answer revolves around using one’s time wisely.
The years of Sarah’s life were so well-used that their influence was able to assist her descendent Esther, many generations later. Esther merited to rule over a province for each year of Sarah’s life. That means each month gave another city, each week another village, and each day another neighborhood in these 127 provinces. In truth, each moment added to Esther’s kingdom in some way.
Therefore, Rabbi Akiva was telling the people: Wake up! Stop wasting your time! Don’t you see what you’re flushing down the drain with each wasted moment?
The Limudei Nison offers an alternative explanation for the connection between Sarah and Esther’s rulership over 127 provinces:
The Talmud (Berachos 13a) explains that the name ‘Sarah’ alludes to her ruling over the entire world. But how does this make sense? The Torah clearly relates that she was kidnapped by Pharaoh and Avimelech and didn’t even own a burial plot until Avraham paid an exorbitant price to bury her! These aren’t exactly the signs of rulership and worldwide dominion…
Therefore, Limudei Nison explains this Gemara to refer to Sarah’s ability to remain unscathed and unaffected by her surroundings and the adversity that befell her. It was in this respect that she ‘ruled’ over the world – she did not allow the vicissitudes of life to impact her or her Emunah.
Queen Esther, a descendant of Sarah, inherited this trait. She too was experienced many changes in fortune, including being taken from the home of Mordechai to the debased home of Achashveirosh. Throughout her trials, Esther did not allow the environment in the kingdom to influence her, but instead she remained pristine and pure.
It was in this respect that Esther attained a spiritual rulership over 127 provinces, and the power to do so was bequeathed to the Jewish people through Sarah’s example.