Rabbi Label Lam
Drawing Closer To The Life of Sara
In summarizing the life of our mother Sara the Torah breaks the years of her
life into component parts and then puts them all back together and says;
"the years of the life of Sara." Rashi comments amazingly on that little
phrase and tells us about the years of the life of Sara, "All of them were
What could that possibly mean? How is it possible to describe about any
person's life that all their years were equally good? Certainly that cannot
be the true description of Sara's life.
Her husband was a dissident. He expressed opinions that were hostile to the
mental mindset of the society around him. They were called on to live a
nomadic existence, never having settled in their later year of life. Twice
Sara was captured and nearly ravaged. Most of her life she was barren and
physically incapable of having children. She brought a woman into her
husband's domain and it brought conflict into her personal life. The son
from that relationship caused her aggravation along with her son and her
husband and eventually had to be expelled. Never having seen her grown son
to the chupah, she died of fright upon being treated to a visage of that son
about to be slaughtered. Her husband and The Almighty rebuked her for
laughing slightly inwardly when heat exhausted strangers suggested that the
next year she would have a child. Meanwhile, her whole life was running to
meet the needs of unexpected guests in even the most disagreeable weather.
Can one say about this life that all of her years were equally good?
To accentuate the question, I remember that for a mental exercise one of my
teachers once asked us to imagine a new machine that would freeze our
emotional state eternally at any moment the button on that machine would be
pressed. He asked, "When do you think most people would push that button?"
We concluded after some discussion that, "Many would probably die never
having pressed the button anticipating, hoping at each moment that maybe the
next instant will deliver something more splendid." Sara, however, would
have pushed that button at any moment in her life. How is that possible?
A child living through a war-time may never feel the ravages of war. Her
mother is carrying her. Her mother is shielding her from pain and hunger.
She hears the bombs but the mother absorbs the fear. The child only fears
losing the mother. She senses, though, the mother is more concerned with
losing her child. The child resides in a loving embrace.
King David said affirmatively, "What's good for me is being near G-d!" What
could he mean? The equation of life is packed with zillions of variables.
The subjects of health, love, business, children, ecology, politics are each
miles deep with details that are worlds out of control. A person can become
overwhelmed with enormous insecurity when considering the challenge of
merely facing the day. In a quantum universe, anything can happen, and if
Murphy rules the day it probably will happen. How does one endure the roller
coaster ride that is called "life"?
Find and focus on the constant in the equation, King David seems to be
saying. However the external conditions of our life fluctuate, no matter
what the market or the Rangers do on a given day, even if a storm erupts
around us, there is a way to remain in the center of the cyclone.
Sara's happiness was not found in the map of external conditions. She did
not look for the goodness of her life to enter through some outside door.
Her beauty, her trust, her goodness, and her innocence shone out to a world
and shaped it. She was not effected by the ugly circumstances that were
thrust upon her.
When we were babies, our parents checked on us "now" and "then" to determine
if we were content or discontent. Later when we came home from school, they
asked "how was your 'day'?" In adulthood we had a good "year" or a bad
"year" in business, sports, or relationships. As time proceeds we speak
about the 70's, the 90's, "good marriages", "good decades" or "times of
hardship". In the finality when you visit a nursing home, you only see two
types of faces, reflecting a "life" bitter or sweet. Life makes it hard for
a person to remain neutral. In the end we are ultimately content and
sweetly disposed or sore and bitter.
The final result does not = (nachas "pleasure" factor) ≠ (tragedy) x
(inconvenience) x hardship. If so, Sara would have been, by definition, a
bitter individual. Rather, a sweet or bitter existence is the summary of a
choice that is made many times every day.
If you want to know if you're experiencing life from the inside out, as an
actor rather than as a victim ripening to a sweet conclusion, then ask
yourself at any present moment, "Am I prepared to press the button now?" If
we can produce more moments that the answer to that question is "yes", then
we are drawing closer to the life of Sara.
Text Copyright © 1998 Rabbi Dovid Green and
Project Genesis, Inc.