“…the years of Sarah’s life.” (Beresheet 23:1)
Rashi: “All of them equal for goodness.”
The sudden, tragic death of Sarah Imeinu brought Avraham Avinu from the pinnacle of spiritual success to a state of mourning. He came to cry and to eulogize and to proceed with the task of proper burial. The parashah opens with a verbose accounting of the years of her life. Our Sages find meaning in every “extra” word. Rashi explains that the closing phrase “the years of Sarah’s life” summarizes her life as completely good. The phrase he utilizes is “all equal in goodness.”
A summary of the major events of the life of Sarah seem to prove that she did not have a good life but rather a consistently difficult one. She was barren and could not have the children for which she and Avraham prayed so fervently. She suppressed her emotions in order to suggest that he take her Egyptian maidservant as a co-wife in order to produce offspring.
When she was 65 her husband moved the entire family to a foreign land. Once there, they were struck with a famine and Avraham chose to go down to Egypt for food. There she was abducted by the Pharaoh. The scene was repeated when she accompanied her husband to the land of Avimelech and the Philistines.
When at the age of 90 she finally did have a son, she was forced to demand that her husband expel Yishmael and Hagar to protect Yitzchak from toxic influences. And above all, when her son was 37 years old, Avraham took him to “learn.” She subsequently heard that her husband actually took Yitzchak to be slaughtered and she died from the shocking news. Is this a life where all of her days were equally good?
We all believe that whatever Hashem does is for good, and each of us tries to drive that truth home during “hard” times. During a financial crunch, when dealing with a serious health problem or with any of life’s difficulties, we are prepared to say “all that He does is for good.”
This is truly a statement of faith! If one clearly saw the ultimate benefits of a difficulty, one would not be expressing belief or faith. When a person undergoes a painful medical procedure that s/he knows will bring him or her back to full health, acceptance of the pain is not faith; it is knowledge and understanding. It’s when one doesn’t understand — when one cannot make sense of a situation — that one can only accept as a matter of faith — emunah! Sarah Imeinu knew that everything was good even if something didn’t appear to be so.
When one arrives in Shamayim, one enters the world of absolute truth. At that point, faith is no longer available because all is crystal clear. Sarah did not need to wait for that time to see the good in all that she experienced; rather, in this world her view was that everything is good even if painful, upsetting or bitter. It is this attitude that produces a life in which all days are equal for good. Everyone is expected to work on one’s level of emunah constantly in order to reach the awareness that everything is for the best.
May we all be successful in this difficult task.