Thursday, November 5, 2015

Chayei Sarah 5776, November 2015; Facing adversity

In a well known commentary, Rashi explains why the beginning of the parsha enumerates the years of Sarah Imeinu's life separately by digit, stating that all her years were equally good. Rabbi Steven Pruzansky asks, by what standards were they equally good? During her life, among the experiences enumerated by the Torah, Sarah has suffered infertility for decades, been kidnapped from her husband twice, left her home and family behind, opened her home to all who asked to visit, dealt with Hagar with whom she had a negative relationship at least part of the time, and ultimately saw in a vision her beloved son bound to an alter about to be sacrificed. Her behavior may always have been above reproach, but how were her years all intrinsically good and moreover equally so?
Even helping in the yard can be joyful and good when you
are at an age when you can appreciate the good in everything easily.

He quotes R' Dovid Hofstadter that good means spiritually successful; that Sarah may have had more tests from HaKadosh Baruch H- and passed them all due to her inherent goodness. Also, living through a negative experience but triumphing over it may better the one who experiences it. It leads ultimately to the perfection of the soul.

The good Rashi discusses here then is not just that which is given to us, for we know that everything G-d does is for the best; but also our own responses and behavioral learning have the opportunity to improve over and over, becoming more and more spiritually perfect. No matter what trials befall us--and we certainly can agree that even if Sarah's experiences had to be good because they came from G-d, they none the less were stressful, troublesome, with a strong potential to be appreciated as negative--they may be negative, they may be difficult, they may be painful. Our responses can fairly be negative, angry, sad. Yet simultaneously we always have the opportunity to turn each moment into a positive in some way in our soul and our heart.

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