Two weeks ago, we began our journey with Avraham and Sarah when G-d told them to leave their homeland and travel to a destination unknown to them. Thus began their life in the Land of Canaan. Their journey in this world concludes with their deaths – Sarah in the beginning of this week’s Parsha and Avraham at the end of the Parsha.
The Torah tells us regarding Sarah “the years of the life of Sarah.” Rashi explains that the redundancy of these words teaches us “they all were equally good.” Regarding Avraham, the Torah tells us “old and satisfied”. If we take these words at face value, it would seem that the Torah is indicating to us that Avraham and Sarah had no troubles during their lives. It was “home on the range where never is heard a discouraging word and the sky is not cloudy all day”. How else could all of their days be “equally good” and “old and satisfied”?
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks raises the following question: Avraham and Sarah had plenty of difficulties! Avraham was thrown into a furnace . . . he and Sarah left their homeland for an unknown destination . . . shortly after arriving, they were forced to leave due to a famine . . . Sarah was taken captive not once, but twice – the Pharaoh and Avimelech . . . Avraham’s shepherds had a major dispute with Lot’s shepherds . . . Avraham fought a war and rescued Lot . . . Sarah was barren and her maid servant mocked her . . . Sodom was destroyed despite Avraham’s efforts on its behalf . . . Yishmael tried to ruin Yitzchak and Avraham was commanded to throw his son Yishmael out of the house . . . Avraham was told to bring Yitzchak, his only son from Sarah, as a sacrifice . . . G-d promised Avraham the Land of Canaan seven times. Yet, he had a difficult time bringing Sarah to burial and when he finally did, it cost him a pretty penny. And that is for Sarah “all her days were equally good” and for Avraham “old and satisfied”?
Rabbi Sacks commented that “we live life moving forward, but we make sense of it looking backward.” He explained that life goes on and we look ahead, while simultaneously, we look back on events that played a role in our lives. We look at our lives and see how each event was a step along the path to get us where we are today. Even though a particular event might have seemed to be bad or not advantageous for us at that moment, years later we see how that event brought us to the present.
That was how Avraham and Sarah viewed their lives. “They were all equally good” . . . .”old and satisfied” . . . everything was good. They recognized that G-d had a plan for them. Every day was good because everything came from G-d. Every event was beneficial for them. Even events such as Sarah’s captivity, the wars Avraham fought and all of their struggles helped develop them into the patriarch and matriarch of the Jewish people. Just as Avraham and Sarah, we also have the ability to see good in everything. It is a matter of patience and simply clearly seeing the big picture.