The Living Torah is a weekly publication distributed in and around North West London. Written by members of Hasmonean High School's Sixth Form programme - we aim to bring you divrei torah for your Shabbat table each and everyweek.

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Thursday, 7 January 2010

A Trusty Path

"שני חיי שרה"
"the years of Sarah's life" - [א-כג]

רשי says that the Torah repeats the phrase to teach us that all of Sarah's years were good.
This assessment sounds astounding. She suffered the pain of childlessness until the age of 90. The famine that forced her and Avraham out of Eretz Yisrael and her debasing incidents with Pharaoh and Avimelech certainly don't qualify as 'good times'. How can the Torah say that all of her years were equally good?

HaDerash V'Halyun and R'Zusia of Anipoli suggest that the Torah speaks of Sarah's perception of reality. Her motto throughout her years, no matter the circumstances, was 'גם זה לטוב' – 'this too is for the good'. Whatever befell her, she followed the path advocated by our Rabbanim, who taught that one should bless Hashem for the perceived evil just as for the perceived good. Since all the circumstances of her life came from Hashem, she viewed them all as equally good.

Techeilet Mordechai offers a different perspective. Most people experience periods in their lives when they feel driven and motivated to serve Hashem, as well as times when spiritual matters hold little appeal. They compartmentalize their activities into convenient categories of mundane and spiritual. The truly righteous, however, understand the secret of the Pesukim in Mishlei which say:

בטח אל־ה בכל־לבך
ואל בינתך אל־תשען׃
בכל דרכיך דעהו
והוא ואישר ארחתיך

“Trust in Hashem with your whole heart, and do not lean upon your own understanding.
In all your own ways acknowledge Him, and he will direct your paths aright.”

There are several people who comment on these Pesukim. The Malbim writes that if a man will try to 'know Hashem', if he tries to imitate him in the major facets of the godly personality, in the large 'ways' of compassion, generosity, humility, truth etc. Then he assures the man that the detailed 'paths' of the commandments, the how, when and where of doing, rather than being, will follow smoothly and correctly.

R'Hirsch notes that the passage begins not 'בטח בה' but 'בטח אל־ה' - not to have reliance on whatever Hashem has already granted, but to trust Hashem, to be confident about what He has in store for us. It means that we should build our entire future upon Hashem, to be unshakeable in our conviction that we can reach our goal in life only with Hashem, from Hashem and by Hashem's help. Hence we should ask ourselves at every step whether the aims we seek and the means by which we try to attain them are in keeping with Hashem's will, to such an extent that we may hopefully expect his assistance. This is the attitude which according to Mishlei is fundamental to the tzaddik's thinking.

The Rambam explains that all of life's activities are opportunities to serve Hashem. Business affairs, sleeping, eating and all other seemingly mundane pursuits can be transformed into vehicles for spiritual growth. Music, art, humour and other seemingly worldly pleasures can be employed to place one in a frame of mind conducive to torah study and mitzvah observance. From this perspective, every minute of life can be used to attain the goodness of a closer relationship with Hashem.
All of Sarah's days were good because every moment of her life was filled with meaning.

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