The Torah records for us the years of the life of our mother Sarah. It is done in a lengthy fashion counting one hundred years, twenty years and then seven years, instead of merely stating that she lived for 127 years. Rashi, in his famous commentary, states that this teaches us that that all her years were good ones.
At first glance, this is difficult to understand and accept. In reviewing the life of our mother Sarah, we are aware of the difficulties, dangers and frustrations that marked her experiences in life. Always threatened to be taken and abused by powerful kings, a woman who is barren and longs for children, a wife who has a concubine living in her home and presents her with a stepchild who is uncontrollable, and one who is finally challenged by the fact that her only miraculous child is going to be sacrificed by his own father.
One could hardly conclude that she had a so-called good life. In fact, I would say that most people would not wish such a life experience upon themselves. Yet, we find this to be the pattern in the experiences of all our forefathers and mothers, with very difficult lives.
Rashi will later comment that when Jacob wished to have a more peaceful and serene existence, only then did the dispute regarding Joseph and the brothers blossom and explode. Rashi explained there that Heaven somehow is saying that the reward for the righteous is in the eternal world, and that they are, so to speak, not entitled to a leisurely and tranquil life in this world. And yet, in our Parsha, Rashi states that all the years of our mother Sarah, her entire lifetime, can be summed up as a good life.
Over the ages, many thoughts and ideas have been devoted by our great commentators to try and explain this statement and attitude. One of the main ideas is that a person can have a good life only if he or she learns the secret of accepting life in its basic terms and as it occurs. Lofty expectations always bring about disappointment and frustration. Low expectations can allow us to overcome the unavoidable vicissitudes that inflict all human beings during one's lifetime.
Sarah has no illusions about life and about the challenges that she will face, having embarked on the path of her husband Abraham and the founding of the Jewish people. She will view all the occurrences of her lifetime, even those that apparently are negative and dangerous, if not even tragic, with equanimity and fortitude. There is a higher goal that she is striving to achieve, and this goal is always present in her assessment of life.
No matter what occurs in life, it somehow can push her forward on that path towards her ultimate goal. This notion transforms everything that transpires in her life to point towards good and eternity. In her eyes, all her experiences in life had a purpose, a noble one, that transforms the fabric of her life, and enables her to become the mother of Israel for all generations.
Rabbi Berel Wein is a noted scholar, historian, speaker and educator, admired the world over for his audio tapes/CDs, videos and books, particularly on Jewish history. After many years serving as a community rabbi in Monsey, NY, he made aliya and is rabbi of Beit Knesset Hanassi in Jerusalem.