60 Second Spark
In his explanation of the heartbreaking loss of Sarah at the beginning of this week’s Parsha, Rashi makes a seemingly outlandish claim that all of her 127 years were “לטובה שוין כלן” (Bereishis 23:1), all equal in goodness! If we merely review a short summary of Sarah’s life, we find a righteous woman who suffered childlessness for nearly a century, had a maidservant intensify her pain by giving birth to a violent child of her own, endured abduction by two different kings, and left this world with one final vision of her only son being bound for sacrifice (Pirkei D’Rav Eliezer 32). How can Rashi possibly suggest all of Sarah’s years were “equal in goodness”? In order to fully internalize the answer, Rav Yisroel Reisman shares an incredible story in his inspiring Pathways to the Prophets:
My brother’s close friend tragically lost his wife due to illness and eventually needed to start dating again – not only in search of a wife, but also for a loving mother for his houseful of children. During the difficult transition, this father was approached by his oldest son, who was about to embark on the dating journey himself, and was asked how he had the emotional energy to start all over again. “You’re absolutely right, I am quite uneasy about dating again, but I’m praying the Almighty grants me clarity the same way Eliezer was given a sign while searching for Yitzchak’s soulmate. Although I’m not asking for water to miraculously rise up from a well as it did for Rivkah (Bereishis Rabba 60:5), I am putting myself in His Hands to open my eyes when I find the right wife and mother.” At 8:30 that evening, the father nervously phoned his first shidduch prospect at their pre-designated time. Unfortunately, the woman on the other end of the line sounded flustered as she said, “I have to apologize. I know that we were planning to speak at 8:30, but I have an emergency. I have little children, and one of them just flushed a toy down the toilet, and it is overflowing. All the water is coming up toward me, so I can’t talk right now. Please call back in an hour.” The father hung up the phone with a big smile on his face, thinking about the sign he was just sent from above. The couple is now happily married.
We can almost feel the heartache and desperation this widowed mother felt in losing a potentially wonderful father and husband due to her toddler’s desire to test the limits of modern plumbing. However, taking a step back to see a panoramic view grants us the ability to see how the overflowing bathroom truly was as a Heavenly gift! There is no question all of Sarah’s trying tests were immensely painful, but our matriarch utilized each experience as an opportunity for growth. Seeing the good in each situation while developing greater sensitivity and empathy to help others transcend their own predicaments allowed Sarah to say her 127 years were truly “all equal in goodness.” Although we might not recognize how the overflowing water is a gift right now, at the end of the day we’ll all appreciate “לטובה שוין כלן”.