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Rabbi Yitzchok Fingerer

Sarah Imeinu did not have it easy. She led a peripatetic life. She and Avraham Avinu were itinerant preachers, traveling from place to place, setting the world aflame with Hashem’s Truth, igniting a devoid and barren land with ideals and morals.

A woman likes being anchored. She cherishes stability and consistency. It should have been exceedingly arduous and emotionally draining for Sarah to experience such a nomadic life. She first traveled from Ur to Haran. Later, as a senior citizen, she made the treacherous journey to Canaan. In Canaan she traveled from Shechem to Beit El. Next on the itinerary was Egypt. Then back to Canaan, with a terrifying and traumatic stop in Gerar.

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Not once did Sarah complain or voice any degree of annoyance or exasperation.

Imagine for a moment: Your boss calls you into his office and instructs you to fill your car with gasoline, check the tire pressure and transmission, proceed to the Garden State Parkway, and start traveling. You receive no further instructions. You have absolutely no idea where you are headed. Google Maps, GPS, even Waze can’t help as you have no idea what destination to enter.

Avraham and Sarah were told by Hashem to leave their environs. “Go…to the land that I will show you.” No further instructions or directions. Hashem charged Avraham and Sarah to embark on a trip but totally concealed the itinerary.

It is obvious that this wasn’t a typical trip. It was a test of faith, a lesson for life, a blueprint for the Jewish people forever.

Very often as we live our life – at times succeeding, at other times coasting – we suddenly find ourselves on an unknown, obscure, and seemingly bleak journey. We are thrown a curve ball or our life trajectory takes a totally different direction.

Perhaps you were fired from a job, or sustained a personal or financial loss, or are confronting a moral challenge that seems insurmountable. You are thrust on a trip you aren’t prepared for and didn’t choose. You have no idea where life is headed.

We are all on journeys we didn’t expect and we have no idea where they will lead. Hashem tells us to hold on tight. Keep your faith. You are journeying to a land I will show you. It may not be anywhere you expected but this is where you will nevertheless become great.

Avraham and Sarah ended up in the land of Canaan. Of all places, Canaan? The most debased and decadent society! They would never have considered moving there. When they arrived, they confronted famine. This was Hashem’s chosen land? And yet, this was the land in which Avraham and Sarah build their destiny and shape world history. Canaan actually held the key to Avraham and Sarah’s redemption.

Yalkut Shimoni notes that Canaan is equal in gematria to 190. Why 190? To allude to the fact that Avraham will be 100 and Sarah 90 when they have their biological and spiritual heir, Yitzchak. It was precisely in Canaan that their future was realized. Later on Eretz Canaan would be called Eretz Yisrael, which means the land of the struggle. This symbolizes that it is our struggles that fortify and mold us and help us achieve our true destination.

Avraham waits 100 long, agonizing years to have Yitzchak. Why 100 years? Because, says the Megaleh Amukos, before having Yitzchak in purity, Avraham had to rectify the sins of three previous generations: the Mabul (the deluge), Enosh (when idolatry became prevalent), and Haflagah (Tower of Babel), which is roshei tevos (an acronym) for me’ah, one hundred. Little did Avraham know that his journey to fatherhood would encompass rectifying three entire generations. Similarly, we have no idea what our journeys encompass. We have no idea what we need to rectify prior to seeing our personal salvation. We need to hold on tight and have strong faith.

The journey into the unknown can be frightening and confusing. How do we manage? How can we cope and see things to fruition? Interestingly, the only one of the patriarchs whose name isn’t changed (Avram becomes Avraham; Yaakov becomes Yisrael) is Yitzchak. Why? The Yerushalmi in Berachos says it is because Yitzchak was given his name by Hashem Himself. In that name is a prophecy. It means “he will laugh.”

Yes, the Jewish people have been on many harrowing journeys. We have suffered much turmoil and struggled greatly, but we are promised that we will reach our destination and become great.

Despite all the uncertainties and suffering, in the end we will triumph. In the end we will laugh.

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