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April 21, 2014 / 21 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Sarah Imeinu’

Plagued By Guilt (Conclusion)

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

In last week’s column, I published a letter written by a tormented widow who agonized over what more she could or should have done for her terminally ill cancer-stricken husband. Her agonies were many: In retrospect she felt that, at the first sign of illness, she should have insisted that he consult with a specialist rather than with their local internist. She also felt guilty about the hospital she chose for his post-surgical treatment. In short, she questioned everything she did regarding his care.

Additionally, she felt lost and alone. Her husband’s demise left a hole in her life and she couldn’t find a place for herself anywhere. One of her daughters suggested that she move in with her and even offered to build her a private apartment in her house. She wondered whether it would be wise to take her up on her invitation – she was especially concerned because, whenever she visited for Shabbos, she could hardly wait to get home. In short, she is troubled and can’t find peace. The following is my reply:

Dear Friend:

I fully sympathize with you and understand your torment. Most of us who lose a loved one go through this trauma. We second-guess ourselves with “I could’ve, should’ve, would’ve” but truth be told, such speculation has no place in Judaism. We know that life and death are in the hands of Hashem, and if He charges the Angel of Death to act, there is no gate, no matter how tightly bolted, that he cannot penetrate. On the other hand, if Hashem commissions him to retract his sword, a man can survive even under the most terrifying and hopeless circumstances.

If you have read my books, if you have heard my lectures, you know that I base everything I say or write on the wisdom gleaned from our Torah, so let us see where in the Torah we can find a teaching that will shed light on your dilemma and serve as an example for you to follow.

If there was any one person among our Torah giants who would have been justified in flagellating himself with questions of “If I would’ve,” it was surely the patriarch Abraham. The story is familiar to all of us. Time and again, Abraham was tested, but his tenth test, in which G-d commanded him to “take his son, his one and only son, his beloved Isaac and bring him up as an offering” was the most trying and severe of his life. The patriarch passed this test with awesome faith, love, and devotion, and returned with his precious son Isaac at his side.

But no sooner did he arrive home than another painful test challenged him. In his absence, his beloved wife, Sarah, was called On High.

One can only imagine the questions that could have tormented him, the thousand-and-one “ifs” that could have plagued his mind and heart. Abraham however, was at peace, and when he eulogized Sara, the word “livkosah – wept” is written with an extra small “chaf,” testifying that he accepted that this was the Will of G-d.

The passage itself is further proof of G-d’s Providence, for it is written: “Sarah’s lifetime was 100 years, 20 years, and seven years – these were the years of Sarah’s life.” The words, “these were the years of Sarah’s life,” appear to be redundant and superfluous since we already know that she lived to 127. They are there, however, to testify that our matriarch, Sarah, did not die before her allotted time, that indeed, those were the years designated for her life.

To be sure, she was shaken and traumatized by the ominous news revealed to her by the Satan who announced that her beloved son Isaac had died, but no matter what the Satan may have said, if G-d had wanted her to live longer, she could have survived. If

G-d so wished, He could have fortified her with strength and blessed her with more years, but this was the day destined for her to depart and return her soul to G-d. Thus, the repetition of the words, “these were the years of Sarah’s life.”

Undoubtedly, it may appear that the immediate cause of her death was the news of the sacrifice of Isaac, but that which the human eye sees does not reflect the full picture. As a matter of fact, some of our sages teach that with her last breath Sarah Imeinu blessed G-d for having granted her the privilege of raising a son who was capable of rising to such a kiddush Hashem So again I remind you that just as Sarah died because that was the day that G-d designated for her to return her soul, so every man dies in his or her appointed time.

It is futile for you, dear friend, to torment yourself with could’ve, should’ve, would’ve. No one can outsmart the Angel of Death. He knows the address of a person and he knows how to unlock even the most formidable gates. When G-d sends him on a mission, no one can escape him.

As for your questions regarding the doctors, here, too, it is foolish for you to second-guess yourself. I have seen prominent specialists make mistakes – if G-d wills it, the eye doesn’t see and the hand fails, and this holds true in every area of life. So, instead of agonizing over what you should or could have done, why don’t you concentrate on all of the things that you did do? Think of the joy and the shalom bayis that you shared, the zechus (merit) that you had to be at his bedside during his final journey and the loving care that you imparted to him.

There are many couples who never experienced this – who lose their spouses and have few positive memories to look back upon. Instead of loving recollections, their memories are full of mean, hurtful words, bickering and contentiousness. They have much to regret and carry many painful scars that give them no peace. So count your blessings and thank G-d that you are not among those unfortunate ones.

Instead of brooding, do something positive to elevate your husband’s neshamah. Intensify your prayers, participate in Torah study, join chesed programs and if you have the means, make dedications in his memory. In this way, you will not only elevate his neshamah, but you will elevate yourself as well.

You question whether you should accept your daughter’s generous offer to build you an apartment in her house and move in with her. Time and again, I have shared with parents who are widowed the sage advice of my saintly father, HaRav HaGaon Avraham HaLevi Jungreis, zt’l: “If at all possible,” he would say, “it is best for widowed parents to maintain their own home. Yes,” he would add, “go to visit your children, but even as it is good to visit, it is good to have a home to return to – a home that is your own.”

May Hashem comfort you among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem and may you find meaning, peace and blessing in your life.

In The Grace And Beauty Of The Matriarchs

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

When I was considering making aliyah, I was aware of how challenging the move might be, especially since much of my family stayed behind in the U.S. But the deep longing to be in Israel was too strong. It was like a giant magnet pulling on my soul, until I finally let go and came home.

For some, the aliyah experience is smooth; for others, it is filled with challenges. And despite my deep desire to be in Israel, I have encountered many challenges. And sometimes I see glimpses of the reason for these difficulties, for it may just have to do with what I prayed for.

In my excitement to absorb all that living in Eretz Yisrael entails, I prayed a simple prayer. I asked the Almighty to let me walk in the grace and beauty of our matriarchs.

I wanted to absorb the essence of emunah in their merit, and to deepen my walk with God by their example. I wanted the model of their faith and courage to teach me stronger faith and courage in a land where I knew many challenges awaited me.

It is clear from the Torah that not only did the matriarchs possess great inner strength and spiritual beauty, but physical beauty as well. As I thought about these women of our history, I understood that their physical beauty radiated from the essence of their inner strength and beauty.

I went to Kever Rachel many times to ask the Almighty to teach me how to develop deeper inner strength and emunah. I sensed the confidence in these women of faith, a confidence and belief in who they were and in their unique destiny.

It never occurred to me that perhaps the grace and beauty of the matriarchs was a result of enduring and walking through some very deep valleys of pain. I never connected that principle to my own prayer.

Every oleh faces challenges as he or she adjusts to this beautiful and complex Land. There are bureaucratic inanities, cultural differences, language frustrations, and employment (or lack thereof) issues. Then there are the enormous tests that all of Israel faces in a region filled with conflict – enemies from within and without crouching at the door, Iranian nuclear weapons, grad rockets and Kassams falling on our children. It’s not an easy life, but I did not come unaware of these realities.

And so, I found myself beset by deep challenges that shook my confidence and rocked my world. The intensity of some of it was such that there were days when I said to G-d, “If You want me to live here, You will have to carry me.”

And He did. On those days in particular, friends would meet me on the street and say, ” you look marvelous, you positively glow today.”

That’s when I began to think about Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel and Leah, because I knew that if I was glowing, it had to be coming from Above – and that G-d had placed something deep within me that the others were seeing.

I thought of how Sarah Imeinu was unable to conceive until old age; how she gave Hagar as a concubine to Avraham; how Hagar treated her mistress disrespectfully; of the struggles between Yitzchak and Yishmael; and how Sarah’s death was hastened by news of the Akeidah.

I thought of how Rivkah was abducted into Avimelech’s palace, and of the struggle between her sons, Eisav and Yaakov.

I thought of Rachel and Leah’s struggles in competing for Yaakov’s love, and of their pain of infertility. I remembered how Rachel died in childbirth, and called her newborn son Ben Oni, son of my sorrow, which Yaakov changed to Binyamin, son of my right hand.

I had expected to reach the mountaintops of emunah and strength without walking through the valleys of pain. But it was not to be.

Some days, the reach for me to get to the other side of one of the valleys is enormous. On other days, I feel that I have made it across.

I finally understand that the strength and courage, the grace and faith of our matriarchs are present in the everyday Israelis with whom I share my life. I see it in their faces and hear it in the words of the men and women of this country. I saw it during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, and experienced it in the hospitals when visiting the wounded. The soldiers and their families conveyed such strength, courage, and emunah.

I went to strengthen, but came back strengthened.

I hear it in words of encouragement we give each other during times of crisis, and feel the closeness we experience when someone has been visited with tragedy. I see it in the tender strength of our young men and women. It emanates from unplumbed inner depths, whose roots lie in the long and transcendental history of our people.

I realize that when we come on aliyah, we have to think not only of our goals, but also of the Almighty’s goals for us. And that can really stretch us.

There are still days when G-d has to carry me. But now, when people stop me on the street and tell me I am glowing, I silently thank Hashem, for He has chosen to carry me when I cannot walk.

And these are the seeds of emunah and of learning to walk in the grace and beauty of the matriarchs that I had so longed for.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/jewish-columns/lessons-in-emunah/in-the-grace-and-beauty-of-the-matriarchs/2009/09/09/

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