What is living the “Good Life”? Is it lounging on the beach as you stir your ice-cold strawberry daiquiri with a mini umbrella? Is it touring the world while staying in every first-class hotel and eating in every first-class restaurant? Or is it living the life that Sarah the Matriarch lived?
Let’s take a quick look at Sarah’s life to see how that was:
- She married at the age of 15, and shortly thereafter her father-in-law reported her husband to the king, who promptly threw him into an oven, hoping to burn him to death (he survived).
- This same king then threw Sarah’s father into the oven (he didn’t survive).
- She was forced to leave her homeland and move to the land of Canaan, but then immediately was forced to leave and go to Egypt. Where is the stability in her home?
- She was kidnapped by the king upon her arrival in Egypt, who attempts to make her his queen.
- Upon her return her husband sent away her brother – one of her few remaining relatives and the only one who was close by.
- Her brother then got kidnapped.
- Her husband then went to war to save her brother – who then continued to live far away.
- She spent decades childless.
- She gave her maidservant to her husband, hoping a child will come from that. A child was born, and her maidservant then tried to dominate Sarah, her mistress, in the home.
- She was uprooted by her husband a second time, this time going to the land of the Philistines, and again was kidnapped by the king.
A person reading these events in Sarah’s life might be hesitant to say she lived a “good life”. Perhaps he might even say that it was a “difficult” or even “bad” life? But Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki 1040-1105) says that of Sarah’s 127 years of life, ALL of them were equally good!
How is this so?
Short answer is it is all about attitude.
For example, if a 15 year-old watched the king order the incineration of his father, such a teenager might be “scarred for life”. The teen might be angry at the world and everyone in it. Or the teen might “crawl into a shell” and never come out to socialize with others.
But not Sarah. Her life was good, and that was because she realized that G-d controlled everything that happened to her in her life, and her only choice was how she would deal with the challenges.
Sarah decided to use all of these challenges for the good. To grow from them. To be the person she wanted to be, which was a person who could GIVE to others – regardless of what was happening in her personal life. Sarah could have just been released by one of the kings and she returned to her home, at which time a woman knocked on her door and asked for help in her life. Sarah would ignore all the “trauma” she just went through in order to help this woman.
Each of us could probably make a list of life events similar to the list above for Sarah. I have my own list, which includes the challenges my family faced with our third child, whose 11th Yahrzeit (anniversary of the day of death) is coming up in just one week.
One challenge of which I am proud happened about 10 years ago. I was newly married, but my new wife (who I did not yet understand) had left the home in a huff. I then got a call from my lawyer telling me that I just lost my appeal, and that the judges decided to split communal property 100%/0% rather than 50/50. At that very moment I had 27 seven-year-old boys come down the steps to celebrate my youngest son’s birthday! What to do? I could crawl into a corner and hide, letting the boys run wild. I could run the party, but yell at the boys as if what just happened in my life was their fault. Instead, I accepted the challenge and ran the birthday party to the best of my ability – as if nothing had happened. And as far as the boys could tell, everything at the birthday party was normal.
That is why all the years of Sarah’s life were good: She wouldn’t let anything “bad” disrupt the good that she experienced and that she wanted to share.
Starting this week, let us all try to look at the adversity in our lives differently. Instead of something that is destroying our “good” lives; instead of being mad at “G-d” or specific people around us who appear to be ruining our lives, step up to the challenge and overcome all obstacles in order to ensure that each of our lives is a “Good Life”!