PARSHAT CHAYA SARAH: DON’T BE OLD!
One of the things that we learn in this parsha is that Tzaddikim are bigger after their death than they are in their lives, because in reality, Sarah’s true ‘life’ only began after her death. That’s why the parsha is called ‘Chaya Sarah’, even though she actually passed away, as it’s written in the first verse of the parsha (Bereishit Verse 33:1):
“Sarah’s life was one hundred years, twenty years, and seven years; the years of Sarah’s life.”
Rashi comments on this verse: ‘the years of Sarah’s life’ – each of them equaled good.
Rav Natan asks in Likutey Halachot, what does it mean, that all the years of Sarah’s life equaled good? He answers that all of Sarah’s life, from one day to the next in this world, she used to renew herself, and she used to renew her service of Hashem as though, so to speak, she’d only now really started to serve Him.
DON’T BE OLD!
That’s why it’s said that there wasn’t even a hint of old age about her. There’s an aspect of letting ourselves become ‘old’ in our spiritual pursuits, which Rabbenu talks about when he says it’s not good to be an ‘old’ talmid Chacham (learned Jew), or an ‘old’ Tzaddik, etc. Rather, a person needs to renew themselves all the time, and to feel that only now they are really beginning to serve Hakadosh Baruch Hu.
In every person’s life, there are times when everything seems to be going his way in his spiritual strivings, and his every wish is only to serve Hashem; and then there are also times when a person doesn’t feel anything.
In his book ‘Sefer HaYashar’, Rabbenu called this phenomena ‘days of love and days of hatred’. And Rav Natan in his book Healing Leaves tells us that the tikkun, or spiritual rectification of a person, is to get to a place where he’s renewing himself spiritually, each and every day.
THE BLIND BEGGAR
Rabbi Nachman of Breslov hints to the subject of spiritual renewal in his Tales, in the story of the Seven Beggars. One of the beggars was the blind beggar, and Rabbenu tells us about him that he once said: “I’m very old, and yet I’m still completely a suckling babe, and I still haven’t even started to live at all” etc.
Rabbenu infused all of Sarah’s spiritual secret into this blind beggar. On the one hand, the blind beggar tells us that he has all the wisdom of the oldest man in the world, and on the other hand, in terms of his vitality and enthusiasm ‘I’m still a baby’ – and even more than that, I haven’t even been born, yet.
The explanation of this is the secret of the soul of Moshiach ben David. The Gemara in Tractate Succah 52a says that Hashem said to King David: “David, you are my son. This very day I will give birth to you!” King David merited to be born anew every single day, as he used to have renewed vigor and renewed spiritual strength every day, and Rav Natan tells us that Sarah also merited to have this.
The question is this: How can we also practically merit to be reborn every day anew?
WHAT’S STOPPING US FROM RENEWING OURSELVES EVERY DAY?
Rav Natan, zt’l, explains in Likutey Halachot what the single biggest problem is, that causes us to find it very difficult to renew ourselves every day. He inspires us to try to start over serving Hashem from scratch, every single day.
Each of us has days where we experience barriers in our spirituality and gashmius (materialistic endeavors), which result in us not knowing what to do, or how to cope, and this means that we can’t feel the light that Hashem’s sending down to us all the time, to renew us. This is the root cause of all our downfalls and defeats.
So, how do we overcome these barriers?
We have to know that there are two things that essentially cause these barriers, or walls, between us and God, but that these same aspects can be used to do what Rabbenu tells us we need to do, i.e. to be old, and at the same time to also be a baby.
LEARNING FROM A FOUR YEAR OLD
Before we clarify what these two things are that are blocking us [from serving Hashem], let’s first clarify what it means to be both old and a baby, at the same time. In discussing the aspect of being a baby, we can learn a great deal by looking at a four year old, and seeing how things work with a child of this age.
We notice something very interesting. Usually for kids this age, it’s a very awful thing when their friend takes their toy away. The kid starts to cry, and truly, his whole world is destroyed. But then after a short amount of time has passed, he completely forgets all about it, and it’s like his whole world suddenly gets rebuilt, good as new.
Why is this?
Because now, he’s found a new toy, and all his vitality is coming from this new toy.
This is exactly what’s happening with the blind beggar, too. Each time that he ended up in a difficult situation, whatever hard thing happened to him, the second it finished, he completely forgot all about it as though it had never happened, and started over.
His vitality was always renewed.
DON’T TAKE THINGS SO MUCH TO HEART!
When it comes to us, though, it usually takes us a lot of time to recover and get renewed vigor after we’ve been through a difficult situation, because we take so many things to heart, and then we can’t stop thinking about them.
And this aspect of things, that we get so worked up about everything that happens to us, this is called the ‘walls’ that stop us from feeling the vitality and renewal that God is sending down to us all the time.
But by the blind beggar, whatever happened, happened! Now, it’s time to start over! And by doing this, he experienced a renewal of his life force, as though he really was just like a newborn baby.
Adapted and translated from Al Parshat Drachim, by Rav Ofer Erez