SARAH’S RECIPES FOR SUCCESS
Parashat Chaye Sarah
of mind is probably the most crucial element for peak performance in all life areas. In business, playing sports, and wherever else performance makes a difference, state of mind can be “the make it or break it” factor. Especially in serving G-d, state of mind is a key component. Yehuda Ben Temah said, be brazen like a leopard, light like an eagle, swift like a deer, and mighty like a lion to do the will of your Father in Heaven.┬á To do the Will of G-d, to learn , to pray, to do kindness, to be superb as a spouse/parent at home,┬á you can’t “just do it” to do it right. You need just the right emotion. Human beings have many built in features – moods, states of mind, emotions. Each state of mind can make a person into a different being, a different “animal”. You need swiftness, might, to be brazen and light; you need to tap into the right emotion that you have already built up in your personality, in order for the Will of G-d to be achieved.
A teacher in an Israeli classroom found written on the board one morning, “Our teacher wants us to wake up in the morning like roosters, to jump out of bed like lions, to schlepp our schoolbags like donkeys, to copy from the chalkboard like monkeys, to remember word for word what we are taught like parrots, to be quiet and still in class like fish…┬á and then, the teacher complains to the principal that we are like a bunch of┬á animals!!” The truth is, the teacher is right. The way to successful living is to find in ourselves the appropriate state of mind for each situation life brings us, in each situation asking ourselves the following question: “Which mood or state of mind can I tap into to help me perform my best in accomplishing the Will of my Father in Heaven?”
And this is what we can learn from G-d’s eulogy on Sarah, in the first passuk in our Parasha. G-d encapsulated Sarah’s life into one sentence. Sarah’s life was one hundred years, twenty years , and seven years; the years of Sarah’s life.(Breshit 23 1) Rashi explains that all the years of Sarah’s life were equal in goodness.
My Rabbi added some spice to Rashi’s explanation. Life is split into three stages, childhood, parenthood and grandparenthood. The child, with his youthful attitude towards life, has this sort of optimism, creativity, purity and “out of the box” thinking. Adulthood comes with the sense of responsibility, working hard and beginning projects. Grandparenthood┬á brings wisdom, understanding and acceptance, with (hopefully) feelings of accomplishment. If you can’t laugh in life, it is because you can’t tap into youthfulness. If you keep making foolish mistakes, it is because you are not tapping into that 100- year-old you. And if you are not taking responsibility for your life’s dreams, you’re missing the twenty-year-old you. Each day, Sarah found inside herself youthfulness, responsibility and wisdom, simultaneously. Even when she was still a 7-year-old, she had wisdom of a hundred year old, and the sense of responsibility of a 20-year-old. And she was full of youthfulness, even at the age of a grandmother. This is the way to an amazing life: 100 years old, 20 years old and 7 years, all at once. From nursery school till nursing home.
I would like to add my own twist to the Rashi, but first a fairytale. There is a story told (heard from Eliyahu Shiri) about a man with no luck. He had no money, no wife, and no happiness.┬á A friend told him to walk in a certain distant desert for three days, in a particular direction.┬á He would then reach a specific spot, that G-d would not refuse to answer his prayer, to change his Mazal. Desperate, he set out on his journey.
The first day, he met a tree. The tree was crying. “Dear tree, why do you cry?” The sobbing tree responded, “I am so thirsty. There is a pond of water, just near my roots. But I can’t reach it!!!”┬á The man responded, “Don’t cry. I am on my way to ask G-d to change my Mazal. I will pray for you, as well. I’ll be back soon.” He continued on his journey, and he found a fair, young lady wandering in the desert, sobbing. ” I came all the way here to pray for my shidduch, my match, but I can’t find the right place. I’ll never merit having a family.” “Don’t cry, fair lady. I am on my way to ask G-d to change my luck, and I will ask Him to help you find your mate, as well. I’ll be back in a jiffy.” And with that, he tilted his hat and was on his way. The morning of day three, he spotted a weeping lion. “Dear lion, why do you weep so?” “I┬á am so hungry! I haven’t eaten for a few days.” “Don’t worry, lion dear. I am on my way to ask G-d to change my luck, and I will pray that He send you prey in no time.”
He hurried on, and soon after, he arrived at the place of prayer. “G-d, I came all the way here to ask You to change my Mazal, my luck. I have no parnassah, no wife, and no happiness. Please, G-d , change my Mazal. And also, G-d, please help the tree’s roots reach the water, send the fair, young lady a groom, and feed the lion.”
Suddenly, he heard a booming, Heavenly voice. “I will change your Mazal, son. But you need to recognize the opportunities that I send you in life and grab them. Here are three envelopes, one for the tree, one for the fair lady, and one for the lion. Tell them I have answered their prayers as well.”
Full of expectation, the man set back home. On his way, he reached the Tree. He handed over the envelope, and the tree read aloud.” Dear Tree. Find someone to do you a favor and remove the treasure chest full of precious gems blocking your roots.” The tree begged the man with new luck to help it and take the hidden treasure from its roots, so it could have water from the pond. “Sorry, tree, I have helped you enough. I am on my way to my fame and fortune with my new luck. Find someone else.” With that, he continued on, soon after, noticing the fair, young lady. He delivered her the envelope from G-d. “Marry the first man you meet upon receiving this letter. You will live happily ever after, with lives full of plenty.”┬á She turned to the man and asked him for a date. “Sorry, I am on my way, fair lady, to my new mazal. Ask someone else.” And with that, he continued on his way and saw that hungry lion. He handed over the letter from G-d. “If this Shlumazal manages to bring you this letter, eat him for lunch! He was too foolish to take advantage of the first two opportunities I sent him. He is a waste of a life!”
So many people get stuck in life, waiting for that Mazal of the next stage. Childhood has its beauty, adulthood has its great times, and the golden age of grandparenthood has its bliss, as well. But you have to grab the opportunity when it presents itself, not wait for the next stage, or wish you were in a previous one.
When we make the most of each stage in life, we can live a life of fulfillment, like Sarah, who lived 100 and 20 and 7. We can then say that each and every year was the best year of our life. Because the only way that a part of life is great is if we make it so .