In the early part of Vayeira, Avraham is visited by three angels in the form of human beings. Although he is still recovering from the circumcision that he performed on himself just a couple of days earlier, Avraham literally jumps at the opportunity to show kindness to his guests. He ministers to them with great alacrity, bounding back and forth (at age 99) to prepare a feast for them. After the "men" enquire as to the whereabouts of Sarah, one of them announces to Avraham that, at the same time the following year (Pesach), she will bear him a son. G-d Himself had informed Avraham of this earlier, when He gave him the mitzvah of circumcision.
Overhearing these words from behind the entrance to her tent, Sarah, the Torah tells us,"...laughed [vatitzchak] to herself, saying, 'Now that I am worn out [from age], shall I once again regain my youth? And my husband is old!'" In response, Hashem addresses Avraham reprovingly, "Why did Sarah laugh and say, 'Can I really have a child when I am so old?' Is anything too difficult for G-d?" (Chapter 18, 12-13; The Living Torah, pp. 80 - 81)
Though Malbim interprets Sarah's reaction as joyful wonderment (somewhat similar to Avraham's own reaction in last week's parsha), Ramban (Nachmanidies) detects a slight disparagement in her "laugh," and is quite surprised by it. It is likely, he reasons, that she did not understand that these visitors were divine messengers, and that Avraham--who was occupied with carrying out the mitzvah of circumcision--had not yet informed her of G-d's recent promise that she would bear him a son. Yet, still, he writes, it was not befitting Sarah, a prophetess of G-d, to laugh as she did. Even though she thought she was hearing merely the personal blessing of a humble traveler (and not a proclamation from on high), she should not have brushed it off; at least, Ramban writes, she should have replied, "Amen. May Hashem do so."
Lekach Tov, a wonderful collection of writings on the weekly Torah portions, quotes Rabbi Yechezkel Levenstein, zt'l, who explains that this comment of Ramban is teaching us how great our emunah, our faith in G-d, must be. We must believe absolutely--and keep at the front of our awareness in our actual lives--that "the power of G-d has no limit whatsoever"; all the seemingly immutable "laws" of nature are really nothing but the yad Hashem, the hand of G-d, and He has the power to suspend or overturn them at any time. If G-d does not do so in any particular situation, it is only because we are not worthy of a miracle. We may lack merits, but Hashem does not lack the wherewithal.
Indeed, our faith in G-d's absolute hashgacha (providence) at all times must extend to the most desperate circumstances, lo aleinu. As the Talmud in Berachos, 10a, states: "Even if the sword is placed against the neck of a person, he still should not despair of [experiencing] G-d's mercy." One would certainly have to pour out heartfelt prayers for salvation at such a time; one's essential confidence in Hashem's power to save, however, should never waver.
Rabbi Yerucham Levovitz, zt'l, a towering ethical master of this century, comments along the same lines in the collection of his talks on the parsha, Da'as Torah. We say every day in ourmorning prayers, "Atah hu ad shelo nivra ha'olam, atah hu mi'shenivra ha'olam--It was You (G-d) before the world was created, it is You since the world was created." (Artscroll Siddur, p. 29) Rabbi Levovitz explains these words beautifully: just as before the world was created, there was nothing except Him, so, too, after the world was created...there is nothing except Him. All creation exists, and continues to exist every single second, only because He wills it so; G-d is the only true Existence. At this ultimate level of emunah, Sarah's concern about being past the natural childbearing age--and any notion of "nature" as an indepedent entity altogether--evaporate. As Hashem asks Avraham, "Is anything too difficult for G-d?"
The Midrash in Bereishis Rabbah (48, 19) brings a parable in commenting on Hashem's words:
"A person had in his hands two bolts, and he brought them to a black-smith. He said to him, 'Can you repair them?' He [the blacksmith] replied, 'I was able to create them at the beginning; should I not be able to repair them now? So, too, [G-d says], 'To create them [human beings] at the beginning I was able; should I not be able now to restore them to the days of their youth?"
Nothing stands in the way of G-d's ability: if Hashem so wills it, a
woman long past menopause may be restored to fertility. The Midrash shows that
Hashem held Sarah, one of our greatest spiritual role models, accountable for the
ever-so-slight lapse (if you will) in her awareness of this fact, in her emunah.
Rabbi Yosef Edelstein, Savannah Kollel. Phone: 355-0157; fax: 354-9923; e-mail address: Yosef18@aol.com
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