November 15th Parsha Vayiera
… We are in the parsha of Vayiera, it is the parsha of the Akeidah, the binding of Yitzchak and there are some fascinating, fascinating subjects that we need to discuss. First of all we always look for the rest of the story; find the deeper reasons and motivations for the people in the Torah doing what they do because they are after all exceptional, G-dly inspired human beings. So what’s the story with Sarah? … The angel asks Avraham “Why is Sarah laughing? Is anything impossible for G-d?” Avraham asks Sarah “Why are you laughing”, she says “I didn’t laugh.” What’s going on? Did Sarah have doubts about G-d’s ability to perform miracles? … If you look at the story, the angel comes and says “This time next year Sarah will have a child.” Sarah laughs … the angel says “Why is Sarah laughing? Is anything impossible?” And then he seems to repeat the blessing: he says “At the right time I will return and Sarah will have a child.”
When a person is offered a blessing, a miracle, he has the right to refuse or to give some condition under which the blessing would in fact be a blessing for this individual. If to you it doesn’t sound like a blessing you can say “No, no, not that.” Sarah was saying “I sense that this blessing which I am sure is going to happen without a doubt. It sounds like I am going to have a child but not for very long.” Almost like he is going to be a miracle child; he won’t be a long lasting, physical, real, healthy long-term child. Something is wrong in this blessing and she laughed as if to say “A temporary blessing? That’s not a blessing.” So her laughter was not mockery. Her laughter was not coming from doubt or from cynicism. It was coming from the angle or the opinion that a temporary blessing is not a true blessing. In other words, what is temporary is not real. And as a mature and profound thinker – that to her would not be considered a blessing at all. So in a sense her laughter was demanding or lobbying for a healthy child who would last long. In other words, she was anticipating the Akeidah. It sounded like G-d will give but G-d will also take it back. To that the angel said “Is anything impossible for G-d? If that’s your condition, then fine. He will live long.” In fact, when the time comes, not this time next year, the blessing is not being repeated. The angel is saying “When the time comes, I will come to you, and Sarah will have a child.” What he is saying is “I will come to you – Avraham – and thereby Sarah will have her child.” Why doesn’t he come to Sarah if it’s part of the blessing? But there exactly is the rub. Sarah knew and was correct – a blessing has to be given face to face, person to person … up close and personal is the only right way to give a blessing. So Sarah was a little disturbed by the fact that the angel was talking to Avraham about her. See if the angel was giving Avraham a blessing, “You will have a child” that would be fine. If he’s talking to Sarah, “You will have a child” that is fine but he is talking to Avraham and he says this time next year Sarah will have a child,” and Sarah says, “Oh – that doesn’t sound good. It’s a blessing but it’s not a full blessing.” So now when the angel says “At the appointed time I will come to you, to Avraham, and Sarah will have her child. What he is saying is when the Akeidah takes place and you are about to sacrifice Yitzchak, I will come to you, to Avraham on the mountain and I will stop you and Sarah will have her child” not give birth to a child. In other words what Sarah is asking for, what she is lobbying for, she will get.
You may have heard the way that Sarah passed away is that she heard about the event… and from shock, she died. If you look a little deeper, she was 127. It’s not like she passed away before her time. She was seven years over the limit. So another way of understanding it is, she knew that Avraham was going to take Yitzchak to the Akeidah and she also knew the angel promised it wouldn’t happen and so she held her breath and when she heard it didn’t happen, that the angel did in fact come to Avraham and stop him, then she could die in peace. But she would not die until she made sure that Yitzchak was fine.
Which explains another interesting thing. G-d tells Av to sacrifice Yitzchak an angel comes along and says “No” and Avraham listens. Why didn’t he say to the angel “G-d told me to do this – who are you to say no? I gotta hear it from G-d Himself.” So there is in fact a Midrash that says “That when the angel came to Avraham and said don’t do this.” Avraham said “Who are you?” Tzadikim are greater than angels; they’re not impressed easily by an angel. He says “Who are you?” The angel said “Don’t you recognize me? I promised Sarah that his would not happen.” In other words it was part of the blessing that Yitzchak would live long and the Akeidah would only be a trial and a test and would not happen. So it turns out that Sarah with her insight into the way a bracha works, actually lobbied for her child before he was even conceived and succeeded and Yitzchak lived a long life. Just another example of how if we look deeper, we find a whole new world. Not just a spin on an old story but a whole new world … so it’s a truly a divine story. Every detail fits.