All Equally Good
Sichos In English

Shabbos Parshas Chayei Sara; 2nd Day of MarCheshvan, 5751
1. This week’s Torah portion begins, "And Sara’s life was one hundred years, twenty years, and seven years." Rashi explains that the word "years" is repeated to teach us that when she was 100 she was just like she was at 20 [without] sin; at 20, she was as beautiful as at 7. Afterwards the Torah states "the years of Sara’s life," which teaches us that "all are equally good."

The latter statement is somewhat problematic. How can we say that all of the years of Sara’s life were equal in regard to beauty and lack of sin? The Torah relates that Sara had "withered," and that she laughed in disbelief when she heard the prophecy that she would give birth, and then denied laughing in G-d’s presence. Since Sara had been a full partner in Avrohom’s service ("Avrohom would convert the men, and Sara would convert the women") and had proceeded upward in service together with him, her laughter appears to be out of character and a descent from her level. After such a descent, how is it possible to say that all her years were "all equally good?"

There is a further difficulty. Our Sages teach that "The deeds of the Avos are a sign for their children." This means that the narrative of their behavior – and that of the Matriarchs – provides us with significant lessons that we must apply in our lives. What is the lesson we can derive from Sara’s behavior? How is it possible for people on our spiritual level to aspire to a service that is "all equally good"?

These questions can be resolved based on the explanation that the three numbers mentioned in connection with Sara – 100, 20, and 7 – represent the spiritual powers we are granted. 100 refers to the powers of will and desire, 20 to the intellectual faculties of chochma and bina, and 7 to our seven emotional attributes.

[In addition to these qualities, Sara’s service also involved activity in the world at large. This characterizes the difference between the Avos, whose service was more spiritual in nature, and the Imahos, whose service involved drawing G-dliness into the material dimension of the world.

Sara, the first of the Matriarchs, surely reflected this quality. We see the effects of this dimension of her service in two events in this Torah portion: a) The purchase of the Cave of Machpela: This began the Jewish people’s acquisition of Eretz Yisroel. Furthermore, the way this portion of land was acquired leaves no room for a protest from the gentiles that the Jews stole Eretz Yisroel from them. b) Avrohom’s giving birth to many nations: Avrohom’s remarriage to Hagar – and the children whom she bore him (which represent his activity with the world at large) – was ultimately the product of Sara’s activity. It was only because she was Sara’s maidservant that Avrohom considered wedding her.]

Although each level of soul mentioned above reflects a unique and different level, Sara also revealed the essence of her soul. The various potentials reflected in her service (100, 20, and 7) differed one from the other. Nevertheless, the revelation of the essence of her soul established a commonality between all the levels – "all are equally good."

The soul of every Jew is "an actual part of G-d from above," a part of His essence, as it were. This G-dly essence is the essence and the source of all good, and from it come a variety of different expressions of good.

This can explain the difficulties mentioned above. The levels of 100, 20, and 7 are each unique, each representing a different rung of service. Nevertheless, the revelation of the essence of the soul affected all these levels and established a commonalty between them. This allowed the positive qualities Sara manifested in her youth to also affect her old age and, conversely, the heights she reached in her later years to elevate her service of the past.

2. The explanation of the concept of "they are all equally good" reflects an additional dimension beyond the service of 100, 20, and 7 as they exist within their own context. This is somewhat problematic because this phrase from Rashi’s commentary and the phrase from the Torah: "the years of Sara’s life," which Rashi’s commentary explains, are the sum total of 100, 20, and 7 years. Therefore, it is preferable to offer a slightly different explanation than mentioned above.

In this context, the number 100 can be interpreted as the general approach permeating all different dimensions of service, elevating the particular levels of 20 and 7. Since this general thrust affects all these particular levels, it is possible for them to be "all equally good."

The concept of 100 as the general thrust of our service can be understood more thoroughly based on the Zohar’s association of the 100 years of Sara’s life with the 100 blessings we are required to recite each day. In his Shulchan Aruch, the Alter Rebbe quotes the Talmud’s derivation of this obligation: A person is obligated to recite 100 blessings each day, as it is written, "Now Israel, what is it that G-d asks from you?" Do not read "mah" (what); read "meia" (one hundred).

The Alter Rebbe continues, quoting the further portion of the verse, "to fear the L-rd," and explains: These 100 blessings are intended to bring a person to fear G-d, to love Him, and to recall Him at all times through their recitation. This is accomplished by constantly reciting blessings in the evening, morning, and afternoon.

In this manner the 100 blessings express the general approach of our service of G-d, as explained above regarding Sara’s 100 years. Similarly, these 100 blessings are related to our service within the world, since for the most part they praise and express our thanks to G-d for the material benefits He has granted us.

Thus, the recitation of a blessing has two dimensions – service within the soul and service within the world at large. Reciting the blessings "brings about the revelation of the light of G-d within the souls of the Jewish people to strengthen their faith in G-d...bringing that faith into open revelation." This revelation will be manifest in the soul of the person who recites the blessing, the souls of those who answer amen, and then will be drawn down in the world at large.

This process is reflected in the text of the blessings: "Blessed are You L-rd, our G-d, King of the universe...." First we express our relationship with "our G-d," and then we relate how He is "King of the Universe."

The obligation to recite 100 blessings a day is incumbent on all Jews, men and women. Similarly, children are educated and trained to recite these 100 blessings. Even very young children are trained to recite blessings and to answer amen to other blessings, with the intent that this become an integral part of their personalities and lead them "to fear G-d, to love Him, and to recall Him at all times through the recitation of these blessings."

Since the obligation to recite blessings brings us to the awareness of G-d "at all times," it enables us to make our years "all equally good," to express the fundamental thrust of our service of G-d in all the different phases of our lives.

This includes even the very beginning of our lives, and is further enhanced by the activities of parents and friends who give praise and thanks to G-d when they watch the early stages of a young child’s development. This leads to further Divine blessings the parents will raise their child and bring him to "Torah, marriage, and good deeds" together with many brothers and sisters, a family blessed with many children who are occupied in Torah and mitzvos.

3. The above-mentioned activities with Jewish children share a point of connection with Parshas Toldos, which we begin reading in today’s Mincha service. Parshas Toldos begins: "These are the chronicles of Yitzchok, the son of Avrohom. Avrohom gave birth to Yitzchok." To explain the apparent redundancy, Rashi quotes our Sages’ explanation that this teaches that G-d made Yitzchok’s facial features like those of Avrohom so that everyone would say, "Avrohom gave birth to Yitzchok."

This also teaches that a father must endeavor that his son’s behavior reveal who his parents are. From watching a child, we must be able to recognize that he is a descendant of Avrohom, or in a particular sense, that he is the son of a chassid and a Tamim. The only difference between a child and a father should be their age. They must share the same commitment to Torah and mitzvos.

This is accomplished through chinuch (education). From the earliest moments of a child’s existence, a parent must endeavor to ingrain in him the fundamental approach of our service: "to fear G-d, to love Him, and to recall Him at all times." This will enable the child to grow and develop in a manner that his years will be "all equally good."

Now we can see the progression from Parshas Chayei Sara to Parshas Toldos. Chayei Sara describes the attainment of personal fulfillment, reaching a level that all one’s years, the totality of one’s life experience, is "equally good." Parshas Toldos reflects how this level of fulfillment can be transmitted to one’s descendants and how one’s children continue the pattern of conduct which one has established.

Toldos, giving birth to children, also shares a connection to the ultimate Redemption, because Moshiach will not come until all the Jewish souls will descend and will be born within this material world. Here we also see a connection to Yitzchok, for our Sages emphasize that in the era of Redemption we will point to Yitzchok and say, "You are our father."

3. The above also shares a connection to Chaf MarCheshvan, the Rebbe Rashab’s birthday, which fell in the previous week. The Rebbe Rashab founded Yeshivas Tomchei T’mimim with the intent that "the young men who study nigleh (the revealed dimensions of Torah law) should be G-d-fearing Jews... to implant in them an inner-felt fear and love of G-d... The essence and the foundation should be their study of chassidus. This should lead them to the love and fear of G-d... and nigleh should be studied in this spirit."

The Rebbe Rashab intent was that the study of chassidus should inspire even the younger students. This is relevant even to children of the youngest ages, for it was at the age of four or five that the Rebbe Rashab broke out in tears, asking that G-d reveal Himself to him just as He revealed Himself to Avrohom.

This service will have an effect in the world at large. This is alluded to in his name, Shalom Dov Ber. Shalom (peace) is drawn down to the level of Dov Ber, the Hebrew and Yiddish term for bear, an animal "over-laden with meat"; i.e., peace is brought down to the lowest levels of this material world.

This parallels the message mentioned above, that the essential point of our service, our fundamental fear of G-d, should permeate every dimension of our service, so that all our years, even those of childhood, are "all equally good."

The desire to communicate these concepts was one of the reasons for distributing the Kuntres Eitz Chayim to all the men, women, and children at the conclusion of Chaf MarCheshvan. Needless to say the intent was that the kuntres be studied and ultimately applied in our actual conduct, as the Rebbe Rashab writes in the conclusion of the kuntres:

"Pay attention to the statements made in this kuntres. May these words always be upon your hearts for it is difficult for me to make statements and continuously repeat them. This will allow these statements to be constantly before your eyes so that they will not be forgotten by you. This is ‘your life and the length of your days,’ and with this you will merit eternal life."

These matters were transmitted and communicated by the Rebbe Rayatz, who served as the first director of Yeshivas Tomchei T’mimim. This is particularly relevant now, after forty years have gone by since his passing, when we can "attain full grasp of our teacher’s knowledge."

Also, after Shabbos, a maamer of the Rebbe Rashab, which was recited in the year 5678 and [whose manuscript] was hidden for many years, was just recently discovered will be distributed. May this also be studied in a manner that leads to deed.

[On the surface, one might ask: Why was this maamer only revealed now? This, however, is one of the signs of the immanence of Moshiach’s coming – that new chassidic teachings will be revealed throughout the world. This will herald the revelation of "the new Torah that will emerge from Me" in the era of Redemption.]

May there be an increase in the study of chassidus together with an increase in the study of nigleh. May new institutions be established and the existing institutions strengthened and may these activities hasten the coming of Moshiach.

The climate in the world at large is one that clearly portends the advent of the era of Redemption. Our Sages related that one of the signs of Moshiach’s coming is "nations challenging each other." In particular, the Yalkut Shimoni relates how "the King of Pras will challenge an Arab king" and "All the nations of the world will panic and will be overcome with consternation." We see this today when the leading nations of the world are running to and fro without really knowing what they really want. This situation, however, contains the seeds for the ultimate good, as the Yalkut continues:

[G-d] will tell [the Jews]: "My children, why are you afraid? All that I have wrought, I performed for your sake. Do not fear, the time for your Redemption has come..." Moshiach will stand on the roof of the Beis HaMikdash and proclaim, "Humble ones, the time for your Redemption has come!"


What is the lesson we can derive from Sara’s behavior? How is it possible for people on our spiritual level to aspire to a service that is "all equally good"?



From the earliest moments, a parent must endeavor to ingrain in a child:
"to fear G-d, to love Him, and to recall Him at all times."



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