Parashat Hayeh Sara: It Doesn’t Stop
Parashat Hayeh Sara begins by telling of the death of Sara Imenu at the age of 127. Our Rabbis explain that there is a direct, causal link between this event and the preceding section, which tells of Akedat Yishak (the binding of Yishak upon the altar). When Sara heard that Abraham had placed her son upon the altar as a sacrifice, she was so startled and horror-stricken that she died.
This consequence of Akedat Yishak was orchestrated by Satan for the purpose of posing yet another religious challenge to Abraham Abinu. Even after passing the test of Akedat Yishak by showing his preparedness to sacrifice his beloved son to obey G-d, he was tested again to see if he would regret this act when faced with its adverse consequences. Even after a person performs a difficult Misva, he can forfeit its rewards and benefits if he regrets it afterward. If a person struggles to wake up early to attend the Minyan, but attending the Minyan causes him to miss a lucrative business opportunity, if he then regrets going to the synagogue he forfeits all the benefits of that Misva. The challenge of Misvot continues even after we perform a Misva. We are challenged to feel gratified over having fulfilled a Misva knowing that it is inherently and inestimably valuable regardless of any minor negative consequences that we might then have to endure. And thus Satan, after his unsuccessful attempts to prevent Abraham Abinu from going through with the Akeda, made another attempt to bring Abraham down by making it seem like a mistake, as though it caused his beloved wife’s death. But Abraham passed this test, as well, never questioning G-d or his decision to obey the command of the Akeda. He recognized that Hashem’s decree that Sara should die had nothing at all to do with his compliance with G-d’s command, and did not regret his decision for a moment.
This series of events demonstrates how challenges are a part of life, and once we successfully overcome one hurdle, we will, invariably, encounter another. As our Sages comment, "The Sadikim have no rest – neither in this world nor in the next." The Sadikim want to consistently grow, and people grow by overcoming challenges. Therefore, they are always presented challenges, through which they are able to continuously grow in spirituality from one level to the next.
The process of education and spiritual growth must never stop. If we put a pot of water on the stove and turn off the fire every time it is about to boil, it will never boil. The same is true about spirituality. If we keep taking "breaks" and allow ourselves to decline once in a while, we will never reach our full potential. This process must be continuous and constant.
Our Rabbis noted that Yishak seems to "disappear" after the incident of the Akeda. He is not mentioned at all in the account of Sara’s death and burial, and the impression is that he was not at home. The Rabbis explained that after the Akeda, Abraham right away sent Yishak to learn in the yeshiva of Shem and Eber. After rising to great heights at the Akeda, Abraham wanted to keep the momentum going, and so he sent Yishak to learn. He didn’t give him a break, some "time off," as we often do today. When it comes to religious growth, there cannot be any "time off." There has to be consistency and ongoing momentum. And thus even when we take vacations from work and school, there cannot be a vacation from Torah and Misvot. We must keep on working and growing, recognizing that religious growth cannot ever stop.