"And the life of Sorah was -- The years of the life of Sorah
were all equal for the good" (Rashi).
R' Yehoshua Moshe Aharonson zt'l, author of Yeshuas
Moshe, extracts a most illuminating thought from the
above words. In general, the days of the years of people who
underwent trying periods in their lifetime are not uniform.
They are comprised of two parts: the first consists of the
very brunt of the trial, the vortex in which one feels
oneself swirling in darkness, helpless to get one's bearings,
to know where we shakily stand and where we are headed. The
trial seems bad and bitter.
But with time, we enter the second part and we come to
realize that it was all for the good. And even if the
opportunity to actually feel that all was necessarily for the
good is not always eventually apparent, at least we do feel
the providential Hand of Hashem, fatherly, soothing and
smoothing away the roughness of those tests.
"Even when I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I
shall not fear evil for You are with me." (Tehillim
The Chasam Sofer used to explain that verse in the following
manner: "`And I shall cover My palm over you until I pass,
and you shall see My back (hind), but My face shall not be
seen.' After a challenging event in his life, a person can
look back with hindsight and veritably see the guiding Hand
of his Creator directing everything that happened to him. He
can detect the linked Providence that enveloped him.
When can a person best feel Hashem's presence? From "behind."
After the act. Only with the passing of time, when things
begin to fall into place. With hindsight. But who can presume
to second-guess Hashem while he is in the very process of
being tested? When all seems gloomy, dreadful, a bottomless
abyss? Who can see in such darkness?
With Sorah Imeinu, says HaRav Yehoshua Moshe, it was
different. Her name was also Yiscah, for her prophetic
vision, her spiritual sense of sight. Sorah's vision was holy
and pure, accurate and true to the mark. She was able to see
even before. It did not take hindsight for her to realize a
design, a pattern and purpose in her tests. She was able to
see even beforehand, that is, in the very throes of the
difficult nisoyon of barrenness.
Thus, the years of her life were all equal. There was no
division, no watershed between the difficult period of
barrenness and the years following the birth of Yitzchok,
when normally one would bask in the relief, satisfaction and
joy of the succor. Not with Sorah. All of her years were
equally for the good. She was able to always see only the
good and kindness of Hashem pursuing her throughout the days
of her life.
The gemora tells that whenever someone came to R'
Yochonon ben Zakkai asking that he pray for a sick person, he
would place his head between his knees and then commence
R' Levi Yitzchok of Berditchov zy'a notes that the
saintly head of R' Yochonon ben Zakkai was in the lofty
heavens; he was able to see what others could not. And there,
in the spheres of ultimate truth, he saw only good. It was
perfectly clear to him that all that Hashem did was
only for the good.
According to this vision, R' Yochonon was incapable of
praying on behalf of a fellow Jew and his plight. He could
not empathize or commiserate with him. He could not feel his
distress for it was perfectly clear to him that whatever had
befallen the other person, which the latter felt was
difficult and painful, was in R' Yochonon's eyes something
good -- altogether for his benefit.
What could he do, however, if that unfortunate person did not
see it that way and could not fathom that the situation was
truly good? In his eyes of flesh, the suffering man could not
discern the good; for him, the world was dark and gloomy.
And so, in order to be able to pray for him, R' Yochonon had
to bury his head between his knees, to look downward, to see
the world as others saw it: a situation that was bad and
bitter. Only thus could he pray to Hashem with broken heart
on behalf of the supplicant standing before him.
With our limited vision, our fleshly eyes, we often see
Hashem's goodness and kindness in past events, only with the
reflection of hindsight. That is why we pray, "Do not subject
us to trials." With our myopic vision, we can only ask,
"Hashem, show us Your kindness." Perform for us those acts of
kindness where we are able to see the goodness as we
experience them, and not only with the wisdom of