By: Herschel Karp (11th Grade)
This week’s Parsha, Chayei Sarah, starts off by saying that Sarah lived for 127 years, but it does this in a strange way. The Pasuk repeats the phrase “The years of Sarah’s life," once at the beginning and once at the end. Rashi explains that this repetition is to show us that all her years were equal in goodness. However, there seems to be a problem with this explanation. Although Sarah experienced many joyful moments, much of her life was filled with hardship. She was barren for most of her life and she was held in captivity by both Pharaoh and Avimelech. How can we possibly say that all of her years were equally good despite everything she had to go through?
There is a story from the Gemara about a Tanna who was called “Nachum Ish Gam Zu." Everytime something negative would happen, he would say “Gam Zu Letova," which means that this too is for the good. One day, he was selected by the Jews to bring a chest of precious stones and gems to the King of Rome. He stopped by an inn on the way, and when the innkeeper realized what was in his chest, he took out all the precious stones and replaced them with sand. When Nachum realized what had happened in the morning, he simply said Gam Zu Letovah - this too is for the good, and continued on his way to the king. Upon arriving at the palace, he presented the gift to the king who became furious that he was given a chest of sand. He viewed this as an insult, and declared that he would kill all the Jews for what Nachum did. However, at the last second, Eliyahu Hanavi, who was disguised as one of the king’s advisors, suggested to the king that this sand was the sand used by Avraham in his war against the kings. This sand by Avraham had turned to arrows when thrown. The king decided to test this theory, by using the sand when he went to war. Miraculously, he was victorious because of the sand. To express his gratitude, he filled Nachum’s chest with valuable stones and gems, and sent him off with great honors.
This can help us explain what Rashi’s statement really meant. The fact that all the years of Sarah’s life were equal in goodness means that, even when confronted with difficult and unpleasant situations, she always recognized that what was happening was for the good. Similarly, in our life, many times there are things that we perceive to be bad, or we think won’t turn out well. But we have to believe that Hashem makes everything for the good and say, “Gam Zu Letovah."