16 Nov NO GOLDEN YEARS OF RETIREMENT
Ask Not What External Events Can Do To You;
Ask What You Can Do To Maintain Equilibrium In The Face of External Events
The Medrash comments that the name change from Sarai to Sarah signified our Matriarch’s being given dominion over the entire world (from the word Sarah — female officer or ruler). If one looks at Sarah’s life, however, one certainly does not get the impression that she ruled over the entire world and that she “called the shots”. In effect, she was dominated by events that surrounded her. For many years she had no children. She was taken as a captive, first by the King of Egypt and then by Avimelech. And yet, we are taught that she was given the name Sarah (rather than Sarai) because she ruled over the entire world.
Rav Nissan Alpert suggests that in spite of all that happened, Sarah did rule over the entire world. A person who can maintain her equilibrium, her serenity and faith, in spite of the events that surround and effect her is indeed a person who “rules over the entire world”.
We cannot change the course of events. There are things that will happen between nations; there are natural phenomenon; there are things that will happen in a family. This is what life is all about. As anyone who has lived for any significant amount of time knows, life is a series of going from one crisis to another.
How does one rule over all that and manage to “dominate events”? Only by maintaining one’s serenity and equilibrium throughout it all. That is what the life of Sarah was. For a woman to remain barren for 90 years and experience so many the trials and tribulations was not a simple matter. And yet we see the same Eishes Chayil [woman of valor], the same Ba’alas Chessed [personality of kindness], the same Matriarch Sarah throughout. This is indeed a person who ruled over the entire world.
This too can be used to explain the continuation of the Medrash. The Medrash attaches symbolism to the 127 years that Sarah lived. “Let Esther the granddaughter of Sarah who lived for 127 years come and rule over 127 provinces.” The commentaries are all perplexed by the apparently random equation of the number 127 appearing in two places in the Bible.
The explanation is that Esther also had a life of trials and tribulations. Esther had a life that could have been influenced by events that happened to her. She was an orphan. She was taken against her will to the palace of the King…
Esther could have forsaken her people in exchange for the success and the fame that she was receiving. However, Esther remained rock solid in her faith. She did not let events shape her life. She maintained herself. Therefore, Esther could rule over 127 provinces — virtually the entire known world at that time.
If a person has learned the secret of not letting external events shape his or her life and rather maintains an internal serenity in spite of those events, that person has in fact achieved a great degree of control.