Sarah’s Legacy: Equanimity

We all have good days and bad days; some days we are confident and generous and upbeat and other days we are irritable and insecure and unkind. We are inconsistent; our moods shift with the winds and the situations around us.

Not so Sarah, at least according to the Sefat Emet. The Sefat Emet explains the famous Rashi on the first pasuk of our parsha about the years of Sarah’s life.  The pasuk strangely says they were “100 years and 20 years and 7 years, the years of Sarah’s life.”  Rashi explains the redundancy of the word “years” after each number as a sign that Sarah was the same when she was 100 as 20 and the same at 20 as at 7.   On the words “the years of Sarah’s life,” Rashi says, kulan shavin letovah.   “They were all equivalent in goodness. “

Sarah was consistent in her goodness. She didn’t have bad days and good days, bad years and good years.    The Sefat Emet calls this the quality of hishtavut, “equanimity,” from the same root, shaveh, equal, as the word shavin in the above Rashi.  They were all “equal” in goodness, says the Sefat Emet, means that whatever happened to her – whether hunger or barrenness or abduction by a king, and many difficult things did happen to her – whatever happened, she was the same, solid as a rock, steady and consistent in her goodness, imperturbable and unshakable.

This image of Sarah stands in contrast to the image of Avraham as a walker and mover – lekh lekha­ was not a one time command but a continual injunction to keep moving and growing over the years, as he does both physically and spiritually throughout these parshiyyot.   Perhaps Sarah was the stable rock amidst all this change?    When the angels ask Avraham where his wife is, he pointedly says Hineh ba’ohel, “Behold in the tent,“ as if to emphasize this contrast; Avraham is running around bringing people in, giving instructions, getting cattle, . . .   but Sarah stays put in the tent, a staked rooted place in a life of mobility.

We often celebrate the qualities of growth in Avraham.   This Shabbat I invite us to celebrate the qualities of equanimity and stability in Sarah, to learn to be more like a rock or a mountain, to simply watch the weather change, to stand still and steadfast through the difficult moments of life – both moments of external difficulty and moments of internal difficulty when we are overcome by negative feelings – to simply stand fast and bear them all with equanimity and inner peace.

Peace and equanimity come to those with faith. There is the faith of running and changing and believing that you have a role to play, and there is the faith that helps you accept what is happening around you and within you with equanimity — stable and unchanging, knowing you are not the primary agent of change and that things will happen as they should in their own time.

Up and down, young and old, good and bad. Through it all Sarah stood, unmoving, consistent in her years – kulan shavin letovah.    In her memory, may we be blessed with this quality.

About the Author
Rachel Anisfeld holds a PhD in Jewish Studies and studies and teaches Torah in a variety of Atlanta adult education settings.
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