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The Systems of the Jewish Year

The Days of Sarah

By Rabbi Sender Haber

The Medrash tells us that Rebbe Akiva was once sitting with his students when he noticed that they were falling asleep. He decided to wake them by changing the subject. “Why is it”, he asked, “that Queen Esther merited ruling over 127 countries?”

He went on to explain that this was in the merit of Sarah. Sarah had lived for 127 years and her granddaughter ruled over 127 countries.

The Torah tells us that Sarah’s life was full. All of her years were equal in goodness. She lived each day to its utmost and fulfilled her role in this world on each day that was given to her.

The Vilna Gaon once said that when we come to heaven our days come to heaven with us. Each day testifies about how we spent it and whether we used it well. Each day that Hashem gives us is a gift to allow to become better people and to carry out our unique role in this world.

In the Shaar Hatzion on the laws of Yom Kippur the Chofetz Chaim departs from a discussion of halacha to make a point in mussar:

Some people deal with daily struggles but give up. They figure that if they don’t do what they need to do they will just get punished or perhaps die. The Chofetz Chaim explains that this never works. If we come up to heaven without fixing what we need to fix – and it is different for every person – we will be sent right back down. Even in this world, Hashem gives us each day as a gift and another chance to become better.

Several months ago I was sitting in Pepe’s when a stranger walked in. He clearly hadn’t intended to enter a Kosher Pizza shop and he spent a few minutes talking. It became clear from the conversation that he had once kept kosher but did not keep kosher any longer. He left the store and went to eat lunch somewhere else. I was shocked, besides for missing out on some really good pizza, the man lost a great opportunity. Here he was, struggling with kashrus, and G-d gave him another chance. He was out of town on a business trip with a partner and of all stores he walked into a kosher one. How much more of a sign do you need?

Hashem gives us new chances every day. Sarah took advantage of every one of her days. They were all equal in goodness.

Esther did the same. She was given a chance to save the Jewish people, but she could have just retreated to her royal suite and said nothing. Someone else would have saved the Jews.

Every day is an opportunity. We can use it to grow or to do teshuva, but we cannot allow it to go to waste. This was Rabi Akiva’s lesson to his sleeping students. It should be a lesson to us as well.

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