I had the privilege of introducing and hosting the Chief Rabbi of Israel at Maroubra Shule and Mount Sinai college on Thursday this week. In the Shule, I shared a summary of the first part of the following idea as his introduction.
One of my favourite Jewish ideas comes from this week’s Parasha, Chayei Sarah. It is very easy for many of us to feel guilt over things that we did or didn’t do or opportunities that presented themselves but were not utilised. Looking back on life, how do we overcome those feelings of guilt over our mistakes in choice and lack of good judgement?
Don’t be discouraged.
Over shabbat we will explore the lives of the first Jew and Jewess, Abraham and Sarah. At one point we are told: “And Abraham was old, coming on in days.”
But what do these words mean? If the meaning was simply that Abraham and Sarah grew old, it could have just said: Abraham and Sarah were old (“zekanim”). Why the need for the extra words “baim bayamim,” “coming on in days?”
The Zohar offers a lovely interpretation.
The literal translation of the words “baim bayamim” is “coming with their days.” What the verse is saying is that Abraham and Sarah did not only grow old, like what happens to many people. But rather they “came with all their days,” they showed up with each of their days. No day had to be forgotten, ignored, kept in the closet. They could show up with each of their days on display; for each day was accounted for; each day was lived to the fullest; each day was wholesome, meaningful, complete. “They came with all their days.” Nothing, no day, was left behind.
Yet hang on a second. We know that for Abraham and Sarah discovered G-d which means that there was a time in both their lives, before their discovery, that they worshiped other G-ds. So how can we say that all of their days we wholesome and complete in goodness??
The Torah is telling us a vital and pertinent lesson! Regardless of what we have done in our past, we are capable of achieving greatness in our future. Not only that, but it is specifically those same negative experiences that have contributed to one’s new state of enlightenment and inspiration. Everything that happens in our lives happens for a reason and shapes us into who we are. So let’s not waste time wallowing in negativity and shame, rather, we must learn from the past and seize the our time in the present. Then, we will also be able to exclaim “baim bayamim” – that we are living wholesome, complete and meaningful lives.
Rabbi Yossi and Chana Raizel Friedman