Back to Parsha homepage

by Rabbi Yisrael Pesach Feinhandler
Archive of previous issues

Vayera II

Your Actions Follow You Everywhere

And Sarah said, G-d has made laughter for me, all who hear will laugh with me. (BERESHIS 21:6)

Rabbi Yitzchak Ariel of Petach Tikvah trained his children when they were young to greet people with a smile. In order for this training to penetrate, he used to go through exercises of one child greeting another when he came in, and expressing his happiness at seeing his guest, who was really his brother or sister. Rabbi Yitzchak felt that it was not enough that his children had a role model in their father. They also needed to practice these exercises to be sure that this chesed of greeting someone with a smile would become ingrained in their character.

Over and over one of the children would knock on the door, and the other children would greet him with a hearty "Shalom Aleichem," and with big smiles. If Rabbi Ariel felt that their greetings were not warm enough, they had to repeat the exercise.

Once one of Rabbi Ariel's friends asked him, "Don't you think that you are training your children to act in a forced manner, without really feeling anything?"

He answered, "What I am doing is training them to do the right thing. I hope that the training will become part of their natures, since in these matters a person's nature has a lot to do with his success. When they grow up they will have to work on themselves so that, even though this will be part of their natures, it does not turn into an empty habit without feeling. When they reach that stage, I hope to train them on that point also." (HTZAHARU Bl-CHVOD CHAVREICHEM, p. 414)

Rabbi Ariel was wise to teach his children to love other people and treat them with chesed and respect. These lessons must definitely have served them well with their future spouses, when it is so important to excercise such actions in order for the marriage to succeed.

"And Sarah said, 'G-d has made laughter for me, all who hear will laugh."' Rabbi Berechya bar Rav Yehudah bar Rav Shimon in the name of Rav Shemuel bar Rav Yitzchak said, "If Reuven is happy, what does Shimon care? If Sarah's prayer was answered, what do other people care? The answer is that when Sarah's prayer was answered, many other barren women's prayers were answered together with her. Many ill people were cured with her, many deaf people began to hear, many blind people began to see, many insane people were cured." (YALKUT 93)

Why did G-d make such a miracle that when Sarah conceived, so too other women in the world also conceived? This is hard to understand, because while Sarah was worthy of the miracle, other wor.1en were not. And why would handicapped people be cured at the time when Sarah conceived?

Also, Sarah says in the verse that everyone who heard of her pregnancy would laugh, but this does not seem accurate, since according to our Sages many, but not all, barren women became pregnant at this time.

The miracle that happened to otherwomen was performed in order to help announce to the world what had happened to Sarah. If people had only heard about Sarah, her story would not have been believed, and they would have said that it was impossible for such a thing to happen. But since it was happening all over the world, and people saw other cases with their own eyes, this gave credibility to the fact that it had happened to Sarah.

It is clear that the other barren women in the world were not as worthy as Sarah. It was only because of her that a miracle happened to them. Sarah's merit was so great that despite their unworthiness they benefited from the miracle that happened to Sarah.

Not only did barren women become pregnant, but also, as the midrash points out, handicapped people were cured at the time Sarah became pregnant. G-d healed them in order to make Sarah's miracle even more well known, since it affected many more people. Additionally, the miracle of making a blind person see or a deaf person hear is much more spectacular than giving a previously barren woman a child G-d was able to greatly publicize Sarah's pregnancy with these miraculous healings.

With this understanding we can answer the charge that what Sarah said did not seem accurate. According to our Sages, not every barren woman became pregnant, even though the verse said that everyone who heard of Sarah's miracle would laugh. It seems unclear why we should think everyone who heard would laugh, instead of just those directly affected. But according to the above explanation we can now understand this. Since the whole purpose of the other people being healed was for the whole world to recognize Sarah's miracle, there was no need for everyone to be healed. It was enough for them to see other people around them being healed. In this way everyone in the world was affected by Sarah's miracle to some degree. That is what the verse means when it says that "everyone will laugh."

A Successful Marriage Shines Far and Wide

We can learn from this midrash what a great effect one person can have on the whole world. When a person is a tzaddik, his actions shine far and wide. The same thing applies to a successful marriage; its beauty can be seen and appreciated by all. Everyone can feel the love between the couple, and it is an excellent example for others to follow. People can learn from this couple what marital bliss means, and can see that it is a tangible thing which can be achieved with a little effort exerted by both the husband and wife directed towards their common good.

I once witnessed a couple eating at a hotel, and they were obviously enjoying each other's company. The waiter asked them if they were just married. To his surprise, they related that they had been married for over ten years!

To have a marriage that always stays fresh and alive requires effort. Each spouse should be constantly searching for ways to make their partner happy, and to bring them as much benefit as possible. When one spouse feels cared for and loved, it is natural for him to want to reciprocate with giving and love. Love is like a rubber band. The more you try to give it, the more it will come back to you.

A successful marriage fills a person with the greatest feeling of satisfaction. Both spouses feel like the luckiest people in the world. When there is love and giving, you do not see any blemishes; instead you feel happy and satisfied. It is a fact that, on the average, married people live longer than single people, divorcees or widowers. Being married has the potential to give a person enrichment of life that makes it worth living.

Unfortunately, the same potential applies in the opposite direction when a marriage is unsuccessful. Everyone the couple knows becomes aware of it, and the example is dreaded constantly. It is an example that parents ask their children to keep away from so that they will not learn from it. Of course the couple's children cannot escape from their own parents. These children might come to learn all the wrong concepts about marriage, and this could affect their entire lives.

The couple themselves also live with bitterness and dissatisfaction. Instead of looking forward to seeing the spouse, there is dread. Aggravation and quarrels are their daily rituals. Arguments among spouses are much worse than among other people. You simply cannot leave a spouse like you leave a friend. You are stuck with painful unhappiness, unless you do something about it.

Building a successful marriage is one of the most important projects that we have in our lifetime. Our success in this field has implications for our success in entering Olam Habah, for our happiness in this world, and also affects the lives of our children and children's children. Children of divorced parents are commonly affected psychologically.

They may suffer from depression and often are not as capable as other children of handling life's problems. On the other hand, when the relationship between the parents is full of love and caring, the children are much more often well balanced, and stand a much better chance of succeeding in their own lives.

We can also exert a positive influence on all who know us, simply by being happily married. We can set an example for everyone of how wonderful married life can be. Such an important enterprise is certainly worth our time and effort.

The consequences are so great that we cannot leave the success of our marriages to chance. That success is the responsibility of each one of us, and it must be the result of a well-coordinated plan.

Back to Parsha homepage | Previous Issues

This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.
For information on subscriptions, archives, and other Shema Yisrael
Classes, send mail to

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel