Our Parsha begins on a sad note. Sarah the wife of Avraham and the Mother of the Jewish people passes away.
Rashi explains the reason for the juxtaposition of the death of Sarah to the Akeidat Yitzchak (sacrificing of Yitzchak) at the end of last weeks Parsha, as, when Sarah heard the news that her only son Yitzchak had nearly been Shechted (slaughtered), her soul flew out and she died.
This is very difficult to understand. We read in Kohelet (8) Shomer Mitsvot Loh Yedah Davar Rah – someone who guards and performs the commandments of Hashem is protected from all evil. So how come, the cause of Sarah’s death was the Akeidat Yitzchak?
Furthermore we know that Sarah was an even greater prophetess then Avraham, so how is it possible that upon receiving this news her soul could not cope and she seemingly died of shock?
Every day we pray to Hashem to get rid of the Yetser Harah (evil inclination), Milfanenu UmeAcharenu – from before us and from after us. What is the meaning of this?
The Yetzer Harah tries to prevent and delay us from carrying out any Mitzvot. Thus before we do a Mitzvah the Yetzer Harah is already at work to try and prevent our good deed. In addition, not only does he try before the deed, but even after the deed has been done, and we think that we are safe and home, the Yetzer Harah works hard to try and make us regret it, for if we regret a Mitzvah then it can be counted Chas Ve Shalom, as if we never really did it. Thus we pray to Hashem to protect us from this Yetzer Harah both before we perform His Mitzvot and after.
The Satan, knew that the days of Sarah in this world were coming to the end. He knew the exact time of her death; he therefore came to Sarah immediately before her death and reported the act of Akeidat Yitzchak to her. Her soul then departed and she died. The Satan’s aim was to make people think, by what they could see that Sarah died because she heard about the Akeida. However, in reality this was not the case, she did not die because she heard the news, rather she died naturally, because that was her destined time to die. It is for this reason that the Torah emphasises in length at the beginning of the Parsha, the days of her life (she lived one hundred years and twenty years and seven years etc) to teach us that on that day her life was ended completely.
When Avraham came to eulogise Sarah the verse states VelivKota – (spelt with a small Chaf). The Ba’al Haturim explains that when Avraham cried over the death of his wife, it was a halfhearted cry. The reason is that although he missed her sincerely, nevertheless he realised that she had died in good (old) age.
Avraham realised that the only reason she died, was that her time was up. He realised that the Satan was trying to attack and convince him, that the Akeida was a mistake, and it was the Akeida that caused Sarah’s death. But he stood fast, and Hashem helped guard him from this Yetzer Harah that appeared even after the Mitsvah Akeida.
The Torah teaches us that in life, there are two stages to performing a Mitsvah. We might think it is difficult enough to persuade ourselves to perform the mitzvah, and once we have performed the Mitsvah, we have done our part. But we learn from this episode that the Yetzer Harah never gives up, and even once we think we have succeeded in conquering him, and perfected ourselves in that Mitsvah, he comes again to revisit us, and try and dilute our strength, tries to convince us that the Mitsvah we did was a mistake. We have to stand fast, be strong, and pray to Hashem to constantly guard us from this Yetzer Harah. Just the other day I was sitting at a bus stop in Jerusalem, next to me was learned man, who took out a Chumash to read. Fifteen minutes past and every so often he would lift up his eyes to see if the bus had come. When the bus did finally come he was so engrossed in his leaning that he missed the bus. Imagine what a Yetzer Harah that man must have had, now he was going to have to wait at least another twenty minutes for the next bus. It is in these kind of cases that the Yetzer Harah flourishes. It is our duty to know our Yetzer Harah, he is devious, crafty and knowledgeable. The Gemarah gives advice that when one feels the Yetzer Harah is dominating he should go and learn Torah. Torah is the source of life, it helps a person’s merit, and can defend a person at a time of need. Our forefather Avraham Avinu showed us the way. He taught us how to conquer the Yetzer, perform the Commandment of G-d at the highest level, and never to regret a good deed. May Hashem bless us all Ushemor Tzezenu UvoEnu, Viysalek Hasatan Milfanenu UmeAcharenu – and guard us from this evil inclination, so that we may perform His Commandments with Levav Shalem – a pure heart Amen.