Chayei Sara: Positive Speech, Positive Mind

 

This week’s Torah portion (Chayei Sara) begins with “And this was the life of Sara, she lived…” and continues to explore some relevant details of Sara’s life. Commentators explain that this introduction to the new section of the Torah immediately follows Avraham’s attempt to sacrifice Yitzchak discussed in the previous Torah portion. Sara died of emotional pain upon hearing the news that her only son, whom she conceived after waiting many years and undergoing numerous rounds of biblical fertility treatment, was to be sacrificed. This section begins with Sara’s death and describes her life.

 

In notifying us of Sara’s death, the Torah says the life of Sara. This seems like a peculiar way to inform us that she died. One would simply say, “And Sara died, she lived until…..” So why did the Torah break the news this way? Perhaps it alludes to methods for mourning and Judaism’s Shiva process. When someone dies, depending on the circumstances in  Judaism, time is often spent reviewing, reminiscing and discussing together their life. The ups, the downs, the highs and lows. The lessons one can learn; for some the inspiration and for many, the shock and sadness.

However, there may be still another meaning to the life of Sara: the importance of our speech and what our words mean to us. There is something deeper to the language that we use. In reviewing the story, one can feel the tremendous emotional pain here. What a tragic story and a tragic ending to a story. The amount of time and effort Sara spent waiting to have a child is not proportionate to the amount of time she spent with her child. Tragic. And yet the Torah does not explore this. Instead, it informs us of the the hope, the beauty, that was Sara’s Life.  It describes the positive spin in a terrible situation. Perhaps this positive mindset personified the life of Sara.

 

Life is not defined by the positives and negatives. As Viktor Frankl suggests in his explanation of logotherapy: living a good life is a result of what you make of it. With an appropriate attitude we can all focus on our “life” or positive aspects, while ignoring the “death”, those parts of us that are difficult and may even predominate. Our circumstances and biology need not dictate how we define our lives. We all have the power to reframe and focus on all the tiny positives surrounding us.

 

Let’s choose life.

 

 

Avi Gordon, PsyD

Vice President at Refuat Hanefesh
Avi J. Gordon, PsyD, grew up Toronto, Canada and is currently a pre-Doctoral Intern at Faulk Center For Counseling in Boca Rio, Florida. He is a Clinical Psychology Doctoral Candidate at Loyola University of Maryland and obtained his M.A. in Psychology from Columbia University. Avi’s clinical experiences at college clinics and outpatient mental health centers include anxiety, depressive, and personality disorders, as well as complicated grief, relationships, and various identity and developmental factors. His research interests include emerging-adult religious and spiritual identity. He is passionate about the mission of Refuat Hanefesh and spreading mental health education and awareness in an effort to ensure access to care for those who may need it. When he’s not working, he can be found rollerblading, playing music or ice hockey. Avi can be reached at avigordon@refuathanefesh.org
Avi Gordon, PsyD

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