Anxiety is in the air. Everywhere we turn, concerns are expressed about rising antisemitism, and the future of our divided country.
In this context it is worth noting a remarkable commentary of Ramban. At the outset of our parsha, Avraham and Sarah welcome three guests into their home and treat them royally, and in response one of the guests declares that they would be blessed a year later with a child. Sarah laughs bitterly in response, and is taken to task for this by God.
Ramban (18:15) is troubled by this. Clearly, if Sarah laughed it is because she did not realize that these guests were actually angels delivering a prophecy from God. She thought they were like all the other simple travelers who were regularly welcomed to their home. As such, why should she not laugh? She was 90 years old, her husband was 100, they had been unsuccessfully trying to conceive for years, and now some stranger comes along and promises her a child in a year. How would you respond?!
Remarkably God expected her to respond with hope. Yes, even as difficult and as protracted as her situation was, she should not have despaired and should have instead responded sincerely to his declaration, affirming: “Amen! May God indeed do this for us!”
In the words of Rav Tzadok Hakohein of Lublin (Divrei Sofrim no. 16):
“The Jewish nation was built after the total despair of Avraham and Sarah ever being able to have a child … purposely … so that this would become the character of the Jew, to believe that there is never room for despair.”
Our times are indeed challenging and uncertain. But our history is instructive and a profound lesson of faith in God.
Let us all draw from that infinite resource of hope.
Rabbi Moshe Hauer is executive vice president of the Orthodox Union (OU), the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization.