There is a famous Midrash that connects the death of our matriarch Sarah with the story of Akeidat Yitzchak, the binding of Isaac.
The Midrash says that Satan, the angel responsible for challenging us and placing obstacles in front of us, tried mightily to prevent Avraham and Yitzchak from following the word of God by binding Yitzchak on an alter and offering him up to God.
He tried to dissuade Avraham by telling him, “God would not condone child sacrifice! Not to mention that God himself assured you that through Yitzchak, the Jewish national future would be realized. You Avraham must have misunderstood!”
Then Satan went to Yitzchak and attempted to scare him by saying that his father was misleading him regarding their journey; that he was actually planning to sacrifice him.
Satan did not succeed. Avraham and Yitzchak withstood his challenges and went through with the Akeida.
The Midrash then informs us that Satan went to tell Sarah that her husband and son did not simply go on a father/son camping trip, but that Avraham had brought her son as an offering, which leads to her passing away.
I always wondered, since Satan’s goal was to stop Avraham and Yitzchak from going through with the Akeida, which he failed to do, why did he then bother to inform Sarah about what had transpired? It was too late to stop them, Avraham and Yitzchak had already passed the test! What then is the purpose of going to Sarah?
It’s hard to believe that I’m writing this, but it seems we can actually learn from, and be inspired by, Satan! Yes, you’re hearing it from an Orthodox rabbi that, sometimes, we should follow in the ways of Satan.
Let me explain.
After trying and failing numerous times, Satan could have done what we would do: give up. Except that is not how Satan operates. He never gives up. He may lose a battle, but the war goes on.
So, while he couldn’t stop Avraham and Yitzchak from going through with the Akeida, he hoped that Avraham and Yitzchak would find out that Sarah had passed away and that their trip, their very test, their very actions, might have been the catalyst that resulted in her death.
How horrible, how guilty, they would feel. Perhaps they’d even regret having gone through with the Mitzvah. Thus Satan would actually snatch victory from the clutches of defeat! This was his great hope. Why? Because Satan never gives up! Satan understands all too well that anything, especially failure, can be temporary, but only if one is willing to pick himself up, dust himself off, and get back in the game.
It is this attitude, this boldness, this assertiveness, that we are to learn from, be inspired by, and ultimately emulate.
We live in trying times. More than ever, we must find the courage to keep going. I’m reminded of that courage every time I hear “Hatikvah,” Israel’s national anthem. For me, the most meaningful part is the title, “Hatikvah,” which means “hope,” a word that is meant to define the Jewish people, a word that, at its essential core, means to never give up!