Looking for “M’nuchat Hanefesh,” Calmness of our Souls, among the Storms We Experienced in Our Lives
Rabbi Daniela Szuster
Tracing Isaac’s life, we can find that he had to face many challenging situations in his life. Starting with the trauma of the Akeidah, the binding of Isaac, when he was about to be sacrificed by his father, and then, the death of his mother Sarah. After these painful events, we hear very little about Isaac in the Torah.
Commentators try to explain his silence. Some say that he was shocked and had a lot of fear which disabled him to have a normal life. Others think he was blinded as a consequence of the Akeidah (Bereshit Rabbah 65:10). There is a Midrash that teaches that after the Akeidah, Isaac went to study in a Beit Midrash, a “house of learning.” (Bereshit Rabbah 56:11). The study of our tradition helped him to overcome his sorrows.
Before he met his wife Rebecca, the Torah tells us about Isaac: “And Isaac went out walking in the field toward evening and, looking up, he saw camels approaching.” (Bereshit 24:63) Rashi and Sforno teach that this was not just an ordinary walk in the fields. Rather, Isaac had gone to the fields to meditate and pray. In fact, the sages suggest that Isaac invented the afternoon prayer service. (Babylonian Talmud, B’rachot 26b). Rabbeinu Bachya teaches that Isaac’s walk was a stroll in the fields to enjoy nature and its restorative powers.
Following these sources, we can say that Isaac’s silence was a product of his time of introspection. He took a time of silence, of study, meditation, and prayer in order to heal his pain and sorrow. The connection to sources of spirituality enabled him to overcome the trauma of his past.
Isaac could have been paralyzed, depressed, or traumatized throughout his life. Instead, through Torah study, mediation, and devotion to God, he could find “M’nuchat Hanefesh,” equanimity, calmness of the soul among the storms he experienced in his life. Through sources of spirituality, he could move from trauma to healing, to resilience.
May we be inspired by Isaac’s example, looking for “M’nuchat Hanefesh,” equanimity, calmness of the soul among the storms we experienced in our lives, through sources of spirituality like studying Torah, meditation, connection to God, and introspection.