Like the Kli Yakar, Rav Miller compares Sara Imeinu's home to the home of the Mikdash.
And her passing was like the Churban (Destruction).
Rav Miller states that the first Churban in Jewish history was actually Sara's passing.
While we tend to think of the Giving of the Torah as our Nation's monumental event (and it was indeed), Rav Miller explains that our founding Fathers & Mothers were the magnificent part of our history.
The Shechinah dwelt in their homes.
It's amazing. What was in the Kodesh Kadoshim (Holy of Holies) in the Beit Hamikdash was actually in the homes of our Avot & Imahot.
When they passed on, the Shechinah went into Exile.
What Were Avraham & Sara like as Chatan & Kallah?
Initially, Avraham Avinu was Sara Imeinu's teacher (they had a 10-year age difference & people married young back then), so he showed her all he had learned about his own observations of the world, observations that gained him tremendous TRUE knowledge because "he saw better than any professors will ever see."
And Sara Imeinu soaked it all in.
On page 5, Rav Miller describes what Sara's own study of the world must have been like.
Sara started off as the brilliant student of her husband, then she rose to great heights on her own, eventually achieving nevuah that surpassed even that of her holy husband.
A Truly Fun Home
Now as much as I’m going to tell you, you must know that it is not going to approximate what the greatness of that house was.
I’m like an ant looking up at a tremendous mountain trying to describe what’s high up on the summit.
I’m not capable of fully understanding the greatness of Sarah’s tent.
It’s like a blind man speaking of the glory of the sunlight — we never saw it and we have no idea about the splendor that prevailed in that house.
Rav Miller acknowledges that we generally consider Avraham Avinu the builder of our Nation. He was the one out there doing things.
And indeed, he was a tzaddik beyond our imagination.
However, who built the Beit HaMikdash?
Sara Imeinu. In her tent.
When they slaughtered meat, they were like the Kohanim performing korbanot.
When they ate, it was like they were eating offerings from the mizbeyach.
Sara Imeinu's challot were the prototype of the Lechem Panim in the Beit HaMikdash.
Rav Miller goes on to say (pg. 8):
All their thoughts and all their deeds were devoted to the ideal that Hashem is in our house.
That’s what made it a beis hamikdash — the kedusha, the Awareness of Hashem, was so dense that it constantly impinged on their awareness in everything they did.
Now don’t think that a Jewish home is lacking cheer and fun.
Avraham and Sarah lived very happy lives. They had more fun in their home than we have – much more.
Why was Yishmael's Laughter So Bad?
Rav Miller acknowledges what the mefarshim say about the symbolism of Yishmael's laughter.
But Rav Miller says that just the plain meaning, that Yishmael was laughing & jesting in such a holy home – the same as clowning around in the Beit HaMikdash on Yom Kippur – just the laughter on its own was absolutely appalling.
What's the Secret to Keeping House like Sara Imeinu?
And what's the secret to housekeeping like Sara Imeinu?
It's on page 11:
Every chore that people do in that house, if it’s a frum house and they do it l’shem Shamayim, that’s the ingredient – l’shem Shamayim, then they’re building something that’ll last forever.
When a mother is putting clothing into the washer she’s thinking, “I want to maintain a frum Jewish house because Hakodosh Boruch Hu gave me this function. I don’t have to work in an office. I won't run for elections to be a city councilwoman – it’s a waste of my life. Right here is the place where I achieve.”
“The more children that I can have, the bigger the achievement.”
A woman like that is building a Beis Hamikdash – she is emulating the avodas Hashem that made Sarah into Sarah Imeinu.
So he emphasizes that l'shem Shamayim means "with the awareness of Shamayim."
Everything Avraham Avinu & Sara Imeinu did, it was with this awareness.
People talk about "mindfulness" a lot nowadays, and an awareness of Shamayim is the real mindfulness we are supposed to cultivate.
The Old Treasure in the Home
He also mentions a pithy proverb from Gemara Erechim 19b:
"Saba b'veita – pacha b'beita."
"An old man in the house is a calamity in the house."
Retired men belong in kollel, says Rav Miller, not being a nuisance to his wife in the home all day.
It's such an interesting 2000-year-old observation because we see in our times how shalom bayit often disintegrates when a husband retires. So many women complain of a retired husband who spends his time nitpicking at how she runs the home, criticizing how things are organized, and kvetching.
Get thee to a kollel!
Then Rav Miller quotes the same Gemara:
"Savta b'veita – sima b'veita."
"An old woman in the house is a treasure in the house."
A man is a treasure in yeshivah.
A woman is a treasure in the home.
Rav Miller explains how women grow wiser as they grow older. They dispense wisdom & chessed.
Yes, I see in the Yerushalmi communities how dedicated older mothers are to their grandchildren & adult children.
For example, when a daughter gives birth before Pesach, Yerushalmi mothers invite the entire family (all those little darlings!) for the entire week of Pesach.
It is tremendous work to host small children and take care of a yoledet, all the more so over Pesach and often with their own children still at home and more guests coming. But they do it so willingly!
I really look up to them.
And their wisdom is a real treasure too.
My husband and I still turn to his mother for health remedies & advice, plus a little bit of dream interpretation. (Her own mother was a kosher dream interpreter in Morocco.)
Although sometimes, the dreams go a bit too far – like when my mother-in-law's long-dead brother came to her in a dream after yet another son was born to us and requested that we name this son after him because none of his secular children had done so.
So we did. It's hard to say no to the dead. Chessed shel emet and all that. Do the dead favors, even though they'll never be able to pay you back. It's a big mitzvah.
Among frum women in general, I've seen how grandmothers develop patience they lacked in their younger years.
I've seen how supportive & discreet & sensitive they are with their children struggling with their own children – struggles these older women didn't necessarily have to deal with in their child-rearing years, but have become all too common now.
Society considers older women crones and old-fashioned and no longer useful or beautiful.
But Judaism declares: sima – She's a treasure!
Reaching Back to the Original Nature & Nurture
Ultimately, Avraham Avinu & Sara Imeinu are the prototype for us.
No matter what home we grew up in or what background we came from, our real nurturing comes from this first Jewish couple.
A convert is referred to as the son or daughter of Avraham Avinu & Sara Imeinu.
We need to stretch back further than our immediate family & background to reach it.
It's there, it's accessible, but we need to cultivate an awareness that it's possible.
Let's wrap up on Rav Miller's final note (pg. 15):
It’s beyond our sight; it towers beyond our range of vision how great we could become – but every person who begins the career of building a home has the right, the obligation, to build that home on the same foundation that Avraham and Sarah laid down for their home.
And that’s the foundation of the greatest possible loyalty to Hakodosh Boruch Hu and the greatest possible dedication to the ideal of making the very best home that they could make.