Sarah lied, saying, “I did not laugh”
This thing is especially deep, for when the Talmud states (Talmud Berachot 33b), “Everything is in the hands of Heaven – except for the fear of Heaven,” This is only according to the limits of human reason. In truth, everything is in the hands of Heaven – even the fear Heaven. It is only in this reality that God obscures his ways from us.
The essence of Isaac was to bring the world to recognize that even the fear of Heaven [ie. the freewill belief of God’s providence in the world] is determined by God. However, the world was not yet ready for this precious understanding. Therefore it was necessary for Sarah to say (Genesis 18:12), “Am I to have enjoyment-with my husband so old?” so it appears that she is denying God’s infinite abilities. God then reveals to her in a precise manner that even the fear of Heaven is His, which becomes manifest through Isaac’s birth.
Without Sarah’s denial of God’s will (which was hidden from her), Isaac would not be able to be brought into this world, for the gift of Isaac’s essence is to clarify and reveal that everything is divinely preordained, including all the sins of Israel, which are under God’s guidance, and through this
Magnified and sanctified may His great name be יתגדל ויתקדש שמיה רבא
And understand this, for this is mamash so deep.
This is the deepest of the deep. The Ishbitzer starts and ends by directing us back to that. Everything is determined by God. Everything. Your most exemplary moments. Your most depraved. All that’s in between. Everything. There is no free will. All there is is the illusion of such that we operate in the world with, and (surprise!) God causes that illusion on purpose. Or at least He did before Issac was born. Isaac signals a new boundary of thought, a paradigm shift for Avraham and Sarah and the whole world.
What’s so powerful is how God gets us there. The Ishbitzer points out that God needs Sarah to call Him out on his promises and his abilities. God (painfully) lets Sarah and Avraham get so old that they begin to have their doubts about Him, that he won’t follow thru with making a great nation from their progeny. Only at the point that Sarah’s own faith in God has become obscured from her can an opening within her be created, physically and spiritually, such that she can now understand that God is running the show. Then we see that even her ability to believe or not believe in God’s power (“the fear of Heaven”) was in God’s hands the whole time.
So doubt with abandon. Push back on God. Own all those feelings, including frustration and indignation and disbelief. AND never forget that those are God’s, too. There is such depth to our tumultuous internal lives. They require mining and uncovering all that is hidden down in there. The Ishbitzer is calling on us to trust in ourselves (and God) and dive deep. It’s all there for a reason, and it requires us taking that seriously if we ever want to arrive at something new, to give birth to an entirely new way of being in the world that could be mamash so precious.