Eve came to the world. She became wrapped up with a snake.

Noah came to the world. What happened to him? "He drank from the wine and was drunk."

Sarah came to the world. She descended and she came back up, as it is said, "And Abram came up from Egypt, he and his wife with him."

For this, Sarah earned transcendental life . . . that life belonged to her.

Zohar 1:122b

It’s a passage from the Zohar, and—as to be expected from the Zohar—very enigmatic. What is the sequence? What does the story of Eve and the snake have to do with Noah and his wine? What does either story have to do with Sarah and her descent to Egypt?

The solution to the puzzle, in short, is that the Zohar is telling us a history of happiness. There are three approaches to happiness in the human repertoire. Two fail. One succeeds.

A Brief History of Happiness

Eve came to the world, initially standing a step beyond it. Physical pleasure and pain were nothing more than external stimuli, providing information about what needed to be done, and what should be avoided. But Eve came to believe that happiness could be found only by experiencing the garden from within, as in I am experiencing this pleasure. That is the primordial snake—that sense of I am here. And that is the voice of the snake: “Am I happy yet?” That is where all confusion begins.

“Am I happy yet?” That is the voice of the primordial snake.

Once experience became wrapped up with ego, then pleasure became wrapped up with pain, good with evil, beauty with ugliness, and all of life became as we know it today: a world where no deed is innocent and simple, no motive pure and untainted. Eve—and all of us—fell from her transcendent state down a rabbit hole into a maelstrom of chaos.

Then came Noah. He stepped off his ark after the flood and saw a new world. He saw the opportunity to start again, to abandon Eve’s error and to rebuild with a new strategy for happiness. The solution seemed straightforward and obvious: He drank wine, forgot himself, and was happy.

Problem is, once the ego has appeared, it cannot be forgotten. That is how memory works—as an arrow let loose, never to be reversed without being countered head-on. Having failed to do that, all Noah accomplished was to introduce confusion back into a freshly-laundered world.

Until Sarah. Sarah encountered the snake head-on, face-to-face, on its own territory, in the darkness of its own chamber, while held tightly within its iron clutch.

The primordial snake this time around was Pharaoh, a mortal being wholly obsessed with ego and power. As did the snake, he offered Sarah the opportunity to share in that power. But Sarah remained bound up with Abraham and with the One G‑d. Even as she was in Pharaoh’s palace, she transcended it, ruled over it, and ruled over Pharaoh as well.

And so, Sarah achieved eternal life. Because she healed the wound that Eve had inflicted upon the human soul.

Sarah eventually had a child. She named him Yitzchak (Isaac), which means, "he will laugh." Her life was filled with joy, and her child was a child of joy. We are the children of that child.

No Expectations

We all want to be happy. Sometimes we think happiness will come from getting what we want, enjoying it, and then getting more and more things we want. Further entanglement in the same old snake.

Sometimes we think happiness will come from forgetting ourselves, whether with alcohol, or drugs, or entertainment, or any other form of escape. Blame Noah for that one.

Well, the research data is all in, and it turns out that neither of these strategies ever made anybody any happier.

Those with no expectations carry an inner joy in all they do.

What does make us happier? We all know the answer, and it seems such an easy formula: Joy bursts in where there is no ego to obstruct it. Those who feel they deserve everything can never be satisfied. Those with no expectations, who feel they deserve nothing, that every breath is a gift—they carry an inner joy in all they do.

Yet it is so difficult. An ego, after all, is not something you can shed on a whim, like a sweater or a cap. It is much harder to deal with than some trait you can eventually change—like fear or anger. It is you—your sense that you exist.

But we are the children of Sarah. She forged the path for us, and now we need only follow in her footsteps. The ego cannot be ignored, or swept under the carpet in drunkenness. But it can be presented with a higher context, one in which our entire sense of being takes on a whole new meaning.

Find a higher purpose in all you do, an eternal purpose, the purpose for which your soul came to this world. Bond yourself with that purpose and with the One who created you with this purpose. That is all you truly are.

The ego becomes irrelevant, a mere nuisance. With purpose comes inner joy. With purpose, your life belongs to you. And it is eternal life, as your purpose is eternal.

Maamar Chayei Sarah 5712, 5720, 5741.