Do you sometimes catch yourself living the “if only” life?

The “if only” life starts with something like this: “If only I was born with more (brains, looks, connections, personality, charisma, a loving environment, etc.), then I would be a (happier, more accomplished, kinder, more successful, more generous, more ambitious, and better) individual.”

In other words, the “if only” attitude claims that if only we had some essential, missing quality, then our lives would be infinitely enhanced, and we would be able to achieve our greatest potential.

Since the “if only” is an impossible dream, our goals too become impossible to attain.

At the very end of Sarah’s life, we learn about the secret to combat this “if only” attitude.

Bereishit Rabbah (60:16) comments, “Throughout Sarah’s life, three miracles took place in her home: a protective cloud (representing the Divine Presence) hovered over the entrance to her tent, a blessing was present in her dough, and her candles would burn from one Shabbat to the next.”

These three special mitzvot that were present in Sarah’s home were later paralleled in the miracles of the Temple.

Her Shabbat candles brought the glow of spirituality into the darkness of the weekday, just as the candles of the menorah burned brightly until the next day’s lighting, when a new growth could be experienced.

Sarah’s challah was blessed; her guests felt satiated for a long time. The lechem ha-panim, the showbreads of the Temple, remained warm and fresh for a whole week until they were replaced with new ones, and they were extremely satisfying and filling for whoever ate even just a small piece of them.

The cloud of the Divine Presence over Sarah’s tent affirmed the greatness within, just as the Shechinah, G‑d’s Presence, felt at home in the Holy Temple.

The lesson behind Sarah’s life was simple: seize every experience and make it holy. Transform your home into a spiritual sanctuary, a refuge from the prevalent ideology. The message radiating from her tent was that the Jewish home has immense potential.

The three miracles in Sarah’s home also represented the three special mitzvot entrusted specifically to the Jewish woman. These are:

a) Lighting Shabbat candles to usher in the holy day of Shabbat,

b) Taking challah—separating a piece of dough and consecrating it to G‑d (nowadays it is burned, but in the time of the Temple it was given to the priests), and

c) The mitzvah of Family Purity, governing physical conduct between husband and wife (represented by the cloud).

The challah elevates the realm of physical and material reality, the Shabbat candles elevate the realm of the spiritual and abstract, and the laws of Family Purity elevate the realm of interpersonal relationships.

Each of these three special mitzvot shows the power of taking an ordinary physical event and infusing it with G‑dliness. We don’t need perfect circumstances, and we don’t have to be perfect beings. Our goal is simply to use every encounter, even the mundane nature of physical reality, and make it meaningful. And then a home can become a Temple.

The moment that we light the Shabbat candles, we usher in the holiness of the Shabbat experience. The room still looks exactly as it did just seconds before. But the home has been infinitely changed. That one act of kindling the flame has revealed an entirely new dimension. We can now experience the peaceful aura, the special blessings, and the holiness of the Shabbat. The word Shabbat, from shevet, means “dwelling,” and we have brought down the holiness that can make our world into a dwelling place for G‑d.

Likewise, separating the challah dough acknowledges that all of our basic needs are provided by G‑d and can be elevated. By “lifting up a dough-offering to G‑d,” we direct all of our physical needs and experiences to a higher, spiritual purpose.

Similarly, in following the laws of Family Purity, we show how even in the most physical of drives we can live sanctified lives. We invite G‑d into the bedroom, as there is no area devoid of Him.

Each of these three mitzvot teaches us how to grasp an ordinary physical experience and make it extraordinary, by infusing it with a glow of meaning and purpose.

Life is about finding the beauty around us. Stop focusing on the “if only’s.” See the divine blessing and beauty in everything that comes your way, even the mundane. Seize every moment and make it count.

See the good, find the blessing, and expose its beauty.