Upon hearing that in one year she will give birth, Sarah laughs in amazement. According to Rashi, she evaluates herself physically and out of a sense of abandon, expresses some form of skepticism. She has fully accepted her present condition and is not expecting nature to extend itself on her account. Hashem questions Avraham as to why she laughed at this possibility. Avraham is then asked a rhetorical question (18:14), “HaYipalei MeiHashem Davar?” This is normally translated as, “Is anything beyond Hashem?” or, “Is anything too hard for Hashem?” How does the word, HaYipalei fit with this translation?
Rashi, quoting Onkelos, explains that it means to “cover.” This would mean that the Avraham is asked if anything is covered or hidden from Hashem, thus preventing His control over it. The Maharal explains that Rashi is approaching this with the idea that HaYipalei relates to the use of that word in the context of vows. In connection with vows, the Torah uses the word Yafli, as if to say that a vow separates the object of the vow from the person. A vow to abstain from wine would separate the wine from the person. The Maharal then goes on to explain that conceptually, when something is separated from someone, it is also covered, preventing their direct awareness or control.
This shows us that Sarah is being asked if she believes that anything can be covered or separated from Hashem. We would all imagine that Sarah believed that nothing could escape the awareness of Hashem! Perhaps she thought that the awareness could not impact her reality. Hashem may know of her problem, but that does not erase it! Hence, she is told that Hashem being aware equals Hashem being involved. Nothing is covered from His awareness or His involvement. This is how Hashem operates! We can now see how this rhetorical question is usually translated as challenging Hashem’s ability to pull off a miracle. Is anything too hard for Hashem to do? The answer to this is obvious. The connection between Hashem’s awareness and involvement is not as obvious, especially to those going through hard times as those Sarah experienced.
Indeed, by choosing Avraham, Hashem may have been looking for this quality on a human level. Before Hashem destroys Sedom, Hashem contemplates (18:17): “HaMechaseh Ani MeiAvraham Asher Ani Oseh,” “Should I cover up from Avraham what I am about to do?” If Hashem wants to bring about Avraham’s full potential, He must “uncover” His plans so that Avraham’s awareness can lead to his involvement. Our charge in this is clear! Knowing the truth demands that we be a part of it. The only way we can be a part of it is to act on it. Shielding our eyes from reality and life’s challenges can only foster our apathy. The more we know and are aware of, the more we can do to further our loyalty to the truth. In this way we can use our “Tzelem Elokim” to emulate Hashem’s ways as we journey through time towards our eventual redemption.