Dovid Weinberg – A Direct Descendant Of The Rama – Vayera – The Lesson Of Avraham

It says in Bereishis 22:12, “And He said, ‘Do not stretch out your hand toward the lad, nor are you to do anything to him, for now I know that you fear Hashem, and you did not withhold your son, your only one, from Me.’” We know that throughout Avraham Avinu’s life, doing the will of Hashem was his guiding light. Whatever Hashem asked Avraham Avinu to do was done.

The question is why was it until now that it became clear that Avraham did the Mitzvos out of love and fear of Hashem?

The Vilna Gaon answers that for a person to be considered to have absolute Yiras Hashem he must subjugate himself completely before Hashem, to dedicate all his talents, hopes and desires before the Will of Hashem.  Throughout the life of Avraham, he had never experienced fundamental conflict between his own inclinations and the Mitzvos of Hashem. We all know that Avraham Avinu was a profoundly good person with his hospitality, charity, and outreach in the name of Hashem and was in perfect harmony.

HaRav Meshulam Dovid Soloveitchik Shlita gives another explanation for the word “ממני.” He explains that when Hashem commands a person to do a certain Mitzvah then that very Mitzvah becomes infinitely more difficult to accomplish. The reason being is that when it comes to doing Mitzvos instantly a fierce adversary appears, the Yetzer Hara. This very principle rings true whether it is regarding sacrificing your own life or the life of your very own child. Per Rav Dovid, the trial of the Akeidah was immeasurably more difficult because Avraham was sacrificing Yitzchak to Hashem in compliance with His command. Therefore, this is the very reason that Hashem declared ‘Now I know that you are Hashem fearing Man, since you have not withheld your only son from Me.” The factor of “from Me” is what proved to Hashem extraordinary, unequivocal fear of Hashem beyond all doubt.

We also know that the Akeidah represents the opposite of Avraham’s entire being was for it was an act of cruelty. Nevertheless, Avraham suppressed this and occupied himself by setting about fulfilling the word of Hashem. The Akeidah was greatest test of them all for it shows how Avraham and Yitzchok were willing to act just to fulfill Hashem’s command. It was here that Hashem realized that everything that Avraham had done was in the Honor of Serving Hashem with total Ahavah and fear of Hashem.

The Akeidah has become a symbol of how far one should go to do the Mitzvos of Hashem. We should be willing to sacrifice ourselves just to do the Mitzvos of Hashem and it does not matter what that sacrifice is, whether it is financially, your health, and even your life.

The question now is how far are we willing to go to bring about a full sense of Achdus to all Klal Yisroel? What sacrifices are you willing to make and how far are you willing to go? These are the questions we should be asking ourselves in how we could make a difference in anyone in Klal Yisroel’s lives. If Avraham was willing to sacrifice his son Yitzchok to Hashem to show the Ahavah and Yirah to Hashem, we should be doing the same for God’s children, willing to go to great lengths to bring about Shalom to Klal Yisroel. With all of us willing to make such a sacrifice of ourselves for the sake of another member of Klal Yisroel, we should also remember what Avraham and Yitzchok have done for the Honor of Hashem and we should learn from them. Then Hashem will know that we just did our own Akeidah in the honor of Him and with that Hashem can finally bring about the Final Geulah.

Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim – Associate Rosh Yeshiva – PTI – Passaic Torah Institute – Vayera – Kindness Under Torah’s Umbrella

My friend Moshe was driving on a busy street one day when suddenly, the car in front of him came to a sudden stop. Moshe slammed on his brakes, avoiding a serious collision by a couple of inches. Thinking the worst, that a child had run out in front of the car, my friend bounded from his car to see if he could help. No child in sight. What just happened? The driver rolled down his window and said, “I’m sorry I had to stop. A squirrel ran in front of my car and I didn’t want to harm it.” My friend was incredulous. “But you almost killed me and my family! I almost slammed right into your car and we all could have died!”

The driver had good intentions to not run over a squirrel, but common sense tells us that it does not justify risking human life to save an animal. Kindness to animals is praiseworthy, but in this case, it was dangerous and irresponsible.

Avraham was the paradigm of chesed (kindness.) The Jewish nation possesses this trait-it’s passed down in the DNA of every Jew from Avraham, our patriarch. Avraham perfected his own attribute of chesed by doing chesed whenever possible, such as running to greet unknown guests to serve them his best delicacies. Further, he shared with everyone he met about the kindness that Hashem showers upon man and the need to thank Him.

The Mishnah in Avos tells us Avraham was tried with ten tests. While one would assume these would all be designed to fine-tune his chesed, most of them involved challenging Avraham to perform activities contradictory to chesed. The test of Lech Lecha had Avraham move away from his family, his hometown and the people he loved and cared for. The test of Avraham fighting against the four mighty kings to save Lot his cousin, involved killing people in war. Hashem instructed Avraham to circumcise himself, which set Avraham apart from the rest of mankind, jeopardizing his ability to connect to others, since they would now view Avraham as markedly different from themselves. He was challenged to divorce Hagar and send her away along with his own son, Yishmael. The last and hardest of all the tests was the Akeidas Yitzchak, in which he would sacrifice his own son — the total opposite of kindness!!

Why would Hashem test Avraham to act in ways seemingly contrary to the quality of chesed he was developing and perfecting?

Rav Dessler enlightens us that any quality pushed to an extreme is dangerous. Indeed, the chesed of Avraham needed to be balanced. Chesed without boundaries can lead to giving away more money than one can afford. It can lead one to aid cruel people. A giver may choose to borrow money to give away and not have the means to pay it back. A person with unchecked chesed may give money to an addict to fill his destructive need.

Avraham was instructed by Hashem to perform acts we may perceive as the opposite of chesed, to ensure that his chesed would be performed subject to the will of Hashem. Indeed, Hashem was perfecting Avraham’s chesed, for kindness performed out of the realm of mitzvos is a corruption of chesed.

I had a conversation with a Jew who owns a private plane. He is a caring person and belongs to a group called Angel Flights that provide free air transportation to qualifying patients and their families by arranging flights to distant medical facilities, delivering supplies to disaster areas, and reuniting families during desperate times. These pilots volunteer their time, services, and the flight expense to transport these patients or family members for free to the location they need. This person told me he often spends his weekends, including Shabbos, volunteering to fly. Although these flights are solely for non-life-threatening situations and he knows the Torah does not permit it, he feels performing these acts of kindness is what Hashem wants more than keeping the laws of Shabbos.

This man’s actions are noble and generous, but not in tune with the will of the Almighty. Hashem does not want him to fly on Shabbos; that is not the chesed Hashem wants him to perform, unless it is halachically mandated.

Hashem was teaching Avraham that even though his desire to perform acts of chesed is genuine and admirable, his performance of chesed must always be under the umbrella of Hashem’s laws and direction. Without this, a person could save the life of a squirrel and kill an entire family, chas v’shalom. What is kind…and what is not…must always be rooted in the Torah’s teachings.