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Parshat Va'yeira

November 7, 2019

 

 

 

We learn in Rashi that Avraham Avinu was `sitting at the entrance of the tent’ because he was looking for passers-by’s whom he could invite into his tent to give them rest, food and drink, both physical and spiritual. However much to his pain it was a particularly hot day and there was no one to invite.

“And He appeared to him, Hashem.” Hashem came to visit the ‘choleh’- the sick one. Rabbi Chama bar Chanina teaches that it was the third and most painful - day after his circumcision, and Hashem came to inquire how he was doing.

As best as you can, imagine and visualize, Avraham Avinu in the midst of experiencing his deepest Divine revelation ever. We need to understand, why was Avraham Avinu so pained, was experiencing Hashem revealing His presence to him not enough? What more could he want?

In this revelation Avraham Avinu learned that the highest deepest way of being with Hashem, is in doing ‘gemilllut chassadim’ – acts of loving kindness. Not having anyone to welcome into his tent, pained Avraham Avinu more than the pain of his circumcision. Why so?

Being a Jew is not about having selfish spiritual delights. Imagine seeing and experiencing some of the most awesome beautiful things in the world, in nature or in the arts…. and you are taking great joy in the experience of all this beauty. But consider, is anyone else gaining any benefit from your delightful meditation? Are you sharing the joy?

It is wonderful to meditate on Hashem’s greatness [as much as one can] and to contemplate and be sincerely grateful for all His kindness – but if it doesn’t inspire you – put you on fire within, to “do” as Hashem “does”, - you are missing something deeply crucial in bonding with Hashem.

Of course it is very important to recognize all the good that Hashem does. AND it is crucial to recognize that Hashem does all this because He cares about you and me, because He loves us. We bond most deeply with Hashem in emulating Hashem - in loving and caring for others. To love is to care, to do and to want to do. To love Hashem is to care and love Him with all your heart - and more so with your very life - and even more so in doing kindness with your wealth – with all your gifts and talents.

Avraham Avinu realized this truth in Hashem’s presence and revelation. It pained him that he was only experiencing this Divine revelation- because he wasn’t getting the opportunity to “do it”! He wanted to bond with Hashem in thought, speech and ‘action’!

Seeing how deeply and completely Avraham was wanting to bond with Him, Hashem sent him three angels disguised in human bodies, thus allowing Avraham to bond on all three levels: “Torah, Avodah and Gemillut Chassadim”. Torah - Avraham Avinu received and learned the deepest personal ‘Oral Torah.’ Avodah - He was inspired and prayed to put it into practice, and Gemillut Chassadim - he got to “do it” with all his heart, soul and wealth.

The Talmud teaches that we are to say, “when will my actions ‘reach’ those of my forefathers?” The commentators ask, does anyone really imagine that they are anywhere near the levels of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov; that their deeds might actually ‘reach’ the deeds of our Avot? It is explained that to ‘reach’ their deeds means that your deeds should be connected to theirs, rooted at their source in our Avot. To be a true descendant of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, is to live what they taught us and transmitted to us as an inheritance.

 

Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov reached the level of being ‘chariots’ to Hashem’s will and presence in this world. To achieve this one has to be totally free of any and all worldly attachments. Though one may be very far from that, nevertheless, being their children, we have inherited from them the inspiration, strength and commitment to walk in their ways and continue ‘doing’ [even if only mimicking] their good deeds. I was told by a serious student of martial arts that one learns by ‘doing’ what the master does even though he is not nearly as perfect as the master. With each proper repetition more perfection is achieved.

 

We must always remember Rebbe Nachman’s teaching that every story in the Torah is about us. Like Avraham Avinu we can strive to achieve Divine revelation. Like Avraham Avinu we must be diligent and creative in learning Torah and ‘doing’ mitzvot.

 

The Lubavitcher Rebbe zt”l taught: “This is the instruction we learn from “And He appeared to him, Hashem”- ‘and the living shall take this to heart’- that it is in the power and capability of every Jewish man and woman – son and daughter of Avraham Avinu - to merit the revelation of “and He appeared to him, Hashem,” through his/her involvement in “hachnassat orchim”, starting with the preparations for doing this mitzvah. (This is also true for all aspects of ‘gemillut chassadim’ in general)."

 

The Rebbe continues, “From this we understand how much effort we have to make in ‘doing’ hachnassat orchim and gemillut chassadim; similar to Avraham Avinu’s efforts, who ‘looked’ for guests, and when he saw them he ‘ran’ towards them, he stood by them to serve them with the best food and drink…. So too in this manner are we to involve ourselves in hachnassat orchim, with alacrity and a friendly countenance. Furthermore, just as this is true concerning ‘physical’ hachnassat orchim - providing food and rest for the body - so it is true (and all the more so) in providing spiritual nourishment for the soul, through the spreading of Torah learning, Yiddishkeit and Chassidut."

 

Reb Shlomo zt"l always used to say "bless me and I bless you back" or "I bless you and bless me back" - either way let us all be blessed to be deeply connected to all that is 'kadosh'- holy, for the honor of Hashem and all of Israel. May all our mitzvot and good deeds be connected our holy Fathers and Mothers.

 

Avraham Avinu's Ahavah and Chessed - Love and Kindness

In honor of Avraham Avinu and Sara Imeinu

The 'gimatreeya'- the numerical value of the Hebrew word 'ahavah'-love, equals 13. The 'gimatreeya'- the numerical value of the Hebrew word 'echad'-one, equals 13. That both these word have the same numerical value is significant.

To love is to be one with, to 'be one'. The root of 'ahavah' is 'hav' which means 'give'. It is by giving that we love and the more we give the more we are capable of loving.

The Aramaic translation of 'ahavah' is 'rechimu' which comes from 'rechem'- a womb. From this we learn that to love, is to be close to one another like a mother is close with her fetus- generously and joyously providing it with physical and spiritual life nourishment. Just as all the parts of a whole healthy body support each other and work in unison, to be 'as one' - to be in love is to help one another to be the beautiful luminous loving souls that Hashem envisioned us to be. With true love we are one in the Oneness of Hashem.

 

As is well known, when the convert said to Hillel, "convert me on the condition that you teach me the entire Torah on one foot," Hillel replied, "that which is hateful to you, do not do to others- that is the entire Torah, 'go and study'!"

 

The question has been raised why did Hillel choose this mitzvah of loving one another over other equally important mitzvot that are considered equal to the entire Torah, e.g., Shma Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad'-

 

We might understand this in the following way. "Yisrael v'orayto v'Kudsha brich He, chad hu." - The People of Israel, the Torah and the Holy One baruch Hu, are all one. Only a Torah scroll, that fully represents 'all of Israel' is kosher for public reading. Hashem is One and by giving us His Torah, He 'gave Himself' to us . His Torah is One with Him, and to be one with Hashem and His Torah we have to be One with each other.

 

To really learn Torah is to enter into the mystery of the One, which can only be entered with 'ahavat Yisrael'- love of your fellow Jew. Each letter in the Torah represents a root soul of the Jewish people. Unless you love the soul-owner of each letter you cannot really know the Torah of that letter. Hillel taught us that we may know the letters or words on an intellectual level, but intellectual understanding alone will not get us into the Mystery of the One. To enter into the Unity, we need to be 'one within One'.

 

(It has been asked if the mitzvah of 'ahavat Yisrael' is exclusive to the Jewish people. In truth we do care about and want to love all people- we want all people to love one another. We pray for this Ultimate Time and Redemption three times a day. When we, the Jewish people, will love one another as we should, the entire world will be inspired and elevated to love one another.)

 

We learn in Pirkei Avot - Ethics of the Fathers, that Hashem 'tested' Avraham Avinu with ten tests. The Ramban explains that Hashem did not need to test Avraham to find out what he would do- that, He already knew. Rather He tested Avraham Avinu, so that he should actualize his potential and thereby come closer to Hashem. When Hashem said to Avraham, "lech lecha", He was asking him to go beyond himself, beyond his natural, psychological and spiritual limits and habits, in order to be truly united with Hashem b"H. And this Avraham Avinu did with joy. In doing this joyously, Avraham Avinu prepared the pathways for us, to attain unity and true love. Now we too can achieve getting closer and closer to Hashem as we actualize our holy potentials, each time we are tested.

 

There is no test that can keep us away from Hashem or from loving one another. Each time we reach deeper into our selves, to connect more truly with our innermost essence-soul, we enter deeper into

BIKKUR CHOLIM – HASHEM VISITS THE SICK

The Torah tells us that Hashem appeared to Avraham, but we do not find that actually said anything to him. This is highly unusual, for Hashem's appearance is almost always followed with words of instruction, or at least by some action.

This verse follows immediately after the Torah's recounting of Avraham's circumcision that he did at the young age of 99 years old; Rashi explains that this revelation of the Shechinah to Avraham was for the purpose of Bikkurood Cholim – visiting the sick. Three days earlier Avraham had been circumcised; the third day after circumcision is the most painful, and so Hashem was visiting him on this day.

Ad-noy appeared to him in the groves of Mamrei and he was sitting at the uch door of the tent in the heat of the day. Chapter 18 Verse 1

RASHI --- [He] appeared to him. To visit the sick person; R. Chama bar Chanina said: It was the third day since his circumcision and G-d came to inquire about his welfare.

From here we learn the great importance of Bikkur Cholim, seeing that Hashem Himself performs this mitzvah too. The Rebbe says that though we cannot compare ourselves to Hashem and we cannot compare our visiting the sick to Hashem's visiting of the sick, we learn from Rashi's words " G-d came to inquire about his welfare." that the main aspect of visiting the sick is to "be there" with them. That is something that all of us can do.

 

GEDOLAH HACNASSAS ORCHIM MI'KABBALAT P'NAI HA'SHECHINAH:

SITTING IN THE HOT SUN, WAITING

The Torah tells exactly where this revelation of the Shechinah took place; "and he was sitting at the entrance of the tent." What is the importance of this bit of information? The Torah also tells us that Hashem appeared to Avraham at the hottest time of the day. Since when do we receive weather reports in the Torah? If Avraham was in so much pain on that day, why was he sitting outside in the hot sun? Should he not be inside in the comfortable shade?

Rashi explains that Avraham Avinu was sitting outside his tent because as always he was eager to find passersby to invite into his home. Even on this very hot day, - and Hashem had made it especially hot so that there would not be any passersby to disturb his recuperation – Avraham Avinu could not stay inside. He must have some guests. Seeing that Avraham is more pained by the lack of visitors than by his physical pain, Hashem sent him the three angels in the guise of people to be his guests.

"And he said A-D-N-Y, if I please find favor in Your eyes, please do not go away from Your servant" (Gen. 18:3)

On this verse we find the following teaching in the Talmud:

Said R' Yehudah: "Rav said that the welcoming guests is greater than receiving the Shechinah, for it says: "and he said A-D-N-Y, if I please find favor in Your eyes, please do not go away from your servant."

Said R' Elazar, "come and see that the middot of The Holy One baruch Hu, are different from the middot of 'bassar v'dom' - people. Amongst humans a 'kattan' – a person who is 'small in stature' cannot tell a 'gadol', one of great stature: 'wait for me'. Whereas with The Holy One baruch Hu, it says, "And he said A-D-N-Y, if I please find favor in Your eyes, please do not go away."

(Masechet Shabbat 127.)

 

(I don't remember in which sefer I saw this teaching, I think it was in a sicha from the Rebbe.) We might also understand that when Avraham Avinu said, "al noh ta'avoir mei'al avdecha- please do not go away from your servant," his intention was not only that Hashem should not depart from him, but rather that He should accompany him in the mitzvah of 'hacnassat orchim'.

 

Hashem had revealed himself to him in the very highest manner of revelation. In a sense this meant that Avraham Avinu was reaching a state of closeness and love with Hashem that he had never attained before. He was in a state of complete 'bittul' before Hashem.

And yet while he was receiving this highest of revelations, he saws "three people standing upon him"- he thus saw and understood that the mitzvah of hacnassat orchim was beckoning him.

He understood that if he would welcome his guests in the same manner and on the same level he was accustomed to, he would have to step back from the exalted space he was in presently. Avraham Avinu, as we know was a most humble person and taking care of the needs of others before his own was most important to him. And so he asked Hashem to please accompany him; he asked Hashem to help him remain in the same state of 'bittul'- self nullification to Hashem, while he would be busy with the mundane world.

 

INFINITE LIGHT – a teaching from the Baal Shem Tov

In Hebrew a guest is called "o-rey-ach". Literally the word means a wayfarer. The Baal Shem Tov interpreted the word "oreyach" as follows: "Oreyach" is spelled aleph – vav –reish – chet. the first three letters spell the word OR which means light, and the 'chet' represents the number 8, the number that represents the infinite. The number 7 represents this finite world, and the number 8, represents the supernal.

Said the Baal Shem Tov, when we welcome a guest into our homes we provide them with some food and comfort. But as you open the door for the 'oreyach', he does much more for us, for he brings the OR-CHET, the infinite light into our homes. That is why you can attain deeper understandings of the Torah when you have a guest in your home.

I thank Hashem, my parents, my Rebbes and my family for having initiated me into the practice of this mitzvah.

 

"because he CONNECTS his children”

 

"And Hashem said: "Shall I conceal from Avraham what I do, now that Avraham is destined to become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by him? For I have loved him because he commands his children and his household after him that they keep the way of Hashem, doing charity and justice, in order that Hashem shall bring upon Avraham that which He had spoken of him." [Bereishis 18:18-19]

 

We are not only the descendants of Avraham and Sarah, we are literally their children; that is why we call them "Avraham Avinu- our father Avraham" and "Sarah Imeinu-our mother Sarah". Avraham Avinu was the first Jew who entered into an eternal covenant with Hashem. On a deeper level, Reb Shlomo zt"l taught us, Avraham Avinu was literally our father because whenever he served Hashem he was conscious of each one of his Jewish descendants until Moshiach is coming and included us in each act of kindness, in each mitzvah that he did.

 

What is the meaning of this? According to our tradition every act that we do creates an angel, either a positive or a negative one. These angels are active in a variety of ways. It is taught in the 'sefer' Oheiv Yisrael that when we do a mitzvah and we do it in the name of all of Israel, the angel created by the mitzvah will act to inspire others to do mitzvot as well. The greater and purer the intention, the more active the angel will be. When a father or mother does a mitzvah with sincerity and has his and her children in mind, the mitzvah created angel will help to inspire their children to do mitzvot as well.

 

Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev teaches that when Avraham and Sarah did a mitzvah, they did it with complete consciousness and with all their strength- that extended to every Jewish soul until the coming of Moshiach. Such was their awesome level of consciousness; they were so closely connected to every one of their descendants, that they included each one of us in the mitzvot that they did. Thereby they accomplished two things. First, each one of us has a part in their mitzvot. Second, they paved the way for each one of us to have the energy and capability to do the mitzvot on a very high level of consciousness.

 

Reb Levi Yitzchak explains that this lesson is derived from the above verse, "because he commands his children and his household after him that they keep the way of Hashem"- the Hebrew word for 'commands' is "yetzaveh". The 'generic' meaning of the root of this word- 'tzav- tzadeh, vav" is 'to connect'. Thus Reb Levi Yitzchak explains that we can read the verse as follows: "because he CONNECTS his children and his household after him that they keep the way of Hashem." This explains the teaching of the Rabbis ob"m that "each person is obligated to say, "when will my deeds reach the deeds of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov?"" It is not that we think that we can attain the same levels of service, comprehension and devotion attained by our forefathers, but rather- when will my deeds reach 'my' level- the level at which 'I' participated in the doing of this mitzvah, when my father Avraham did it, when my mother Sarah did it? When will my mitzvot be connected to my roots in Avraham and Sarah, to my roots in my forefathers and foremothers?

 

And so, Reb Levi Yitzchak says, that all we have to do- and this is a wonderful meditation, is to connect ourselves back to our roots, to the energies of our ancestors, and by doing so discover our 'inherited' capability to actualize our potential as it was present in Avraham and Sarah.

 

Let us all have a wonderful Shabbos, b'ahavah ubivracha

sholom

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