VaYeira Shem Mishmuel

Living the Chasidic Legacy on Parshas Vayeira, by Rabbi Hershel Reichman
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  1 Vayeira The Everlasting  Z'chus  of  Akeidas Yitzchak  A. The Background of  Akeidas Yitzchak  The story of  Akeidas Yitzchak   begins with an introduction. “After these things, Hashem tested Avraham. Hashem commanded Avraham, saying, 'Take your son, your only son, whom you love, go to the land of Moriah and bring him as a sacrifice on one of the mountains that  will show you.' !This dramatic story is one of the central stories of the whole Torah. t is so central that we read it every year on osh Hashana and ask Hashem to remember the  shofar of #it$chak. %hat was the uni&ue significance of this event %hat are the (receding events that the Torah refers to, and what is their relationshi( to the akeida  )hem Mishmuel cites a midrash from *arshas +ech +echa. The midrash asks, why is a korban olah normally brought t is brought to atone for ina((ro(riate thoughts. The midrash draws a com(arison  between this korban  and the  Akeida. The midrash then states that Avraham had had ina((ro(riate thoughts. The midrash is based on the words of the o(ening (asuk on the  Akeida,  “ Vayehi acharei chain. After these things . ! According to the gemara this (hrase im(lies that something bad had ha((ened  (reviously. t seems that Avraham had done something wrong. ven though some meforshim do blame Avraham for ina((ro(riate actions, we don't see clearly in the Torah that he did anything wrong. The midrash says it must be that he had some bad thoughts. %hat ina((ro(riate thoughts did Avraham entertain The midrash states that Avraham thought that he had already received all of his rewards for his good deeds in this world. “%hen  was young, fighting -imrod,! thought Avraham, “ was saved when they threw me into the fire. n the war against the four kings,  con&uered the invading armies, and Hashem saved me in a miraculous way. And now  have received the gift of the holy land and have a wonderful son, #it$chak.  am wealthy and kings honor me and seek my alliance.  have received so much from Hashem in this world for all the good deeds that  have done.  (robably deserve no more reward for them in the heavenly, net world.! n his humble modesty, Avraham thought that Hashem had already rewarded him in this world for his good deeds, and that there would be no more reward awaiting him inthe world to come. According to this midrash, since Avraham thought this, he was obligated to bring hisson #it$chak as an olah, to atone for his im(ro(er thoughts about Hashem. %hat was wrong with Avraham's thinking /on't tzadikim  often think that they are unworthy of Hashem's blessings  0 B. Undeserved Reward  L'cha Hashem chesed ki ata meshalem l'ish kmaasehu.  “#ou Hashem are merciful because #ou (ay  (eo(le according to their actions! Tehilim 203. This  pasuk is hard to understand. %hen someone receives a free gift, we would refer to the gift as a chesed, kindness. However, if someone does a 4ob and is (aid by his em(loyer, the (ayment for his work is not chesed  . f we listen to Hashem's command,and He rewards us, then seemingly our reward is not chesed  . ather, it is din , 4ustly earned and deserved. %here is the chesed   in reward for mitzvos )hem Mishmuel answers this &uestion by e(laining a fundamental difference between a 5ew who does mitzvos  and a worker who does his 4ob. %e 5ews are avadim , slaves of Hashem. Moshe, s(eaking in thename of Hashem, told *aroh, avadai hem , “The 5ews are my slaves.! n this sense, Hashem re(laced *aro as master of the 5ewish (eo(le. *aro, as slave6master, had no obligation to (ay his slaves. There was no agreement between them for him to com(ensate them. 7nce we left Mit$rayim, Hashem  became our new Master and we are now His slaves. He thus has no obligation to give us any (ayment. f Hashem does reward us, it is not due to an obligation to recom(ense us for our work. ather, it is an act of chesed  ,   kindness on His (art. n fact, every human being is 8od's slave, since He created all (eo(le. He gives us every moment of our lives. He makes our bodies work and gives us the ability to think. Hashem gives and takes away as He wills. %e are com(letely His. very moment of a (erson's life is indeed a gift of His blessing. The Halacha states that when someone creates something, he legally owns it. eb 9haim :risker taughtthat this is the most fundamental kinyan, act of (ossession. The ac&uisition of something through creating it is more fundamental than buying something or receiving a gift. 8od created the whole world. ;rom stars to (lanets to the air that we breathe, the food that we eat, to the very earth that we walk on, everything is His. t is ludicrous to think that we have any claims on Him. He com(letely owns us and the world we live in.7ur sages stated< Schar mitzva b'hai alma leka .“There is no reward for mitzvos in this world.! This is  because we have no claim on it. %e do not have a right to receive reward for mitzvos , which are 8od's commands to us. As His servants, we must obey Him. %e are absolutely His, and have no claim u(on Him. C . Hashem Chooses to Reward Us Thus, Hashem could sim(ly force us to listen to him, like He did to *aro, when He forced him to listen to His commands. 8enerally, though, Hashem does not force (eo(le to do His will.  in,  4ustice   demands that we follow 8od's will, even to the (oint of being forced. !hesed, though, allows us to agree to choose to do it. t is as if Hashem says to us, “ven though you are my avadim ,  want you to  =choose freely.  give you the choice to say 'no.' %hen you do a mitzva ,  will give you reward > as if you volunteered. f you do what  want, then  will grant your wishes.! *art of Hashem's chesed kindness   is that He deals with us as e&uals and (ays us a reward for our services.+egally, though, He is our master and we are His servants. :ut in His infinite goodness He decided to deal with us with kindness and generosity as free agents. The name # ud ei Vav ei and the name  #lokim res(ectively signify different levels of Hashem's interaction with the world. Yud ei Vav ei refers to Hashem's chesed  . lokim refers to Hashem's midas hadin.  ?sing the # ud ei Vav ei name, Hashem assures us of our reward. %hen we do good, Hashem res(onds in kind, as if we are almost e&uals. /ovid Hamelech wrote in Tehilim, “  L'cha Hashem chesed, ki ata me'shalem l'ish k'maasehu. $ Hashem you are kind because you (ay man for his actions.!He does it because of the name Yud ei Vav ei . He rewards, not from a (osition of 4ustice, but from His (osition of generous kindness.%e can now e(lain the (u$$ling midrash with which we began. Avraham Avinu was thinking, “Hashem has given me so much. %hy :ecause  did good deeds and He gave me my reward. -ow, though,  have used u( my reward.! This was because Avraham viewed Hashem's reward as real  s'char  , (ayment, as real 4ustice, din.  Avraham knew that Hashem has tremendous chesed  . :ut when it came to reward for mitzvos , he thought that Hashem o(erated only under the rules of din , 4ustice. The truth, though, is that from the (ers(ective of 4ustice, din , we don't deserve any  reward at all. eward for mitzvos is only  chesed  . Therefore, in contrast to being (aid for a 4ob, where the em(loyee gets (aid only once, Hashem may grant a (erson reward again and again for the same single mitzva . Avraham thought that Hashem had confined Himself to the rules of din with regard to reward for mitzvos . :ut in truth, Hashem rewards us with chesed   and therefore there is no limit for the reward for even one mitzva . The (ower of one mitzva is so great that it can save a (erson numerous times. This incredible conce(t is at the root of chassidus, which em(hasi$es the im(ortance of every single mitzva . . The !ncredi le Effect of a #ingle  Mitzva The :aal )hem Tov taught that we are limited in our view. %e see (eo(le who do good things and we think they have done something nice, but not something so significant. Take for eam(le a (erson who says a  perek of Tehillim. t is a nice act, but will it save a city, will it bring (eace to srael, will it give someone a refuah shleimah  9an big things ha((en from 4ust one  perek of Tehillim The answer, sur(risingly, is  yes @  This is because the reward for a mitzva comes from Hashem's infinite chesed. ambam writes in Hilchos Teshuva< “7ne should think of the world as if it is at a balance (oint  between good and evil. 7ne good action will tilt the whole world to the side of good, and will bring infinite good. The o((osite can also ha((en. 7ne bad act can tilt the world to the side of evil, and bring horrible (unishment to the world.! The whole world could de(end on one (erson reciting one cha(ter  of *salms. This is incredible@ The :aal )hem Tov made this an aiom of chassidus . The Torah doesn't want us to 4udge (eo(le based on su(erficial im(ressions. %e shouldn't say, “7h, he only said one  perek of Tehilim. He only gave five dollars to charity.! /on't underestimate the value of a small good deed. A (erson can be rewarded for this a million times, over and over again. Hashem cherishes even the smallest deed. He says, “This sweet (erson (erformed My will. He should be rewarded again and again forever.! 9ha$al say that if a (erson does a good deed,  zacha lo ul'zaro ad olam , he and his descendants have everlasting merit and reward.%ho knows how many good deeds were done by our (arents and grand(arents They have all added to the ama$ing blessings we see today. +ook at the blessing of the )tate of srael. +ook at the blessings of the economic well6being of 5ews in America. %ho could have imagined the many 5ewish children  being born now, and the numbers of (eo(le learning Torah These blessings are founded on the mitzvos  (erformed by millions of 5ews in the course of thousands of years. The reward for those mitzvos  is indeed infinite. #ear after year on osh Hashana we invoke the  z'chus  of  Akeidas Yitzchak  . ts reward never runs dry. )ince then Hashem remembers the dedication of Avraham. 9ha$al say that even if one could imagine that the merits of the avos have run dry,  Akeidas Yitzchak still lasts forever. ts merit will never be used u( nor e(ire. Hashem told us that  Akeidas Yitzchak will be the symbol of reward for all mitzvos . The A keida  was a lesson to Avraham and to all 5ews after him that  s'char    mitzva is never used u(. Hashem'sc hesed is limitless, and His reward is (otentially infinite. E. $essons for Today %e, baruch Hashem, merit to live in a generation with so much Torah learning. This a limitless source of blessing. However, we should a((reciate even the small things too. %hen a (erson asks for charity and you can only give a &uarter, give the &uarter. %ho knows how much reward will come to you for that one &uarter very action counts. +ittle mitzvos are not as little as you might think. %ith this understanding, 9ha$al instruct us to be careful with large and small mitzvos , because we don't know the actual reward of mitzvos . %e should do small mitzvos with the same intensity and commitment as the large ones. %e can't know for which mitzva Hashem will give us great reward. He could very well do it for an easy, small mitzva as much as for a hard, big mitzva.  At the end of the  Akeida, Hashem told Avraham, “ bless you and your children. #our 9hildren will  bring blessings to the world, because you listened to my voice.! Avraham learned then that in Hashem's (lan there is a combination of chesed and din . )ometimes 4ustice (revails. At other times kindness  (revails. )ometimes the din itself is chesed, and sometimes the chesed   is din . Avraham first felt as if Hashem was going to kill #i$tchak, din . :ut it was really chesed  , with reward for all generations to come.
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