שבת טעם החיים לך לך תשע”ב
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Lech Lecho 5772
The journey is worthwhile
ויאמר ה’ אל אברם לך לך מארצך וממולדתך ומבית אביך אל הארץ אשר אראך, HaShem said to Avram, “Go for yourself from your land, from your relatives, and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” (Bereishis 12:1)
“Everything is a test,” we hear over and over throughout our life. Did you ever wonder where this concept comes from? While Adam HaRishon was certainly tested in Gan Eden when HaShem forbade him from eating of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad, the individual highlighted as being tested was Avraham Avinu, the first of the Patriarchs. The Mishnah (Avos 5:3) states that HaShem tested Avraham ten times. While there is a debate regarding what the tests were, all of the commentators agree that it was a test for Avraham to leave his homeland to journey to a land that he had never been to before. What was the test for Avraham, who had renounced paganism at the age of three and embarked on a career of proselytizing the Oneness of HaShem throughout the world? It is said (Bereishis 12:1) ויאמר ה’ אל אברם לך לך מארצך וממולדתך ומבית אביך אל הארץ אשר אראך, HaShem said to Avram, “Go for yourself from your land, from your relatives, and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” This verse states explicitly that the test for Avraham was to leave everything he was familiar with and travel to an unknown land. Yet, one must wonder why abandoning his physical surroundings was deemed to be a test whereas forsaking his ideological heritage was not considered a test?
Abandoning paganism was not a test for Avraham
The answer to this question is not simple. However, I wish to offer a perspective on the test of Avraham leaving his homeland and that will shed light on why this was deemed to be attest and forsaking his father’s religion was not considered to be a test. When we think of Avraham, we often visualize an old, kindhearted man who is constantly waiting on guests and espousing religious beliefs in the hope that passerby will convert to monotheism. Yet, the Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 38:13) tells us that as a young boy Avraham smashed his father’s idols and was jailed for this deviant behavior. A person who goes against societal trends will certainly not have any regrets about abandoning his physical surroundings for safer terrain. Yet, Avraham was constantly performing acts of kindness to those near him, and it must have been difficult to forsake those he loved and had befriended. Forsaking his father’s idols was not a test, because that depicted the essence of Avraham.
Avraham was on one side of the river and the entire world was on the other side
It is said (Ibid 14:13)ויבא הפליט ויגד לאברם העברי והוא שכן באלני ממרא האמרי אחי אשכל ואחי ענר והם בעלי ברית אברם, then there came the fugitive and told Avram, the Ivri, who dwelt in the plains of Mamre, the Amorite, the brother of Eshkol and the brother of Aner, these being Avram’s allies. The Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 42:8) states that Avraham was referred to as עברי, as Avraham was on one side of the river and the entire world was on the other side of the river, i.e. Avraham was on the other side of a moral and spiritual divide from the rest of the world. The Imrei Emes wonders why the Torah only refers to Avraham by this title regarding the battle of the four kings against the five kings. Another question that must be addressed is why the Torah chooses to reference where Avraham was living at this time and who his allies were. The answer to these questions is that the Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 48:7) states that the battle of the four kings, led by the infamous Nimrod, was essentially a battle against Avraham and his ideology. Thus, the Torah states that regarding Avraham hearing that his nephew Lot was captured, he is Avram the Ivri, the only one in the world who recognized HaShem and was willing to spread this ideology at all costs. The Torah further references Avraham’s allies, who, according to the Medrash, were the ones who offered Avraham counsel regarding circumcising himself. For Avraham, battling the four kings and circumcising himself were one and the same. These were all selfless acts that demonstrated his devotion to HaShem.
In summary, for Avraham it was very difficult to abandon his homeland where he was practicing what he preached regarding monotheism and acts of kindness. Abandoning paganism, however, was not a test for Avraham, because that was his ideological makeup. (Rashi and Rabbeinu Yona to Avos learn that being cast into the fire by Nimrod was deemed to be a test, but that does not contradict the fact that rejecting idolatry was not a test).
The exiles have been for our benefit
Although HaShem tested Avraham by instructing him to leave his homeland, HaShem informed Avraham that his leaving was for his good and for his benefit. In the simple sense, leaving his birthplace would allow for Avraham to become famous, wealthy and worthy of bearing children. In a deeper sense, however, the benefit was for Avraham’s descendants. The Jewish People have been exiled from one land to the next, and often their journeys have been preceded by torture and murder. Avraham blazed the path of exile for the future, when the Jewish People would be tested time after time to abandon their homeland and birthplace for a land that they had never been to. Sadly, Jews throughout the ages have abandoned their religion for the sake of a supposedly easier lifestyle or for fame and fortune. HaShem’s instructions to Avraham, however, clearly indicated that leaving his homeland would be for his benefit, as he would gain fame, fortune and offspring. HaShem does not request of us that we do something difficult to our detriment. Everything in life is truly a test. However, as long as we adhere to our essence, which is accepting HaShem as the One and Only G-d and following His Torah and mitzvos, we can be assured that all of our journeys and accompanied suffering is for our benefit.
The Shabbos Connection
Throughout the week we may feel that the physical struggles in life are overbearing and we do not deserve to be under so much stress. With the onset of the Holy Shabbos, however, we see that all our efforts were worthwhile, as the Gemara (Avoda Zara 3a) states, one who toils before Shabbos will eat on Shabbos. HaShem should, allow us to see the benefit of our struggles and He will have compassion on His Beloved Nation and bring us the Ultimate Redemption, with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily, in our days.
Shabbos Through the Prism of the Parashah
It is said (Bereishis 12:2-3) ברכה: ואברכה מברכיך, blessing; I will bless those who bless you. This is one of the only instances in Scripture where the word blessing appears three times consecutively. This alludes to the three meals that we eat on Shabbos. It is noteworthy that these words equal in gematria the word משבת, from Shabbos and 9, as שבת in מספר קטן, digit sum, equals 9.
A Lawyer Meets His Match
A Rav in England had a friend who was a lawyer, and who knew very little about Yiddishkeit. Once, this lawyer approached the Rav with a very serious dilemma. He was currently defending a non-Jew who had become involved in criminal activities. This man was extremely cunning and deceitful, and the judge who saw right through his lies, decided to prosecute his lawyer as well, since he was a partner to the criminal’s deceit. It is common practice in England that the judges can implicate the lawyers, to ensure that they do not become tainted by their clients’ wrongdoings. This lawyer was in great danger of not only of losing his right to practice his profession, but of also of receiving a heavy punishment and fine. The lawyer was anguished and worried, and at a loss of what to do.
The Rav said to him, “Listen, my friend, the best advice I can give you is to do what all of Klal Yisroel does. Simply daven to the Ribono shel Olam and He’ll save you from this tzara.” The lawyer replied, “What! I should ask HaShem? It’s not possible, and I’ll tell you why. Once I already asked for help from Him, and I promised that I wouldn’t ask for anything else.”
The lawyer explained that few years prior, he traveled to Australia for work, and stayed there for six months. While in Australia, his only daughter, who was then seven years old, suddenly became critically ill. After many tests, it was determined that it was cancer, and she began treatment. Unfortunately, she did not respond well, and she grew sicker. One day, which happened to be Shabbos, the doctor told the lawyer that her situation is critical, and she has only a few hours to live.
The distraught father decided immediately to find a shul. Despite his ignorance of Yiddishkeit, he remembered that when he became Bar Mitzvah, his father took him to shul. He searched for a shul, and eventually found one, which was unlocked. It was the middle of the day, and the shul was empty. He burst out crying and continued crying without a stop for two hours. Amidst his tears he said, “HaShem, I need to ask You something, and I promise You that I’ll never ask for anything else. I ask of You that my beloved daughter remain alive.” Eventually, the lawyer felt a sense of relief, and returned to the hospital.
He was greeted at the hospital with miraculous news – his daughter had opened her eyes. She began improving little by little and eventually fully recovered. In fact, her new X-rays showed no sign of a cancerous growth at all, and even the doctors admitted that it was a complete miracle.
The lawyer finished speaking, “So, didn’t you hear that I promised HaShem never to ask for anything else? How can I break my promise?”
The Rav said, “Your promise is not valid! HaShem is not a person. You can continue to request whatever you need from Him.”
The lawyer followed his advice, and was declared innocent. (Shaal Avicha Veyegadcha)
The Holy Wooden Spoon
The author of the sefer “Ohel Dovid” lived in dire poverty. Once, the Chasam Sofer was visiting in his city, and he went to visit him. When the Chasam Sofer entered his house, the Ohel Dovid was in middle of eating, and he saw that he was eating his meal from a simple plate made out of wood and even his spoon was wooden. The Chasam Sofer was astounded; he simply could not fathom such dire poverty.
The two began conversing, and in the midst of the conversation, the Chasam Sofer picked up the wooden spoon and examined it in wonder. The Ohel Dovid didn’t understand that the Chasam Sofer was simply shocked that by the fact that he was eating from such simple utensils, and concluded that he must really admire the spoon. He began worrying that there was a possibility that the Chasam Sofer may stumble in the prohibition of “Lo Sachmod.” Quickly, the Ohel Dovid said, “I’m giving you the spoon as a present with a full heart.”
The Chasam Sofer loved to repeat this story, emphasizing how this tzaddik was so pure that it didn’t even enter his mind that the Chasam Sofer was simply bemoaning the fact that he was forced to eat from these simple wooden utensils. (Shaal Avicha Veyegadcha) (www.Revach.net)
The Generator is Crying “Shabbos Kodesh”
Reb Itche Duvid (Rezmowitz, Gabbai of the Imrei Chaim of Vizhnitz) shares a beautiful story. “While in Tel Aviv, we used electricity in the yeshivah on Shabbos, in accordance with the psak of Rav Dushinsky. When we moved to Bnei Brak, however, the Rebbe directed us to follow the psak of the Chazon Ish, the local posek, who ruled that it’s forbidden. The generator we installed made a tremendous noise, one that could be heard throughout the neighborhood, and someone asked the Chazon Ish if the noise didn’t decrease the peace of Shabbos.
“The Chazon Ish smiled. ‘Adaraba,’ he replied, ‘the generator is proclaiming “Shabbos Kodesh, Shabbos Kodesh,” crying out that it is forbidden to use municipal electricity on the holiest of days. (www.mishpacha.com)
Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos
Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler
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