For sponsorships and advertising opportunities, send e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
|Back to ParshaHomepage||Previous Issues|
Vol. 5 No.4
Running to Perform a Mitzvah
"Z'rizus" (alacrity in the performing of positive mitzvos) is one of the first traits a Jew should adopt. It is, explains R. Pinchos Ben Yo'ir in his famous B'rayso (which in turn serves as the basis for the classic "Mesilas Yeshorim"), a direct result of "zehirus" (meticulous care taken to avoid the transgression of negative commands), and z'rizus in turn, leads to neki'us "cleanliness" - (complete detachment from sin). "Z'rizus", which finds its roots in love and conviction, should not be confused with haste, which by definition, spells lack of planning and forethought.
Avrohom Ovinu's staunch devotion to Hashem was many-faceted; his uncompromising faith, his determined pursuit of mitzvos, his boundless love of his fellow-man and his performing of the most demanding and sometimes painful tasks, without delay, are but some of the traits that epitomise his unique personality. But the midoh of z'rizus must surely rank among the most vivid and powerful of his superb midos. For not only did Avrohom Ovinu insist on receiving his unknown guests personally when, under the circumstances, he might well have designated this task to one of his servants, but he actually ran - yes, in that sweltering heat and in great pain, on the third day after his 'bris milah' - he ran to greet his guests, he ran to instruct Soroh to prepare them a meal (and he bade her hurry too), and he ran to the herd to choose a bull for his son Yishmoel to prepare.
It is not unusual to see people running to earn money, to gain a little honour or to attain material pleasures. They will often, in the process, sacrifice minor advantages for the sake of major gains - and we ourselves are often first-hand actors in that play. Yet there seem to be limits as to how far thee are willing to go, in sacrificing our personal pleasures and comfort, even for the sake of greater material gains. It depends largely on how important they perceive the stakes to be, and how large the inconvenience looms before them. The balance will determine the extent of suffering each individual is willing to endure in pursuit of his pleasures. Pain in particular, is something which, the Gemoro categorically states, most people are not willing to compromise.
Avrohom Ovinu's greatness lay, in no small measure, in his ability to strike just such a balance. In his eyes, mitzvos, and particularly those pertaining to his fellow-man, weighed more heavily than gold, and the words of G-d were more precious than life itself. He understood and practiced "Ki Heim Chayeinu" etc. literally, without the slightest reservations, so he would run to perform mitzvos, demonstrating his unqualified love for his Creator and for his fellow-man, oblivious to pain, heat or any other circumstances that would prevent any other human-being from even walking, let alone running!
The Guests Have Priority
The Gemoro in Shabbos (127) learns from the fact that Avrohom asked Hashem to wait whilst he went to see to his guests, that receiving guests (the mitzvah of 'hachnosas orchim') is greater than receiving the Shechinah.
The Gro quotes the Meforshim, who ask how we know that hachnosas orchim is *greater*. How do we know that they are not just *equal*?
(The question is not clear - if they are only equal, then surely one would apply the principle "shev ve'al ta'aseh odif" - rather leave things as they are. How then, could Avrohom justify leaving the Shechinah to receive his guests. Seeing as he was already busy with the Shechinah, surely he should have remained with the Shechinah, and left his guests waiting?)
The Gro answers the question with the Chazal, that when one leaves the presence of one's Rebbe, one should walk backwards (like the Cohen Godol did, when he walked out of the Kodesh Kodshim on Yom Kipur). Now when Avrohom saw the angels, he not only asked Hashem to wait for him whilst he went to welcone them, but, in honor of his guests, he turned his back on the Shechinah in order to face them, as the Torah writes "And he saw them, and he ran towards them" ('likrosom' implies facing them - and anyway, how can one run properly when running backwards?)
It is from the fact that he turned his back on the Shechinah in order to face his guests, that Chazal derive that 'hachnosas orchim' is not just as great as kabolas P'nei Shechinah, but even greater!
"Va'yita eishel bi'V’er Shova" (21:33).
Rashi, quoting a Medrash Tehilim, explains that the acronym of "Eishel" makes up the first letters of achilah she'siyoh le'viyoh.
The Gro points out that, by doing so, he was rectifying the sins of the earlier generations, since Odom ho'Rishon ate (what he should not have eaten), No'ach drank (what he should not have drunk), and the men of S'dom refused to accompany anyone (interestingly, others read the 'lamed' as 'linah' - of which the people of S'dom were also guilty). All three suffered the consequences of their actions - Avrohom now rectified their sins.
The note in the Kol Eliyohu cites a story brought in the Sefer "Mei Sh'lomoh" about a wealthy man who always took in guests, whose house together with all his possessions burnt down.
When they came and asked the Gro why the mitzvah of "hachnosas orchim" did not protect him, he replied that, although he would look after his guests and feed them in an extraordinary manner, he was not accustomed to accompany them when they left. Consequently, the mitzvah was incomplete, and did not have the power to protect him from the calamity.
Reward in This World
"On the third day, Avrohom raised his eyes" etc. (22:4)
The Medrash Rabba comments on this: "This is what the possuk means when it writes (Hoshei'a 6:2) 'Let us live from two days, on the third day keep us alive and let us live' etc."
The Gro quotes Chazal, who have ruled that the reward for mitzvos is due in the World to Come, not in this world. The reason for this, he explains, is because a mitzvah is something spiritual, and that there is simply no currency in the material world with which to pay for it - as the Mishnah in Pirkei Ovos writes: "One hour of satisfaction in the World to Come is more beautiful than the whole of this world." In that case, asks the Gro. how is it that we reap the benefits of the Akeidoh and of other deeds performed by our righteous ancestors?
The reason is, he replies, because it is only the mitzvah itself which cannot be paid in this world. Not so the alacrity and the beautiful manner in which the mitzvah is performed. That *is* payable - even here in this world!
The Torah informs us of the impeccable manner in which Avrohom prepared for the Akeidoh. He arose early in the morning, he saddled his own donkey, he chopped wood, etc. The Torah tells us all this, because that is the part of the Akeidoh from which we, Avrohom's descendants, benefit - until the end of time; from Avrohom's actions during the first two days. What he did on the third day, the Akeidoh itself, is not payable in this world.
And that is what the Medrash Rabba means when it quotes the possuk "Let us live (in this world) from two days, but (what he did on) the third day, keep us alive and let us live (forever in the World to Come)".
To See or To Be Seen
"And Avrohom called the name of that place 'Hashem will see' - that it is said today, on the Mountain of Hashem He will be seen". (22:14)
The Gro gives a parable to a prince who fell foul of his father, and who was subsequently banished from the kingdom to a land of forests.
The King sent some of his guards to keep an eye on his son, with orders that whenever robbers or wild animals would attack him, they were to remove the threat.
The Prince roamed around the wild country, somehow safe from all troubles. Whenever his life was threatened, some invisible hand would descend and protect him.
In fact, the Prince was just as safe now as he had been in his father's palace. The difference, explains the Gro, was that whereas in his father's palace, he knew that he was safe, in the forest, he did not - he lived in fear!
Avrohom had in mind the times of Churban and golus, and so he prayed that Hashem should see their troubles and protect them (even though Yisroel would not ‘see’ Him).
Moshe Rabeinu however, who wrote from a perspective of revelation and open Divine supervision - added "that it is said today He will be seen". In Moshe's time, not only were they protected, but they 'saw' the G-d who protected them, and knew that they were safe.
The first b'rochoh of the Shema is the b'rochoh over the creation of the great luminaries, beginning with 'Yotzer Or', and ending with 'Yotzer ha'me'oros'. There are three good reasons as to the significance of light, and as to why Chazal saw fit to insert a special b'rochoh for it - and at such a significant juncture of the davening:
1) Because light was the first specific creation to be recorded in the Torah (Rashi);
2) Because of its spiritual connotations (light is the most spiritual of all the creations of the material world - it is too spiritual even to be included in the four elements We are also told that G-d took the original light, which enabled man to see from one end of the world to the other, and hid it until the days of Moshiach) and because the sources of light, the sun, the moon and the stars, are referred to, like the Angels, as servants of G-d (see 'Keil Odon');
3) Because the b'rochoh in praise of physical light, is the ideal precedent to the second b'rochoh of the Shema, Ahavah Rabba, the b'rochoh of praise over the spiritual light - Torah.
One of the reasons that the b'rochoh of 'Yotzer Or' is located here, is in order to place the great luminaries in the same category as the angels, as we wrote earlier (and we already explained in Part I, how this section of tefillah corresponds to the world of the Angels) - indeed the b'rochoh describes how the sun, the moon and the stars constantly tell of Hashem's Glory and Holiness. And it goes on to describe how the hosts of Heaven, the Angels, sing Shiroh to Him - some "Kodosh" and others, "Boruch".
The luminaries may praise Hashem as they move across the sky in His honour and at His bidding, and the Angels may praise Him when they sing "Kodosh, Kodosh, Kodosh", and "Boruch" etc., but nothing compares to Klal Yisroel when they study Torah, because Yisroel study Torah by choice. The Angels, on the other hand, sing Shiroh by rote. They are glorified singing birds, who do not enjoy the same intimate relationship with G-d as we do, which is why they are described as servants of G-d - but not His children.
The Gemoro writes in B'rochos (10b) that the highest form of Torah-learning is the recital of the Shema in its right time, since it has the added ingredient of Kabbolas ol Malchus Shomayim. And that explains the sequence of the current paragraphs: 1. the b'rochoh on the luminaries, incorporating the Angels, who also illuminate G-d - spiritually; 2. the Torah-study of Yisroel and 3. their recital of the Shema.
Light is synonymous with joy and happiness, as is written in Megillas Esther "The Jews had light and happiness etc. And it is when it is light, that Hashem's Name is praised, like we say in Hallel "From when the sun rises until it sets, the Name of Hashem is praised". That is why we do not recite 'Hallel' at night-time (with the sole exception of the Hallel which we recite on Seider-night; and that is only because that night in Egypt shone like the light of day).
The sun, the major source of light, has also been endowed with healing powers (see Gemoro Chullin 91b). Light has connotations of goodness, ge'ulah and Olom ha'Bo (whereas darkness symbolises the powers of evil, golus and Olom ha'zeh.
And it is in this vein that Dovid ha'Melech, quoting Odom Ha'Rishon, presents the morning light, when he writes in Tehillim 90 "to relate Your kindness in the morning (at the time of the Ge'ulah,) and your reliability in the night-time (in the time of Golus)". And it is also portrayed in this way by the possuk that we quoted earlier from Megillas Esther, which compares the redemption to going from darkness to a great light - and a similar idea is expressed in the Hagodoh. We have already explained that light is the most spiritual of the physical creations. It is therefore, hardly surprising that the contrast between light and darkness also symbolises the contrast between that which is holy and that which is mundane, as is evident from many sources - one of them, the b'rochoh of Havdoloh.
It is for all of these reasons that the Torah writes that G-d saw that the light was good, because the ramification of light is goodness, in all its ramifications. And it is for these reasons that Chazal inserted the b'rochoh for light here before that of Torah, since Torah too, is called "good" (see Pirkei Ovos 6:3).
Back to ParshaHomepage | Previous Issues
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network