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AVRAHAM MY BELOVEDFor I know him because he commands his sons and his household after him, that they should keep the way of the Lord to perform righteousness and justice, in order that the Lord bring upon Avraham that which He spoke concerning him." (Breishis 18:19)
Adapted from Chofetz Chaim on the Torah
We are now in the midst of the parshios containing the story of Avraham Avinu. There are very important lessons to be garnered from these parshios. Avraham Avinu was the first of the Avos, and he set the foundation for Klal Yisroel.
Before Avraham Avinu there were many great tzaddikim. Noach was singled out by Hakadosh Baruch as a pure tzaddik. Chanoch was so great he didn't die; he arose to Shomayim to become the great malach Matat (Targum Yonason 5:24). At the time Avraham Avinu lived, there were also other great tzaddikim who served Hashem. The heads of the great Beis Medrash were Shem and Ever who had attained the level of prophecy. Shem was considered the Cohen Gadol of his time (Bereishis 14:18). Rivka, suffering from unusual distress during her pregnancy, went Shem to find out what was going on. Eiver, Shem's great-grandson was also a Navi. He called his son Peleg in anticipation of the great dispersion that was to take place in his generation as a result of the Tower of Bavel (see Rashi 10:25). Many people gathered in that great Beis Medrash to serve Hashem. And yet they all remained Bnei Noach. They failed to accomplish creating anything even similar to Klal Yisroel. No nation or family of Ovdei Hashem ever emanated from them. They never merited handing down their piousness to future generations. Why?
The Torah reveals to us the reason for this. All these great personalities served Hashem themselves. They had a noble goal in life to build themselves up to high levels. But their goal was directed toward themselves.
Avraham was of a more noble fabric. He had a very deep and personal relationship with Hashem. The possuk calls him "Avraham my loved one." A serious problem was gnawing at his mind: "Where is all this leading? A person doesn't live forever. I will eventually die and so everything I have built up for Hashem's honor will be lost, chas v'shalom!" As a result, Avraham put all his energy into publicizing Hashem's presence in the world to everyone. He wanted everyone to follow in his footsteps and become Ovdei Hashem.
When Avraham sent Eliezer to find a wife for Yitzchak he charged him in the following language: "And I make you swear by the Lord, the God of the Heaven and the God of the Earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose midst I dwell." Before he had come along, Hashem ruled only in Heaven. Avraham had toiled his whole life to make Hashem known all over the Earth, and so he was now not only the God of the Heavens, but also the God of the Earth (see Rashi 24:7).
When Avraham and Sarah left Charan to go to Eretz Canaan they took with they "the souls they had acquired in Charan." Rashi comments, "He had brought them under the wings of the Shechinah. Avraham would convert the men, and Sarah would convert the women." He had commanded them all to go in the path of Hashem.
He had also admonished kings for not protesting against the crimes their servants had perpetrated. When Avraham was signing a treaty with Avimelech it states, "And Avraham contended with Avimelech about the well of water that the servants of Avimelech had stolen." He was not complaining of the personal loss they had caused to him. (The possuk does not state, "that the servants had stolen from him.) Rather he was protesting the fact that theft was widespread among these servants. They didn't see anything wrong with it. And if he admonished kings, he most certainly admonished others as well.
Avraham concentrated all his energy into urging everyone to recognize God and following in the righteous path. Therefore, Hashem blessed him and gave him Yitzchak, and afterwards Yaakov and the 12 tribes who were all exceedingly righteous people. They continued Avraham's mission of encourage the world to avodas Hashem. Eventually an entire nation of righteous people descended from Avraham.
Thus the possuk states, "For I know him" which Rashi translates, "I love him." Why do I love him more than all the others? There are other righteous people who serve Hashem in the Beis Medrash of Shem and Eiver. The possuk explains, "because he commands his children and his household after him, that they should keep the way of the Lord." This is something only Avraham was doing. Not so the others. They were righteous in and of themselves alone.
In our Tefillos, we continually mention the zechus of the Avos entreating Hashem to protect us. In order to be worthy of the zechus of the Avos, we must follow in their footsteps and continue in their path. We must encourage others to improve their Yiddishkeit and especially our own families in their Avodas Hashem. This is the proper way to merit continuing Avraham Avinu's task.
Rav Shmuel Greineman, the compiler of the Chofetz Chaim on the Torah, comments that anyone who came into contact with the Chofetz Chaim even for a short time would immediately notice that his entire focus was on strengthening the practice of Yiddishkeit everywhere. He wanted to cultivate a new generation following the path of Torah. Even in his old age, he would travel to other cities for various public gatherings, even though the journey was exceedingly difficult for him.
The Chofetz Chaim, already well over 90, traveled not only to Horodna, but also to Bialistok, Davna, and many other cities. Each time he had to be lifted by hand from the wagon to the train. He was so old, and ill, and suffering terrible pain, the journey was extremely difficult.
Rav Greineman reminisces that at gatherings of Rabbonim and Roshei Yeshivos in Horodna the Chofetz Chaim said, "this trip isn't worth it to me even a hundred mitzvos; it's not worth the danger to my health to travel such a long way from Radin. But for the sake of the continuation of Mosdei Torah, the elementary schools, the Yeshiva high schools and the Yeshivos Gedolos, that's why I came. In spite of the personal danger to my health, I am willing to make the journey. For without Torah, why am I living? If we don't transmit the Torah to the next generation, it may, chas v'shalom, be forgotten."
Shema Yisrael Torah Network