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Weekly Chizuk

Vayishlach

Why Should Hashem Help Me? I Don't Deserve It.

And Ya'akov was very afraid...?(Bereishis 32:8)

This is based on the commentary of the Siddur Ha-Gra on the Havdalah service. Excerpt from my sefer Trust Me!

Ya'akov had been told that his brother Eisav was advancing with an army and was preparing to kill him and everyone in his camp. The Almighty had promised to protect him, and yet Ya'akov was afraid. He was concerned that perhaps he had sinned and thus did not merit Divine protection. This would result in his being delivered into Eisav's hands (Rashi, Bereishis 32:11). The Vilna Gaon remarks that Ya'akov's fear was in stark contrast to the attitude exhibited by his grandfather Avraham. He exhibited total and absolute faith in Hashem and felt no fear. It seems strange that his saintly grandson wasn't following in his footsteps. He certainly had learned many shiurim in emunah from Avraham Avinu. In order to answer this, the Gaon studies the following verse that attests to Avraham's faith: "And he [Avraham] believed in Hashem, and [Hashem] considered this to his merit." We know, says the Gaon, that Avraham's entire life was dedicated to belief in Hashem. So why, then, does the Torah make special mention of this matter here in connection with the bris bein ha-besarim? What occurred during this episode that resulted in Hashem considering Avraham's belief worthy of special merit?

To answer this question, let us return to Ya'akov for a moment. Ya'akov's anticipated encounter with Eisav placed him in a very difficult predicament. True, the Almighty had promised that He would protect him in all circumstances. However, the commentators inform us that Ya'akov Avinu had subsequently taken upon himself to be judged solely according to strict Divine justice (midas ha-din). Therefore, even though the Almighty had promised him: "And I will watch over you wherever you go" (Bereishis 28:15), Ya'akov feared that perhaps he had committed a transgression and (according to the exacting rules of Divine justice) had nullified this promise (see Seforno on Bereishis 28:21). And since he could no longer rely on Hashem's mercy, he was afraid - perhaps due to some sin, the Divine promise of protection would remain unfulfilled. Belief in Hashem's Chesed Merits Hashem's Chesed

Avraham, on the other hand, was the living embodiment of chesed, and he believed with unwavering faith in Hashem as the source of unlimited kindness. Therefore, he considered the Almighty's promise an act of tzedakah or a charitable act, even though he might be unworthy of it from the perspective of strict justice. Consequently, Avraham wasn't afraid of a sin detracting from his merit and causing Hashem's promise to be made void, for the Almighty's promise was not conditional on his merits. It was pure chesed on God's part, and the chesed of Hashem continues even in the face of sin. Thus, "And he believed in Hashem, and [Hashem] considered this to his merit," means that when Avraham displayed his belief in Hashem's unlimited kindness, the Almighty responded measure for measure, and showered him with chesed.

The Gaon continues pointing out that this is also the meaning of the verse (that forms part of the Havdalah service): "Behold, Hashem (Heb. -) is my deliverance - I shall trust, and not fear; for Hashem (Heb. -) is my strength and my song. Hashem! He is a salvation for me" (Yeshayahu 12:2). The names of Hashem - - and - - denote the characteristic of chesed. Therefore, these Holy names are mentioned in relation to deliverance. In other words, the prophet was saying, "My deliverance will come about purely from chesed, and not because I deserve it as a reward for my actions. Therefore, I will trust, and not be afraid that sin might deter it."

Gut Shabbos!

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Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
4 Panim Meirot, Jerusalem 94423 Israel
Tel: 732-325-1257
Rabbi Parkoff is author of "Chizuk!" and "Trust Me!" (Feldheim Publishers), and "Mission Possible!" (Israel Book Shop Lakewood).
If you would like to correspond with Rabbi Parkoff, or change your subscription, please contact: rabbi.e.parkoff@gmail.com


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