Parshas Lech Lecha: Avrohom Avinu’s Legacy

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By Rabbi Naftoly Bier

Every day in תפלת שחרית we quote the פסוק from נחמיה:

“ומצאת את לבבו נאמן לפניך, And You (Hashem) found his (Avrohom Avinu’s) heart faithful to You.”

HaRav Yeruchem Levovitz defines this trait of אברהם אבינו, our patriarch Avrohom as a “בר סמכא”, a person that one can always rely upon.

To further understand this specific trait, we are illuminated by the commentary of the Vilna Gaon in ישעיה, Isaiah 1:21. The פסוק reads, “איכה היתה לזונה קריה נאמנה”, “How was it (possible) that she became a prostitute – a faithful city that was full of justice?”

The מצודת דוד explains that ישעיה הנביא is moaning, how is it conceivable that a city of honesty could become one that is dishonest to Hashem, akin to a harlot that is dishonest to her husband? One can ask, wouldn’t it be more appropriate to say “to commit adultery” rather than prostitution?

The Vilna Gaon explains, “that the city was a place of truth בלב ונפש, in the heart (their inner essence) and נפש, their actions as it states “ומצאת את לבבו נאמן, And I found his heart to be faithful and now the opposite, akin to a woman who rather than be married, cohabitating indiscriminately with זרים, strangers. A prostitute is a woman who refrains from commiting herself to any man, so too, the city (כלל ישראל) exempted themselves from dependability, reliability, trustworthiness, and commitment.

In ישעיה, Isaiah 41:8, Hashem bestows on אברהם אבינו, our patriarch Avrohom, the title, “אהובי, My Beloved”.

Rashi explains, “that Avrohom Avinu didn’t come to recognize Hashem due to Torah study or teachings from his parents, but rather through love. He constantly appreciated Hashem’s infinite benefactions, his caring for His creation and with total acuity of this factor, reciprocated by totally attaching himself to Hashem. This in turn is the source for his unbridled, relentless dedication to Hashem, earning him the designation of נאמן, בר סמכא – one who genuinely acts in the context of complete subservience to one’s benefactor.

The מדרש, on the words, “ואהבת… בכל לבבך, And you shall love Hashem with all your heart(s)” explains that this refers to Avrohom Avinu, as it says אברהם אבינו. The ירושלמי ברכות סז says that he “made” his evil inclination (יצר הרע) good (טוב), whereas דוד המלך, Dovid HaMelech couldn’t resist and therefore “killed” the evil inclination in his heart. Due to Avrohom Avinu’s constant appreciation and love of Hashem, his relentless drive and passion to emulate Him by his constant search to help others; he transcended any iota of self-interest and desire. Rather his totality of focus was towards his creator – Hashem.

After the עקדה, Akeidah, Hashem says “עתה ידעתי כי ירא אלוקים אתה, Now I can show everyone that you stand in awe of Hashem.” When one stands truly in awe of Hashem’s gifts and caring, one subsequently praises Him. In turn, one becomes inseparable from Him with every thought and action determined with this relationship.

The aforementioned idea is mentioned by the Ramban, Maimonides, Hilchos Teshuva 10:2-3.

“One who serves [G-d] out of love occupies himself in the Torah and the mitzvot and walks in the paths of wisdom for no ulterior motive: not because of fear that evil will occur, nor in order to acquire benefit. Rather, he does what is true because it is true, and ultimately, good will come because of it. It is the level of our Patriarch, Abraham, whom G-d described as, “he who loved Me,” for his service was only motivated by love – G-d commanded us [to seek] this level as conveyed by Moshe Rabbeinu as it states: “Love G-d, Your Lord.” When a man will love G-d in the proper manner, he will immediately perform all of the mitzvot motivated by love.

What is the proper love? A person should love God with great and exceeding love until his soul is bound up in the love of God. Thus, he will always be captivated with this love as if he is “lovesick”. [A lovesick person’s] thoughts are never diverted from the love of that woman. He is always preoccupied with her; when he sits down, when he gets up, when he eats and drinks. With an even greater [love], the love for God should be [implanted] in the hearts of those who love Him and are obsessed with Him at all times. This concept was implied by שלמה המלך, King Solomon [Song of Songs 2:5] when he stated, as a metaphor: “I am lovesick.” [Indeed,] the totality of שיר השירים is a parable describing [this love].

The pasuk, “והיה ברכה, And you will be a blessing.” (יב:ב) The Medrash says והיה בריכה – you will be the “well” from which everything will evolve. Avrohom was to be the repository from which all boundless good and kindness will descend upon the world. There are many facets to the world; truth, justice, humility, correctness… but the foundation of all is the dynamic of חסד – gifting to others. When one views life as a constant opportunity to selflessly contribute, one is emulating the essence of Hashem; to give.

The אנשי סדום, Sodom were punished not due to theft and depraved behavior, but as the נביא יחזקאל states; due to their decision not to help those who are needy. Positive growth is totally dependent on one’s selfless, persistent desire to assist others.

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