Friday, November 14, 2008

Parshat Vayera - פרשת וירא

I saw this last week a video of Rav Milstone of Yeshivat Hakotel and Midreshet Harova giving a shiur in Midreshet Harova for Parshat Miketz last year. There was one part that was relevant to our week's Parsha, and I'd like to give it over here.

He said in the name of the Netivot Shalom (EDIT: I *think* he said it was in the name of the Netivot Shalom, but I know that the Maharal also said it) that there is a certain fundamental saying in Chassidic literature that the greatest Kedoshim of Am Yisrael automatically did what had to be done. He continued by stating that there is a madrega of fulfilling God's will that is in the mind. The best kind of term I can think of this is, "acquiescing to God's will." We have come to a logical conclusion that this is what must be done, and this is what happens when the mind wants to do what God wants.

In addition to the level of doing Hashem's will in mind, there's also a level above in which one the stimulus to do a mitzvah emanates from the heart. The highest level however, is from within in the limbs of your body. The Tzaddikim who worked on keeping their bodies pure and utilising them in pursuit of pure activity turned their bodies into a "מרכבה לשכינה" It is when your body wants to do the will of Hashem that a man is on the highest spiritual level possible. It should be that our feet start taking us to the Minyan. When our limbs start doing what God wants them to do, we are on the highest level possible - the level of true Tzaddikim.

But isn't that a problem? Haven't we then turned into automatons, mere robots? If the purpose of existence is free choice, then what has happened here? Surely this can't be!

Here is where our Parsha comes in. If we look at the Akeidah, we see that at the point that Avraham raises his knife the pasuk says, "וישלח את ידו - And he cast his hand." What does it mean by "He cast?" Why did he throw his hand forward to do the mitzvah? This terminology is not easy to understand and caused many commentaries to remark upon its usage. As Rav Milstone said, "You don't throw your hand. Throw a ball, throw a piece of paper." Why not say "ויקח - And he took?"

The answer is given that as his limbs had learned to do the will of God, to do as God truly wanted, they opposed Avraham's attempt to pick up the knife. God as we know didn't want him to slaughter Yitzchak, and his limbs were able to "sense" this. And so when he went to take the knife, his hand would not budge. His hand refused to move for the love of God, quite literally!

But he wanted to do it, for that was the command of Hashem as he saw it. So "וישלח את ידו" - he overpowered and threw out his hand to do the Mitzvah.

Shabbat Shalom!

1 comment:

  1. I like it. It's a very interesting idea that makes sense with the pshat, which is always a plus. But I have one point to nitpick, and two questions to ask.

    1) In my humble opinion, the purpose of the world is not free will, but rather fulfilling our true purpose within the world would be pointless without free will. It is a tool essential and necessary to reaching our potential. (What our purpose is, that's another question...and I can list many answers that aren't bechira chofshit.)

    2) Though it's a good dvar torah, in order for it to work I would have to take it a step further and ask, why did Avraham listen to an angel of Hashem? You could argue that Hashem could no longer speak to Avraham at this point because though his limbs understood Hashem's true intention, he did not, or rather could not, defy Hashem's direct commandment. But as we know, sometimes malachim do not send out Hashem's message in the appropriate way (it happens earlier in the parsha when one of the travelling malachim say "I will..." instead of "Hashem will"). Why would Avraham be willing to sacrifice his son at the command of Hashem, and then refute that commandment at the hand of an angel? After this point it seems Hashem no longer speaks to Avraham - why?

    In a similar vain,
    3) Why does Avraham fight for the survival of Sdom when Hashem says he'll destroy them, (which is totally logical,) but when Hashem says sacrifice your son Avraham doesn't protest a word (and at the same time He has promised a great nation will come from him, and he's just a baby who has done nothing wrong)? He can argue with Hashem when He wants to do something on His own, but when He asks Avraham to do it He cannot argue? Are not all deaths, no matter by whose hand, really the will of Hashem? And if you argue Avraham knew this was not what Hashem wanted, why wouldn't he ask, or say something? It could be this is precisely the lesson being taught, but it's still troublesome...the fact that Hashem would ask it to begin with, it still unnerving...

    Just some thoughts. :-D Thank you for bringing them up.