Friday, November 20, 2009

Unfaded Glory

"And Yitzchak loved Esav for he placed game in his mouth and Rivka loves Yaakov"

The passuk hints to us an important lesson - the love that one can feel for physical pleasures - is always in the past tense - it's always fleeting. The feeling of joy that we may experience during a bite of delicious food fades even as we swallow it.

The love that Rivka Imeinu felt for her younger son had nothing to do with physical pleasure. When we experience emotions that are based on our intellectual capacity for recognizing and pursuing goodness - those are feelings that last. That's why they are forever in the present tense.

Hatzlacha !!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Anna Avda D'Kudhsha Brich Hu

The Aramaic phrase :
אנא עבדא דקודשא בריך הוא
I am a servant of the Holy One, Blessed is He.
Is found in the quote from the Zohar that we say as we take the Torah out of the Aron Kodesh (בריך שמיה)

Why is being a servant so important, so praisworthy - as to place this declaration in the midst of this teffilla ?

The answer appears to us out of the Parasha.

Eliezer's story is repeated twice. Once when Avraham commands him and he undertakes the journey and once when he recounts it to Lavan. In justification for this seeming redundancy chazal offer the following maxim - "יפה שיחתן של עבדי אבות יותר מתורתן של בנים" - "The conversations of the servants of the fathers are more beautiful than the teachings of the sons". Why should this be the case ? Because when you are a servant you have no arrogance. You are filed with the knowledge that your entire worthiness, your entire 'claim-to-fame' is the service you offer to your master.

May we all merit to internalize this unassumingness - not because of any inherent unworthiness - quite the opposite, we are incredibly worthy ! - but because we should realize what our worthiness is - the job we were destined for, Avodas Hashem.

Hatzlacha !!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Beyond Our Natural Abilities

If the command to sacrifice his son, Yitzchak, was a test for Avraham - why do we refer to it as the akeida (binding) of Yitzchak ?

Additionally, we find that Hashem considers it as if Yitzchak was actually sacrificed instead of his doppelganger ram and the ashes from the sacrifice are forever before His eyes. (See Rashi on Vayikra 26:42)

Along the journey to the mountain Yitzchak asks his father about the absence of an animal to slaughter and deduces from the answer that he is to be the sacrifice. Yitzchak continues on the journey with the same drive and motivation as before - this is an opportunity to fulfill the will of Hashem - and he intends to give it his all. When it comes time to present himself at the altar, Yitzchak has a strange request for his father.
"Tie me down tightly", he pleads, "for I fear that I might involuntarily flinch at the application of the knife and disqualify the slaughter".
With this statement, Yitzchak transcends himself and is forevermore held by Hashem as a pure soul.
Avraham Avinu was tested many times. He passed each one. Even the hardest test - the one where he had to conquer his nature and subdue his merciful inclinations. But Avraham passed these tests himself.
Yitzchak Avinu - he was aware of his physical limitations and took pains to make sure that even if his body should fail the challenge of presenting himself for slaughter, his soul shouldn't. Essentially, Yitzchak made sure to succeed even if he couldn't succeed and pass even if it was beyond him.
"Our Father" Yitzchak is thusly called because his actions are legacy to us all. We can all emulate him, in our own degrees, and - when the going gets too tough in avodas Hashem - persevere. Not through iron will and strength of character ( those are good too ! ) but through our ability to forsee the challenge and take pains to eliminate it entirely. We can, essentially, pass an impassible nisayon.

Yitzchak Avinu said to Hashem – "I don't want my shortcomings to affect my service of you".

Can we say the same ? And what will we do to make it happen ?

Hatzlacha !!