Parshas Vayeria: Are We Doing It For The Right Reasons?

By R' Shaya Gross, z'l

Posted on 11/05/20

Parshas HaShavua Divrei Torah sponsored by
Dr. Shapsy Tajerstein, DPM - Podiatry Care.
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[Ed. Note] Out of the respect and recognition of the impact made by longtime BJL friend and contributor, Reb Shaya Gross, z’l, we will maintain a living memoriam to Shaya through the sweet words and thoughtful insights of  his Divrei Torah. BJL readers will remember his weekly column on the Parsha and on various Torah ideas and concepts. These meaningful words will help us remember this special young man who will be sorely missed and for those who did not merit to know him, this will be the most appropriate way for them to become familiar with who he was.

In this week's Parsha, Avraham is given one of his greatest tests: Akeidas Yitzchak- to offer Yitzchak as a sacrifice to G-d.

Avraham epitomized the mida of Chesed [loving kindness]. He was involved in Chesed his entire life, so the commandment to ‘kill’ his son meant that he would have to go against everything he stood for and his entire personality.

Yitzchok embodied the mida of Gevurah [strict judgment]. His greatest test was also to go against his mida and personality. However, there is a difference of opinion between Rav Dessler & Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky as to what exactly Yitzchak's test was. 

Rav Dessler maintains that it was to give the blessings to Yaakov. Why was that so difficult for Yitzchak? Rav Dessler explains that Yitzchak knew that Yaakov was on a higher spiritual level than Eisav, so he felt that Yaakov should not get any material blessings. Rather, Yaakov should be solely reliant on strict judgment to receive them directly from Hashem. But when Yitzchak sensed from the voice that it was Yaakov, he realized that it was G-d’s will that he should forgo his lifetime emphasis on strict judgment and give Yaakov the blessings. 

Rav Yaakov has a different approach as to what the ultimate test for Yitzchak WILL be. He explains based on the Gemara in Shabbos [89b] that at the end of time, Hashem will come to Yitzchak and tell him “your children have sinned.” Instead of calling for them to be punished in accordance with his mida of strict judgment, Yitzchak will plead with Hashem to have pity on Klal Yisroel.

Either way, both Rav Dessler and Rav Yaakov agree that Yitzchak's ultimate test is to go against the mida that he stood for.

So too with Yaakov. He epitomized Emes-truth, and was tested to go against his mida of Emes by having to trick his father into giving him the Brachos.

What is the reason for Hashem giving each of the Avos a test to go against the mida that they stood for?

I believe the explanation is as follows: There are many warm people out there who 'out of the goodness of their heart' are compassionate, warm, kind, etc. And there are many firm and exacting people like Yitzchak, and people who like to follow the truth like Yaakov. The way to tell if they are doing it sincerely only because it is G-d’s will, is if G-d asks them to go against their midos and personalities. If they oblige, that indicates that all of their acts of Chesed, Gevurah, and Emes were performed specifically because it’s what G-d wants them to do, and not just because they enjoy that mida. And then G-d will reward them for everything they did, as it was all truly done for G-d’s sake.

May we all try to follow in the footsteps of our holy forefathers by fulfilling the Mitzvos and aspects of Yiddishkeit that are less appealing to us with the same joy and devotion as the Mitzvos that we love and enjoy.

{Reb Baruch Leib: I couldn't help but see Shaya in this dvar torah. Shaya was someone who was so careful about each and every mitzvah, trying to do each one with lots of joy and happiness. All Shaya cared about was; 'Is this the way Hashem wants me to live my life? How can I best serve Hashem?' It made no difference to Shaya whether the Mitzvah that Shaya did was easy or hard for him. It was all about what Hashem wanted, never about himself. Wow, what a special person!