Third Temple Torah, True Teachings

Parashas Vayeira

From the Book of Bereishis (Genesis)

Greetings from the holy city of Jerusalem!

As we read Parshat Vayeira this Shabbat, we have another opportunity to learn from the extraordinary actions of our patriarch Avraham.

The Noam Elimelech teaches that the primary aspect of a mitzvah is not its technicalities and details, but rather the love we put into its performance. This does not mean to say that we should disregard the technicalities; on the contrary, we should perform them to the best of our ability. Nevertheless, when G-d weighs the two components of a mitzvah, He considers the love we put into its performance to be greater even than the act itself. The Slonimer Rebbe (Netivot Shalom) cites the Talmud in order to provide a proof to this idea. The Talmud (Brachot 6a) wonders what the phrase in Malachi (3:16) means when it states, "u'l'choshvei shemo" (and to those who think about His Name). R' Ashi explains that a person who intended to perform a mitzvah, yet was prevented from doing so for reasons beyond his control, is nevertheless credited with having performed it. This is because "choshvei shemo" the person was thinking about His Name. If G-d is present in our thoughts, and we yearn and desire to fulfill His will, we are credited with performing mitzvot even when the acts themselves did not come to fruition. The desire to fulfill the Divine will is considered the primary element of the mitzvah.

It is interesting to note that this idea does not hold true in the reverse. The Tikkunei Zohar (Tikkun 10) teaches that a mitzvah performed with all its intricacies and technicalities, yet without love, does not fly upward. This almost seems to say that a person who performs a mitzvah in such a way is not credited for it! This is because the fundamental ingredient love is absent.

Our tradition teaches that G-d tested Avraham ten times (Pirkei Avot 5:3). Although Avraham had many extraordinary character traits, it was his overwhelming love for G-d that enabled him to pass his tests. In Isaiah (41:8), G-d describes Avraham as "Avraham ohavi" My beloved; the one who loves Me. Avraham's tremendous love for G-d enabled him to carry out the Divine will time after time, even in exceptionally challenging situations. We see this idea in the Talmud's statement that love breaks all norms (Sanhedrin 105b; see also Bereishis Raba 55:8). When a person is truly in love, there is nothing he wouldn't do for his beloved.

Avraham demonstrates this quality in this week's parsha when G-d commands him to sacrifice Yitzchak. The Torah tells us that Avraham got up early in the morning to perform G-d's command, even performing menial tasks such as saddling his own donkey and chopping wood for the sacrifice (Genesis 22:3)! Avraham's zeal and willingness to perform such tasks himself, instead of appointing one of his many servants to do so, grew out of his incredible love for G-d.

This idea will also help us understand why Avraham chopped the wood for the sacrifice as soon as he awoke from his prophecy. A more sensible plan might have been to wait until he and Yitzchak arrived at Mount Moriah, thereby saving himself three days of schlepping! According to the Noam Elimelech, however, this was not a logistical oversight. Avraham intentionally prepared the wood immediately to demonstrate his love for G-d. When we love someone, we want to do their bidding immediately, with our own two hands, no matter how difficult the task may be. This was the type of relationship that Avraham had with G-d a relationship of love that breaks all norms.

I bless us all to fall in love with G-d, as Avraham did, in order to succeed in passing our tests in life. May we subsequently merit to see the reciprocation of that love with the coming of Moshiach and the building of the Third Temple, soon in our days.

Shabbat Shalom,
Aba Wagensberg

Photos and Data © Third Temple and/or Avrahom Dovid 1980 through 2005. Parsha Highlights © Rabbi Aba Wagensberg.