Parashat Vayeira

In last week’s Perashah, perek 15, pasuk 5, Hashem told Avraham to go outside and look at all the stars in the heaven: Hashem said..." And so shall your offspring be!" The next pasuk reads: "And he trusted in Hashem, and Hashem recognized Avraham's righteousness." Rashi says here that Hashem considered Avraham's unwavering belief in G-d as an act of merit and righteousness. Ramban asks: Why does this act of faith in G-d stand out as such a significant demonstration of Avraham's righteousness? Avraham's faith in Hashem had been established so clearly through earlier tests, such as, surviving the furnace in Ur Kasdim, or leaving his homeland to go where Hashem told him to without hesitation. So why should this promise that Hashem made to him, that his children will be like the stars in the heaven, stand out as something so remarkable? Ramban explains, that it was Avraham himself, who recognized Hashem's promise regarding his offspring as a significant manifestation of G-d's kindness, because Hashem had made the promise to Avraham unconditionally and without regard to Avraham's future merits. To elaborate the answer to this question further, let's look into this week’s Perashah, Perashat Vayera begins with Avraham sitting at the entrance to his tent recovering from the Berit Milah that Hashem commanded him to undergo. This was the third day of recovery, at the height of his pain. The rabbis explain that Hashem visited Avraham to show him honor for carrying out the mitzvah and to acknowledge that he had elevated himself to a new spiritual level through the Brit Milah. Or HaHayyim explains, that when people carry out great deeds, Hashem shows himself to that person as a token of tribute and acknowledgment for recognizing Hashem in a difficult time. I can personally remember many times when I did something that was difficult for me and Hashem’s goodness showed itself to me in a way that I was able to understand. For example, I remember when a rabbi came to visit me in my office for a donation. He needed to raise money for his Yeshivah and he may have asked me for an amount that I felt was more than I would be willing to give him. But I also felt for his cause and I pushed myself to accommodate his request. I remember going back from the conference room, to my office to get my check book, when at that exact moment a call came in from a person I’d been talking to about purchasing life insurance. He said,“Hi, Jack, I’m ready to buy that insurance we’ve been discussing, when can we meet?” I could see clearly at that moment how Hashem was rewarding me for doing that mitzvah of tzedakah so quickly. The connection between the mitzvah and the surprise of the sudden reward was clearly evident to me. Hashem wants to show us that because we did something that was difficult for us, that we passed the test. Hashem says, I will reward you so that you will understand that I recognize your sacrifice of going above and beyond in order to do the will of Hashem, and performing a mitzvah that was difficult for you. Through Avraham Avinu we learn that Hashem wants to acknowledge and reward us for all the ways in which we show our faith, by making life more pleasurable and less difficult for us. To illustrate this idea further, Rabbi Zelig Prag told us a story from the time he was visiting some friends in Russia, back in the1980s, when Russia was still ruled by the Communist Party. He told us of the "Mesirut Nefesh" (self- sacrifice) that the Jews there had to endure. They had to walk in the freezing cold, often for hours, to find a Minyan where they could secretly pray. They knew they could be caught at every turn but they persevered, for they wanted above all else to do the will of Hashem. Many years later, when they were living in Israel and they were able to keep their Shabbat and the mitzvot without fear, Rabbi Prag told them that he was extremely envious of them. He was envious because even though now that they were free and living in Israel, and did not have to undergo the same hardship to keep the mitzvot, they were still rewarded, and would be for the rest of their lives, as if they were still living under those harsh conditions. As it says at the end of the fifth perek of Pirke Avot, "Lefum Tzaara Agra", which means, "According to the Suffering is the Reward!" From the very beginning of the Perashah it states… “Now Hashem appeared to him in the plains of Mamre, and he was sitting at the entrance of his tent when the day was hot.” According to the Midrash, Hashem made it extremely hot that day to spare Avraham from catering to guests. When Hashem saw that the absence of guests to take care of troubled Avraham, he sent him the three wayfarers. When Avraham saw the three men passing by his tent, he immediately jumped up and ran toward them to serve them. He would thus be ignoring his own physically painful condition. He then asked Sarah to prepare cakes and he ordered his servant to prepare the best calf so that he could serve his guests. From here we learn that Hashem did not change the whether to make it more comfortable for Avraham, so that every time he will do Hesed in the future, he will be rewarded at the same high level as in this situation when he was in pain from his B'rit Milah. We also learn from this episode the great mitzvah of "Hachnasat Orhim," taking in guests, that Avraham personified. This teaches us that we must always attend to a guest’s physical well-being before we attend to their spiritual matters. Another example of this concept occurs at the end of this Perashah when Hashem orders Avraham to sacrifice his only son Yitzhak. Avraham, being the giant of hesed that he was, had to go completely against his nature. Yet he did not even hesitate to obey, and he set out to do as he was told. As the children of Avraham, we are still living off the merit of his obedience and faith to this very day! We all have times in our lives when we make decisions to do mitzvot that are difficult for us. We have to know that those acts do not go unnoticed and, more than that, we will get rewarded for the rest of our lives for doing that mitzvah. Even if the mitzvah becomes easier to perform, we will still be rewarded at the same high level as when we first performed it, when it was so much more difficult for us. May we all learn from Avraham Avinu to always look for ways to do mitzvot as the Torah commands us to, which of course includes helping another Jew in need, no matter how difficult it may be. We must also know that whether we're aware of it or not, Hashem will reward us according to the difficulty of that mitzvah, and the key is that He will keep us at that high level, even if it becomes easier for us in the future. Shabbat Shalom! Jack E. Rahmey with the Guidance and Teachings of Rabbi Amram Sananes Leiluiy Nishmat.... Eliyahu Ben Rachel Sarah Bat Chanah Shulamit Bat Helaina Batsheva Bat Sarah Esther Rav Haim Ben Rivka Yitzchak Ben Adele Chanah Bat Esther Moshe Ben Garaz Avraham Ben Garaz Malka Bat Garaz Yaakov Ben Rachel Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher Meir Ben Latifa Esther Bat Sarah Rabbi Meyer Ben Chana Rafael ben Miriam