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Goodwill - G-d's Will

Parshas Vayera

Ahhhhh the Akaidah!!!!

One of the most hallowed events in our history. Many people read it every morning [for that you have to arrive early to minyan]. Our Yomim Noraim liturgy is replete with mentions of the Akaidah. We invoke the memory of the the Akaidah in order to merit life, livelihood, rain etc. etc. The tremendous display of devotion exhibited by Avraham Avinu who was ready to sacrifice his beloved son [and tradition bearer] at the behest of G-d is truly awe-inspiring. Except for one small detail that we often overlook.

It never happened. In the end Avraham did NOT sacrifice his son and Yitzchak lived on for many years. The Angel came and told him that is was just a test but in fact Hashem desires that Yitzchak should remain alive. So then - what great zchus inheres in this event that never happened???

The great Gaon Harav Yitzchak Hutner explained that from here we learn the potency of Ratzon - Will. Avraham Avinu was WILLING to sacrifice his son - and that is what really matters. It was not his job to "execute" [double connotation] the will of G-d but to strive and make every effort to fulfill His will. If in the end due to circumstances beyond our control we don't carry out His will - in Hashems eyes we are a complete success.

Interestingly enough we find a similar theme expressed at the beginning of the parsha. The Torah is trying to teach us the importance of chessed. So we read about how 99 year old Avraham just 3 days after his bris mila - in his overwhelming desire to find guests - stood at the entrance of his tent in the scorching heat (and the A/C was out!!). Then Hashem sends three "people" whom Avraham welcomes with open arms. Avraham RUNS here and RUNS there (have you ever seen a 99 year old RUN?? And 3 days after a painful surgery??) in order to serve them a sumptuous meal. Wow! A true lesson in chessed!

Except for one problem. These guests were really angels. And angels don't eat. [Interestingly enough, growing up my holy mother shetichye called me her little angel - and up until this very day she claims that I don't eat!!] So why did the Torah utilize this story as an example of chesed when the chesed was completely superfluous. Puzzling.

Apparently the Torah is teaching us the aformentioned lesson. It is not the ACT of chesed that matters as much as the desire to perform the chesed and the effort invested ensuring that the the chesed is carried out. Avraham did everything he could to perform an act of lovingkindness - due to circumstances beyond his control he was unable to execute his desire. But that does not detract from the mitzva.

All too often in life we have plans to do great things but due to circumstances beyond our control we are unable to carry out our plans. When that happens we must remember that the final result is in G-ds hands. Our task is to desire, strive and do everything in our power to achieve results. That is what is precious in the eyes of Hashem!

ועקידת יצחק היום ברחמים ברחמים תזכור

Good Shabbos My Sweetest Friends!!!

I would just like to make one הערה if possible.
Thrusting will (not in the sene of the moral will or my pseudonym for that matter) to the fore creates two distinct human reactions that are antipodal in nature.
On the one hand this gives people solace when they fail to achieve something, even when it was through a shortcoming over which they had complete control. It grants legitimacy to a half-baked attitude: "Well, at least you tried, isn't that what counts? Isn't that what G-d cares about?". Well, as Rebbe pointed out, that depends on the situation. If you tried and G-d prevented it from occurring then G-d looks to your will to carry out the action. If, however, you tried and simply didn't follow through for your own reasons then G-d doesn't simply look to the will but to the stillborn action (possibly as well).
The issue born out of this is the problem of defining what is an obstacle placed in front of you by G-d, over which we will say you have no control, and an obstacle over whose clearance you have complete control. In אברהם's case it was very acute, he received a Divine command to stop his action; it clearly emanated from G-d. But your everyday, garden-variety human doesn't receive messages from G-d, assuming he is sane, which compounds the issue.
The second problem is that even if someone is a ירא/ה שמים and doesn't use G-d's focus on will as some sort of get-out-of-jail-free card, it's still extremely hard to gauge one's progress. As with all חובות הלבבות one can't quantify an amount of love or an amount of effort, and thus one never knows whether one has done his or her best. This can really be a thorn in the side of true and straight עובדי ה' (indeed ר' יונה says that the 5th [i think] עיקר of תשובה is דאגה that one has not fulfilled one's allotted amount of יגון in doing תשובה). If one focuses primarily on actions then one has a simple litmus test, the action was either completed or was not. If one focuses primarily on will, however, then one can get bogged down in one's עבודת ה', constantly feeling as if one has fallen short of one's obligations.
Thus, while I think that G-d's focus on and investment of import in will is extremely important, I am a bit wary of its practical relevance. When teaching something like this one must really know well one's audience, both because of the ambiguity in labeling situations as those where the action was precluded by G-d or not, and also because of the inability to gauge whether one has consistently fallen short in making good on one's spiritual obligations that G-d demands.
ps. I am not a Rav and as such would prefer if Rebbe just refers to me as Will, תיירע איד, or some variation. Thanks!
pps. I think it bears saying, at some point at least, that none of the comments that i have ever made and will ever make should be taken in a chutzpadik manner. If they are by anyone then I sincerely apologize; I am simply trying to contribute to the learning process that is life.

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Tyere Will

Very perceptive comment [as always]. Many lessons from the Torah can be wrongly applied. "Vharotzeh lityos yavo vyiteh". But there are situations where a person does all he can and it is UNHEALTHY to constantly second guess oneself and to feel like a failure because he is unable to reach all of his goals.
Any ben aliyah has super high goals which he will usually not achieve.
You are never chutzpadig and your contributions to my
learning process are greatly appreciated!!!

Hi Rav Alley,
I thought we could learn something different (maybe even the exact opposite) from the hachnasas orchim story. When you give someone tzdaka it is because the receiver is in need. Chessed, on the other hand, is done because the giver has much to give. Thus, the most important thing in chessed is actually the actions of the giver, who overflows with his kindness, indiscriminately. The fact that the angels did not need the food is not relevant to the baal chessed - he did his chessed. Tzdaka, he did not perform though.

I know that this ruins your comparison to the akeida, but what do you think?

Dear RAV Blackbelt

Thank you for enlightening me!

However I am not fully convinced because we pasken that if an ani asks for food one is chayav to give him immediately without investigating [see bava basra 9 with poskim].
If one were to follow this halacha and it is revealed afterwards that the fellow was really not needy it seems to me that he still fulfilled the mitzva of tzedaka!

Rav Chaim Knievsky shlita was asked if one is yotze matanos levyonim on purim if he gave to someone who wasn't poor after all [and on purim we aren't supposed to check - we just give] and he answered "mistaber sheyatza" .[Incidentally this actually happened!! A Jew sent his matanos levyonim for many years to a Jew who claimed he was poor and when the "poor" man died they found out that he was poor like I am Ethiopian!!]

In any event maybe you are right vtzareech iyun.

Peace and Blessings

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  • I'm Rabbi Ally Ehrman
  • From Old City Jerusalem, Israel
  • I am a Rebbe in Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh.
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