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17 Cheshvan 5760 - October 27, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
Parshas Vayeira -- The Ten Nisyonos of Avrohom Ovinu

by Rabbi P. Chalk

The sedros of Lech Lechoh and Vayeiro deal primarily with the ten nisyonos of Avrohom Ovinu. In Michtav MeEliyohu )vol. 2, pg. 162 (Rabbi Dessler z"l points out a surprising anomaly in the nature of these tests. Avrohom Ovinu is most famous for his middah of chessed, loving-kindness. Correspondingly, one would have expected that the nisyonos he was given would have been ones wherein he was challenged to perform chessed under difficult circumstances. However, this was not the nature of most of the tests. In fact, in most of the tests he was challenged not to perform chessed.

Most of his nisyonos challenged him to use his middah of gevurah in order to continue along the path of his life. For example, Avrohom had to be hard- hearted in sending away Yishmoel in order to protect Yitzchok. He had to separate himself from his elderly father Terach and all of his friends and acquaintances in the nisoyon of Lech Lechoh, and he had to separate himself from the rest of humanity in the nisoyon of bris miloh.

Rabbi Dessler z"l explains that this is because Avrohom Ovinu reached perfection in the trait of chessed by himself. The purpose of the nisyonos that Hakodosh Boruch Hu gave him was to develop his trait of gevurah, inner strength. Avrohom's trait of chesed would only be complete in conjunction with his developing to the utmost his middah of gevurah.

This requires some explanation, why does chesed require gevurah in order to reach its complete fruition?

It would seem that this is the process of inner emotional growth that Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman z"l Hy"d referred to upon his being visited by a number of bochurim who were leaving Europe prior to the onset of the Second World War. He told them as follows; "When I was 20 years old I decided to change the world. When I got to 30, I looked around myself and saw that I had very little impact on the world, so I decided to limit myself to changing my city. Ten years later I saw the limited impact that I had had even upon my city, so I decided to try just changing my local neighborhood. That also didn't work, so at the age of fifty I decided to try changing my immediate family. When I became 60 I saw that that also hadn't worked so I decided that I would try to change myself."

In other words, it might be that you can't change the world, but you can create a world of your own. This does not mean that the rest of the world will not follow suite. It might well conclude that the new world that has been created is very worthwhile and well-worth being a part of. The extent to which the rest of the world will relate to and change as a result of the new reality that has been created will depend upon how great that world has become and how many it can accommodate.

This is how the gedolim of all the generations created glorious worlds of Torah, avodah, and gemilus chassodim. They created such resplendent realms of Yiddishkeit within their own selves and their immediate surroundings that large segments of Klal Yisroel found succor and inspiration within the sphere of their greatness The Alter of Novarodock, in explaining his outreach philosophy )in his sefer Madregas HaAdam, (refers to this concept with a moshol of one who sets the time on his clock extremely accurately. Thereafter, others will set their own clocks in accordance with the time showing on his.

Avrohom Ovinu was challenged to use his middah of love to create an inner world, so intense and radiant that it would accommodate in its glow the entirety of the world. He was placed in situations which he had to grow out of using great personal strength with which he built further his own inner world, until finally he fathered klal Yisroel. Here is a listing of some of the nisyonos, how they challenged him, and how he responded by growing to meet the challenge.

Ur Kasdim

Avrohom achieved emunah in Hashem and defied idol- worship in general and Nimrod's immortality in particular. He was therefore handed over by his parents (Bereishis Rabbah, 38/19) to Nimrod to be sentenced to death. He was sentenced not only to be killed, but also to be killed as an outcast from society, someone whose only remembrance would be ignominy. Even amongst the members of his family he would have no fond remembrance. Nevertheless, Avrohom did not waver but rather stood his own, thus he gained respect and admiration for his emunah (see Yalkut Shemoni chelek 1, perek, 77).

Lech Lechah

Avrohom was told to terminate his acquaintanceship with his countrymen, neighbors and family. He would not be able to continue to develop his old relationships, or to have old friends to cherish. His capacity to love was much reduced (compare to Sichos Mussar from Rabbi Chaim Schmuelevitz z"l, Parshas Bahaaloscho, page 112). However, Hashem told him that from him would come a great and blessed nation, and even the other nations of the world would come to be blessed through him. Thus through temporarily terminating his love towards his immediate surroundings Avrohom would create his own world of goodness so great that it would indeed one day encompass the whole world.

Bris Miloh

Avrohom Ovinu said to Hashem, "Before I entered into this bris people came to me. Will they really continue to come to me after I enter the bris?" (Bereishis Rabbah, 46/3).

Avrohom was concerned that although he would now elevate himself to a higher madreigoh he would thereby cut himself off from the rest of the world. This is why he waited so anxiously at the entrance of his tent at the beginning of Parshas Vayeiro, to see if anyone would still come by. Avrohom overcame the gap between his new madreigoh and the rest of the world, and continued his outreach at a new higher level.

@SUB TITLE = Gerush Yishmael

Avrohom had to drive away his son, Yishmael. In perek 21, possuk 10; "And she (Sarah) said to Avrohom, Drive away this maid-servant, for the son of this maid- servant shall not inherit together with my son, Yitzchok."

Avrohom had to limit his chesed towards even his own family, in order to preserve the purity of his lineage. Not only was Avrohom told that Yishmoel had been determined to be an unfitting recipient his legacy, but he was also told that even one of Yitzchok's children would be similarly segregated, "Ki beYitzchok yikorei lechoh zora -- velo kol Yitzchok.". Avrohom sent away Yishmael and raised Yitzchok to be the second founder of Klal Yisroel.

The Akeidah

This was the ultimate limitation of Avrohom's own personal world. Had he been makriv his son, he would be left with no heir to whom he could bequeath his great legacy. Rabbi Dessler z"l explains (Michtav MeEliyohu, vol. 2, pg. 194) that had the akeidah been actuated then the madreigoh that Avrohom would have reached would have been so great that the whole world would have been huchzar bitshuvah automatically through his influence.

Moshiach would have come and Yitzchok would have been resurrected in the ensuing techiyas hameisim. The limitation of the spread of his own world would have elevated him internally to being individually someone whose heart would encompass the whole world. The reason why Hashem told Avrohom not to proceed with the akeidah was because the world at that time was not meritorious of the coming of Moshiach. Nevertheless the zechus of the akeidah sustains Klal Yisroel until today.

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