Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim

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Parshat Vayera 5783
Rabbi Jablinowitz

We read in this week’s parsha Avraham’s final test, of being asked to sacrifice his son. When Hashem tells Avraham to sacrifice Yitzchak, He commands him (Chapter 22, Pasuk 2), קח נא את בנך את יחידך אשר אהבת את יצחק. Take your only, beloved son Yitzchak. Rashi explains the reason why Hashem told Avraham each detail by itself; your son, your only son, your beloved son. One explanation he gives is that it was meant to give Avraham additional reward for each part of the command.

The Chidushei Harim gives a unique explanation for the words אשר אהבת, that you love. He explains that we could understand that Avraham would overcome his love for his son and follow the command of Gd. We might imagine that in order to fulfill the command, he would somehow begin to lessen his connection to his son as a preparation and a means for being able to fulfill his task.

But the Chidushei Harim says that the p’shat of אשר אהבת is that Avraham was commanded to sacrifice his son and keep loving him at the same time. Don’t lessen your love for him; keep loving him, אשר אהבת, and yet through your devotion, be able to sacrifice him nonetheless.

The Sfas Emes adds the following understanding to the words of the Chidushei Harim. The Gemara in Shabbos 97A states that Moshe Rabbeinu did three things of his own volition and wasn’t commanded, but Hashem ultimately agreed with him. One of them was the breaking of the Luchos. Chazal derive that Hashem approved from the words (Shemos, Chapter 34, Pasuk 1) הלוחות הראשונים אשר שברת, יישר כחך ששברת. They learn that Hashem gave Moshe a “Yasher Koach” for breaking the Luchos.

Rashi on the Gemara teaches that Chazal (Reish Lakish in the Gemara) learn this from the word אשר, whose three-letter root means to certify and approve. The words אשר שברת, therefore, mean I approve of your breaking the Luchos. The Sfas Emes adds that according to the Chidushei Harim, we need to learn the words אשר אהבת in the same manner; יישר כחך שאהבת. Hashem was telling Avraham Avinu, I approve of your midah of love and chesed; I don’t want you to change it or give it up.

The point of the Akeidah was to combine the two, seemingly contradictory, traits of immense love with devotion and sacrifice. Akeidat Yitzchak brought together the love and chesed of Avraham with the fear and inner Gevurah of Yitzchak. Each one, distinct to Avraham and Yitzchak respectively, but able to be combined in Avodas Hashem. The Sfas Emes teaches in the name of the Ramban that in this world love and fear are contradictory. Typically, if we love someone, we don’t fear them, and vise versa.

The exception to this is in Avodas Hashem. In serving Gd, the two are interrelated. And this ability was enabled for future generations in the Akeidah which was an unnatural act, לפנים משורת הדין. The Zohar Hakadosh describes this as a merging together of fire and water; water representing the love and devotion of Avraham, while fire represents the Midas Hadin and fear of Yitzchak. Only in a supernatural act such as Akeidat Yitzchak, and only in the context of serving Hashem can the two come together.

These two traits of Avraham and Yitzchak come together in the third of the Avos, Yaakov Avinu. And this is hinted at in the Akeidah as well. When Avraham is commanded to sacrifice his son, he is told it should be done (Chapter 22, Pasuk 2) על אחד ההרים. The Avos are referred to in the Medrash as Harim; as mountains (see Shemos Rabbah (15,4). The Sfas Emes teaches that אחד ההרים is to be understood as, the unique of the Avos, as Yaakov Avinu. Yaakov is usually referred to as the בחיר האבות; he is the choicest of the Avos. He combines the unique qualities of both Avraham and Yitzchak, creating a fusion of אמת, of truth. And this could only be accomplished through the separate, but joining, traits of love and fear. And in order to do this, Avraham had to maintain his love, even when sacrificing his son. Hence, Hashem tells him bring your son that you love, אשר אהבת, יישר כחך שאהבת. I want you to keep loving him, so that I can pass this trait on to your descendants together with the fear of your son Yitzchak.

Good Shabbos

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