Wednesday, January 14, 2015

451 - Chayei Sara

This week's parasha recounts the conversation that took place between Avraham and his servant Eliezer, whom he instructed to find a wife for Yitzchak. "I will cause you to swear by Hashem, the G-d of heaven and the G-d of earth, that you not take a wife for my son from the daughters of Canaan among whom I dwell. Rather, travel to my land and birthplace and take from there a wife for my son Yitzchak." Eliezer then inquired what he should do in the event that the woman would not be willing to leave her homeland. Should he instead bring Yitzchak to her place of residence? Avraham replied, "Be careful not to return my son there. Hashem, the G-d of heaven, Who took me from the house of my father. . . He will send His angel before you and you will take a wife for my son from there" (Bereishis 24:3-8).

Why did Avraham initially refer to Hashem as the G-d of the heaven and the earth and thereafter refer to Him solely as the G-d of the heaven? Rashi explains that the second reference related to the era prior to Avraham's teaching the populace about the Creator. At that point, Hashem was, so to speak, the G-d of only the heavens since those on earth did not recognize Him as the Creator. After Avraham succeeded in enlightening the world regarding Hashem's omnipresence, He became the G-d not only of the heavens, but of the earth too. 

Rav Wolbe (Shiurei Chumash, Parashas Chayei Sara 24:7, Ma'amarei Yemei Ratzon pp. 365-367) elaborates that even prior to the people's acknowledgment of Hashem, He was obviously also the G-d of earth. Yet, this dominion was hidden and in theory only. After the inhabitant's of the earth became cognizant of Hashem's presence, the manner of His dominion changed along with it. His divine intervention became clearer and there was a greater level of he'aras panim gracing the earth.

Chazal tell us, "As long as the wicked are in the world, [Hashem's] wrath is in the world" (Sanhedrin 111b). Hashem's wrath refers to the state of hester panim, where His countenance is hidden. The consequences of hester panim are manifested in numerous ways, including the destruction wreaked upon the generations prior to Avraham. The world was entirely destroyed during the flood, sans a handful of survivors, and not too long thereafter all the nations were dispersed to the four corners of the earth. By changing the way people perceived Hashem, Avraham succeeded in changing Hashem's relationship with the world. Until that point, Hashem related to the world through the middah of din - strict judgment. From then on began an era of he'aras panim, when Hashem began to interact through themiddah of chesed.

This concept is not limited to the behavior of the generations of our forefathers; it holds true in the twenty first century as well. Directly proportionate to our relationship to Hashem, is the bond that He creates with us. If our tefillos are mumbled halfheartedly or while still half asleep, Hashem's response might also be unenthusiastic. However, if we are passionate about our Judaism and make an attempt to infuse our avodas Hashem with enthusiasm and excitement, then we can look forward to a more intimate relationship with our Creator. Why not try it. Strengthen your commitment in any given area of avodas Hashem. You might be astounded by the Heavenly assistance you receive in that area!

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