Parshat Vayeira: Two Paths of Serving Hashem

21 10 2010

Based on a shiur on Chassidut by Rabbi Hershel Reichman

Hashem tells Avraham in Parshat Lech Lecha, after the mitzvah of milah, that he will have a child. The Shem MiShmuel asks, why does Hashem deem it necessary to send an angel in this week’s parsha, Parshat Vayeira, to relay the news again? In addition, what is the connection between these two seemingly unrelated revelations – milah and the birth of Yitzchak?

The world rests on two fundamental pillars: chesed (kindness) and din (judgement). Sometimes there is chesed and other times din. The forces of nature that support life are all expressions of Hashem’s chesed. Avraham was the embodiment of chesed. Although the people of S’dom were wicked, he passionately prayed for them. Hashem loved Avraham, Ish Ha’chesed.

However, He gave him the mitzvah of milah. On the surface this commandment looks cruel and painful. Avraham was told to do an act of din. He needed to learn that although the world is grounded on chesed, it also needs din to survive. S’dom had to be destroyed because the world cannot tolerate absolute evil forever. Avraham needed to learn that unbridled love can be devastating. Therefore his prayers failed. On his personal being, he had to undergo milah, a painful mitzvah. This was because Avraham, the epitome of chesed, needed to pick up an element of din in order to become tamim – perfect. Therefore, Hashem told him about the birth of Yitzchak immediately
after milah.

Yitzchak represents din. He is defined by the akeidah – strict judgment and complete adherence to Hashem’s will. He was willing to forfeit his life in a seemingly senseless sacrifice to fulfill Hashem’s command. That is why when Avraham accepted the mitzvah of milah – an element of din, Hashem informed him about the birth of Yitzchak who is also din.

With Yitzchak we see a reversal of din to chesed. Yitzchak’s name comes from the root word, “tzechok” – laughter. Making people happy is an expression of kindness. Hashem wanted Yitzchak to acquire an element of chesed.

We need to maintain a balance of both of these attributes in our lives. Din without chesed can turn into cruelty. Chesed without din can be distorted. Chassidut teaches that this is the connection between right and left, water and fire. Water is chesed, fire is din. Water gives life, fire destroys. Yet the world needs both to exist. Right is chesed, left is din. The right side is stronger than the left. We need more chesed than din.

Avraham was chesed. Sarah was din. The combination of both of their attributes made them into the great couple that they were. Avraham could not reject anyone. Sarah therefore had to tell him to send away Yishmael. However since Sarah was din, she also needed some chesed. Therefore Hashem sent another message about the birth of Yitzchak with the angel in the context of chesed and hachnasas orchim. Avraham prepared the red meat, which signifies din. Sarah prepared the white bread and milk, which symbolizes chesed.

Let us try to imbue our lives with a balance of din and chesed, and with this may we merit to reach the level of Avraham, “V’hit’halech lifanei v’heyei tamim” – to walk before Hashem and reach perfection.



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