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Browse Torah Articles: Sefer Beresheet: Parashat Vayera: Fear and Love Hashem

Contributed by: R. Eric Mizrahi

Untitled Document

In this weeks parasha, we read of one of the most difficult tests for Abraham Avinu, the commandment he received to place his son on the altar, and seemingly sacrifice him to the Almighty. One of the loudest verses in the entire episode, is the silence of Abraham when he received the commandment. We read:

וַיְהִי אַחַר הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה וְהָאֱלֹקים נִסָּה אֶת אַבְרָהָם וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו אַבְרָהָם וַיֹּאמֶר הִנֵּנִי
וַיֹּאמֶר קַח נָא אֶת בִּנְךָ אֶת יְחִידְךָ אֲשֶׁר אָהַבְתָּ אֶת יִצְחָק וְלֶךְ לְךָ אֶל אֶרֶץ הַמֹּרִיָּה וְהַעֲלֵהוּ שָׁם לְעֹלָה עַל אַחַד הֶהָרִים אֲשֶׁר אֹמַר אֵלֶיךָ
וַיַּשְׁכֵּם אַבְרָהָם בַּבֹּקֶר וַיַּחֲבֹשׁ אֶת חֲמֹרוֹ וַיִּקַּח אֶת שְׁנֵי נְעָרָיו אִתּוֹ וְאֵת יִצְחָק בְּנוֹ וַיְבַקַּע עֲצֵי עֹלָה וַיָּקָם וַיֵּלֶךְ אֶל הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר אָמַר לוֹ הָאֱלֹקִים

Abraham is asked to do the virtual impossible, and SAYS NOTHING.
Or is Abraham in his silence saying everything?

We need to understand that Abraham could have prayed to Hashem in any number of ways, and even made valid claims- for example, Hashem had just told him in last weeks parasha, that כי ביצחק יקרא לך זרע it is with Yissaq that Abrahams legacy will continue. How can Hashem command Abraham to do something that contradicts what Hashem had told him earlier?
Indeed, Abraham could have argued on many fronts, but instead he remained silent and awoke early to due the request of Hashem.

Interestingly, we have another story in this weeks parasha where, not only does Abraham NOT remain silent, but he uses all of his abilities to pray and overturn a Divine Decree. We read over ten verses devoted to a passionate plea from Abraham to save Sedom and Amorah. One would not have been surprised if Abraham remained silent here, for Abraham always advocated that one should have a relationship with the Creator, while the inhabitants of Sedom and Amorah did the opposite. However, this is not what we see. Abraham always disassociates the sin from the sinner. He wanted the cities to be saved, but the sins to be removed and vanquished from their livelihood. It is for this reason that Abraham prays on their behalf.

So, for strangers Abraham is willing to go the extra mile, for the betterment of themselves and society overall. However, when it comes to his own personal difficulties, namely, being commanded to sacrifice his only son, he is silent, accepting of his own personal path toward spiritual heights.

This phenomenon by Abraham Avinu is similar to the actions we see later in the Torah by Moshe Rabenu. When Moshe had to pray for the nation of Yisrael after Het Haegel, Moshe implored Hashem for forty days and forty nights, until Hashem assured him סלחתי כדברך however, when Moshe Rabenu prayed for his sister Miryam who was plagued with saraat, all he said was א-ל נא רפא נא לה five simple words: Hashem please, heal her mercifully. That was it.
What is true for Moshe Rabenu is true for Abraham Avinu as well. We could be so bold to say that Abraham Avinu laid the foundation for all those who came after him, including Moshe Rabenu.

Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik takes Abraham Avinus silence into a new realm. Immediately preceding the Akedah, Avraham had a situation with Avimelech, the king of Gerar. Avimelech, being told that Sarah was Abrahams sister, took her to his palace. Hashem reveals himself to Avimelech in a dream and tells him that the woman that he claimed, was a married woman. When Avimelech inquires from Abraham, as to why he lied about Sarahs status. Abraham Avinu then tells him: ויאמר אברהם כי אמרתי רק אין יראת אלקים במקום הזה And Abraham said For I thought, only there is no fear of the Lord in this place. Avimelech returns Sarah to Abraham, and gives Abraham gifts and wealth.

Oddly enough, we read that Abraham stayed in Gerar for many days. How could Abraham stay in a place where he doubted the level of fear the inhabitants have of Hashem? Rav Soloveitchik says that this is why Abraham needed to be additionally tested to see his level of fear of the Almighty, and this is why when given the commandment to sacrifice Yisshaq, Abraham accepted, and did not protest in any way. This is also why after the Akedah, the malakh tells Abraham, עתה ידעתי כי ירא אלקים אתה I know now that you are God fearing.

Fear of God and love of God are the two fundamental attitudes one needs in approaching the Almighty. We learn in Pirqe Avt that Abraham passed all ten tests he was exposed to, to show his LOVE for Hashem. Only an individual who combines both can become the father of the Jewish nation. We hope our actions will present us as those who love and both fear Hashem.

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