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"Bring Me a Higher Love!"

10/24/2018 12:11:53 PM


Rabbi Reuben Israel Abraham, CDR, CHC, USN (ret)

In this week's parashah, Parashat VaYeira, we find the story of Akeidat Yitzchak (the Binding of Yitzchak).  This story is read twice: in its "proper place" as part of the weekly Torah readings and on the second day of Rosh Hashanah.  The story relates how Hashem "tests" Avraham by asking him to bring his beloved son Yitzchak up to Mount Moriah (i.e.- the Temple Mount) and offer him up as an "olah" (an elevated burnt offering).  Because Avraham willingly acceded to Hashem's command, our tradition teaches us that he passed the "test."  Our commentators ask why HaShem had to "test" Avraham in the first place.  Because, they say, HaShem is omniscient (all knowing), He already knew that Avraham would pass the test.  Why should Avraham have had to go through such an anguish-producing "test?"  After all, had not HaShem already promised Avraham that Yitzchak would carry the "mantle" handed to him by his father?

One answer to the question of "Why?" is given by the Ramban who said that Hashem tested Avraham in this way so that "dei lehotzi mei-ha-koach el haoel."  The "test" helped Avraham take what he believed and put it into action.  Rabbi Yaakov Neuberger, a Rosh Yeshivah at Yeshiva University, cites this verse from Sefer Devarim (the Book of Deuteronomy) as an explanation of the Ramban: "Hashem has tested you in order for you to know if you love Hashem your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul." (13:4)  The "test" was meant for Avraham to see for himself how much he loved HaShem; HaShem already knew this.

The same is true for us when we perform "mitzvot" (the duties of the Torah).  Using the Ramban's reasoning, Hashem "tests" us by commanding us to perform mitzvot so that we can feel good about ourselves and show our love of HaShem.  The more mitzvot we do, the more our souls are enlarged and the more spiritual we become ultimately growing closer to Hashem.  In fact, as opposed to the more common way of viewing mitzvot completion, our Rabbis encourage us to perform as many mitzvot as possible rather than doing an entire mitzvah all at once.  For example, it is better to give ten different people a single dollar than to give one poor person ten dollars.  The more mitzvot we do, the more we actually live our spirituality.  And the more we perform actual physical actions in service of HaShem, the closer we come to HaShem.

Avraham understood that the way to bring about a greater love of HaShem was to take what he believed in his heart and in his soul and put it into action. His actions of carrying out HaShem's command proved to himself that his love of HaShem was even greater than he realized.  We must do all that we can to be like Avraham so that we can bring a higher love of HaShem to Hashem, for ultimately that is what He wants from us.

Wed, August 21 2019 20 Av 5779