I. Stories of Tzaddikim*
1. ‘That he will command his children and the members of his household after him to keep the way of HaShem*, in order that HaShem should bring upon Avraham what He had promised’ (Bereishis* 18.19) I heard an explanation of the verse, ‘Then those who feared HaShem spoke to each other; and HaShem listened and He heard, and wrote in the book of remembrance before Him of those who fear HaShem and heed His name.’ The meaning of the words ‘they spoke’ cannot be understood in this verse. The Baal Shem Tov once explained the reason for the customs surrounding the yortzheit (which is the anniversary of the death of one’s father or mother.) On the day of their death the souls of one’s father and mother are judged if they are worthy to ascend to a higher level in the world above. Each year before the soul can ascend, it is judged on lesser and lesser significant actions that had been done by it in this world. For this reason there is a custom for the children to fast on that day, and to give charity in order to add merits to the soul of his father or mother in the world above. This is because ‘a son can bring merit to his father’ (Sanhedrin* 104a). If the soul of his parents had previously purified themselves in this world so that there is nothing else for them to be judged for in the next world, it is not possible for them to rise to higher levels. [Since there is nothing left over for which to judge them, they cannot be raised higher then they merited from the previous judgement.] The only way that they can be raised to higher levels is if their descendants will remember their many merits, and the good deeds that they had done in this world. Then they will be able to rise from one level to the next. This is the meaning of the verse. ‘Then those who feared HaShem spoke one to the other’. This means that each one spoke to the other about the actions of the those who feared HaShem, and remembered his good deeds that were done in this world. ‘And HaShem listened and He heard, and wrote in the book of remembrance before Him’. This means that the deeds of those who feared HaShem were remembered by HaShem. This happened because in this world they told stories of the deeds of these people. And from this their souls were raised up higher in the world above. ‘Of those who … heed His name.’ This means that those people who related these stories about the good deeds, the customs and the ways of servicing HaShem of those who fear HaShem are considered as those who heed His name. They are remembered before HaShem because by recalling the merits of the Tzaddikim they cause their souls to be raised up higher in the world above. (p. 237 Sefer Baal Shem Tov teachings of the Baal Shem Tov. This is from the sefer Peri Chaim from Rebbe* Avraham Chaim of Zlotchov) * * * II. Serving HaShem in ones youth. 2. ‘And Avraham rose up in the morning’ (Bereishis 22.3) I heard it said in the name of Rabbi Yosef the Rov* of Nimerov, that in general when one is in his younger years he spends more time with the foolish things of this world, and with following after his physical desires. However when he gets older he begins to regret the evil that he did when he was young and does tshuva*. He said that one needs to elevate those days and nights that were spent in sin. This is done by recalling the enthusiasm that he had when he did those sins and taking that enthusiasm and using it to learn Torah* and serve HaShem. It is impossible for one in his youth to fully serve HaShem only for His sake alone without some other motive. However if one wants to do tshuva, as I said above, then he will elevate those days when he served for ulterior motives together with those which were for HaShem’s sake. They shall all be considered as merits, when he does tshuva from love of HaShem. This is what it means that ‘Avraham rose up in the morning.’ ‘In the morning’, in his youth. He rose up and ‘and he saddled his donkey’, i.e. he restrained his physical nature and did not give in to his desires. ‘And he took the two youths’, i.e. the days and years of his youth he took with him. All those days that he served HaShem he took with him and made them merits. (p. 69 sefer Mayim Rabim teachings of Rebbe Mechel of Zlotchov.) * * * III. The mitzvah* of having guests 3. ‘And he stood over them, under a tree, and they ate ‘ (Bereishis 18.8) I heard in the name of the Yid HaKodesh ZT’L* that we need to understand why it was that Avraham stood by the angels when they were eating. If he wasn’t eating with them, it really isn’t good manners to stand by and watch when they eat. He explained that being an angel has an advantage and a disadvantage, and likewise being a man has an advantage and a disadvantage. The angels stand on one level in their service of HaShem and cannot fall, this is an advantage for them. However it is a disadvantage in that they cannot go from one level to a higher level in service of HaShem. A man on the other hand can rise from one level to another. But, on the other hand, they have the disadvantage that they can fall from their level and sin. However it is an advantage for men, to be able to go from one level to a higher level in the service of HaShem, which is something an angel cannot achieve. If one fulfills the mitzvah of having guests in the proper manner, one acquires the good midos* of the guest. We know that everyone has good midos that his fellowman does not have. If one fulfills the mitzvah of having guests and he serves them as is proper, he will learn the good midos and advantages of his guests. [This is because by observing them, one can learn from them.] That is the meaning that ‘he stood above them’, he acquired the midos of the angels that they are on a single level all the time and do not ever fall from that level. That is what it means, ‘above them’, he was at a level higher then the angels. This was because he had the advantage of being able to rise from one level to the other in service of HaShem, and at this time he acquired from them the level of ‘standing’ and not falling from his level of service of HaShem. Therefore he was greater then they were, [being able to both go from one level to another, and being able to ‘stand’ and not fall from that level.] (p. 114 sefer Kedushas HaYehudi teachings of the Yid HaKodesh of Peshischa) * * * IV. Turn evil to good 4. ‘And HaShem appeared to him by the trees of Mamre, and he sat by the door of the tent in the heat of the day ‘ (Bereishis 18.1) The verse says one should, ‘turn from evil and do good.’ The meaning is that HaShem created the world that there should be both good and evil so that people would have a choice. There are some things in the world that are only good with no mixture of evil, like the positive mitzvos of the Torah [i.e. those things which HaShem has commanded to do]. Likewise, there are some things that are evil without any mixture of good, like the negative mitzvos of the Torah [i.e. those things which HaShem has forbidden to do]. However there are some things that can be either. It is possible to do them and it should be ‘good’ and also one can do them and it will be ‘evil’. One’s service of HaShem with these acts, is to remove any ‘evil’ that there might be in them. For example, if one has feelings of ‘love’ or ‘fear’ he should not use them for things that are foreign to the service of HaShem and not associated with HaShem. He should use them to serve HaShem. The same is with all those things one is allowed to eat or drink. He should use them to serve HaShem, as Chazal* say, ‘make yourself holy in those things which are permitted (i.e. not commanded) for you.’ This is what David meant, ‘turn from evil and DO good’, i.e. that you should turn the evil to good and elevate those actions in the service of HaShem. That is what the verse says, ‘And HaShem appeared to him by the trees of Mamre’. The word ‘Mamre’ is similar to the word ‘You are rebellious [Heb Mamrim] to HaShem you G-d.’ This means that Avraham caused those things that could be considered ‘rebellion’ into a service of HaShem. He turned them from being evil into the level of ‘do good’. How did he get to that level? The verse continues, ‘he sat by the door of the tent’. This is according to the meaning of the verse, ‘This is the gate of HaShem only the Tzaddikim can enter.’ This means that he truthfully had faith and fear of HaShem. And from that he merited that HaShem should be revealed to him also in the level of ‘the trees of Mamre’. I.e. in those things that can also be used for evil. He turned those acts from the level of ‘turn from evil’ into ‘do good’ (p. 25 sefer Ner Yisroel teachings of Rebbe Yisroel of Rizhin and his children. This was from Rebbe Avraham Yaakov of
Sadagura son of the Rizhiner.)
Arizal: Hebrew initials of the words: Adoni Rabbenu Yitzchok Zechorono LeVaracha our master Rabbi Yitzchok. Better known as Yitzchok Luria the great 16th century Kabbalist
Baal Tshuva (Baalei Tshuva): Hebrew for someone who is a repentant sinner.
Bamidbar: Fourth book of the Torah. Called in English Numbers
Chazal: Hebrew initials for: Chochmenu Zichrona Levaracha (Our sages of Blessed memory) Used to refer to Rabbis of the Talmud
Chesed: Hebrew word meaning acts of mercy
Drash: A method of Biblical interpretation ascribing moral or ethical meaning to verses in the Torah.
HaShem: Noun used in place of G-d. Lit. The Name
mikvah: Hebrew word referring to a ritual bath used for purification
Mishnah: An ancient Jewish work made of specific laws.
Moshe Rabbeinu: Hebrew for Moses our teacher. A common Jewish way of referring to Moses.
Or HaChaim: Jewish Torah commentary
Rashi: The primary commentary on the Tenach.
Rebbe: Leader of a Chassidic group or a teacher
Rebbe Reb: A title added to a few special Rebbes as a sign of their higher spiritual stature.
remez: A method of Biblical interpretation based on finding hints in the Torah for various concepts.
Rov: An official rabbi who renders legal decisions. Many of the Rebbes were both a Rebbe of Chasidim, and the Rov of the city in which they lived.
Sanhedrin: 1. Tractate in the Talmud 2. Name of the highest level of the Jewish court system.
sefer (seforim): A Jewish religious book.
Talmud: An ancient work of Jewish law.
Tehillim: Hebrew name for Psalms.
Torah: a. First 5 books of the Jewish Bible b. Also refers to the whole of Jewish law c. also common term for a chassidic teaching
Tshuva: Hebrew word for repentance
Copyright (c) 1997 by Moshe Shulman ([email protected]) All rights reserved.
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