Friday, October 30, 2015

VaYeira 5632 First Ma'amar

Iyov said, “וְאַחַר עוֹרִי נִקְּפוּ זֹאת וּמִבְּשָׂרִי אֶחֱזֶה אֱ-לוֹהַּ/After my skin was stricken they pierced this, and from my flesh I perceive God.” (Iyov 19:26)  The Midrash in this week’s parsha attributes these words to Avraham Avinu as well.  Avraham Avinu continues, “If I had not circumcised myself how would God have been revealed to me?” (Breishis R. 48:2)

Why is God’s revelation to Avraham Avinu dependent upon his circumcision?  Furthermore, God spoke to Avraham several times before he was circumcised.  What, then, is the meaning of Avraham Avinu’s statement that he received revelation only after the circumcision?

The Sfas Emes explains.  The Creation was not a one time act.  The act of creation is constant and continuing.  There is a spiritual force emanating from God which gives continued existence to every facet of the Creation.  Revealing this point of spirituality – by believing it is there – is in essence revealing God’s presence in the world. 

Avraham Avinu first realized this when he was commanded to circumcise himself.  The removal of the foreskin represents the removal of the outer physical shell hiding God’s presence.  When it is removed, God’s presence is automatically revealed.  This realization prompted him to declare, “... וּמִבְּשָׂרִי אֶחֱזֶה אֱ-לוֹהַּ/… from my flesh I perceive God.”  Avraham Avinu is not referring only to God’s revelation in his immediate prophecy.  He is rather referring to his perception of God’s revelation in the entire Creation.

This is why the first pasuk of the parsha states, “וַיֵּרָא אֵלָיו .../He appeared to him …” (Breishis 18:1) instead of “וַיֵּרָא ה' אֶל־אַבְרָם .../God appeared to Avrum” (Breishis 12:7) as the pasuk states when God spoke to him earlier before the circumcision.  “וַיֵּרָא אֵלָיו .../He appeared to him …” is more general.  The pasuk is telling us that God’s presence concealed in every part of Creation, giving life to every part of Creation, was now revealed to him.

The idea that there is a life giving spark of Godliness concealed in every part of the Creation is alluded to by the first word of the parsha, “וַיֵּרָא/He appeared.”  This word is closely related to, “וַיַּרְא/He saw.”  In the description of the Creation at the beginning of parshas Breishis, as each stage of Creation comes to a close we find the declaration, “וַיַּרְא אֱ-לֹהִים כִּי־טוֹב/God saw that it was good.” (Breishis 1:4,10,12,18,21,25)  Finally when the entire Creation is complete the pasuk tells us, “וַיַּרְא אֱ-לֹהִים אֶת־כָּל־אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה וְהִנֵּה־טוֹב מְאֹד .../God saw all that he had done and behold it was very good …” (Breishis 1:31)  The Sfas Emes explains that the first part of each of these pesukim caused the second part.  Everything that God created was good because He saw it.  God bestows “good”/life upon His Creation by observing it.  It is God’s observation or Providence which gives continued and stable existence to the Creation[1]

We see this concept clearly in the deeper meaning of the pasuk referring to God’s Providence upon the land of Israel, “... תָּמִיד עֵינֵי ה' אֱ-לֹהֶיךָ בָּה .../… God’s eyes are constantly upon it...”  (Devarim 11:12)  The land of Israel is the point from which life extends to the entire world.  The reason that life and existence extend to the entire world from the land of Israel is because God’s Providence is always upon it. 

The circumcision is a metaphor for revealing God’s presence in the world.  This is, in fact, our mission on Earth.  When we recognize this and apply this recognition to our daily activities, we are, so to speak, removing the physical shell that conceals God’s presence.  We, thus, reveal God’s presence in the world.

[1]               See too Ramban (Breishis 1:4),  "אבל הסדר במעשה בראשית כי הוצאת הדברים אל הפועל יקרא אמירה ... וקיומם יקרא ראיה וכו'" 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

He appeared to him (18:1) "is more general"

this helps with a kashye that arises if the three melachim took on
the appearance of Mamre, Eshkol & Aner-- why call them "anashim" (18:2),
men, when to Avraham they would have been familiar faces? if it were
those three who manifested, wouldn't the text have referred to them by name?

Avraham foresaw the three Amorite brothers standing over him (nitzavim
alav), due to confront him about his new deal/bris with God-- "does
this mean that our old alliance/bris (14:13) is annulled? are we now
uncircumcised outsiders, or even your enemies??"

the disguise of the angels, and the GENERALISED reference to the trio
("men" rather than Mamre etc...), gave the newly visionary ("was now
revealed to him") Avraham the opportunity to generously relate,
as it were, to EVERYMAN, to ALL THE WORLD-- he rushed to reassure the
three, with great deference, that all was well, that an ayin tova*
feast was in order; his own providential eye, seeking to bestow
"'good'/life", presently observed them (he stood over them, 18:8):
all men everywhere, in "every part" of the world, could & would be
reached, if circumstance warrant, by the darchei shalom** of he and his

*this from a man who knew that his three cohorts would likely help
to father an iniquitous & obstructive nation (15:16,21)!

**Hashem followed Avraham's lead ("walk before me", 17:1), and demonstrated
in His turn (at 18:13) a tactic permitted for the sake of shalom bayis