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Vayeira(Genesis 18-22)

Five Ways to Look Deeper

In Genesis 18:1, God is speaking to Abraham. Yet when three strangers walk by, Abraham leaves God's presence to offer them assistance. Why would Abraham go away from God?

In Abraham's mind, there is no such thing as "leaving God's presence" - since the Infinite permeates all existence. You can't really leave God, as Adam found out when he hid from God, and Jonah found out when he tried to flee from Him.

Life is all about choosing which way to become one with God at every turn. Abraham was communicating with God, but when an opportunity came along to emulate God, he saw that as a greater degree of connection with God than even a direct communication.

Don't be fooled by the superficial. Don't forget that the Infinite is behind all experiences and actions.

* * *

HOLIDAYS IN PERSPECTIVE

In Genesis 18:6, Abraham tells Sarah to hurry when making the grain product for the strangers. A Midrash says that this took place on Passover and Abraham was telling Sarah not to let the dough rise. A similar commentary says that Lot, when he made matzah for the strangers that came to him (Genesis 19:3), was also honoring Passover.

How could these sources suggest that a holiday which commemorates the Exodus from Egypt - a historical event that would happen hundreds of years later - is celebrated by earlier biblical figures?!

The early sages say that each holiday the Torah mentions has a spiritual reality, a deeper impact on our soul that is not related to the historical event per se, but rooted in the spiritual underpinnings of the universe. Therefore, whether or not they knew about the later historical events, our forefathers celebrated the spiritual impact of all the holidays.

* * *

EMULATE NOT IMITATE

Abraham did kindness with strangers. Lot, who learned from him, did similar kindness with strangers. Abraham was a holy man who became a patriarch of the nation of Israel, yet Lot barely made it out of Sodom, had incest with his daughters, and faded into obscurity. Why didn't Lot become great like Abraham?

It seems to be that Lot only looked at the superficial aspects of Abraham's service to God. Lot saw kindness and imitated, yet he didn't understand that the essence of Abraham's approach was to become one with the Infinite. Lot saw the outward trappings of righteousness, but didn't fathom the inner work that real spirituality requires.

* * *

ISAAC VS. ISHMAEL

There is also the case of Isaac and Ishmael. They were both sons of Abraham, a holy man. They both lived with him and learned from him.

Brit Milah, the covenant through circumcision, is something that both children of Abraham perform to this day. Yet the "Brit Olam," the covenant of the nation of Israel, was only for Isaac. Ishmael is blessed with wealth and power, but the eternal Jewish covenant goes through Abraham and only to Isaac. Why the difference?

Isaac emulated Abraham and continued the relationship with God, building on the foundation that Abraham laid. It takes a special energy to establish continuity to the philosophy of life expressed by Abraham.

* * *

PROBLEM OR DIVINE TEST

The Sages tell us that the essential ingredients of Abraham's character were developed by way of ten divine tests.

Abraham needed these tests in order to reach his spiritual potential. To a less elevated person, these trials may have merely looked like problems to avoid. Things to take a pill to remove, or about which to seek counseling to alleviate the guilt.

Our challenges and difficulties are not random. They are designed with great precision. Every divine test has three important aspects: (a) a challenge, (b) a lesson, and (c) an opportunity. Abraham was not only able to act successfully with all of his tests, but moreover, he was able to see in them a deeper benefit.

* * *

Spiritual Exercise:

Over the next week, notice a particular challenge and analyze it. What is the challenge? What is the lesson you need to learn from it? And what is the opportunity for spiritual growth?

Published: October 22, 2008

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Visitor Comments: 3

(3) Anonymous, November 2, 2012 9:36 PM

look deeper and deeper and deeper...... Hope you and your family are well. Thanks for sharing this article with us. Eileen

(2) philip white, November 11, 2008 10:11 PM

Will we be tested again?

Lets say you where tested and you beleave you had falled the test. Does g-d give you anther test, or maybe what you said that we have not learned what we need to from the test and well be tested again when .

(1) Michal Evenari, November 10, 2008 9:06 AM

That was new for me...

I always thought, that to communicate with God is the highest of all possibilities to become one with Him. You write, that to emulate God is greater degree of connection, greater than even a direct communication. I didn't know that. So I must not feel disturbed, when I am praying and somebody (children or grandchildren) want something from me. Thank you for teaching me!!!

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