Thursday, November 09, 2006

Vayera by Reb Jay

In this week’s parsha, the Torah records the incident of the Akeidah, the binding of Yitzchok. This story holds a place of paramount importance in Judaism. It is the truest act of devotion to Hashem that indicates that, even in circumstances that appear to be beyond our understanding, we should still place our trust in Hashem.

Every aspect of this narrative has many lessons and ramifications for future generations. It is no exaggeration to say that from these verses, we can understand our destiny.

Let us focus on the latter part of the story, after Avraham had already been told by Hashem to lay down his knife and not to slaughter Yitzchok.

The Torah tells us: “And Avraham raised his eyes and saw a ram afterwards, caught in the thicket by its horns” (Bereshis 22:13).

There a few obvious questions on this verse. What does it mean by “afterwards”? Furthermore, what is the significance of the ram being caught in the thicket?

The Midrash tells us (Bereshis Rabbah) that the word “afterwards” contains a hint to the future. When the Children of Israel sin, they can repair their fractured relationship with Hashem afterwards by blowing the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah. The Gemara (Yerushalmi Ta’anis Chapter 4 Law 2) explains that when we are entangled by our sins, and get caught in the web of the Babylonians, Greeks, Persians and Romans (the four exiles we are to endure), we will be redeemed with the sound of the ram’s horn.

Similarly on an individual level, just as the ram was entangled in the thicket, when we are entangled by our sins, we free ourselves through offering ourselves up to Hashem (in a figurative, not literal manner) just as this ram was offered up to Hashem.

The ram seen by Avraham and ultimately sacrificed is listed in Pirkei Avos (Chapter 5 Mishna 6) as being one of the things created at dusk between the sixth and seventh day of creation.

The Midrash tells us that Hashem always creates the antidote before He creates the sickness. The reason this ram was created, then, is because the ram’s horn, the Shofar, is used not only on Rosh Hashanah, as a tool to accept the Kingship of Hashem, but also to herald the receiving of the Torah, and to announce the coming of the Moshiach. Even as mankind may suffer personal exiles due to their sins, or when the Jewish people are undergoing a national exile, the antidote — the Shofar and the subservience to Hashem it represents — has already been created.

When Avraham saw the ram caught in the thicket, this ram had been waiting for him for two thousand years. Why didn’t Avraham see it immediately? The Midrash tells us that the Soton hid it from Avraham. But when Avraham performed the will of Hashem, he was no longer able to hide it. The Soton, especially in his role as our evil inclination, is the master of obfuscation, but as long as we do the will of Hashem, his tricks are unable to deceive us.

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