Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Fwd: Sacrifice and the Knife

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Date: Fri, Oct 30, 2015 at 3:52 PM
Subject: Sacrifice and the Knife

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CHODESH Cheshvan
Parshas Lech Lecha
Chabad Chai Center Newsletter

Shabbat begins Friday, 30 Oct 2015 at 5:34 PM
Shabbat ends Saturday, 31 Oct 2015 at 6:33 PM
in White Plains 
Parashat Vayera

Vision and Revelation

The Torah portion Vayeira, the Hebrew word for revelation, begins by stating that "G-d revealed Himself to him [Avraham] in the Plains of Mamrei...." The Zohar notes that, prior to Avraham's circumcision, he could only encounter G-d in a "bamachazeh" - the Aramaic word for vision. After his circumcision, he attained such a lofty state that G-d clearly revealed Himself to him - vayeira.

Clearly, it was the act of circumcision that brought about this radical change in Avraham, so that he became able to see G-d Himself. What was it about circumcision that brought about this transformation?
The difference in the spiritual quality of Avraham before and after his circumcision will be understood by considering the explanation provided by Chassidus regarding the difference between Hebrew and other languages, which is likened to the difference between stones and bricks.

The basic difference between these two materials lies in the fact that stones are a heavenly creation while bricks are created by man. The same difference exists in languages, and in the letters and words from whence language is "built."
The Hebrew letters, the letters of the Torah, are heavenly - likened to stones, for the Torah itself is of Divine origin. However, the letters and words of other languages are compared to bricks, for all other languages are entirely artificial - people got together and agreed that particular words would convey certain meanings.

The difference in Avraham before and after his circumcision will be understood accordingly. Until G-d commanded Avraham to perform the mitzvah of circumcision, all of Avraham's service was entirely self-motivated, without command - and thus empowerment - from Above. As such, his service was necessarily limited, for a created being can only reach so high.4
Once G-d commanded Avraham to circumcise himself, he was empowered from Above with the ability to unite with the Almighty through the performance of a boundless G-dly commandment, thereby enabling him to reach infinitely higher.

Moreover, performing the mitzvah of circumcision also had the effect of wholly nullifying Avraham and uniting him with G-d, for the commandment of circumcision possesses a quality possessed by no other mitzvah - it is performed upon the person's body itself, so that the physical body is aware of its nullification and unification with G-d.
Thus, the level of Avraham's service prior to the mitzvah of circumcision was similar to "bricks;" it was man-made, and thus necessarily limited. Only after he acted in response to the commandment to circumcise himself did his level of service rise to that of "stones" - accomplished through and empowered by the limitless force of the Divine.

This is also why Avraham's level prior to circumcision was only that of "bamachazeh," for it was similar to man-made bricks. With circumcision, however, Avraham attained Vayeira, the Hebrew word for revelation, similar to "stones" that derive from heaven.

Before Avraham was circumcised, i.e., before he reached total unity with G-dliness, he was only able to view G-d through the veil of a vision, while afterwards, he was able to view a clear and lucid revelation of Essence.
As "the deeds of our forefathers serve as a lesson to their descendants," there is a lesson here for us all:

Just as Avraham failed to reach the highest levels until he performed the mitzvah of circumcision, so too are we to know that we must never be satisfied with our current level of spiritual service, but must always attempt to reach higher; even when one apprehends G-dliness, it may be merely on the level of a "vision."

On the other hand, we are assured that when a person serves as best he can with his own power, he will ultimately receive the most lofty degrees of revelation - up to and including the supreme revelation of vayeira.

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. X, pp. 50-54

Dear Friends,

Only a lack of  mindful attention or  stubborn scorn  can blind one to  today's  news stream's obvious  but frightful nexus of Divine Providence. 

This Shabbos, pashas Vayera, recounts the famous incident of "the binding of Yitzchok 
( Issac)". After being told great news last week that Avraham  and Sarah would have a son ( who would carry his legacy from there on in for eternity) , he is now told to take his son's life. 

It is not an easy scene to imagine. 

Yitzchok's hands and feet are tied. If you have been to Jerusalem and the Kotel, where nearby this  took place, then you agree there must have been a constant cool breeze blowing, a bright  sun and the the quiet movement of the  added a  pristine tranquil element.   Yet a  man " of kindness" - as Avraham is described to be -   holds  a large knife in his hand  to slaughter his own son!

The location is important. G-d chose for Avrahom to sacrifice his beloved son on a mountain top in the Holy Land promised to him to live and flourish in! This was the very  place where Adam , the first man was created from. It is the same spot in which Noach offered his sacrifice, celebrating his being saved from the flood. It is the same location in which Shlomo built the Beis Hamikdosh, the Temple.

Today is  a different chapter in this  thousands year old story that our parsha speaks of. 

However, the Temple is covered over with two thousands years of history and the script has been tampered with. 

However, the sacrifices remain. In this week of Veyera 5776, the knife has moved . Jewish leadership vehemently proclaim they have no intention of "possessing" the mountain top and promises not to change its status - for fear that such a sacrifice would be disastrous. Muslims hold a knife willing to slaughter Jewish citizens in an instant ( G-d forbid) in retaliation for just the thought of making Avraham' place  "Jewish." 

A lot of drama that swirls about this  mountain upon which Avraham willingly brought his son to die on. Not unlike the birds of the Western Wall, it circles about in the sun and wind that is uniquely Jerusalem. 

Three thousand years of prime real estate is quite a track record.

The question is, what are we to do about it all?

Light On! Learn On! Moshiach On!

Rabbi Reuven Flamer

b mikdosh

The Jewish people have three founding fathers and four mothers who established the nation's character and  focus. This week we read of the incredible self sacrifice of Avraham Aveenu 
( Abraham our father) who displayed the most extreme example of putting aside his personality and nature , who took a knife to the status quo.

Avraham personified Chesed, kindness. He indiscriminately gave freely to everyone and anyone, with no consideration of deservedness or the  possible misuse by the recipients. He was the quintessential man who loved and gave unconditionally.

Then he was asked by G-d to literally sacrifice his own son Yitzchak. "  Please take your only son, that you love" and go  to Har Moriah ( The mountain of Moriah, the place where the Temple would eventually rest). 

Though in the end Yitzchak was not sacrificed and was replaced by a ram, Avraham was willing and able to carry out the command;  despite that it made no sense, and it defied a previous promise that  Yitzchak was to be  his inheritor and  pass on to the world through him  everything that Avraham had worked for. 

What super human strength it must have taken  to hold the natural love and  kindness back and do it's ultimate opposite! How  unfathomable that he was able to trust in a G-d that was asking to commit what was in all accounts a " heinous" act. 

It is thisAbraham loving kindness, his speed to act with  sacrifice by  putting himself on the side, why  the story of the Akeida, the binding of Yitzchak , Issac, is read each morning when we set out to connect to G-d in our morning prayers. When a Jew connects to the infinite power of G-d, he or she has infinite strength for self sacrifice and  he or she can be the source for infinite kindness too. 
and to alert and arouse ourselves to these inner potentials of taking a knife to our nature.  

The call for sacrifice occurs in every generation. It is the challenge to raise above our nature, to stick to principles, and to live up to the expectations of the millions  that came before us. Jews are sons and daughters of Avraham ( and converts as well) and we too have what it takes to follow his footsteps.

We each carry a the Knife of sacrifice.

The Sacrifice Knife

The story of Avraham and the binding of Yitzchak ended relatively well. But what would I say had G-d not sent the angel to tell him to stop ( which Avraham did not expect)? Could  I embrace Abraham's lifestyle? 

The Torah is delivered to us with a packaged clear message: we are asked to perform as Avraham did, and G-d will handle the rest.

So, it is not by happenstance that we have the following items these past weeks as we "live with Avraham" :

1) Muslims riot after a rumor that Jews are claiming "back" the Temple Mount
2) Palestinians indiscriminately stab and kill Jews in the street - no not of Berlin or Munich  but in Israel - in self sacrifice for their "cause"

This is the Jewish official response:

1) Leading  Rabbis warn that a Jew is not allowed to go up on the Temple Mount as the exact location ( the Holy of Holies) of where a Jew is not allowed to tread is unknown at this time .
No mention that the Temple Mount is Jewish owned and will always be so.
3) Prime Minister Netanyahu assured the world that Israel plans to never change the status of the Temple Mount

Explaining Netanyahu's reasoning and the lack of mention  what the Temple Mount truly means to the Jewish people was seen in an article in the Forward Magazine:

" Zionism advocates for Jewish self-determination in a national home. Its emphasis is on national self-identity rather than on religious or cultural."

... Judaism as we know it developed after the destruction of the temple in 70 C.E.; its very essence is alien to the notion of a functioning Jewish temple. The rabbis have thoughtfully replaced temple sacrifice with oral prayer, priests with sages. Most important, Judaism shifted the site of divine revelation from a holy place - the temple - to the holy text, the Torah. Unlike the shattered temple, Torah enabled the divine word to be heard everywhere and any time.

We need not renew the Temple as of old....

Underlying the rhetoric is this: what will be the response to an announcement that despite the halacha of walking around the Temple site, it is Jewish and it is the spot where the Temple will once again be. It is the place where Avraham brought  Isaac, where Adam was made, and were Noah offered his sacrifice? What will the nations do if we step out of our worldly bind and proclaim what is true and always has been? What if we take a  knife to the  fear and worry and stand up strong and tall and tell the truth?

When will the Jews pick up their knife of sacrifice? Maybe, in the end, it will replace the knife that rests in the hands of those who seek to destroy us? 

It takes guts to say the Truth to the world. It also is our job.

Learn On! Light On! Sing On! Moshiach On! 
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