Judaism: Obedience and Loving Kindness in the Parsha
Moshe KempinskiMoshe Kempinski, author of "The Teacher and the Preacher", is the editor of the Jerusalem Insights weekly email journal and co-owner of Shorashim, a Biblical shop and learning center in the Old City of Jerusalem.
We begin the Torah portion with G-d revealing Himself to Avraham
“Now HaShem appeared ( VaYera) to him in the plains of Mamre, and he was sitting at the entrance of the tent when the day was hot.”( Genesis 18:1)
Towards the end of the Torah portion we read again about G-d revealing Himself;
“. And Abraham named that place, The Lord will see ( YiReh) , as it is said to this day: On the mountain, the Lord will be seen (YiRaEh).( Ibid 22:14). That is , in the words of Rashi;”On this mountain, the Holy One, blessed be He, will appear to His people.”
Two themes wind their way through this Torah portion and their interplay form the fabric and basis for Divine revelation.
On the verse "Now HaShem appeared ( VaYera) to him in the plains of Mamre"( ibid 18:1) . Rashi explains "And Hashem appeared to him, to visit the sick "as it was the third day after the circumcision”.
Avraham in an act of obedience and awe accepted upon himself the act of circumcision. Hashem (according to the Ramban) “rewards” him with His visit. Yet we also note that the verse tells us that "he was sitting at the entrance of the tent when the day was hot." Why are we told this? Rashi explains that he was sitting there in the heat of the day "to see whether there were any passersby whom he would bring into his house. " (Tractate Bava Metzia. 86b) .He was involved in an act of hessed( Loving Kindness) . As a result Hashem appeared to him in an act of hessed.
The Baal Shem Tov explains the verse in psalms "Hashem is your protection, Hashem is your shadow (Tzilcha) to your right ." (Psalms 121:5) In the following way; " Your shadow" means that Hashem becomes our shadow in this world. Just as a shadow mirrors the actions of each person , Hashem’s relationship with us becomes a mirror of how we act in His world. Our ways below, arouse and elicit Hashem's response from above.”
In the end of our Torah portion we read of the test of the “Binding of Isaac”.Avraham puts aside all that he knew and all that he had assumed and walks forward in faith and obedience. Hashem stops him and declares "for now I know that you are a God fearing man,"(ibid 22:12).
Obedience and loving kindness become the building blocks of divine revelation. It is through our father Avraham that we begin to understand the meaning behind Hashem's dramatic declaration in Deuteronomy;
" And now, Israel, what does Hashem your G-d ask of you but to fear Hashem your G-d, to walk in all His ways ( Hessed) , and to love Him, and to serve Hashem your G-d ( Obedience) with all your heart and with all your soul; ( Deuteronomy 10:12)