<I>Vayera</I>: About Love and Peace

The Hebrew patriarch submit his entire will to G-d

Rabbi Yehuda HaKohen,

Judaism  Rabbi Yehuda HaKohen
Rabbi Yehuda HaKohen
Perhaps the most incredible expression of Avraham's loyalty to HaShem is the episode of the Akeidah. Here, Avraham is commanded to bring his son Yitzchak to the future Temple Mount and slaughter him there as a sacrifice to G-d. To see someone so prepared to offer up his son - the son for whom he had waited his entire life - is truly beyond belief.

That Avraham went about performing this Divine order with the joy of serving G-d is
Why was it necessary to put Avraham through such a painful examination?
astonishing. It is here that we clearly see the Hebrew patriarch submit his entire will to his love for HaShem.

Perhaps a better question, however, than how Avraham was prepared to carry out this deed might be why G-d would even command him to perform such an act. Why was it necessary to put Avraham through such a painful examination?

With the Akeidah, Avraham performed a profound act of tshuva m'ahava (atonement from love). This tshuva was necessary for his sin of forging a covenant with King Avimelech of Grar. In that treaty, Avraham had agreed to concede portions of Eretz Yisrael to a foreign people in exchange for a number of generations free from conflict.

"And it happened after these things that G-d tested Avraham and said to him, 'Avraham,' and he replied, 'Here I am.'" (Bereishit 22:1)

According to the Rashbam, the phrase "after these things" refers to the events of the previous chapter. Avraham's treaty with Avimelech angered HaShem because the Land of Israel had been specifically designed for Avraham's lineage, whom G-d would later command, in the days of Yehoshua, to drive out or destroy the inhabitants of the country (contrary to Avraham's agreement). In fact, the descendants of Avimelech later used this treaty in order to thwart Israel's conquest of Eretz Yisrael (Rashi on Shmuel II 5:8). Therefore, G-d aggrieved Avraham (rendering nisa as "aggrieved" instead of "tested") with so distressing a trial. It was as if to say: 'You became haughty because I gave you a son, and you went so far as to make a treaty between your descendants and theirs. Now, sacrifice that son and see what value your treaty will have.'

In Mesillat Yesharim, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto concurs with the Rashbam's understanding, explaining that the binding of Yitzchak was an act of tshuva for the sin of conceding portions of Eretz Yisrael to Gentiles. Avraham's appropriate response to this sin was his readiness to concede that which was most precious to him - his one and only beloved son - and to sacrifice that son in accordance with G-d's command. With this, Avraham proved that he truly feared and loved HaShem: "Now I know that you are a G-d-fearing man, since you have not withheld your son, your only one, from Me." (Bereishit 22:12)

The sages teach, "How great is repentance out of love, for even intentional sins are transformed into merits." Indeed, once Avraham repented at the Akeidah (Yoma 86b), he
Descendants of Avimelech later used this treaty in order to thwart Israel's conquest of Eretz Yisrael.
merited to have G-d swear to him: "Because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only one, I shall surely bless you and greatly increase your offspring like the stars of the heavens and like the sand on the seashore; and your offspring shall inherit the gate of its enemy. And all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your offspring, because you have listened to My voice." (Bereishit 22:16-18)

It must be understood that Avraham had only the purest intentions when consenting to the treaty with Avimelech. Peace is a treasured ideal that we must continuously strive for in life. In fact, Israel is to be G-d's instrument in leading the world to an existence of shalom - a goal so lofty that it is even one of G-d's Divine Names. In order to lead the world to shalom, however, Israel must first understand what it is and how to attain it. It is, therefore, important to see past all the superficial understandings of peace that the world continues to espouse in modern times.

Because shalom is such an exalted ideal, it is not to be obtained through egoistic motivations of self-interest (such as the mere absence of war), honor or wealth. Nor can peace be achieved by people who seek to impose their will on others (like forcing democracy on countries that do not want it). True shalom can only be attained when people are motivated by altruistic goals firmly grounded in emunah. Israel must look to the great Torah luminaries who have attained inner harmony in order to understand the direction we must work towards in achieving genuine peace.

True peace can never be acquired by rejecting the claims of other peoples. It can only be achieved through recognizing all of the differing opinions, movements and groups, so that they can all be uplifted to being in line with G-d's design for the world. The Hebrew nation is commanded by G-d to be the sovereign rulers of the entire Land of Israel. It is through this sovereignty that G-d's blessing flows into our world, nourishing and uplifting the entire human race. For the sake of humanity, Am Yisrael must guard its Divinely ordained rule over Eretz Yisrael. Any infringement of Hebrew sovereignty over Israel's borders would
We must respect the aspirations of all other nations, but not when they contradict the truth of G-d's Torah.
be a war on HaShem's Divine will for creation.

If another people insists on fulfilling their national aspirations in Eretz Yisrael, then their spiritual compass is obviously off course and their national will must not yet be aligned with HaShem's. For, as Rashi teaches regarding the first verse of the Torah, HaShem gave the Land of Israel to the Nation of Israel. We must respect the aspirations of all other nations, but not when they contradict the truth of G-d's Torah and the purpose of existence.

It is Israel's mission to bring the world towards the recognition that HaShem is the active force behind all nations, movements and beliefs. By recognizing the Divine inner fabric of existence, shalom can be achieved by aligning all of creation with G-d's superior agenda. As the "heart" of humanity, Israel is to direct all nations and movements so that each may find their true place, expression and function within HaShem's ideal plan for the world. Shalom is achieved not by suppressing parts of the whole, but rather when all of mankind's divisions are allowed to express their purest inner essence, all under the unifying canopy of G-d's truth.