The Yishmaelim (Ishmaelites) are living up to their name in Messianic times as "pere adam - a wild one among men" standing in our face. The recent terror attacks exhibit to the world their viciousness, cruelty and barbarism. The Zohar (Genesis: 32a) confirms that the Jews will be harassed by the Yishmaelim at the end of days.
What about us? Are we living up to our name? Rabbi Eytan Feiner shlita, of Congregation Knesset Israel in Far Rockaway, makes a stunning observation that can shed light on the answer.
When you think of man, what comes to mind? How would you frame man? How would you label the first human, Adam HaRishon? An unbelievable Gemara (Eruvin 18b) answers the question and says: “Adam HaRishon, chasid gadol haya -Adam the first man was very pious.” Indeed, Adam was a “chasid.”
We reference this Gemara with another Gemara (Bava Kamma 30a) that brings three opinions on how to become a chasid.
-Rav Yehuda says that it depends upon fulfilling the words of Nezikin (damages, torts).
-Rava says that in depends upon the fulfillment of the words of Avot.
-And another Sage said the words of Berachot.
At first glance, Nezikin represents one’s relationship with others, not to damage them, Avot represent Pirkei Avot symbolic of one working on his own traits while Berachot symbolizes spiritual clinging – work between man and G-d.
For an expansion into the meaning of this Mishna, we can look to the Mishna in Avot and the Avot themselves. In Avot (1:2), it says: “The world stands on three things: On Torah (relating to Avot, as Torah is a foremost tool to build oneself up) on avodah (relating to Brachot, indicative of tefillah) and kindness (relating to Nizikin, showing that proactive engagement, not just refraining from hurting someone, is key as well).
Now the Avot fit concurrently into the given categories. One category would be Berachot, avodah and Yitzchak. For this we need only focus on one verse. The verse (Genesis 48:22) says: “I have given you one portion more than your brothers, the city of Shechem, which I took from the hand of the Amorites with my sword and with my bow.” Onkeles translates charbi (my sword) and kashti (my bow) in the verse as “my prayer” and “my petitions.” For Bnei Yisroel to defeat Yishmael, fervent prayer is necessary, not only weapons of destruction.
In knowing how to pray, Yitzchak is the model as he focused for many years in the corner to gain offspring, setting the example that prayer can take time, but it can’t be halted. It’s crucial to reach the highest level of prayer because Hagar, the birthmother to Yishmael engaged in crying which G-d listened to. Moreover, G-d listened more to Yishmael’s crying than Hagar’s. This means we must cry ourselves for our hopes and dreams and not rely on others.
Rabbi Glatstein shlita, who quotes Reb Chaim Kanievsky zt”l, says, it's time to be those who are part of the phrase in the Shabbos zemiros, "vehu yidrosh leTziyon." We must fervently pray for the final geulah because we deserve the Beit HaMikdash. We suffered and continue to suffer and therefore may demand the temple be rebuilt.
The next set of three is Pirkei Avot, Torah and Yaakov. No one worked on himself more than Yaakov. Yaakov gives an example how to achieve truth in Torah and work. When it came to his Torah study, Yaakov studied for 14 years in the yeshiva of Sheim and Eiver without sleeping (Rashi, Genesis: 28:12). In addition to his diligence in Torah study, he was an ish tamim, which in another place (Sifrei, Deuteronomy 173:3) we are told, means that one shouldn’t look into the future but rather accept his lot as it is. We must live in the moment and be joyful in our lot and try not to be overwhelmed by the future.
Yaakov was also the hardest and most honest worker, as the Rambam (Hilchos Sechirus 13:7) records: “So too, he must work with all his strength as the Tzadik Yaakov said “For with all my strength I worked for your father.” Being honest with an employer can be the greatest test that one faces. Achieving greatness in this area makes one a chasid.
The next subset is Nizikin, gemilut chasadim and Avraham. The key verse relating to Avraham is: “Avraham took with him his wife, Sarah…and the souls which they had made in Charan” (Genesis: 12:5).We are told about this (Sifrei, Va’etchanan), that “Avraham would invite everyone into his home, give them to eat and to drink, show them love, and bring them close to G-d, convert them and bring them under the wings of the Divine Presence. This is to teach us that whoever brings a person under the wings of the Divine Presence, it is considered as if he has created him, formed him and developed him.” Avraham dedicated himself to saving souls.
We must be like Avraham and invite everyone to our houses, seeking out those who are thirsty for Judaism and welcoming them under our umbrella. Avraham always sought out people. In these days, it should be on our radar to attract the non-affiliated. There is such a large percentage of non-practicing Jews that any dent that can be made would certainly be looked upon positively by Avraham Avinu.
One of my favorite singers is Shwekey and not too long ago he released a song called “Yavo Hayom.” Through images, based on true events, he tells the story of a non-religious Jew who pays a shivah call to a hareidi Jew due to the Meron tragedy.
The word “hayom” has many references in Tanach, but perhaps the most striking one is the Gemara (Sanhedrin 98a) that brings down the story of one who asked, “When will Mashiach come?” and he was answered, “Today.” The questioner waited until the evening and was disappointed when the redemption didn’t materialize. Then they explained to him that the word was taken from the verse, “Indeed it will come today, if you hearken unto the voice of G-d.”
If we use our arrows of prayer and plead for the Temple, are diligent in Torah study and honest at work and look to bring every Jew under our umbrella, perhaps “today” won’t be so far away and our title of chasid will be genuine.
Steven Genackis the founder and editor of Aish Haolam.