Friday, October 22, 2010

Vayeira: Opportunity Knocks

Last week, inParshas Lech Lecha we read how things go very well for Avraham Avinu. He receives his first prophecy, enters into the land of Israel, he is triumphant in battle and passes a series difficult tests. Through all of these stages he attains higher and higher levels of Kedusha, he becomes closer and closer to HaKadosh Baruch Hu. But the Parsha ends with one more painful and demanding trial: To perform a Bris Milah on himself, which he does.

But this ritual circumcision has its consequences. Avraham experiences excruciating pain as a result of it. It was for this reason Hashem wanted Avraham to rest and recover. Hashem knew that Avraham would still go out and try to grow, continue attempting to do Mitzvos, even in face of the pain. So Hashem commanded the sun to beat down unbearable heat so that maybe Avraham would be convinced to go inside and rest up.

V’Hu Yoshev B’Pesach HaOhel K’Chom HaYom” – Avraham was sitting by the door of his tent in the heat of the day. He was on the lookout for Mitzvos.

But as we see from this Passuk, that this ploy didn’t work. Avraham sat, eyes pealed, looking for an opportunity, any opportunity, to fulfill the will of Hashem.

We need to ask ourselves an important question: How did Avraham do it? How did he feel this way? After all the growth that our forefather experienced in last week’s Parsha he was still not satisfied, he needed to get out there and keep working, to keep striving, to keep growing – even after all his achievements and in the face of all the pain. What was his inspiration?

The answer is all about doors. Let’s analyze.

The Passuk in Mishlei says, “Ashrei Adam Shomea Li, L’Shkod Al Dalisosai Yom Yom” – Hashem says ‘Praised is the man who … hastens to my doors everyday.’ There are many explanations as to what these doors are. On some level the plural doors mean, ‘Deles She’Ba’Deles’ a door within a door. A door is a threshold, and when I pass through it I enter into a totally new domain. Every stage of growth that we undergo is a ‘door’ of sorts; it’s a transition from one spiritual level to another. But as soon as I pass through one echelon, when I make any achievement in my Avodas Hashem, there is another ‘door’ right there waiting for me. This is the ‘Deles She’Ba’Deles.

A door signifies a start, and if I’m always at the door, I’m always just starting. There is nothing more exciting, nothing more inspiring than a fresh start. There is an undeniable Geshmak of kicking off a new project. And if I’m always in a state of ‘just starting’ then the freshness and stimulation that I need will be ever-present.

This connects very deeply to a beautiful teaching of the Noam Elimelech (Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk, the first Chasidic Rebbe). He gives us an incredible understanding of two seemingly cryptic verses.

David HaMelech writes in Tehilim, “Pischu Li Sha’arei Tzedek, Avo Vam Odeh Kah. Zeh HaSha’ar La’Hashem Tzadikim Yavou Bo.” – “Open for me the gates of the righteous, so that I may enter them and thank Hashem. This is the gate to Hashem, it is the righteous who pass through it.”

The first verse takes the standpoint of the questioner, he who requests that the Gates that lead to closeness to God be opened for him. The second verse is the responding to the request by saying, ‘Here it is’ - Zeh HaSha’ar LaHashem.

Wait, what? David HaMelech is surely aware that this is text and verse and therefore we cannot see the Sha’ar LaHashem just by saying ‘Here it is.’ So what’s going on here?

The first verse is the request of every one of us at those special times when we see to grow. We say to Hashem, “I want to be a Tzadik. I want all the good character traits. I want to know the Torah. I want to feel close to you. I want to feel you in everything I do. I want Ruach HaKodesh. I want to grow. The thing is, I don’t even know where to start! I want to be the best I can be, I really do, but how? Please, Pischu Li Sha’arei Tzedek. Help me attain a new level, open a new door for me, I promise I wont let you down. If you just open up the gates, I’ll come running in.”

And Hashem responds ZehHaSha’ar LaHashem. THAT’S IT! That’s exactly the way in. By wanting it, by having the desire, by lighting yourself up you have created for yourself, and entered into the Sha’ar LaHashem. Your desire to attain greater levels in Avodas Hashem is the entranceway itself! You’ve just crossed the threshold into the most important door of all.

What is the Sha’ar LaHashem? He who says Pischu Li. Beautiful.

This is really an expression of a line in the Zohar based on another verse in Mishlei. The verse says (we read it in Eishes Chayil every week) about the ideal spouse, “Nodah B’Shi’arim Ba’alah” – ‘The perfect wife has a husband who is known in the gates.’ The depth of the verse is that the ‘wife’ is the Jewish people and the ‘Husband’ is Hashem.

What is the meaning of Hashem being known in the gates, in the Shi’arim? Says the Zohar, the word Shi’arim here is really a manifestation of ‘Shiurim’ which means ‘amounts’. And so when the Passuk says, Noda B’Shi’arim Ba’alah, that Hashem is known in the gates, it means, “K’Phum Shiruin D’Liba” - According to the amount that the Heart provides.

A simple desire to grow is the most important stage of growth. In as much as I open up space in my heart, that is how much I will be able to bring God into my life. And so once again we see, what is the door to Knowledge of God? My desire to attain it.

But now; with the help of the Sfas Emes, we turn back to Avraham, “V’Hu Yoshev B’Pesach HaOhel ” – And he was sitting by the opening to his tent.

All of what we have said is exactly what Avraham Avinu is doing. Even after he experiences an amazing Parshas Lech Lecha he still feels like he is just starting, he is sitting at the edge of yet another door! “L’Shkod Al Dalisosai Yom Yom!” “Pischu Li Sha’arei Tzedek!” “K’Phum Shiruin D’Liba!”

With an attitude like that it’s clear how even after such amazing growth, and in the face of so much pain he still is on the lookout for even more Mitzvos. Because Avraham Avinu feels that freshness, he is touch with the inspiration that is intrinsic to a mindset which is geared towards growth.

This is an amazing level, but it is not out of my reach. All I need to do is realize that the most important stage in my religious growth is the desire to grow itself. Once I start to really want it, I’ve just found the Sha’ar LaHashem. Why? Because I built it for myself. And now I see that it all starts with feeling like I’m at Pesach HaOhel, by asking Pischu Li Sha’arei Tzedek.

B’Ezras Hashem we should be Zocheh to such an inspiring mindset. For when I know that the most important stage in my growth is my desire do to so, then the success already in my hand. If we can do this, there is no doubt that we will live lives of Simcha and Shleimus, moving closer to the creator and ultimately the Geulah!

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful. What an invigorating way to view and experience growth, May we all have the will to desire dveikut and growth every day.