Avrohom’s Shield After Moshiach Comes 



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    Avrohom’s Shield After Moshiach Comes 

    From the desk of Rabbi Nissim Lagziel, mashpia in Oholei Torah: A shield from what: When a Jew starts to pray, he must remember that … Rather than tell G-d how big his problems are, he should tell his problems how big G-d is! • Full Article

    By Rabbi Nissim Lagziel

    Q. What do you call a snowman with a sunburn?

    A. A puddle.

    SHIELD FROM WHAT?

    When a Jew starts to pray, he must remember that … Rather than tell G-d how big his problems are, he should tell his problems how big G-d is!

    The Shemone Esrei, the core of all our tefillos, always begins with the “Magen Avrohom” (shield of Avrohom) blessing. It makes no difference whether it’s a weekday, Rosh Chodesh, Shabbos or Yom Tov, Rosh Hashana or Neilah on Yom Kippur; we always begin with the “Magen Avrohom” blessing.

    The source for this pair of words, “Magen Avrohom” is in this week’s parsha, Lech Lecha. After the war with the four kings and the five kings and Avrohom’s involvement in this war, G-d promises him (15:1), “Don’t fear Avram, I am a shield to you. Your reward is very great.”

    Why did Avrohom need a shield? Why is this shield mentioned over and over in tefilla? Most importantly, how is this connected with the true and complete Geula?

    The commentators say that Avrohom was very fearful of the results of the war. He intervened in a quarrel that had nothing to do with him and he was afraid of the revenge of the kings who lost the war. (Ramban, Rashbam) “Who knows,” thought Avrohom, “if they won’t they take revenge against me.”

    According to Rashi, Avrohom understood the magnitude of the miracle that occurred here. He knew that it wasn’t every day that a person, together with a handful of helpers, wins with the wave of a hand and without batting an eye over all the superpowers of the ancient world. The enormous miracle caused him to think that perhaps he had received all his reward in this world and nothing would remain for him in the next world. Alternatively, maybe he would even be punished for the slaughter that he carried out upon these nations.

    So G-d assured him, “I am a shield for you from the punishment; you won’t be punished for all the people you killed. Your reward is very great – you have nothing to worry about; you will receive reward in this world and the next.”

    As always, Chassidus has something new to say on the subject. First, a question. Why was only Avrohom, of the Avos, in need of a shield? We don’t find any blessing, prayer or verse in the Torah that refers to the shield of Yitzchok or Yaakov. Why not? Was only Avrohom fearful and in need of assurance while Yitzchok and Yaakov were more self-confident?

    SUN SHIELD

    The Alter Rebbe in Torah Ohr explains this. He says it all depends on the spiritual midda which each of the Avos represents. As we know, Avrohom represents chessed, Yitzchok represents gevura, and Yaakov represents tiferes/rachamim.

    What is the difference between chessed and rachamim? Don’t they operate the same way? Isn’t their function to find the positive in others, to defend even the lowliest sort?

    The Alter Rebbe explains that the difference is great and very significant. Avrohom’s midda of chessed is unlimited chessed. Avrohom’s love for every man as he was, was so great that even Yishmael appeared righteous to him. At the end of Lech Lecha (17:18), we find Avrohom turning to G-d with a very interesting prayer, “If only Yishmael lives before you.” Avrohom wanted Yishmael to live a long life (even to the point of eternal life!) even though he knew quite well his son Yishmael’s true debauched character.

    Avrohom was no fool and Yishmael did not fool him. He knew that Yishmael was a messed up kid with a warped sense of values and out of control impulses. And still, with Avrohom’s midda of chessed, and his positive view of everyone, he saw Yishmael in a positive light and he thought Yishmael deserved blessing and infinite chessed.

    This is the big difference between chessed and rachamim. Both look at the same reality and understand it as it is. Both chessed and rachamim know precisely who did what, why and how. Neither one of them plays pretend or whitewashes what took place. The difference is in the conclusion and emphasis. According to Avrohom’s midda of chessed, it makes no difference what he did and how; the person deserves infinite chessed even if he is Yishmael, “the depth of evil and kelipa!”

    Rachamim, on the other hand, has limits. Not everyone is deserving and not everyone is innocent. Rachamim is ready to be compassionate on “one for whom compassion is fitting,” someone for whom there is a justified, logical, clear reason to look away, as though we didn’t see anything. But not every person and not every situation and not every time; it depends on the scales of logic and reason and the facts of reality.

    This explanation about the essence of Avrohom’s chessed is precisely the reason that Avrohom is the one who needs a shield. Yitzchok represents gevura and limits and he has no need for an additional shield. Even Yaakov, who represents rachamim seems to be well enough protected by his nature. It is Avrohom who is in need of restraints. He needs someone who will intervene and … (believe it or not) stop the chessed! Because with so much chessed, unlimited chessed, what we’ll get out of it is … Yishmael!

    You can’t just give without limits. You can’t keep ignoring others’ flaws because that will lead to a state of everything becoming permissible, everything being fine, acceptable, even terrible things. This is true in family life, in the workplace, in relationships, etc. But now we will focus on the Jewish people and the nations.

    From the perspective of Avrohom’s chessed, the nations of the world are also deserving, they should also be given to, despite their corrupt behavior toward the Jewish people (like Yishmael’s behavior toward Yitzchok), despite the evil decrees and wholesale slaughter that they perpetrated against us. G-d wants to run the world with kindness and to see all of existence in the rosiest of colors. Every morning, G-d’s attribute of chessed is aroused and wants to pour forth to the world. This is brought in the Zohar based on the verse, “And Avrohom rose in the morning.” Every morning, the G-dly “Avrohom,” the G-dly attribute of chessed arises and wants (only) to give, without taking and without withholding.

    Nations of the world, the Jewish people, domesticated and wild animals, plants and the inanimate; they are all deserving and all need to be given to in abundance. This is dangerous! If the forces of impurity and evil will get the same divine bounty as the forces of holiness and goodness, you can imagine how our world would look, “full of kelipos and sitra achra which are literally opposed to G-d.” A moral and spiritual tohu va’vohu would prevail in the world. Therefore, G-d has to intervene and provide a shield.

    The shield is a covering, a sheath as in the verse (Tehillim 84:12) “Hashem Elokim is a sun and shield” which means that just as there is a covering to the sun through which we can receive the light without it harming us, so too, the attribute of chessed needs a shield. Through this covering it can bestow goodness to the world, give in the right place, at the right time, and to the right person.

    It’s not just in the morning that a covering needs to be placed over chessed, but with every tefilla. Every time a Jew turns to G-d in prayer, he arouses the G-dly attribute of chessed. Hashem wants to give everything, to everyone, always, and when a Jew turns to Him with a heartfelt request, G-d certainly hears his prayer. But when this chessed is aroused every day, what will happen? Perhaps someone else will jump on the wagon. Perhaps the forces of impurity and kelipa will try to receive additional flow from above.

    Therefore, whenever a Jew turns to G-d in prayer, he starts with “shield of Avrohom.” We ask that the chessed that we are arousing now, be delivered within a “shield,” a covering, with the discernment of to whom to give and what to give and how much to give! So there won’t, G-d forbid, be a nourishment of the outside forces.

    All this will change with the Geula because then there won’t be any evil. “And the spirit of impurity I will remove from the earth,” and “death will be swallowed up forever.” There will be nothing to fear and no need for shields, masks and concealment. Therefore, the prophet says (Malachi 3:20), “And the sun of mercy shall rise with healing in its wings …” on which the Gemara (Avoda Zara 4a) says, in the future, G-d will remove the sun from its sheath because at that time we will no longer need the shield and cover of the G-dly sun/chessed. Then, we will be able to receive it as it is, without fearing the destructive flow of infinite chessed.

    What will happen to our tefilla? Will the wording change? Let’s live to see it and then we’ll find out…

    TO CONCLUDE WITH A STORY

    We will end with an interesting story about two gedolim, the Shach [Rabbi Shabsi HaKohen d. 1662] and … the Magen Avrohom [Rabbi Avrohom Abele Gombiner d. 1683]! One time, the Shach went to Kalisch and said a lecture in the beis medrash. The Magen Avrohom went to hear the lecture. When the lecture was over, he called over one of his students and said, “Go to the Shach and ask him the question I will ask you.” He then proceeded to guide the student in how to respond to the answer with additional questions and a lengthy complex discourse.

    The student did as he was asked. He went to his accommodations and asked the question. When the Shach answered him, the student continued to respond with questions just as the Magen Avrohom had told him to. The Shach enjoyed this and when the discussion ended, he began to speak to him about other things but the student wasn’t prepared for that and he soon revealed that he was just a messenger.

    “Whose messenger?” asked the Shach.

    The student said, “The Magen Avrohom’s.”

    The Shach wanted to meet him and the Magen Avrohom quickly made his way to where he was staying, where the two began to engage at length in complex Torah discussion.

    As they spoke, the host knocked at the door and said to the Shach, “Honored rav, you must leave now because someone is about to pass away.” The Shach, who was a kohen, had to leave immediately but instead of doing so, he rolled up his sleeve on his right arm, banged on the table and said, “I command you to wait.” He continued talking with the Magen Avrohom and when they finished talking, he left the house. The sick man immediately died.

    The power of Torah and the power of the Magen Avrohom!

    Good Shabbos!

    21

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