Rabbi Label Lam
The Source of Our Blessings
One of my earliest childhood memories of being in Synagogue was the all
too frequent announcement; alternately, "All rise! Please be seated!" I
remember thinking, "Why don't they make up their mind?" When considering
the rapid transition from the "Days of Awe" to the "Time of our
Happiness", on Sukkos, one might be left with the same feeling. What's
the deal here?! Is the relationship one of overwhelming fear or abundant
love, or both somehow?
Avraham manifested the epitome of human dedication when he stood willing
to sacrifice his principles, his reputation, his future, his beloved son,
with one swipe of the knife. We know how the story ends. The Almighty
was testing to see if he was willing to give it all up and he lived up to
the test. Today we continue to draw from the fount of the account gained
by his noble intentions. In the last instant he was interrupted and an
announcement was made "Now I know you fear G-d, because you did not
withhold your son, your only son, from Me!"
That must have been the height of heights, but then something even
greater happened which seems to have eclipsed the prior achievement. How
could that be? We are told that Avraham noticed a ram in caught in the
thicket, which he subsequently sacrificed in place of his son, and a
second Divine announcement was made, "I swear, so says Hashem, because
you did this (the sacrifice of the ram) and you did not withhold your son
your only son, I will bless those who bless you. I will increase your
seed like the stars of the heavens and like the sand of the sea shore and
your seed will inherit the gates of its enemies. All the nations of the
world will be blessed through your descendants because you have hearkened
to My voice!"
What's the big deal with the ram? Why after having demonstrated his
willingness to give up his son he is titled as one who fears Hashem,
which is no small matter, but when he brings some stray creature in his
stead, the act of bringing his son is again evoked and mountains of
blessing begin to flow in his general direction?
Imagine it's mid-winter and on Shabbos eight feet of snow falls. After
Shabbos your boss or significant authoritative other calls and all but
commands that you come immediately and dig him out so he can catch a
plane. Immediately you get into serious gear, winter gear, and spend the
next two hours just getting your self out from under the snow. Now you
hurry to the boss's house to perform the same task on his extra long
When you arrive you notice the driveway is clear already. The plow must
have just come. Your boss is already strolling to the waiting Town-Car
with is luggage. He thanks you for your effort for coming and titles you
a dutiful worker on his way by. Suddenly he notices you running to your
car. At first he assumes you are looking to escape before he innovates
some other mission impossible. Rather, he witnesses something that amazes
him. You take out your broom and dust off his mailbox and sweep a few
crumb of snow from here and there. Then as you go back to your car, he
runs after you, in tears, offering you a raise for your devotion for
having swept around a little. What went right here?
Maybe when you came, initially, your motive was fear, thinking, "What
would be the result of not coming? How can I not go when the boss
calls!?" By merely arriving you had demonstrated your loyalty. You
would have been forgiven for escaping at that moment before he changed
his mind and threw another monumental task your way. However, when you
took out the broom and swept up, even though the act is significantly
smaller, you showed that your original motive was not fear alone but an
abiding love, a sincere desire to come close. Therefore the treasure
house of blessing is opened. Raises and bonuses are in order.
The same applies to Avraham and the wayward ram and to us in this season
of seeming mixed emotions. Simply sitting in a Sukkah reveals
retroactively that the devotions demonstrated during the "Days of Awe"
were not done due to dread alone but were driven by a deeper dynamic.
That tiny extra touch excites a cover of love above and is the source of
Text Copyright © 2002 Rabbi Dovid Green and
Project Genesis, Inc.