Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
  LifeLine
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Vayera

by Rabbi Yaakov Menken

Homo Spiritus

"And it came to pass, after all these things, that G-d tested Avraham... And He said to him, 'Please take your son, your unique one whom you have loved, Yitzchak, and go forward to the land of Moriah, and bring him up as a sacrifice there, on one of the mountains which I will indicate." [22:1-2]

After all the other trials which Avraham had undergone -- including offering his own life against idolatry at Ur Kasdim, and removing himself from his homeland to follow G-d -- he was now asked to offer what was for him truly the ultimate sacrifice.

After 100 years without a child with his wife Sarah, Avraham was given Yitzchak -- and G-d promised Avraham that through Yitzchak, not Yishmael, he would become a great nation. Throughout his life, Avraham taught belief in the One G-d -- and he also taught that G-d abhorred human sacrifice, though it was a common idolatrous practice. And Avraham acquired an excellent reputation as a teacher, leader and generous Man of G-d. And with Yitzchak learning to follow his ways, the Jewish people surely had a bright future.

And now Avraham was asked to throw it all away. No son. No reputation. From respected leader to childless laughingstock. And his response? "Hineni, I am here!" "And Avraham rose early in the morning to saddle his donkey..." [22:3] Though he had servants, he ran to perform G-d's will himself.

The greatness of human beings lies in our ability to do things which violate our instincts, to rise above the animal within. To use a term coined by the Chassidic Rebbe / Psychiatrist Abraham Twersky, MD, a human being is not merely "homo sapiens," but "homo spiritus" - one capable of spiritual dominance over animal instinct.

Perhaps it could even be said that the biggest practical difference between the religious person and the athiest isn't belief in G-d -- but belief in ourselves. The athiest says that we are creatures of instinct, higher animals who still do all our actions to answer to one or another of our desires. Even charity is done because we cannot stand the sight of other people suffering, or because we want to feel great, important and beneficent. The Jew recognizes that it is his or her responsibility to do a Mitzvah, "like it or not."

You do not have to get angry. You can rise above that anger. And you can give to others even when your entire self begs to be left alone. Try it! It's not as hard as it may seem...

Good Shabbos,

Rabbi Yaakov Menken


Text Copyright © 2003 Rabbi Yaakov Menken and Torah.org.

The author is the Director of Project Genesis.


 

ARTICLES ON KI SAVO AND ELUL / ROSH HASHANAH:

View Complete List

Spiritual Climates
Shlomo Katz - 5773

Let the King Be Proud
Rabbi Chaim Flom - 5767

The Time Is Now
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5759

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Soul of Approval
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5757

Returning Home to Our Land
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5773

Teshuva 101
Rabbi Naphtali Hoff - 5774

> The Evil of the Ingrate
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5760

One Man's Curse - Another Man's Blessing
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5761

Benefiting from the Benefit of the Doubt
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5767

ArtScroll

What's The Big Deal About the "First Fruits"?
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5757

Selichos: It Pays to be 'First in Line'
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5765

The Connection Between Amalek and the First Fruits
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5773

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Wordless Prayers
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5771

Tatooed With Faith
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5772

Humility and Fruit
Shlomo Katz - 5765

Counting Our Blessings
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5762



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information