Friday, November 14, 2008

two great dangers in avodah to beware of

The Tiferes Shlomo offers a beautiful interpretation of the gemara in Brachos, "afilu nachash karuch al akeivo, afilu melech shoel b'shlomo lo yafsik", that even if a snake wraps itself around one's foot, even if a king begins a conversation, one should not interrupt tefilah. There are two great challenges in avodas Hashem which the gemara is warning us of. The first great challenge occurs when one wakes up from the slumber of sin and suddenly realizes how far away one is from Hashem. There is a great temptation to surrender to despair and hopelessness. This feeling of despair is symbolized by the snake which wraps itself around a person's ankles trying to drag him/her down. The opportunity for tefilah is the antidote to the depression of the snake. Even if one has succumbed to sin, there always exists the opportunity of return.

At the opposite extreme is the person who feels so immersed in "spirituality" that he/she loses sight of the restrictions and restraints of halacha and considers attending to these details beneath his/her stature. This is the danger of hubris. Even if one is "speaking to the King", one is still not excused from tefillah. This ideal is demonstrated in our parsha by Avraham's willingness to leave communion with G-d to fulfill the mitzvah of hachnasat orchim -- an abstract spirituality cannot replace the concrete performance of mitzvos. "V'hu yoshev pesach ha'ohel" - Avraham managed to keep the proper perspective because rather than look at all he had achieved, he viewed himself as still sitting at threshold, looking at the door of opportunity for further growth in mitzvos that lay open ahead.


  1. Anonymous8:06 PM

    וַיָּבֹא הָאִישׁ הַבַּיְתָה וַיְפַתַּח הַגְּמַלִּים וַיִּתֵּן תֶּבֶן וּמִסְפּוֹא לַגְּמַלִּים וּמַיִם לִרְחֹץ רַגְלָיו וְרַגְלֵי הָאֲנָשִׁים אֲשֶׁר אִתּוֹ.
    Rashi on this Posuk says that He loosened their muzzles, for he had sealed their mouths, so they (the camels) should not graze in other people's fields. The Ramban among many others asks a question on this Pshat. The Gemara says that the donkey of Reb Pinchas Ben Yair would not eat from non Tithed (not taken Masser from) crops, so why is it that for Avraham Camels we are concerned? To answer Let me begin with a story that happened in an office to illustrate a point. There was a person who worked in a frum office and brought his own milk and every day. The milk would mysteriously go missing at the end of every day. He tried many different preventative measures including writing "Lo Signov" on the milk all of this accomplished nothing, as everyday his milk was still missing. Then one day he had a bright Idea. He poured the milk in a container that was Chalav Stam and low and behold the milk was there at the end of the day untouched. Now we have the answer to the original question a Donkey will not eat un-tithed food yet when it comes to Dishonesty it might not be so stringent.

  2. Anonymous6:28 PM

    I would love to see a Post on Yitchok relationship with Rivkah based on the Netziv in this week Parsha (Chaya Sarah) probaly even better if your wife wrote it or even a joint post.

  3. My wife said maybe after Shabbos she will write something on it bl"n.

  4. Anonymous11:54 PM

    It will be an interesting counter to the Sarah Avrham relationship almost Polar Opposites.