At the end of Parshat Vayeira we read about the major event in Avraham Avinu’s life. According to most Rishonim, the Akeida is the tenth test that Avraham Avinu passes with flying colors. After he’s been promised that his son will become the father of a great nation, he’s asked by Hashem to sacrifice him. Avraham Avinu asks no questions but prepares to fulfill this test with all his heart.
Hashem tells Avraham to “please take your son that you love…” (Bereishit 22:2). The Ran, Rabbeinu Nissim, gives a unique idea focusing on one word of the command: “na, please.” Rather than Hashem commanding Avraham to take his son and sacrifice him, we see that he’s requesting and revealing what His inner will and desire would be—that Hashem would appreciate Avraham sacrificing his son to Him. With Avraham fulfilling Hashem’s desire, he is recognizing not only what he needs to do but also proving his love for Hashem by doing what he knows Hashem would appreciate. We can reach a much higher level of personal refinement when we go above and beyond what we’re commanded or expected to do, when we’re sensitive to others’ inner desires. This idea of course applies to all our relationships—with family, friends, co-workers and others.
After receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai, Hashem announced the commandment of “You shall do what is right and good in the eyes of Hashem” (Devarim 6:18). The Ramban says that there are so many commandments, both positive and negative, so which commandments does this include? He points out that it’s impossible to write in the Torah about every single situation that a person finds himself in during his life—with his family, friends, business, etc. Hashem gave us 613 commandments and then told us “You shall do what is right and good in the eyes of Hashem.” Hashem is telling us that He’s given us the framework, the basics and also numerous details and we can use that template to figure out how to act in other situations. That is exactly how Avraham Avinu acted at the Akeida and that’s how every Jew needs to act every day of their life, going beyond fulfilling just the 613 commandments.
In our generation we have the extra merit of having the centrality of Eretz Yisrael in our lives. The first conversations Hashem had with our leaders—Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Moshe and Yehoshua—were concerning the Land of Israel. It was the first subject He discussed with them. This proves that beyond the commandments of living in Israel and those that apply only in the Land of Israel, Hashem wants us to yearn for the land and to be there, in the place where we can reach ultimate closeness to Him.
The Ishbitzer Rebbe, also known as The Beis Yaakov, writes that in the first blessing of the Grace after Meals we talk to Hashem in the third person: “He provides sustenance for the entire world”—and in the second blessing we talk to Hashem directly: “We offer thanks to You.” Moshe Rabbeinu wrote the first blessing when the manna fell and Yehoshua wrote the second bracha when he crossed the Jordan River into the Land of Israel. Even though Moshe Rabbeinu reached the highest level of any human being, he recognized that he was lacking a certain closeness and directness of connection with Hashem that can only be felt in the Land of Israel, and therefore he addressed Hashem in the third person.
May it be Hashem’s will that every Jew around the world recognizes the centrality of serving Hashem in general and in the Land of Israel specifically, especially our generation in which we have merited to witness miracles with millions of Jews returning to the Land of Israel. We should all feel the connection and the magnetic pull, recognizing Hashem’s desire for every Jew to be in the Land of Israel.
Rabbi Shalom Rosner is a rebbe at Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh and rabbi of the Nofei HaShemesh community. He is a member of the Mizrachi Speakers Bureau (www.mizrachi.org/speakers).