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Parshas Lech Lecha 5774
Candle Lighting Time: 6:09 pm
October 11, 2014
Volume 10 Issue 1
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Dvar Torah

Strength and Skill

 

By Rabbi Avraham Weiss

           

         

A charge....

A sacred calling...

A mission vested with an eternal imprint...

 

Standing at the pinnacle of a lifetime of amazing accomplishment, Avrohom Avinu is told to leave it all behind and embark on a new mission. For years he has disseminated a belief in one Supreme G-d. And the world is now listening. At what should have been Avrohom's opportunity, and perhaps right, to take stock and bask in the glow of his considerable accomplishments, a Divine charge echoes forth:"Lech Lecha"! Avrohom is told to leave it behind. It is in this new stage that Avrohom Avinu will find his truest calling, in the forging of a holy seed that will one day be the Jewish people.

 

Amazingly, these same words, "Lech Lecha," are the very words that precede the final and greatest test of Avrohom Avinu's long and productive life. Akeidas Yitzchok, the command to bring his beloved son as a human sacrifice, is initiated as well with the words "Lech Lecha." The Midrash, in its treatise of these two awesome experiences, speculates, as to which of these two nisyonos were the tougher, and by default, more beloved in G-d's eyes. The Midrash weighs both tests, pits them against each other, and ultimately deduces that the Akeida was harder.

 

The question however begs itself, how can the two be compared?!? How can the test of pulling up stakes and beginning anew, with all the difficulty that such a move at an advanced age entails, possibly parallel on any significant level the Herculean inner reservoir of strength that Avrohom would need to tap in order to fulfill the command of Akeidas Yitzchok in all its minute detail?

 

The answer is as follows: Akeidas Yitzchok was undoubtedly the test that forged the character of Avrohom Avinu, and by extension, the entire Jewish people, more than any other human experience. Nonetheless, the fact is, it was a one time affair. The argument can be made that any person can rise for a moment to the very limit of human endurance and strength and commit great acts of heroism and grandeur. The fire of the moment can ennoble a person and enable him to commit great acts that go beyond his normal range . One, however, cannot exist long term on such an elevated plateau. One inevitably reverts back to his normal state of existence.

 

The mark of excellence is when one is able to live by one's convictions even in the face of uninspired daily life. When the humdrum flow of normal existence is running in its default mode, people often stop trying.

 

The first test of Lech Lecha was a protracted, unexciting, and relatively uninspiring test. It was a test to see whether Avrohom would be able to walk away from a lifetime of accomplishment and become an unrecognized entity in an unfamiliar land. In this setting, where there is no heart pounding drama, where one must relinquish position, status, and friends, would Avrohom follow the instructions of his L-rd with the same ardor, dedication, and strength that he did everything else? The answer, in Avrohom's case, was a resounding YES!

 

In carrying out the nisayon of leaving it all behind, Avrohom cast light on the nature of his performance during the Akeida. He was not fulfilling the Akeida in a spirit of frenzied, unfocused passion. Even a test like that of the Akeida was fulfilled with cognitive engagement, inner strength, and conviction. Both tests together are the touchstones of the Jewish soul: Perseverance, passion, and concentrated willingness to serve Hashem in all situations, on days of inspiration and otherwise is the legacy, achievement, and mission for the rest of us that is shown in the persona of Avrohom Avinu.      

 

 

 

 

Dvar Halacha

 

 Halachos of Honoring Elders

 

By Rabbi Yochanan Eskenazi

  

 

The Torah [Vayikra 19:32] says "Mipnay sayvah takum v'hadarta p'nay zakain v'yarasa may'Elokecha, ani Hashem" (In the presence of an old person you shall stand, and you shall honor the presence of a sage and you shall revere your God, I am Hashem).  There is a dispute in the Gemara [Kiddushin 32b] whether "zakain" (elder) in the posuk is referring to specifically to someone who has acquired chachmah (wisdom) or any elder person.  The Shulchan Aruch [YD 244:1] rules that one is required to stand up for both an older person and also a talmid chacham even if he is young.  Sefer Hachinuch [257] writes the reason why the Torah refers to a young Torah scholar as an "elder" is because a scholar thru his wisdom sees what an older man sees thru his multitude of years.  Harav Ovadia Yosef, zt"l, points out, based on the Gemara [Kiddushin 33b], that one who is scrupulous in this mitzvah will merit to a long life and will remember his Torah learning.

 

If one does not honor someone who is both a talmid chacham and and elder [above the age of 70], he has violated this positive mitzvah two separate times (Sefer Chafetz Chaim, Introduction Positive Commandments, 8).

 

Sefer Hachinuch [257] explains the reason for this mitzvah is that since the main reason why man was created is for the sake of wisdom, in order to recognize Hashem, it is therefore proper to honor a person who has attained this wisdom. By honoring people who are wise it inspires others to strive to become wise themselves. This is the reason one is required to honor an elder even if he is not a talmid chacham, for over the course of his long life he has seen and recognized maasei Hashem (Hashem's handiwork).

 

One must stand up for someone above 70 years old (Shulchan Aruch YD 244:1).  One is obligated to stand for an elder woman as well (Shu"T Yechaveh Daas 3:92).  In the opinion of the Arizal one must stand for someone above 60 years old. If one is unsure if someone is above 70 years old, there is a machlokes whether one is obligated to stand (see Shu"T Yechaveh Daas 3:90, Halichos Bein Adom L'chaveiro 4:ftnt. 8).

 

One is obligated to stand even for a zakain am ha'aretz (uneducated elder) as long as he is not a rasha (Rama YD 244:1).  However, one is not obligated to stand for someone who does not keep Torah u'mitzvos (Sefer Mishpatei Hashalom 22: ftnt. 28 quoting Gedolei Haposkim).  If the reason why he does not observe mitzvos is because he does not know any better [tinok shenishba], one is required to stand (Aruch Hashulchan YD 244:2).  One is not obligated to stand up for a non-Jewish elder, however one should show them some respect [e.g. acknowledge their presence or shake their hand] (Shulchan Aruch YD 244:7).

 

As an aside, some Poskim recommend that each zakan v'zekeina (elder man or woman) should be mochel al kevodum (forgive on their honor) that others do not need to stand up for them, in order that others do not violate a mitzvah [by not standing up for them] (Sefer Halichos Bain Odom L'chaveiro 4:7 quoting Shu"T Radvaz 8:167).

 

 


 

 

 

  

 

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