PARSHAT CHAYEI SARAH 5778: THE SHIELD OF AVRAHAM IS STILL PROTECTING US
Secrets of the Torah with Rav Eliezer Berland, shlita.
Translated and adapted from the Tzama Nafshi newsletter.
EVERYTHING WE DO, WE DO FOR OURSELVES
If a person doesn’t work on himself, he will retain all of his stupid notions and habits. He’ll feel deprived, he’ll keep complaining, he’ll be angry, he’ll feel sad, he’ll worry about things, he’ll blame himself, and other people for things, he’ll show off, he’ll feel jealous, he’ll eat too much, he’ll look at too many things [he shouldn’t look at].
Everything he does, it’s only for his own personal success, and for the honor that other people will show him.
But when a person works on himself, he starts to develop, he starts to grow, he starts to change. He starts to draw closer to Hashem. He’s asking himself all the time: ‘Where in the world am I? Am I connected [to Hashem, to Yiddishkeit, to my soul], or not? How am I connected? And what’s going to be with me, Abba, what’s going to be my end? When am I going to start thinking about You, Hashem, and not just about myself and my own honor?”
EVERYTHING IS CLARIFIED IN OUR THOUGHTS
Our thoughts have a tremendously powerful force. Everything is clarified in our thoughts. This is where the soul is to be found, this is where our ratzon (will) is to be found. When a person spends a little time reflecting about himself, and about his life, that’s when he’ll see where he’s really holding, and then things will move from the realm of thought to the realm of speech [i.e. prayer].
“Hashem! Help me to eat more fruit! Look what a huge beer-belly I’m developing! It’s really getting in the way of so much. It’s impossible for me to be devuk (stuck) to You, because the stomach is preventing it. Hashem, help me to be happy with what You’re giving me, and to stop being jealous of other people, so I’ll suddenly start learning all the time without a break, and I’ll suddenly start smiling all the time.
“Help me to be happy – really happy – when my friend has some success in life, so I won’t keep trying to avoid bumping into him, because I don’t want to give him the pleasure of me seeing him so successful.”
FROM SPEECH TO ACTION
And from the realm of speech, things will then move to the realm of action. Slowly, slowly, we’ll merit to start changing. And then life will be truly wonderful.
We should have so much pity on those people who stay with all their stupid notions and bad habits until the end of their lives. They already have a long, [white] beard, but they’re effectively still children. They’re walking around with a big halal pinui (vacated space), Hashem can’t be found by them, G-d forbid.
So, that’s why we need to think good thoughts, and to pray with kavana (intention), and to learn some Torah, and all these things plug the hole. Hashem is telling everyone single one of us to go to the place that’s filled with Hashem, to the inside of yourself, to the internal place where Hashem is always found.
You can always revive yourself from this internal point, so that you won’t fall down, spiritually, and so you won’t get confused.
HASHEM CAN BE FOUND IN EVERY PLACE
Even though Hashem created the world with a halal pinui; and we have difficulties all the time; and we experience so many things that we don’t understand; and we’re constantly being humiliated; and we have so many failures; and everything goes exactly the opposite of how we’d like it to be; and nothing is any good for us and everything is bad for us – we still need to remind ourselves that Hashem can be found in every place.
We are Ivrim, Hebrews (lit: ‘on the other side’). We need to ovrim (move) to a place where God can be found, and to open our hearts, and to find Hashem within our hearts. We need to find that protected (lit: shielded) place, that connects us to Hashem.
Avraham Avinu created a magen Avraham (shield of Abraham) for us, that is greater even than techiyat hameitim (the revival of the dead)! Start your Shmoneh Esrei prayer with the magen Avraham blessing, and only afterwards we’ll get to techiyat hameitim.
‘YOUR BLESSING IS GREATER THAN MINE’
First, we need to protect ourselves. Hashem told Avraham that: ‘Your blessing is greater than My blessing. You’re the first in line, and I’ll come afterwards and revive the dead, which is the second stage.’
Avraham Avinu shielded and protected this point, which is the kesef (silver; money), the tirat (palace) of silver, the wings of the dove that are gilded with silver. Feeling yearning for, and love of, Hashem is the only true happiness. When we have this merit, this strength, we can overcome every difficulty.
The whole of Am Yisrael is sustained from this point.
THE WHOLE WORLD REALLY WANTS GOD
People sin, and they fall away [from Judaism], and they destroy themselves, and they commit many transgressions, but then afterwards their children return – and sometimes they themselves also return. And everything is in the merit of this ‘point’.
This point will stand and endure until the end of time, to the last generation.
Just like a baby always wants its mother, and chases after its mother all the time, that’s how much the whole world really wants God.