PARASHAT LECH LECHA - And you shall be a blessing

והיה ברכה (12:2) and you shall be a blessing Rashi comments that in these words Hashem promised Abraham that, even though His Name would also be identified with Yitzcak (as we say in Shemoneh Esrei, the God of Yitzcak ) and with Yaakov (the God of Yaakov), nonetheless the blessing would conclude only with Abraham's name. Seemingly, Abraham merited this distinction by being the first person who recognized Hashem's existence. Even though the Sages tell us that Yitzcak equaled his father's achievements (Shemot Rabbah 1:1), and that Yaakov may even have exceeded them (since he was called בחיר האבות the select one of the forefathers (Bereshit Rabbah 76:1), Abraham merited greater distinction because it was he who first established Hashem's faith in the world. From this we learn that when a great man initiates any major endeavor, then even though his descendants and successors may carry it to higher levels than he could, it is still known as his accomplishment. R' Shneur Zalman offers a different way to understand why in the beginning of Amidah, we close the blessing with מגן אברהם the shield of Abraham. He says that every Jew, whether a biological descendant of the Patriarch Abraham or a child of Abraham by choice, has a spark within his neshamah which is indestructible. This spark of devotion to God was bequeathed by Abraham to all Jewish neshamot through eternity. It is because of this spark that Jews feel, even if only subconsciously, that they cannot separate from God. The mitzvot are the vehicles which strengthen our bond with God. Some people may not understand this. They may not realize that by transgressing the laws of the Torah, they are weakening their bond with God and distancing themselves from Him. However, when it is evident to them that they may lose this bond, they choose to sacrifice their lives rather than be separated from God. Although they may not realize that their failure to observe Shabbot distances them from God, they know that by accepting another faith they sever this bond. They feel that a life without being bonded to God is not worth living. This is not an intellectual awareness. This phenomenon was noted in people who were hardly versed in Jewish theology. This feeling is due to the spark of the neshamah which is never extinguished. The Talmud says, “Regardless of how sinful a Jew may have been, he is always a Jew" (Sanhedrin 44a). God promised Abraham, "I will be your shield" (Genesis 15:1). God has protected this bequest to Abraham throughout history. Regardless of what circumstances Jews have suffered, regardless of how much a person may have deviated from Torah observance, this spark of Abraham remains alive. The Midrash relates that when the Romans sacked Jerusalem, they were afraid to provoke the wrath of God by entering the Temple. "Let a Jew go in first," they said. They told a Jew, Yosef Meshita, to go into the Temple and take whatever he wished for himself. When he emerged with the Menorah, they said, "That is not suitable for secular use. Go in and take something else." Yosef replied, "I have angered my God once. I will not do it again!" The Romans then began torturing him, and Yosef repeatedly cried, "Woe unto me! I have angered my God" (Bereshit Rabbah 65:22). Just reflect for a moment. Yosef was so alienated from Jewishness that he dared to enter and plunder the Temple, something which even the Romans feared doing. Yet, he was suddenly overcome by an awareness of the awesomeness of his act, and his repentance was so sincere that as he tolerated inhuman torture, he did not cry in pain but in remorse. This was due to the spark of Godliness within his neshamah, which ignited his spirit to the height of martyrdom. Early in our recitation of the Amidah we are reminded of this spark of Abraham which God sustains within cach of us. If there is ever a time when our spirits are so low that we do not feel we can address God, we should remember that there is within us an inextinguishable spark of Godliness which God Himself protects. Even if we feel that we have drifted away from closeness with God, and that our nesiamah is dormant, we should remember that with this spark, we can always approach God and rekindle the flame of the neshamah. Shabbat Shalom Rabbi Eliyahu Tal


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