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Shabbat Parashat Chayei Sara 5778

Parashat Hashavua: Belief Solely in the Merciful G-d

Harav Yosef Carmel

We have explained in the past that Hashem forged a covenant with Avraham, both under the “auspices” of His Attribute of Judgment (din) and his Attribute of Mercy (rachamim).

Let us try to understand the covenant connected to mercy. In that regard, Hashem’s Name of Mercy is used in commanding Avraham to “walk before Me and be tamim,” which will result in a covenant and Avraham flourishing greatly (Bereishit 17:1-2). What does it mean to walk before Hashem and be tamim? Rashi (ad loc.) first explains that it means to be complete in fulfilling all of the tests Hashem gave him. According to this, the covenant is contingent on fulfillment of all the ten tests Avraham underwent (see Avot 5:3).

Rashi also cites a midrash that the critical test in this regard was the circumcision (mila). This made him tamim (complete, unblemished), as with the foreskin, he was considered blemished. This is notable in our context, as in the explicit discussion of mila, Hashem’s Name of Judgment (elokim) was mentioned. Ibn Ezra says that the matter of tamim refers to the expectation that Avraham not ask why the mila was necessary.

The Ramban, in contrast, says that being tamim is a reference to a different mitzva, found explicitly much later in the Torah. Right after the commandment not to be involved in a variety of activities which we might categorize as witchcraft or divination (Devarim 18:10), the Torah says “You shall be tamim with Hashem, your G-d” (ibid. 13). The Ramban explains that the idea is that one’s belief in Hashem should be complete, as one should realize that He alone determines what will be and can change things that were planned to happen. Under such circumstances, the predictions of the various soothsayers are irrelevant. Rather, Hashem controls everything, and nothing happens based on constellations or the like.

We will continue along the path set before us by the Ramban. According to this approach, the Torah in Devarim took that which specifically Avraham was told and turned it into an obligation for every Jew. Many nations used such “magical” practices, which were often connected to impurity and death, to “uncover” the hidden future. Our rejection of such practices is not just because they are, as a rule, ineffective hoaxes, or due to their connection to matters of impurity. Rather, it is mainly because they contradict our belief and trust in the Creator, who runs the world and wants us to not pursue various “forces” some feel can tell us about the future. It is for this reason that the Name of Hashem in this context is the main Name, which shows Hashem’s side of mercy and unlimited ability to act on our behalf.

When one believes without qualms, he receives providence that is beyond the rules of nature, predestination, or constellational connection. Anything can change for the good based on our belief. This belief makes a Jew complete (which is one of the meanings of tamim).

May we merit to follow Avraham Avinu and observe the commandments of the Torah handed down by Moshe.

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David Chaim ben Rassa

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