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Shabbat Pesach 5782

Parashat Hashavua: Avrahams Mistake

Harav Shaul Yisraeli from Shirat Hageula, p. 17-18

Many have discussed the nature of Avraham’s sin (a possible cause of the exile in Egypt – Nedarim 32a) of asking, “How will I know [my progeny will inherit the Land]” (Bereishit 15:8)? Apparently Avraham did not doubt Hashem’s ability to see to it. Rather, he speculated whether his children would succeed in handling the gift of the Land in a way that they would live an independent national life in it.

Jews throughout history did not just doubt whether they were physically capable of gaining control of their Land. Rather, they also had misgiving over whether they could run a country in the Land while still keeping a life of Torah. Isn’t it easier to live as a Jew in the Diaspora, where the agriculture is in non-Jewish hands? Then a Jew can look for an “easy and clean” profession, one that will allow him to spend some extra time davening and learning some mishnayot and spend the evening in the beit midrash? Can a state exist without an army, and can the existence of an army go hand-in-hand with ideal Torah education and greatness in Torah scholarship? Will that not cause an increase in secularism, to the point that this nation would no longer be fit to inherit the legacy of Avraham?

Let us examine these questions in light of Yitzchak’s blessings to his sons. Yitzchak did not intend to make Eisav the full firstborn, but rather his idea was to divide the elements of leadership. Eisav was to be the man of action, business, and worldliness. Yaakov would remain a tent dweller, removed from worldly activity. Each would live peacefully with the other and complement him. However, that is not the way Hashem wanted it. He chose Yaakov to assume both mantels – the dew of the heaven and the fats of the land.

Yaakov was daunted by the task. Chazal explain that he saw on his ladder nations going up and down. Hashem encouraged him to climb up, but he was afraid (Shemot Rabba 32). Yaakov was supposed to oppose Eisav from the beginning, but instead he ran away and tried to appease him. This was a dereliction of his task. Going to the Diaspora, which he thought would enable him to serve Hashem with more freedom, did not work out. While he did not have to battle, the building of a family was not easy for him (see Hoshea 12:13).

The phenomenon returned along the lines of “the actions of the fathers serving as a sign for the children.” The new Diaspora was Egypt. This too came about as a result of a misunderstanding of the proper fusion between the physical and spiritual worlds. Why were the brothers jealous of Yosef? They did not want him to have prominence in practical affairs since he was the one who studied the most Torah with their father. They did not want him to use what proved to be great political skill on family affairs; he should stay in the tent with their father. They thought it was haughty to think he could do it all.

At the end, the mistakes became clear. It is not better to leave the practical world to the gentiles, and it is not possible to have an ideal spiritual state among them. Maror represents the physical torment the non-Jews will exact from us, and matza represents the need to quickly extricate ourselves before their spiritual decadence dooms us. The korban Pesach represents the third lesson – that the liberation of Israel is carried out as part of a divine plan, which one needs to take part in and not avoid. Without these three elements, we have not fulfilled the mitzva of Pesach.

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