Shabbat Parashat Lech Lecha| 5771
Ein Ayah: The Special Status of Israel as “Firstborn”
(condensed from Ein Ayah, Berachot 5:84)
Gemara: In response to Bnei Yisrael’s claim: “Hashem has left me,” Hashem responded: “Would a mother forget ulla (her young child)?” (Yeshaya 49:15). Hashem was in effect saying: “I will certainly not forget the ollot (sacrificial offerings) and firstborn animals that you offered Me in the desert.”
Ein Ayah: The main point behind the dor hamidbar (the generation that left Egypt and dwelled in the desert) was to raise Israel to the level on which they were intrinsically meant to be. That is why incredible miracles happened to them, as they did not need their national life to be led according to the rules of nature.
The Nation of Israel will always have a special standing within the world. Even at a time when all the nations will act properly and recognize Hashem, we will still be “My firstborn son is Israel” (Shemot 4:22). This elevated status is engendered by two types of advantages, one by chance and one in essence. One everlasting advantage, which is by chance, is the fact that we recognized Hashem’s glory and clung to Him many generations earlier than the nations. Additionally, though, the reason for this earlier recognition is that we possess a special kedusha (sanctity). This not only will last forever but as shleimut (completeness) increases “across the board” in the future, so will our spiritual power blossom. That is why Bnei Yisrael’s advantage will always exist.
The interpretation of Hashem’s response is to be explained as follows. “I will certainly not forget the ollot you offered before Me in the desert” refers to the fact that, already in the desert, Bnei Yisrael served Hashem, well before others did. Bnei Yisrael’s service of Hashem was in the desert, as inhabited lands were not then ready for such service, and we could have no impact upon them, as the nations were wild and entrenched in evil.
The matter of bringing firstborn animals as sacrifices is to be understood as follows. The service of Hashem naturally should involve firstborns, whether it is service performed by firstborn men or the offering of firstborn animals. This hints at the special status of Israel that is intrinsic in nature as the pasuk said: “My firstborn son is Israel.” The advantage that existed in the desert, which was mainly intrinsic, will continue, for Hashem’s word is eternal. For this reason, originally it was the firstborn who were involved in the service, and this was changed only because of the sin of the Golden Calf. Had it not been for that sin, the world’s shleimut would have totally revolved around the prominence of Israel, without regard to the spiritual needs of the nations if the latter would take away from Israel in the slightest. Therefore, everything revolved around the status of firstborn that Israel had. For example, at the giving of the Torah, the “youngsters of Israel” were sent forward (Shemot 24:5), and Chazal tell us that these were the firstborn (Zevachim 115b).
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