Abraham's Legacy - Spiritual Selflessness

Friday, 18 October, 2013 - 1:39 pm

Our father Abraham opened his plea before G-d to save the evil city of Sodom by declaring, “I am but dust and ashes.” Our sages comment, that in the merit of his humbling statement two Mitzvot were given to his descendants, the ashes of the Red Heifer (which were mixed with water and herbs and used to purify one who had come into contact with a corpse) and the dust of the Sotah (which was mixed with water and drunk to determine whether infidelity had occurred in a marriage).

Other than the association with dust and ashes these mitzvot don’t seem to have much of a connection with Avraham’s greatness or humility. So why where they designated as the reward? The Rebbe provides a beautiful and insightful explanation. Avraham’s whole life was dedicated to helping others, often at the expense of his own material and spiritual wellbeing. A classic example is when, in the opening verses of this Parsha, he leaves G-d, Who had come to visit him after his Bris, in order to attend to guests (who we later find out are angels). Another person in his place may have concluded that having a G-dly revelation supersedes caring for the guests. At least they can be made to wait a few minutes until his visit with G-d came to an end. But Avraham’s life was devoted to helping others and this trumped all other considerations.

The two Mitzvot that were designated as the reward embody this ideal. In a most ironic twist, every Kohen involved in the preparation of the Red Heifer was rendered impure. So a Kohen had to sacrifice his own purity to facilitate the process of making someone else pure. In a similar vein the water of the Sotah was mixed with dust, following which, a parchment with a passage from the Torah was placed in the water until all the ink, including that of G-d’s name, was diluted. Why did Hashem allow His name to be erased? In order to promote peace between husband and wife. Once again, a spiritual sacrifice for the good of another.

The lesson is clear. A descendant of Avraham must be ready to put one’s own material or even spiritual wellbeing aside for the benefit of another. Now go take on the day!

Mazel Tov to Hannah and Akiva Hall upon the birth of their daughter Leah. Congratulations to the grandparents, Ron Hall, Mr. and Mrs. Alan Black, and Mary and Ron Hall Sr. It is a great Simcha for the entire Chabad New Orleans community.

Our sympathies are with Raquel and Saul Hakim upon the passing of her mother, Ana Kay.

Our sympathies are with Jim Gillis upon the passing of his mother, Donna Gillis.

Question of the week for discussion at the Kiddush: What time of the year did the angels’ visit to Avraham occur? How do we know?

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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