30 Oct 2015 An Angel of Mercy
In this week’s parsha, Parshas Vayeira, Avraham Avinu is tested with his tenth, and most difficult, test: Akeidas Yitzchak, the Binding of Isaac. “Take your son, your only one, the one that you love, Yitzchak, and go for yourself to the land of Moriah, and bring him up as an offering upon one of the mountains that I will tell you” (Bereishis 22:2).
The son I have waited 100 years to father? The son who is to carry on my lineage and the continuity of this newly begun nation? The son in whom I have invested all my hopes, all my joy, all my life…This is the son that I shall take…And offer him up…?
It is compelling to note that as we learn through the beginning of Perek 22, the command to carry out the Akeidah was given to Avraham by Elokim, the Name of Hashem that represents Midas HaDin, Strict Justice and Judgement (See Bereishis 22:1,3,8,9). The Divine Attribute of Mercy was seemingly not apparent, for according to Mercy, such a sacrifice would never be; while according to Justice, such a sacrifice must be.
And Avraham and his son, Yitzchak, came to the place that Hashem had told him, and Avraham built the altar there, and he arranged the wood; and he bound Yitzchak his son, and he placed him on the mizbayach atop the wood (ibid, v.9). And Avraham sent forth his hand! And he took the מַּאֲכֶלֶת, לִשְׁחֹט, אֶת-בְּנוֹ – translated as, “the knife to slaughter his son” (v.10). The knife is, interestingly, called a מַּאֲכֶלֶת…
And then! Lo and behold – An angel of Mercy, a מלאך ה׳, called out to him from heaven, and said, “Avraham! Avraham!…Do not send forth your hand to the lad, and do not do anything to him…” (v.11,12).
At the very moment before the sacrifice, a מלאך ה׳, an angel of Mercy called out to Avraham, and instructed him to refrain from what he was about to do.
Perhaps, all the while that Avraham was going through the motions – for when G-d decreed, Avraham absolutely did – he was simultaneously appealing to Midas Ha’Rachamim, Divine Mercy, to save him and his son from this incomprehensible act of sacrifice.
Let us revisit the lashon of the pasuk, and perhaps understand why the knife is called a מַּאֲכֶלֶת.
וַיִּשְׁלַח אַבְרָהָם אֶת-יָדוֹ, וַיִּקַּח אֶת-הַמַּאֲכֶלֶת, לִשְׁחֹט, אֶת-בְּנוֹ – Perhaps a deeper reading, and meaning, of this verse is as follows: And as Avraham sent forth his hand, at the very moment when he was about to offer up his son, and he reached out and took for himself Mercy, appealing to the מלאך ה׳, who would surely save him from having to sacrifice his son…And lo and behold! Immediately following: ויקרא אליו מלאך ה׳, the very Middah of Rachamim, Mercy, to which he appealed, called out for him to withdraw his hand.
For when we rearrange the letters of הַמַּאֲכֶלֶת, we find therein the words מלאך ה׳.
And Avraham reached forth his hand, to take the knife, to slaughter his beloved son;
And Avraham reached forth his hand in prayer, and as he took the knife, he appealed to Midas Ha’Rachamim, Divine Mercy, which could surely nullify the decree of Justice.
Even as we accept what often appears to be Hashem’s Din, Strict Judgement, in our lives, and even as we continue on as faithful ovdei Hashem, servants of the Almighty, we nevertheless always appeal to His Great Divine Mercy, to save us from the most difficult, most trying and most painful moments of our lives.
It happened during the terrible years of churban in Europe that Rebetzin Luba Bloch, the wife of R’ Zalman Bloch, the menahel ruchani – spiritual leader – of Yeshivas Telz, was taken out with her children to be killed. The rebetzin approached a certain Nazi and promised him to reveal the secret hiding place of all of her jewelry and valuables if he would be willing to honor her last request. “Please let me die last,” she requested. The guard took her for a coward who wanted to delay the inevitable, and he agreed.
After seeing her children slaughtered in front of her, Rebetzin Bloch lowered herself into the pit and tended to their bullet ridden bodies. She closed their eyes, she kissed them on their foreheads, and she scooped up handfuls of dirt and sprinkled some over each child. With that, she looked Heaven-ward and said, “Thank You for giving me the opportunity to bring my children to kever Yisrael.”
Within moments, Rebetzin Bloch was reunited with her children.
Take your son, your only one, the one that you love, and offer him as a pure sacrifice…And Avraham sent forth his hand, and begged Midas Ha’Rachamim, Divine Mercy, for some measure of Compassion amidst the Strict Justice of Din.
As Mercy was granted to Avraham Avinu, may it be granted to us: his (and His) faithful, hopeful, prayerful children.
בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,