Parashat Lekh Lekha
Do You Have the Emunah Not to be Distracted by the Reward?
6. And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him as righteousness.
ו. וְהֶאֱמִן בַּי־הֹוָ־ה וַיַּחְשְׁבֶהָ לּוֹ צְדָקָה:
Avraham Avinu is often defined by his ten tests. In each one, he surveys to us an even higher level of Emunah than previous. I read the Parasha with sheer admiration. Avraham Avinu’s Emunah and commitment to HaKadosh Barukh Hu is clearly evident when he detaches from the world known to him in exchange for one undefined. For this, HaKadosh Barukh Hu says to Avraham Avinu ‘I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will exalt your name; and you will be a blessing.’ Rashi explains that this was a guarantee of offspring, wealth and reputation, respectively. Why?
When one is constantly traveling (as Avraham Avinu and Sarah Imenu were instructed), it is exactly those three things that he or she is unable to do. How can Avraham Avinu’s wife bear a child if they are too busy constantly relocating themselves from one place to another? How can they possibly amass wealth in a city where they are not established? Even more so, how can they attain a reputable name if they do not live somewhere long enough for others to even recognize them?
Avraham Avinu had the Emunah enough to realize that no matter what ones thinks they are sacrificing, HaKadosh Barukh Hu will always deliver to them what they are meant to have in life. He believed enough that although at times it seems that HaKadosh Barukh Hu may veer one off a path he/she thinks is the correct one, He always brings them to where they are supposed to be, to where is best for them. We must realize that in life, we are given a mission and a destiny. We must fulfill those two regardless of what comes our way; our personal desires and beliefs should not hinder us from achieving this.
Avraham Avinu exemplifies steadfast Emunah in this regard (and of course, may other ones). He did not once let the reward blind him from his mission. When his nephew, Lot is captured in a war of four kings against five kings, Avraham Avinu joins the side with four kings, the one with less manpower, confident that he will emerge victorious despite the fact that they had less power (which he did). His Emunah extended so far that after the victory, when the kings were dividing the spoils of war and they offered him to take anything he’d like, he refused; he would not even take a shoe strap, as the pasuk says.
But didn’t he deserve it? After all, it was in his zekhut that they won! He captured Lot! Why shouldn’t he take what is dutifully entitled to him? Avraham Avinu constantly had his mission in mind. He joined the war not to acquire wealth and reputation; he contributed to the war effort only to save his beloved nephew. Avraham Avinu had the Emunah that even though all the gold and silver was staring him in the face, that it would be HaKadosh Barukh Hu specifically Who would bless him with wealth and it would not come from any other source. He did not join the war for its reward; he joined because it was the right thing to do. This is a reward in itself.
Perek Shirah offers us a pasuk that sums this idea beautifully. ‘The Dove says before The Holy One, Blessed is He: 'Master of the Universe, may my sustenance be bitter like an olive in Your Hand, and not be sweet like honey by way of flesh and blood’ (Eruvin: 18b). We should always daven that we receive our life source and berakhot from HaKadosh Barukh Hu only, and not to fall into the illusion that it is dependent on anybody else or even ourselves. The main thing is to do what is right; don’t do things for the sekhar, reward. Do them for their inherent and intrinsic value. The rest will come.
In Shema, the hakhamim instruct us to be stringent in our pronunciation of the two words ‘tizkeru’ and ‘u’zekhartem ’ both meaning ‘you shall remember’. The Halakha explains that one must emphasize the zayin when reciting these words so that they do not sound as ‘tiskeru’ and ‘u’sekhartem’ which mean ‘you will merit a reward’. This is a powerful message.
In life, we must focus on the intrinsic value of our actions and not what rewards we can reap from them. If we are too preoccupied with the reward, we are doing things for the wrong reasons and won’t receive the proper growth we are meant to be undergoing. Sometimes we don’t realize how great the power of HaShem really is. We tell ourselves, ‘If I don’t work on Shabbat, then HOW can I possibly make a living?’ Although this makes logical sense, we must understand HASHEM IS CAPABLE OF EVERYTHING AND ANYTHING. He created nature, He can surely bend it as well. Although this is just one giant paradox, do what you think is right, and the rest will be covered. Have the Emunah that HaKadosh Barukh Hu will send you the reward you deserve regardless of if you think it would even be physically impossible to receive it. Avraham Avinu had the Emunah that even though there seems to be absolutely no possible way for him to receive offspring, wealth and reputation that it would happen. Just look who his descendants are today.
Be’ezrat HaShem Yitbarakh, may we all develop an Emunah Temimah (simple and complete) in order to fulfill our missions in life without having to be concerned about the consequences. If we do what is right, we are guaranteed the best reward and will merit to receive a special light reserved for Sadikim.
Wishing everybody a Shabbat Shalom u’Mevorakh!
A special thanks to J.B. for inspiration and halakhot pertaining to the Devar Torah J