Without Calculations

It was Erev Pesach when Og, the giant who had clung to the teivah and survived the Mabul, came to inform Avraham Avinu that his nephew Lot was a captive and in grave danger.

Our ancestor promptly set out — according to one view quoted by Rashi, accompanied only by his servant Eliezer — to rescue his nephew. The two battled four mighty kings who, according to Chazal, commanded a massive army of 800,000 well-armed men.

The result was a miracle we remember and recount at the end of the Seder night: Avraham Avinu defeated the four kings and their massive army, and rescued Lot along with a number of the other captives, including the king of Sodom.

But why did he take such a risk on behalf of a nephew who, when parting with his uncle, declared, “I want neither Avram nor his G-d”? Why did he put himself into danger for a relative who had brought this misfortune on himself by choosing to move to Sodom, a city that embodied evil and cruelty, whose residents lived a life that was the polar opposite of everything Avraham Avinu stood for?

One explanation is that Avraham Avinu felt that were he not to come to the assistance of Lot, the latter would blame his uncle for the predicament he found himself in. He had previously lived alongside Avraham Avinu. It was only after Avraham Avinu made it clear that the two would have to part ways that he chose to move to what presumably was the most unsavory neighborhood on earth. If Avraham would have allowed him to stay put, Lot could have claimed, he never would have moved to Sodom and then been taken captive.

Such a claim against the man who was single-handedly educating the world about the truth of Hashem would have constituted chillul Shem Shamayim, something Avraham was determined to avoid at all costs (based on Ramban).

In theory, Avraham Avinu could have made a very similar argument about Hakadosh Baruch Hu. He could have claimed that if only Hashem would not have instructed him to leave his father’s home, both Avraham Avinu and Lot would have remained behind in Charan; Lot would not have moved to Sodom, and Avraham Avinu would not have had to go to war to save him.

Accordingly, one could claim that Hashem’s decision to save Avraham Avinu miraculously was not an act of infinite kindness, but done out of concern for His Own Holy Name.

But Avraham Avinu was different from Lot. Lot was accustomed to complaining, and there was ample reason to expect that he would blame Avraham for his predicament and thus cause a chillul Hashem.

But Avraham Avinu — as proved by ten mighty tests he faced and overcame — accepted whatever Hashem sent his way with complete emunah. He never asked questions or complained, and therefore there was no reason to think that he would in this case either.

With this concept the Chasam Sofer homiletically explains the passuk in our parashah, v’he’emin baShem, vayachsheveha lo litzdakah, as “he trusted in Hashem, and reckoned all that Hashem did for him as tzedakah.” It was because of his perfect emunah that Avraham Avinu considered it all to be the kindness of Hashem.

* * *

The Skulener Rebbe, zy”a, offers another, very pertinent explanation to this passuk.

In virtually every facet of our lives, emunah must be our guide. In every situation we face, every obstacle that we encounter, every crisis that engulfs us, we are required to accept Hashem’s Will with equanimity. We must fortify ourselves with emunah that all that Hashem does is for the good, and strengthen our bitachon in regard to the future that awaits us.

But this is in regard to our own lives.

When a poor man knocks on our door and pleads for a donation, we should never send him away empty-handed with the assurance that “Hashem will help.”

Yes, his help will come from Hashem, but right now you are the messenger.

V’he’emin baShem — every aspect of the life of Avraham Avinu was lived with pure and unadulterated emunah pshutah. Even when faced with the gravest nisayonos possible, he never made any calculations, but relied wholly on Hashem. The only time when va’yachsheveha lo, he allowed his thoughts to proceed in that direction, was litzedakah, when giving tzedakah or otherwise helping another human being. Then he did think on his own, so he could be a messenger of Hashem.

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