The Fathers – Parashat Va’eira

January 8, 2018 at 2:29 AM , , ,

“….And I appeared to Avraham, to Yitzchok and to Yaakov….” – Shemot 6:3

״…וארא אל אברהם, אל יצחק ואל יעקב….״ – שמות ו, ג

In this verse and the verses that follow, G-d tells Moshe that He will now fulfill the promise He made when He appeared to Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov, namely, to redeem their children from Egypt. In his commentary, Rashi quotes the word “וארא—I appeared” and summarizes who the people were to which G-d appeared: “the [fore]fathers.”

This summary is seemingly unnecessary, as the verse clearly states to whom G-d appeared. But with these words, Rashi is pointing out that although Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov each had distinctive qualities, their primary virtue was what they had in common—they were “the fathers.”

In the book of Yeshayahu (41:8), Avraham is called “Avraham, who loved Me”: his worship of G-d was characterized by a love for his Creator. Yitzchak’s relationship with G-d is described as “the Fear of Yitzchak” (Beraishis 31:42), as Yitzchak’s life was primarily defined by his awe and fear of Heaven. Yaakov represented a perfect balance of both of these emotions, as he attested, “Had not the G-d of my father, the G-d of Avraham and the Fear of Yitzchak, been for me…” (Ibid.), meaning that both his father’s and grandfather’s characteristics were incorporated in his worship of G-d.

משה על הר נבו

Although love and fear of G-d are different, what is common to both of these emotions is that they inspire action. As explained in Tanya (Chapter 4), love of G-d motivates observance of the positive mitzvos commanded by G-d, and fear of G-d ensures that one distance themselves from transgressing any of His prohibitions.

Rashi hints to this with his emphasis that Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov were “the fathers,” an allusion to the statement of our Sages that “the principal offspring of the righteous are their good deeds” (Rashi on Beraishis 6:9). Their emotional attachment to G-d did not remain abstract; it translated practically into good deeds that were driven by these emotions.

Additionally, by highlighting that our forefathers were, first and foremost, “the fathers,” Rashi underscores that their primary merit was their influence on others. More so than the remarkable qualities that they each exhibited in their personal service of G-d, our forefathers’ main accomplishment was their production of successive generations of Jews.

—Likkutei Sichos, vol. 3, p. 854


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