Wednesday nights - Rav Benzion's Tanya shiur..........Please continue to daven for the good health of the Rebbe (Yechiel Michel ben Devorah Leah) and Rebbetzin (Feiga bas Sarah).

Monday, November 28, 2011

Shabbos Parshas Toldos 5772 (part 1)

Emulate, Not Imitate
At tish, the Rebbe told over how he once met a couple who, after stating the fact that they had done an "exhaustive research of Judaism", related that they decided to pick the mitzvos and ideals that "spoke to them". Essentially, they picked and chose what of Torah they valued and left the rest.

"And what do you hope from your children when they grow up?" asked the Rebbe.

"We would be pleased if they would follow suit and value the same things that we do."

"Well, " the Rebbe responded. "Forgive me for being the first to guarantee that they will do exactly as you did. You picked and chose what made sense to you, they will pick and choose what will make sense to them, and those two things are surely to be vastly different from each other. Children pick up which attitudes drive our decisions and actions. "How" we do something is much more important than the "what". That they know what speaks to you doesn't really matter; you are transmitting to them a "how" that cannot possibly sustain the ideals of Yiddishkeit through the next generation."
We all need role models: parents, gedolim, people of measure. But we absolutely cannot dare to forget what purpose they serve. Divine Service is not a matter of the "what" so much as it is a matter of the "how". We must learn from them how to yearn, how to search for truth, how to uncover hidden talents and strengths in ourselves and others.

Avraham Avinu is the paragon of chesed, loving-kindness. That was is mission in this world and nothing was as important. Yitzchak, on the other hand, embodied the attribute of gevurah, strength of character and judgement. Father and son, both tzadikim, polar opposites. Do you think Avraham Avinu ever asked himself, "Where did I go wrong with Yitzchak?" That Yitzchak chose a very different path than his own undoubtedly never phased him. The reason is because he saw the Yitzchak has absorbed the lessons of "how", even if his "what" was different. Yitzchak did his avodah of gevurah with the same passion, love, excitement, commitment, conviction and clarity of purpose, as Avraham performed his acts of chesed.

So, Yitzchak was exactly what his father hoped he would be, and that is the meaning of the pasuk, "Avraham holid es Yitzchak" - that Avraham bore Yitzchak. People would say that Yitzchak did not take anything from his father. Just look at their diametrically varying methods of service. The Torah tells quite the contrary. Avraham successfully imparted lessons of quality over quantity, substance over style, and essential over extrinsic, and those are the whole point.

Somewhere in our history we became locked into the adulation of the form over dynamic and our aspiration and goal has sunk to "imitate not emulate". Again, it's not what I do, but how I do it.

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