Dvar Torah #1
Dvar Torah #1 by Rabbi Shaul Rosenblatt
Pirkei Avot, Ethics of the Fathers, 5:4 tells us that Abraham was tested with “ten trials and he withstood them all, to show the degree of our forefather Abraham’s love for G-d.” Each trial was given to him in order to show how much G-d loved him. At first glance this seems strange. This is how you show you love someone?
First, you have him thrown into a furnace. Then, you tell him to pack his bags and move to a foreign country. When he obeys, you bring a famine to this country. And then, when he travels to find food, you have the ruler of the next place abduct his wife. Abraham gets her back and returns to his ordained place of residence, only to find that his nephew has been kidnapped by four powerful kings.
He manages to release him and is then commanded to kill his only son. Upon his return, having overcome the greatest challenge of his life, he finds that his wife died from shock and he is forced to pay an exorbitant sum for an inferior burial plot in a land that G-d has already promised him as an inheritance. And all of this shows G-d’s love for Abraham?!
This is precisely G-d’s love. Because through these challenges, Abraham was able to come closer to G-d. He fulfilled his potential and became the great human being we know of, founder of the nation that has taught monotheism to the world. The pain was relatively short-lived. The results were eternal. Abraham sits in his place in eternity, not in spite of his hardships, but because of them. His pain is gone. His greatness remains forever.
Our lesson: Know that pain is transient and difficulties in life are our opportunities for spiritual growth, to develop our character, perfect our behavior.
Dvar Torah#2 by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states, “And G- d created man in His own image; in the image of G-d He created him” (Genesis1:27) Rabbi Akiva said, “The verse, ‘Love your fellow man as yourself’ (Leviticus 19:18) is a great principle of the Torah.” Ben Azai responded, “The verse, ‘When G-d created man He created him in His image’ (Genesis 5:1) is an even greater principle.”
Love of one’s fellow man which is not motivated and nourished by the realization that man was created in G-d’s image, is doomed to failure. Without this realization, why should a person feel obligated to love his fellow man? Man in the universe is so minuscule, he can be considered of minor importance. What, after all, is man, but one of several billion inhabitants on a planet which is only a speck of matter in a vastness of space that extends for billions of light-years. The individual is lost in immensity beyond imagination. And man himself is merely a mass of bones, nerves, muscles, and blood that happens to function in an orderly fashion. Is he worthy of more consideration than an animal or insect?
When we realize that man alone is fashioned in the image of the Creator of heaven and earth, he is suddenly transformed from an inconsequential and insignificant being into one that is without parallel. Although seemingly infinitesimal, he is the pinnacle of creation.
This is what Ben Azai meant when he said that man’s being created in the image of God is an even greater principle than “love your fellow man.” Man was created in G-d’s image and must be respected accordingly.