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IN THE MERIT OF EMUNAH
Parashat Lech Lecha
Last week, at the Shabbat meal, my son came back from shul and told us all this incredible story: There was a philanthropist from America who was very close to R’ Elyashiv, and every time he came for a visit, he gave huge sums of money for the causes that R Elyashiv was passionate about. Once, when R Elyashiv had a heart attack, there was a certain Hatzalah fellow who saved the Rav’s life. The wealthy man offered this Hatzalah member an astronomical amount of money – millions and millions of dollars – to buy the Olam Haba for his good deed of having saved the Rav’s life. So, the Hatzalah member went to R Elyashiv to ask him what he thought about the offer. Should I sell my mitzvah for this tempting amount of money? “There are so many things I can do with this money….”
Gesturing with his hand, the Rav asked, three times, “You’re going to sell a mitzvah for money? You’re going to sell a mitzvah for money? You’re going to sell a mitzvah for money?” There was no price tag on a mitzvah for Rav Elyashiv – there was no amount of money in the world that could reach the value of a mitzvah. It is Rav Elyashiv’s perfection of emunah that made him so different from most of us.
How much is a mitzvah worth? How much is a davening worth? A thought of emunah? A spark of inspiration? All the material benefits of Olam Hazeh do not come close to the Olam Haba of just one spark of inspiration! Even for one step to shul! And I will prove it.
Do you know why G-d rewarded Pharaoh, giving him a nation of Jewish slaves for 400 years? The Talmud, in Sotah (46b), tells us: It is because he escorted Avraham and Sarah 4 steps when he sent them away from Egypt!!!! Had Pharaoh known what reward he was getting, 100 years of a nation of slaves for every step, he would have walked Avraham all the way back home!!! Jews don’t get rewarded like that. We don’t get reward for Mitzvoth in this world, because all the reward of this world is nothing compared to one second of reward in Olam Haba. The more we internalize this, the more spiritual we will be.
The Rambam (סוף פי’ משניות ברכות) writes that learning just one of the 13 Principles of Belief is more valuable than any other study. In his letters (אגרת תימן) , the Rambam writes that anyone who fills his soul with good middot or works on correcting his middot and has the wisdom to put his trust in the Creator is definitely deserving of Olam Haba. And this is the underlying will of the whole Torah, and the main message of all the Mitzvoth. To refine our middot and complete our trust in the Creator – to make our Emunah perfect. In the merit of our staying in this relationship, we ask G-d to save us. ותן שכר טוב לכל הבוטחים בשמך באמת …כי בך בטחנו The Midrash Tanchuma tells us how Avraham and Sarah prayed, when Pharaoh abducted Sarah. Avraham started crying and praying to G-d, saying, ‘Master of the World, is this the reward that I get for trusting in You? Now that they have taken her, please, for the sake of Your Mercy and Kindness, don’t cause me shame because of my trust in You’. Sarah cried, and said, ‘Master of the World, I did not know anything, just that Avraham told me that You said to leave our hometown, and I believed You. And now, I am bereft of my father, my mother and my husband, and this wicked king is going to disgrace me? Please, act in the merit of Your Great Name and in the merit of my trust in Your words’. G-d told her, “Nothing will happen to you, or to your husband. And I will punish Pharaoh and his house”.
This Tanchuma amazes me. It shows us Avraham’s and Sarah’s relationship with G-d, in times of crisis. And it shows us the merit of faith. Because this ongoing relationship, the constant faith that we are never alone, that we are always cared for, is our most powerful resource in life.