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Hayom Yom: Tackling Life's Tasks - 21 Elul

Hayom Yom: Tackling Life's Tasks - 21 Elul

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אָבִינוּ הָרִאשׁוֹן אַבְרָהָם בִּגְלַל עֲבוֹדָתוֹ בִּמְסִירַת נֶפֶשׁ לְפַרְסֵם אֱלֹקוּתוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ — אֵל אֶחָד — לְכָל בְּנֵי הָעוֹלָם, זָכָה לְהַנְחִיל לְזַרְעוֹ עַד סוֹף כָּל הַדּוֹרוֹת אֶת הָאֱמוּנָה הַטְּהוֹרָה בַּה' וּבְתוֹרָתוֹ, וְכָל אִישׁ וְאִשָּׁה בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל יֵשׁ לָהֶם הַכֹּחַ וְהָעוֹז לִמְסוֹר נַפְשָׁם עַל הַתּוֹרָה הַקְּדוֹשָׁה.

Because of the self-sacrificing labors of our first father Avraham in making the oneness of G‑d known to all the inhabitants of the world, he was found worthy of endowing his descendants with a pure faith in G‑d and His Torah, as an eternal inheritance. Every Jewish man or woman has the strength and fortitude to absolutely devote his or her life1 for the sake of our holy Torah.2

Living as a Chassid

In the very first maamar he delivered,3 the Rebbe distinguished between the mesirus nefesh (self-sacrifice) of our Patriarch Avraham and that of R. Akiva. When the Romans were tearing R. Akiva’s flesh with iron combs, he recited the Shema.4 His students stood awestruck. He told them: “The commandment to love G‑d ‘with all your soul’5 means ‘even if He takes your soul.’6 For my entire life, I have been waiting for the chance to fulfill that commandment.”

This is obviously a lofty level of commitment; nevertheless, there is a sense of self involved. Such a person sees his self-perfection in giving up his life. Avraham, by contrast, had no sense of self whatsoever. His life was dedicated entirely to making G‑d’s Presence known to mankind. If that task involved risking his life, he was prepared to do that too, but his goal was not to give up his life. His goal was to make G‑d’s Presence known. Every moment and every dimension of his life was dedicated to that purpose.

And it was by virtue of this great self-sacrifice that Avraham was found worthy of endowing all his descendants with similar power.

Footnotes
1.
In the original, limsor nafsham (as in the phrase, mesirus nefesh) — lit., “to sacrifice themselves.”
2.
Igros Kodesh of the Rebbe Rayatz, letter #1717, Heb. Vol. 6, p. 208.
3.
The maamar entitled Basi LeGani 5711 [1951]. ch. 3. For English translation, see Basi leGani: Chassidic Discourses, pp. 87-88.
4.
Berachos 61b.
5.
Devarim 6:5; Siddur, p. 16.
6.
Berachos 9:5.
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