In this week's portion is one of the most intriguing dialogues in the history of mankind. For the first time in the Torah, a mere mortal, Abraham, argued with His Creator! G‑d decided to destroy Sodom and revealed His plan to Abraham. In response, Abraham determinedly attempted to convince G‑d to nullify the harsh decree, "Abraham approached [in Hebrew, 'vayigash'] and said, would You wipe out the righteous with the evildoer?" (Gen. 18:23) Abraham's…kindness was not a product of his nature but rather this was his chosen path…

Apply this to our own lives: How many times have we felt enmeshed in an unfair situation? To whom can we complain? What can we do about it? What can we learn from this scenario to help us in our lives? Let us begin with understanding the meaning of the opening word in the verse, "vayigash". We know from the previous verse that after the angels left, Abraham was still standing in G‑d's presence, so why did he have to approach G‑d? Rashi answers this by explaining that the word "hagasha" (the root of the word "vayigash") can refer to going to war, to reconcile, or to pray. Rashi writes, "Abraham went for all three: to speak aggressively, to reconcile and to pray." The word "vayigash" is informing us that Abraham was about to make an unprecedented act: to do all in his means to change the situation.

This, itself, is hard to understand, considering that Abraham is known as the epitome of kindness. How was it possible for Abraham to speak harshly - and to whom - G‑d!? In addition to this, as Rashi states, of the three possibilities for "vayigash", Abraham opened with severe aggression, even though according to his reputation he should have begun with reconciliation and prayer.

From this we get a glimpse of Abraham's greatness. We commonly find that a person is kind due to a natural inclination to be so. This was the uniqueness of Abraham. His kindness was not a product of his nature but rather this was his chosen path to serve G‑d. His entire reality was his divine service, including how he chose to express himself; therefore, when he saw a need to act in the opposite way from his normal behavior, he did it with the same enthusiasm and devotion. It was not his nature or habit that directed his behavior, but rather what was required of him to serve G‑d. When something out of the ordinary was required, he did not hesitate. When it was Abraham's mission to save lives, and he realized that no other avenue existed except to speak out, he immediately did what was required, antithetical to his regular approach. Even our inborn character traits are meant to be elevated through their proper use…

This is the lesson we learn from Abraham. When a situation arises that could save the life of a Jewish person, be it physical or spiritual life, we must not start making calculations. It is forbidden to think "I can't deal with this". We are required to immediately use all available methods to the best of our ability in order to save a life. And if this requires us to "speak harshly" (or gently, as the case may be) to go totally against our nature - then that is what we must do. It is our obligation which the Almighty expects us to perform, and we must let no obstacle hold us back from fulfilling our goal, especially not our own nature. Chasidut teaches that even our inborn character traits are meant to be elevated through their proper use. See what happens the next time you do what you should, not what your nature demands. You will be definitely surprised.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

Copyright 2003 by, a project of Ascent of Safed (// All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form, unless with permission, in writing, from Kabbala Online.