Often, Rabbi Weiss, the principal of the Kings Road Talmud Torah, would watch different classes. Today, he was visiting a Chumash lesson in the sixth grade.

“And now I have a question for all the talmidei chachomim in kitah vav,” Rabbi Weiss announced with a smile at the end of the lesson. “At the beginning of this week’s parshah, we read that HaShem appeared to Avraham. Now this was not the first time HaShem revealed Himself to Avraham. Let’s look back to the previous parshah and find other occasions.”

“I found one,” Moishey called out. “Here it says that HaShem appeared to Avraham when he was 99 years old. It’s in perek yud-zayin, pasuk alef.”

“Good,” commented Rabbi Weiss. “Now tell us what happens when HaShem appears to Avraham.”

Pasuk gimmel says Avraham fell on his face,” replied Moishey.

“So Avraham doesn’t look at HaShem directly,” continued Rabbi Weiss. “Where else do we find this?”

“In perek tes-vav, pasuk alef,” answered Yankie. “It says that HaShem appeared to Avraham in a machazeh — a vision. That’s not the same as seeing HaShem directly.”

“And of course,” added Yudi, “There’s bris bein habisorim — the Covenant which HaShem made with Avraham. There it says that HaShem caused darkness and sleep to overcome him.”

Rabbi Weiss was pleased with the boys’ answers. “I knew you deserved to be called talmidei chachomim!” he exclaimed. “Now look back to the Rashi in the pasuk Moishey found. Rashi explains why Avraham could not face HaShem directly.”

Rashi says — mimorah haShechinah,” said Chayim. “Out of fear of the Shechinah.”

“Very good, Chayim! Now for the main question: In this week’s parshah, HaShem appears to Avraham again. But this time, Avraham is awake, able to face HaShem’s Shechinah directly. What made the difference?”

The class was quiet for a moment, then Chayim called out — “The bris!”

“Excellent,” replied Rabbi Weiss. “In that same pasuk, Rashi explains that the bris brought about a change. Before the bris, Avraham’s body couldn’t withstand a direct revelation of HaShem; it was too much holiness. So he fell to the ground, or had a vision or a dream. But the bris brought about a change in his body and made it possible for him to face HaShem directly.

“One of the reasons for this change is because this was a mitzvah which HaShem commanded Avraham to perform. Even though Avraham fulfilled mitzvos on his own before, our Rabbis teach us that a person who is commanded to do something and does it, is greater than a person who is not commanded, but does it anyway.

“Why? When HaShem givesus commandments, He is not simply giving us orders, He is giving us power. His commandments bind us to Him, and this makes a change within us. Because the mitzvah of the bris brought Avraham closer to HaShem, he became able to face the Shechinah directly.”

(Adapted from Likkutei Sichos, Vol. X, Parshas Vayeira)