Adapted from
Likkutei Sic hos, Vol. X, p. 49ff;
Sichos Shabbos Parshas Vayeira 5749, 5750, 5751, 5752

A Child’s Tears

When Rabbi Sholem Dov Ber, the fifth of the Lubavitcher Rebbeim, was a young child, he was taken to his grandfather the Tzemach Tzedek for a birthday blessing. When he entered his grandfather’s room, he began to cry.

After calming him, his grandfather asked him the reason for his tears. The child replied: “In cheder, we learned that G‑d revealed Himself to Avraham. Why doesn’t He reveal Himself to me?”

The Tzemach Tzedek replied: “When a Jew1 who is 99 years old recognizes that he must circumcise himself, he deserves that G‑d reveal Himself to him.”2

Redefining Landmarks

The Zohar3 highlights Avraham’s circumcision as a turning point in the nature of the revelations he received. When describing the revelations Avraham was granted before the circumcision, the Torah states:4 “And G‑d appeared to him in a vision,” using the Aramaic term machezeh (מחזה) for the word “vision.” In contrast, Parshas Vayeira begins “And G‑d appeared to him,”5 using the Hebrew term (וירא), which implies direct revelation.

Hebrew is Lashon HaKodesh, “ the holy tongue,” the language which G‑d employs to express Himself. Other languages, by contrast, are human inventions. By using an Aramaic term, the Torah implies that the revelations Avraham experienced before circumcision were clothed in the trappings of our material world. He could conceive of G‑d only in human terms; he could not appreciate Him as He truly is.

A great gap separates mortal man from G‑d’s infinity. By definition, any human conception can be only a restricted view. The act of circumcision transformed Avraham, enabling him to perceive G‑d as He is. Therefore the revelation of Vayeira was direct, without veils or constraints. G‑d manifested Himself for Avraham openly, spanning the gap separating every created being from its Creator.

Man’s Striving, G‑d’s Response

The above clarifies the distinction between Parshas Lech Lecha and Parshas Vayeira. Parshas Lech Lecha describes Avraham’s struggle to exceed the limits of mortal existence and develop a complete bond with G‑d.6 The culmination of this spiritual quest was his circumcision, which established such a bond in his actual flesh.7

Parshas Vayeira, by contrast, represents a different mode of conduct. The direct revelation of G‑dliness remade Avraham’s nature. While he continued to exist within a material body and function within his worldly environment, he was able to share a complete and all-encompassing link with G‑d.

Avraham left this heritage to his descendants, for “the deeds of the forefathers serve as a sign to their children.”8 By observing the Torah and its mitzvos, every Jew has the potential to transcend his individual nature and enter into a limitless bond with G‑d.

Sickness and Healing

The revelation of Parshas Vayeira is associated with healing. Avraham was suffering from the pain of circumcision. G‑d came to “visit the sick,”9 and with that visit, healed him.10

To explain this phenomenon: The Hebrew word חולה, meaning “afflicted by sickness,” is numerically equivalent to 49.11 Our Sages12 speak of the “50 gates of understanding” which grant man knowledge of G‑d. Within the scope of mortal knowledge, it is possible to “enter” only 49 of these gates. The fiftieth is by definition above our grasp.

A person who has attained the forty-ninth level appreciates his inadequacy,13 and wants to rise above it. The fact that his very humanity prevents him from doing so makes him sick at heart. King Solomon alluded to this malady with his allegory,14 “Support me with the stout trunks; let me rest among the apple trees, for I am lovesick.”

Such a sickness is healed through the consummate revelation of Vayeira. Only the direct manifestation of G‑d fulfills this yearning, and remakes a person’s nature, allowing him to realize his innate G‑dly essence and function beyond his mortal limitations.15

With the Heart of a Child

The desire for a direct bond with G‑d is a fundamental element of every person’s makeup. When the Rebbe Rashab came to his grandfather for a birthday blessing, he merely expressed this longing.

The moral of the story is universal. Within every one of us there is a simple, childlike dimension that yearns to cleave to G‑d. Without ceasing to function as mature individuals, each of us can share an all-encompassing relationship with G‑d.16

The above is particularly relevant in the present age, brief moments before Mashiach’s coming. For the essence of the Era of the Redemption will be the direct revelation of G‑d; “Your Master will conceal Himself no longer, and your eyes will perceive your Master.”17 As we stand on the threshold of this era, the inner thirst can be felt more powerfully.

Moreover, the potential exists to experience a foretaste of the Redemption in the present age. We can develop an awareness of G‑d and recognize Him as an actual force pervading every aspect of our lives.

Measure for Measure

The Torah tells us that G‑d appeared to Avraham while he was “sitting at the entrance of his tent, in the heat of the day.”18

Why was he sitting there? To look for guests.19 Avraham dedicated himself to deeds of kindness, feeding hungry wayfarers in an effort to heighten their awareness of G‑d.20 Because he extended himself21 to bring others closer to G‑d, G‑d showed him a supreme expression of closeness.

“Days are coming…, [when people will be] hungry, but not for bread; thirsty, but not for water, but to hear the word of G‑d.”22 Only at times, as in the story of the Rebbe Rashab, is this thirst consciously expressed. In most instances, a person will be unaware of his own thirst. Nevertheless, when we emulate Avraham’s example and extend ourselves to others, we will discover an eager readiness to respond that reflects their inner need.

And as in the example of Avraham, these outreach efforts will benefit not only the recipients, but also the givers, precipitating a deeper connection to G‑dliness. This bond will continue to blossom until it reaches perfection in the Era of the Redemption. May this be realized in the immediate future.