Tuesday, June 30, 2009

וְזוכֵר חַסְדֵי אָבות - He Remembers The Merit of The Patriarchs (Avot)

In a discussion of the reason for the Festival of Sukkot Rambam writes in MN 3:43 –

“We shall thereby [sitting in Sukkot] remember that this has once been our condition, "I made the children of Israel to dwell in Tabernacles…" (Lev. 23:43). From this we went over to dwell in richly ornamented houses, in the best and most fertile place on earth, by the kindness of God, and because of His promises to our forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, inasmuch as they were perfect people in their opinions and in their moral character. For this too is one of the pivots of the Law, the belief that every benefit we have received and ever will receive of God, is owing to the merits of the Patriarchs, who "kept the way of the Lord to do justice and judgment" (Gen. 18:19).”

It is not only Sukkot but also daily, three times in our prayers, we remind ourselves about the merits of the Avot and we invoke it constantly. What is the meaning of this constant reminder? If we read this segment carefully, we see that Rambam refers again to that famous verse in Breishit 18:19 –

יט כִּי יְדַעְתִּיו, לְמַעַן אֲשֶׁר יְצַוֶּה
אֶת-בָּנָיו וְאֶת-בֵּיתוֹ אַחֲרָיו, וְשָׁמְרוּ דֶּרֶךְ יְהוָהלעֲשׂוֹת צְדָקָה וּמִשְׁפָּט--לְמַעַן, הָבִיא יְהוָה עַל-אַבְרָהָם,
אֵת אֲשֶׁר-דִּבֶּר, עָלָיו.

19 For I have known him, to the end that he may command his children and his household after him, that they may keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice; to the end that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which He has spoken of him.'

As I have explained many times, “keeping the way of the Lord” or in short emulating Him can only come about once we understand the role that God set out for us, humans, in the universe. And that can only happen if we understand our true reality and the world we live in. The Avot starting with Avraham were completely focused on creating a nation that will lead humanity in that quest for knowledge. What we are today, “every benefit we have received and ever will receive of God”, is a result of the path upon which the Avot have set us. We are not the same people we were then, our beliefs have evolved and changed, our science is totally different, but all that we are is an evolution of what was started by the Avot several millennia ago. We get lost in the mundane of the day to day and our goals become a little confused in our minds. Remembering and bringing the Avot and the goal they had in mind, back into focus constantly, reminds that we are supposed to seek truth and reality and try to understand it and our role in it as one more responsible component of God’s universe.

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