It’s always uneasy and difficult when children don’t see eye to eye with their father and mother. It’s even more horrific and crazy when the children actually rebel against them and try to kill their parents; that’s a pretty nightmarish thought!!. Unfortunately, in our illustrious rich Jewish history a regrettable incident of that nature occurred. Avshalom wanted to overthrow his father, King David, and take over the kingdom. Avshalom meant business and drove his father out of Jerusalem. King David took refuge from Avshalom’s forces beyond the Jordan River
having being put in a disadvantage position.
War is war and spies are a part of war as weapons are. In fact one can say spies are a vital weapon as any. David took the precaution of instructing a servant, Hushai
, to infiltrate Avshalom’s court and subvert it. Hushai convinced Avshalom to ignore Ahithophel’s advice to attack his father while he was on the run, and instead prepare his forces for a major attack. This gave David critical time to prepare his own troops for the coming battle.
It’s pretty apparent G-d was on David’s side because Ahithophel, who was considered one of the smartest men that ever live, was a sure bet when he advised. One can take his advice to the bank.
So the question is asked, how did Hushai do it? How did he convince Avshalom over the logic and reputation of Achitofel?
There is an old expression: When you have truth on your side – pound on the truth! When you have the law on your side – pound on the law! When you have neither….. POUND ON THE TABLE!
Hushai screamed out!! He was temperamental, passionate and emotional. There was no logic and substance to his argument; he was just enthusiastically charged. His apparent display convinced Avshalom to follow his advice which eventually led to his downfall.
After Avshalom made a decision to take Hushai advice, Ahithofel knew he was doomed; he knew Avshalom would lose. Ahithofel committed suicide.
What was so appealing to Hushai’s approach?
Let’s examine an important aspect of human nature by looking into this weeks parsha.
An important and puzzling observation is brought out about Avraham, our forefather. G-d reveals why he loved Avraham so much. We learn, it’s because Avraham possessed the uncanny ability to pass down the word of G-d quite successfully to the next generation. This is quite a revelation considering Avraham’s famous reputation in performing kindness. Furhtermore Avraham was the first one to discover G-d and he did it all by himself. Those are heavy duty credentials; those are big time browny points on the resume. However, it was the passing down the good word to his children and students that was the convincing soft spot in G-d’s heart.
What was the method he used? How was he so convincing?
I think, we would be able to understand a bit more of Avraham’s success by looking at a thought from Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, one of the leading Rabbis in America in the early part of 1900’s. He said ” one may be dismayed why so many of the generations that followed the migration from Eastern Europe to America did not keep Shabbat. Why were so many of American Jewish youth not Shabbat observers? Times were tough and it was mandatory to work on Saturday, in the early part of the century; however, many refused. That decision begot devastating results, for most lost their jobs and the rest were at the mercy of their bosses. One would think that since these precious Jews made such sacrifices their children would notice the value of the Shabbat. Wouldn’t they realize how important it meant to their parents and therefore consider it vital to keep? ….Apparently, that wasn’t so.
Rabbi Moshe says, the answer can be found in the Torah and we say the phrase in the kiddush and various times during the Shabbat. V’SHAMRU B’NAI YISRAEL ET HASHABBAT, LA’ASOT ET HASHABBAT L’DOROTAM-and the children of Israel observed the Shabbat, they did-observed the Shabbat for generations. Rabbi Moshe relates “It’s HOW they observed. Let me rephrase that, it’s what their attitude was when they observed. If they observed with the mindset “we sacrificed a lot and are devastated”. Then the children would look at their parents’ negative disposition towards Shabbat and always remember being observant as agonizing! However, if one feels enthusiastic and makes the Shabbat experience happy, then the kids would feed off the warmth and positive attitude!
There was a famous Rabbi who was asked “how is it that your children are not as observant as you?”. He answered ” because I didn’t sing Shabbat songs at the Shabbat table”. There is a certain joy and enthusiasm associated with singing and it’s a tremendous weapon to enhance the Shabbat and that was lacking at my Shabbat table, he said. It’s not just the intellectual aspect of Judaism. We need an emotional injection as well.
Let’s examine how the Torah describes Avraham’s actions and attitude. If one notices the word V’YEMAHER – “and he hurried” is used a number of times. Furthermore the scripture says ” and Avraham got up early in the morning. All this denotes Avraham had a tremendous energy and zeal. However, it also says that he saddled his own donkey. Why would a man of his age and affluence saddle his own donkey? Rashi says “this is sign that Avraham did many of his tasks with enthusiasm”.
Perhaps Avraham was a man of haste; maybe he was a spur of the moment type of guy. A verse regarding the Akeida [the sacrifice of Isaac] says, “On the third day Avraham lifted his eyes and saw the place from a distance” [22:4]. The Medrash Tanchuma asks “why G-d waited until the third day, and did not show the place to Avraham on the first or second day”. The Medrash answers: “The purpose of waiting three days was so that the nations should not think that Avraham was seized by a momentary frenzy, in which he was overcome by emotion and did not have time to reflect on what he was doing. Avraham Avinu had plenty of time to think about the Akeida. For three days he walked and thought it over. But that was Avraham. He was not a flighty man of emotion whose spirit grabbed him for the moment.
This was not the case with our Patriarch Avraham. The pasuk is telling us that Avraham was not merely the type of person who rushed into something on the spur of the moment. His enthusiasm maintained itself beyond the stage of the knee-jerk reaction. Even upon reevaluation — giving the situation a second look, so to speak — he remained determined to offer kindness and hospitality. His attribute of kindness emerged not only from emotion (the first sighting) but from rational consideration, as well (the second sighting).
How many of us remember getting really excited and enthusiastic about something. That’s a childhood frequent occurrence and, frankly, I truly miss that feeling. I remember when my son was about three years old, how he would get excited for the littlest thing.
I read this beautiful poem I would like to share:
A child’s enthusiasm comes in a storm,
taking over the child’s entire world.
That is why, when a child embraces a new, good trait,
it enters forever.
Interestingly there was a meeting between Malchi Tzedek, the elder statesman and one well respected in his generation, with Avraham where bread and wine was emphasized at their meal.
Bread, is only good when it’s fresh. But go to your local vintner, and ask him for a “good fresh bottle of wine,” and watch him cringe in utter distaste. Ask any Frenchman worth his baguette: A fresh-baked loaf of bread, and a chilled bottle of aged wine, these are the components of any gourmet meal. The fresher the bread, and the older the wine, the more the palate takes delight. The Torah describes Avraham in his older years: “And Avraham was old – he had come with his days. (Bereishis 24:1)” This means, that Avraham brought the days of his youth with him into his elder. Normally, youth carries with it the advantage of energy and enthusiasm. As one gets on in his years, he loses the vigour of his youth, but is graced with the wisdom and maturity that come with age. Rare is the individual who can retain the vitality of his youth even as the candles on his proverbial birthday cake fruitfully multiply. Yet, this was exactly what Avraham achieved. While by no means a youngster, he served G-d with the freshness and enthusiasm usually reserved for those still wet behind the ears. As a tribute to this unique combination of youth and age, Malchi-Tzedek served bread and wine, two foods that possess the opposite qualities of freshness and maturity, yet together form a meal pleasing to even the most refined tastebuds.
The story is told of a carpenter who was a master of his craft. He worked diligently for his company throughout his life, earning a wonderful reputation for his skill. Upon reaching retirement age, he informed his boss that he was ready to retire and draw upon his pension for his future salary. His boss implored him to carry out just one more project for him; to build an elegant mansion and to spare no expense in furnishing it. The boss then presented him with a vast sum of money with which to create a dream home.
The carpenter reluctantly acquiesced to his boss’s request but his heart was not really in his work. He would have preferred to start retirement as he had planned. His mind was constantly preoccupied with his vacation plans that he and his wife had carefully worked on. His usual expert work was below standard and in no way reflected his skills.
The wood he selected was of poor grade and the moldings were cheap and commonplace, not cut to perfection. At the conclusion of his work his boss appeared at the worksite for a tour of the home. As they began to tour the finished building together, the boss noted in disappointment the sloppy workmanship and the places where the builder had cut corners by substituting cheap inferior materials for those of better quality.
As they finished the tour, the boss turned to his worker and presented him with the keys to the house. “This home that you have built is a gift to you from the company,” he said, ” in recognition of all your years of devoted service.”
The carpenter was flabbergasted. Regret flooded through him as he realized the opportunity he had squandered. Had I only known that his house was meant for me, I would have done everything so differently, he thought. How could I have shortchanged myself so?
All too often we give to various charities and engage in worthy causes out of a sense of obligation. This may be praiseworthy but it will not secure us the ultimate blessing when we give of ourselves with genuine love and go beyond the call of duty.
Only then can we be assured that we are gracing our eternal home with accouterments and furnishings that reflect our true ability and worth and that we will enjoy for eternity.
One practical lesson we can use to spur our personal growth is to realize that in applying our energies to our life mission and our most important relationships, we must reach as high as we can. Like our forefather Avraham, we should not be satisfied with carrying out our minimum obligations.
Only when we invest true love and genuine dedication in a relationship will we attain a lasting, genuine bond. In order to succeed in life its important to have enthusiasm.