Parshas Vayeira: Your Kindness in the Morning ~ Tzvi Abrahams
Parshas וַיֵרָא – Your Kindness in the Morning – Rabbi Tzvi Abrahams
לְבַקֵר: to visit, to examine
בִּיקוּר חוֹלִים: visiting the sick
וַיַּשְׁכֵּם אַבְרָהָם בַּבֹּקֶר אֶל הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר עָמַד שָׁם אֶת פְּנֵי ה’
And Avraham arose early in the morning to the place where he stood there before Hashem.1
In the sequence of creation, וַיְהִי עֶרֶב וַיְהִי בֹקֶר, morning follows evening, day follows night. Initially, there was darkness before Hashem created the light.
So too in life we begin in darkness. We are in the clutches of theyetzer hara. Life seemingly has no meaning. We don’t see the bigger picture. We live in our own confused little worlds. Only when we get older, when our minds begin to develop and expand with our Torah learning, do we become better equipped to fight off the shackles of the yetzer hara. Slowly the light of the Torah infuses us, the darkness begins to fade, the dawn breaks, and now we are able to see how everything in life has purpose, how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together.הַבֹּקֶר אוֹר/all becomes clear in the morning light.2
The Gemara in Brachossays that it was Avraham who instituted the morning prayers, as it says: וַיַּשְׁכֵּם אַבְרָהָם בַּבֹּקֶר /Avraham arose early in the morning, אֶל הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר עָמַד שָׁם אֶת פְּנֵי ה’ /to the place where he stood there before Hashem.3עָמַדis a reference to Amidah, where we stand in front of Hashem in prayer.
לְבַקֵר: To Examine
In the morning light, we are able to examine what is true and what is false. We have come out of not just darkness but erev/evening, which is a mixture of light and darkness, a state of murkiness, a state of confusion, where we cannot distinguish clearly. The Torah shines light on our erevand we have morning.4
It was the morning when Avraham was sitting at the entrance to his tent. Through examining the marvels of Hashem’s creation, the sun and its movements, Avraham was able to come to recognize his Creator. For this reason the resha’imwho don’t use the morning to examine their ways are judged in the morning, as we see that it was when the sun came out that Hashem destroyed Sodom.5בָּקָר: Cattle
The first time we see בָּקָרin the Torah referring to cattle is when Avraham is visited by the three angels. Avraham runs to the בָּקָר. Ramban uses the play on words רָץ אֶל מַקוֹם הַבָּקָר לְבַקֵר/runs to the place of the בָּקָר/cattle to לְבַקֵר/examine andchoose the most fitting one, using the lashonof examining. There is also a place in the Beis HaMikdash called the Lishkas HaKorban, which is where the animal offerings were examined four days before they were offered up to Hashem, checked for any blemishes that would disqualify the offering.
Soבָּקָרis a representation of examining, to be fitting to pass the test, so that when we give, we give the best. We are told the offerings are in place of ourselves, so we must also examine ourselves and be free of blemish.
יָדַע שׁוֹר קוֹנֵהוּ/the ox knows its owner6—theבָּקָר/bakaris so named because come the morning, it is able to recognize its owner. The ox and the donkey recognize their master, the one who feeds it, yet man doesn’t recognize Hashem.7
וְאֶל הַבָּקָר רָץ אַבְרָהָם/Avraham ran to the bakar.8The bakar, who has da’as/knowledge to recognize Hashem, leads Avraham to the מְעָרָה/the Cave of Machpelah, revealing the burial place of Adam and Chava at the entrance to Gan Eden.9בִּיקוּר חוֹלִם: Visiting the Sick
וַיֵּרָא אֵלָיו ה’בְּאֵלֹנֵי מַמְרֵא וְהוּא יֹשֵׁב פֶּתַח הָאֹהֶל כְּחֹם הַיּוֹם
And Hashem appeared in the plains of Mamre, and he (Avraham) was sitting at the entrance to his tent like the heat of the day.10
Three days after Avraham’s bris milah, at the most painful time, Hashem appears to him, the first act ofbikur cholimin the Torah. Avraham is sitting at the entrance to his tent looking for an opportunity to do the mitzvah of hachnasas orchim/welcoming guests.
It was in fact בֹּקֶר/morning, but Hashem made it like the heat of the day so that no one would be out (because only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun!) so as not to trouble Avraham in his time of sickness.
When we visit the sick, we are מְבַקְרִין/examining the needs of the sick person, and at the same time we are examining ourselves. Just like it is good to go to the house of mourning in that it turns our hearts to what is important in life, so too by visiting the sick we come to examine our ways.11
עֶרֶב/evening— is the period when light is mixed in with the darkness.
בֹּקֶר/morning — is where everything is crystal clear.
We have to examine ourselves to know whether our thoughts and hashkafasare clear or mixed up. It is hard to distinguish between the twilight of עֶרֶבand the dim light of early בֹּקֶר, however one leads to darkness/obscurity and the other to crystal-clear light/clarity.
How do we examine ourselves? Not through our own analysis, because we have personal biases. We can only measure ourselves by someone who is outside of us — the tzaddik/rabbi and a friend/chavrusa.
As we have seen, Avraham is very much connected to the boker. The bokeris a time of chesedand emunah, traits that are clearly reflected in Avraham. After the evening Shemawe say emes ve’emunah — we have emunahthat when we go to bed at night and entrust our souls to Hashem, in His great chesedHe will return our souls to us in the morning. As we say: לְהַגִּיד בַּבֹּקֶר חַסְֽדֶּךָ/to tell of Hashem’s kindness in the morning.12In Eichahwe say: חֲדָשִׁים לַבְּקָרִים רַבָּה אֱמוּנָתֶךָ/anew in the mornings, great is Your emunah.13This is reflected in the words of מוֹדֶה אַנִי/modeh ani, where we thank Hashem for our renewed souls, and we say רַבָּה אֱמוּנָתֶךָ/great is your emunah, because just like we have emunahin Hashem that He will return to us our souls, so too Hashem hasemunahin us that at the end of the day we will return our souls to Him anew, different from how we were in the morning, having grown inavodas Hashemthroughout the day.
So this is the meaning of בֹּקֶר/morning. A time to say modeh aniand thank Hashem for His kindness and emunah, a time to reflect in prayer, a time to לְבַקֵר/examine and see clearly who runs the world, a time to be like theבָּקָר/cattleand recognize our master, a time to do בִּיקוּר חוֹלִם on ourselves and examine our ways.
2C.f. ibid 44:3.
4See Ibn Ezrato Bereishis1:5.
5See Kli Yakarto Bereishis18:1.
9Pirkei D’Rebbe Eliezer 36.
11Kli Yakarto Bamidbar16:29.
Rabbi Tzvi Abrahams was raised in The United Kingdom, and emigrated to Israel where he received his Rabbinical ordination. He recently published the book Root Connections In The Torah, and lectures on the beautiful connections of Biblical Hebrew root words. Tzvi lives in Zichron Yaakov, Israel with his wife, children and their friendly dog.
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