wo comments of Rav Hirsch on this weeks’ parsha seem particularly worthy of discussion:
Relating to the visit of the Melachim to Avraham Avinu at the beginning of the Sedra, and having described the various interpretations involved in understanding the episode, Rav Hirsch concludes:
“We have learnt an important lesson from the episode of Avraham and the Malachim. From this episode we can see that Hashem reveals Himself to Avraham, at a time when Avraham was busying himself in Hachnasat Orchim”.
We learn from here the true nature of prophecy in Judaism. For there are many who confuse the concept of prophecy with “magic” “meditation” “ecstasy”. However, from our parsha, we actually see that prophecy comes as a result of active Avodat Hashem. In fact, one could go so far as to say that prophecy is the highest level of active work. Unfortunately, even Jewish philosophers are guilty of implying that the revelation of Hashem comes through isolation, and meditation. Yet from here we see that quite the opposite is true. It is active living in the paths of G-d, and not the imagination and detached thought, that will bring a person to prophecy. Our Rabbis confirm this viewpoint: “The Shechina does not rest in a place of sadnesss, idleness, or in a place of laughter…. But, the Shechina comes to a place where people actively perform Mitzvot with enthusiasm” (Shabbat 30b).”
An additional comment from Rav Hirsch, is found slightly further on in the Parsha, when Avraham, tries to “convince” Hakadosh Baruch Hu to save Sodom:
” The Tzaddik that Avraham describes, is the one who lives in the city – “Betoch Ha’ir” – The Tzaddik of Avraham’s description is part of society, is aware of that which surrounds him in every way. That figurehead, never ceases to rebuke, to teach, to object, and to warn. He never rests from the mission of correction, from the role of ‘savior’. His heart is aware of everything, and he does not for one moment deter from attempting to make good. Even when others have despaired, the real Tzaddik never despairs, he will do whatever is necessary for the sake of mankind.”
These two exceptional comments of Rav Hirsch, truly indicate to us where we should be striving. Our religiosity is not defined by being out of touch with mankind, by closing ourselves away from real life. Avraham reaches the madrega of revelation, whilst in the process of actively, enthusiastically, performing a Mitzva. This message is so strong, at a time where many feel that it is not Mitzvot that bring them close to Hashem, but ‘music’, ‘meditation’ and ‘dancing’. To my mind, by moving the emphasis away from Avodat Hashem through His Mitzvot, towards ‘connecting with your creator’ through song etc. many are missing the point, and consequently, following the wrong path. There is no doubt, that shira per se, can help one to express one’s love and commitment to Hashem, but it cannot, chalila, replace, Torah and Mitzvot.
From the second comment of Rav Hirsch we see that even when reaching this high level of righteousness through Torah and Mitzvot, the truly righteous person does not, as a result of his holiness, remove himself from society, on the contrary he lives ‘Betoch ha’ir’. He does not raise his head ignoring those around him, because they are of a lesser caliber, he does not leave the human race to sink, he does not stand away from the crowd preaching from a distance. The really righteous leader will direct from the front line, through example, as a member of the same human race as those who have not yet seen the light, but surely have the potential to do so. These are the leaders who will save Sodom.
These are the issues that we all have to deal with today. There is no alternative to Torah and Mitzvot, it is the only derech through which we can connect with Hashem.
As teachers, and leaders, we have to learn from the example of Avraham – Betoch Ha’ir.