If You Will It by Jeremy Jaffe


Masechet Avot 2:4 tells us to “make your will like [God’s] will, so that He will make His will like your will.”  Although it is seemingly hard to understand, this Mishnah can be understood through analyzing a Pasuk in this week’s Parsha.

In 25:8, the Torah begins its discussion of Avraham’s death and burial by telling us that before he died, Avraham was “BeSeivah Tovah, Zakein VeSavei’a.”  According to Radak and Rav Saadia Gaon, the words “Zakein VeSavei’a mean, “and he had satisfying days.”  This interpretation leaves us with a question, however: what was so satisfying about Avraham’s life?

One possible interpretation is that he was satisfied because he got to see his children and grandchildren during his life time, was good and honorable, and got to witness Yishmael’s repentance (Radak on BeSeivah Tovah).  Another explanation presented by Sforno states that it was satisfying in that Avraham saw and did everything he wanted to see and do during his lifetime.  The problem with accepting this explanation, however, is that it implies that Avraham succeeded in achieving every single endeavor that he wanted to accomplish on this world.  It is obviously irrational to assume that Avraham achieved every objective he set for himself, since he was a human being, and human beings sometimes fail.  We are therefore charged to find a different way to interpret Sforno.

For this we turn to the explanation of Ramban, who agrees with Sforno that Avraham got whatever he wanted.  However, he would probably disagree with the Sforno’s usage of the word “BeYamav” (“In his life time,” literally: “In his days”), as Ramban explains that righteous people like Avraham do not desire worldly possessions, but rather Olam Haba, the World to Come.  Because he had removed any unholy desires he might have had, Avraham only wanted that which was holy and true.  This would even allow us to accept the Sforno’s opinion, since we could say that because Avraham understood that everything is from God, he accepted that even his failures were decreed in heaven.  For example, after failing to convince God to save the people of Sedom, he understood that God wanted the people to die despite his prayers, and he was consequently satisfied with the outcome, since it reflected God’s will, which is holy and true.  In this way, Avraham made his will like God’s will, resulting in God making His will like the will of Avraham, which was for Avraham to receive Olam Haba.

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