Sacrificing Spiritual Growth by Yakir Forman


After defeating the alliance of the four kings and releasing his nephew Lot from captivity, Avram receives a vision from Hashem, who reassures him saying, “Al Tira Avram Anochi Magein Lach Secharecha Harbeih Me’od,” “Fear not, Avram, I am a shield for you; your reward is very great” (BeReishit 15:1).  Rashi explains that this vision was necessary because Avram was afraid that during the war he had already received rewards for all his merits and was going to be punished for killing the kings’ armies.  Therefore, Hashem gave him a two-part assurance: “Anochi Magein Lach,” “I am a shield for you,” protecting Avram against the punishment that was due to him, and “Secharecha Harbeih Me’od,” “Your reward is very great,” telling Avram that he does not have to fear the depletion of his merits as Hashem still has much reward in store for him.

Rav Moshe Shternbuch, in his Sefer Taam VaDaat, asks why Avram had any reason to be afraid.  He fought the war with the good intention of saving his nephew, and as a result he shouldn’t have deserved punishment; he should have gained merits and increased his future reward!

Rav Shternbuch answers that although Avram knew that attempting to save his nephew was a good action, he was afraid he chose the wrong means to do so.  Avram could have tried to bribe the four kings to release Lot, which would have saved many lives.  However, he chose to fight a war in which he was vastly outnumbered (the Midrash claims that only Avram and Eliezer fought the four kings), so that Hashem would perform a miracle and his victory would demonstrate publicly that everything was dependent upon Hashem. The outcome of the war would influence others to serve Hashem. Nevertheless, Avram was afraid after the war that the reward of Nisim Geluyim, obvious miracles, had depleted too many of his merits in Olam HaZeh.  Additionally, he was afraid his reward in Olam HaBa would be diminished as well because the Nisim Geluyim would influence him so much that he would no longer have Bechirah Chofshit, free choice, in a test whether or not he believes in Hashem. After seeing Hashem’s miracles, it wouldn’t be possible for Avram not to believe in Him.  Due to Avram’s worries, Hashem reassured him stating, “Anochi Magein Lach” – I will not punish you for asking for Nisim Geluyim, and your merits in Olam HaZeh will remain intact – and “Secharecha Harbeih Me’od” – you will keep your great reward in Olam HaBa even though you have depleted your Bechirah Chofshit.

Rav Shternbuch then quotes the Chafetz Chaim’s explanation of the Pasuk in Kriat Shema that states, “VeAhavta Eit Hashem Elokecha BeChol Levavecha U’VChol Nafshecha U’VChol Me’odecha,” “You shall love Hashem, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your Me’od” (Devarim 6:5). The word Me’od means “very much,” and in this context is usually translated as money, which is something people love very much.  The Chafetz Chaim interprets Me’od as something else which people love very much: their spirituality.  It is important to be ready to give up even a spiritual sense of accomplishment to love Hashem.

Combining this with Rambam’s view (Sefer HaMitzvot Mitzvat Aseih 3) that influencing others to serve Hashem is included in loving Him, Rav Shternbuch suggests that this is why Avram did not lose Sechar in Olam HaBa.  By asking for Nisim Geluyim and diminishing his Bechirah Chofshit, Avram lost a large amount of personal spiritual satisfaction he would have experienced after making the right decision in future tests of Emunah.  Now, after seeing the Nisim Geluyim, Avram wouldn’t see it as so great to pass those tests.  This should have diminished his Sechar for passing those tests.  However, since Avram’s goal in asking for those Nisim Geluyim was to influence others to worship Hashem, which according to Rambam is part of Ahavat Hashem, he received Sechar for sacrificing that spiritual satisfaction to love Hashem.  In the vision, Hashem reassured him that that sacrifice had not caused a depletion of his Sechar, and this is why “Secharecha Harbeih Me’od.”

Although we may not be able to reach the level of Avraham Avinu, we must remember that we should be ready to help others in their relationship with Hashem and not just focus on ourselves.  Even though it may seem that we are diminishing our own spiritual accomplishments in doing so, our Sechar remains intact, and we fulfill the important Mitzvah of “VeAhavta Eit Hashem Elokecha…BeChol Me’odecha.”

Avraham’s Eternal, Grueling Test by Shlomo Klapper

Walking Before Hashem by Nachi Farkas