An installment in the series
From the Waters of the Shiloah: Plumbing the Depths of the Izhbitzer School
-For series introduction CLICK
By Rabbi Dovid Schwartz-Mara Dâ€™Asra Cong Sfard of Midwood
Â â€œBut of the Tree of the Knowledge Joining Together of Good and Evil, do not eat of it; for on the day that you eat of it you will definitely die.’
– Bereshis 2: 17
Â â€œAvram came to her [Hagar], and she conceived; and when she realized that she was pregnant, she looked at her mistress with contempt. Sarai said unto Avram â€¦Now that she sees herself pregnant she regards me with condescension.Â Let Elokim judge between me and you.’â€.
– Bereshis 16: 4, 5
Every other Â ×‘Ö¼Ö¶×™× Ö¶×™×šÂ – between me and you, in Scripture is spelled lacking the second yud, but this one is spelled plene. As such it may also be read ×•Ö¼×‘Öµ×™× Ö·×™Ö´×šÖ° (second person feminine, as though Sarai is threatening Hagar rather than Avram), for Sarai cast an Ayin Hara-evil eye on Hagarâ€™s pregnancy, and she miscarried her fetus.Â
– Rashi Ibid
Many Mechabrim-Torah authors, in particular the Ramchaâ€l , explain that the very Raison d’Ãªtre of Klal Yisrael- the Jewish People is to rectify the sin of the first man and to bring humanity back to the pre-sin state. This is why comprehending the workings of the original sin is a prerequisite to better understanding the family dynamics of our patriarchs and matriarchs.
In Â Â Nefesh HaChaim the Magiha â€“author of the glosses, explains that prior to eating of the forbidden fruit Adams Yetzer HaRa-inclination to evil was clarified and external to his being (personified in the Nachash HaKadmoni-the primordial snake). The qualitative paradigm shift resulting from the first sin was that the Yetzer HaRa became internalized and integrated into mans very being. The word Daâ€™as means joining together and becoming as one. He and Chava became what they ate, entities in which good and evil are joined together. This had a universal cataclysmic effect as the mish-mash of good and evil spread throughout the macrocosm as well. The catastrophic result of the original sin is that on both a human and a cosmic level there is no longer any unadulterated good, even in the soul of the most saintly, nor any unmitigated evil, even in the deeds of the wickedest.
The Pasuk (Koheles 7:14) â€œIn the day of Goodâ€¦in the day of Evilâ€¦; Elokim made one corresponding to the other,..â€ teaches that everything in Kedusha-holiness and good has its parallel in impurity and evil. After Adams original sin these parallel entities becomeÂ linked and blended together.
Avraham Avinu was defined by his midah of Chesed– loving-kindness, the trait of giving to, and pouring out upon, others. The evil parallel midah of Chesed is Znus-debauchery which bears some superficial similarities to acts of â€œgiving to and pouring out upon othersâ€ but which is informed at its core by selfishness and egotism rather than by selflessness and altruism. Â As a patriarch of Klal Yisrael and a rectifier of Adamâ€™s sin Avraham Avinuâ€™s lifeâ€™s-work was not merely to choose to actualize Chesed and avoid stinginess and callousness at every opportunity but to clarify and purify his Chesed, to thresh away its Znus dark underside.
Avraham Avinuâ€™s progeny prior to Yitzchok were the incarnations of the dark underside of his midah. He needed to get them out of his system, as it were, before being able to reproduce a soul as free of evil admixtures as Yitzchaks. Â Whereas Avraham Avinu was defined by his midah of Chesed his son Yishmael would be defined by his midah of Znus. When HaShem Kivayachol-so to speak,Â shopped the Torah to other nations of the world our sages recount the following exchange: Â â€œâ€˜He shined forth from mount Paranâ€™ (Devarim 33:2) HaShem asked the Ishmaelites â€˜Would you like my Torah?â€™ they replied â€˜What is written within it?â€™ HaShem said â€˜You shall not commit adultery â€˜â€˜If soâ€™ they responded â€˜we do not want itâ€™.â€ Â In a similar vein the Talmud (Kidushin 49B) tells us that â€œten measures of infidelity/licentiousness descended to the world. Arabia took nine measures and the remaining measure was divided among the balance of the nationsâ€.
Progressing from these principles Rav Tzadok, the Lubliner Kohen, offers insight into the apparent â€œdomestic squabblesâ€ in Avrahams home.
During Hagarâ€™s first pregnancy the refinement process of Avrahams Midah began. The embryo then being formed embodied a blend of good and evil that was being filtered out. Yet in the mix that was being filtered out there was still a greater relative amount of Chesed vs. Znus. Feeling the gravity of the good growing within her Hagar â€œlightly esteemedâ€ i.e. grew self-important and became condescending towards her mistress. By the second pregnancy unadulterated Znus was distilled from Avrahams Chesed in the person of Yishmael.
Just as Chava, Adams mate, was the one who induced him to internalize evil and to comingle evil with good it would be Sara, Avraham Avinus wife, who would prompt him to extract and externalize his evil. Just as Chava began her work of ruination-through-adulteration with her eyes â€œThe woman (Chava) saw that the tree was good to eat, and that it was desirable to the eyesâ€ (Bereshis 3:6), Sara would begin her work of repairing- through-sifting-out with her eyes, casting an Ayin Hara-evil eye. Just as Chavas work of ruination-through-adulteration would conclude with the conflicted, ambivalent Â humans, whose goodness had been contaminated with evil, being driven out of Eden (Bereshis 3:23,24), Sara would complete her work of repairing- through-sifting-out by banishing the unambiguous human, whose soul completely extracted and distilled the evil midah of Znus, from the house of Avraham. (Bereshis 21:10-14),