In this week’s parsha we begin learning about our Avos and Imahos, who are the foundation of Klal Yisrael. The pasuk in Devarim (10:15) says that Hashem only chose us because of our Avos and Imahos. Rav Chaim Volozhin explains (Ruach Chaim on Perkei Avos 5:2) that all of the great midos that we are attributed to Klal Yisrael come from our Avos and Imahos. He says that the strength and ability that we find inherent in even the simplest of Jews to give up their lives for emunah was only made possible because Avraham Avinu was moser nefesh during the akeida (and when he was thrown into the fire).
With this we can also answer another question. The akeida is considered a most monumental event, so much so that we mention on Rosh Hashanah and in many of our tefillos. But what about it was so unique, when we find throughout the generations thousands of Jews have given their lives al pi Kiddush Hashem?
Rav Chaim Volozhin answers that the ability that so many of our people possess to give everything including their lives for a Kiddush Hashem was inherited from our Avos and Imahos.
Rav Chaim Volozhin also says that the burning desire that every Jew has for Eretz Yisrael even after close to 2,000 years of the churban stems from when Hashem told Avraham Avinu “Lech licha” he developed that yearning and desire for Eretz Yisrael, and passed it down to his descendants.
Additionally, we find that the Gemara in Megillah 13b says that Shaul Hamelech excelled in the area of tznius because he was a descendant of Rachel Imeinu. The Gemara in Yoma 22b says that when Shaul was 20 he was like a 1-year-old regarding aveiros. In other words, he never sinned. Was Shaul not great enough to be able to reach a high level of tznius on his own? We see that all of Klal Yisrael’s attributes come from our Avos and Imahos.
Based on this, Rav Moshe Shmuel Shapiro, zt”l, says we can understand how Chazal can say that one is obligated to say, “When will my actions reach my father’s actions.” How can we even expect that our actions will reach those of our great ancestors? However, since all of our attributes, characteristics, and accomplishments that we achieve come from the kochos that our Avos and Imahos passed down to us, our actions do have the ability to reach their level.
The Targum Yonason ben Uziel and the Targum Yerushalmi on the pasuk in Parshas Balak, “Ma tovu ohalecha Yaakov,” says that Yaakov Avinu learned in the batei medrashim in the midbar. This is puzzling. Bilam, who said that pasuk, was looking at the tents in the Midbar, hundreds of years after Yaakov Avinu has passed away. How could he have been mentioning Yaakov Avinu? Rav Moshe Shmuel explains that since Yaakov Avinu learned in the yeshiva of Shem and Ever, he bequeathed into every beis medrash, in the midbar and everywhere else that Klal Yisrael enters to daven and learn for all generations, the koach of Yaakov Avinu in it. The ability that we have to sit in a beis medrash or shul and learn and daven today comes from Yaakov Avinu.
The Mishnah in Baba Metziyah 83a says that one should stipulate with workers prior to hiring them that he should only be obligated to feed them a minimal amount. The Mishnah explains that if one does not do so, even if he provides a meal fit for Shlomo Hamelech, he will not have fulfilled his obligation, because they are children of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov. We see from the Mishnah that even simple workers are considered on the lofty level of children of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, and would require better treatment.
Rabbeinu Yona writes in the beginning of his sefer Shaar Haavoda that the first step in working on oneself is to recognize the greatness of his forefathers and how much Hashem loved them, and then to concentrate on those great middos. Only when one aims for those levels can he follow in their great footsteps.
May we be zocheh to follow in the paths that our Avos and Imahos paved for us, and through that merit to see the coming of Mashiach speedily in our days, amen.