| Parshah |

Mission Statement

We can become enticed by trivial pursuits and shiny insignificant goals. We need to recognize this very human weakness

“And when Avram heard that his kinsman [Lot] was taken captive he armed his students born in his house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued as far as Dan.” (Lech Lecha 14:14)


The Gemara explains that the word “vayarek  — he armed” means that prior to embarking on their sacred mission to rescue Lot from captivity, Avraham gave each of his students an abundance of gold. Why? “So that they would not be tempted to secure for themselves spoils of war and would be able to concentrate on saving lives.”
This is mystifying. Who were these students? They were gedolei Torah and tzaddikim in their own right and had volunteered to risk their lives l’Sheim Shamayim, for the holy mitzvah of hatzalas nefashos, rescuing Lot from captivity. Is it conceivable that such great and idealistic people would jeopardize their entire mission by stopping to acquire for themselves spoils of war? Why did Avraham Avinu think it was necessary to avoid such temptation? (Rabbi Elyakim Rosenblatt, Yeshiva Kesser Torah.)

I possess an active imagination. Sometimes it’s a blessing. Other times it’s a curse.

The sirens are wailing outside and Shloime is petrified. “Why did we daven for chayim on Rosh Hashanah if chayim just brings wars?” he frets.

How do I answer him?

Holding him tightly against me, I try to diffuse his fears by pouring the strength of my love into his small body.

But there are other small children out there who are living a greater nightmare. My mind cannot wrap itself around a three-year-old being held hostage. A five-year-old in the hands of brutal animals. I don’t need much imagination to be paralyzed with thoughts of panic and trauma.

We see from here a profound insight into the human temperament. Even rational people, tzaddikim launching a sacred lifesaving mission, might stray from their mission because of the enticing gleam and glitter of the spoils of war lying on the battlefield.
Avraham Avinu understood these human inner temptations. He therefore preempted the issue by giving his students gold before they departed.

The wishful part of my imagination springs to life, and I wonder wistfully if I could be the one to save these little children. Suppose the gedolei hador formed a posse and rallied us around the call of Mi LaHashem eilai, urging us to follow them into enemy territory to release these neshamos? Would I hesitate an instant? Would I get distracted on my way to this sacred mission by an abandoned Tesla that I could repurpose for myself? Would I pause to check out the contents of a wallet left behind by a refugee? Even my imagination can’t stretch that far.

Perhaps we can apply this thought to our very own lives. Hashem created us and charged us with a mission and purpose in life, to do Hashem’s Will, to study Torah, and to disseminate it. Despite the fact that we are fully cognizant of this sacred mission — which is our obligation on earth and the purpose of our creation — and despite the fact that we may set out to attain this goal with great self-sacrifice, we can nevertheless become distracted. We can become enticed by trivial pursuits and shiny insignificant goals. We need to recognize this very human weakness.

Yet my Tehillim is sitting on my table. Couldn’t I get in another perek? But Shloime is whining that he’s bored, and Avi and Yitzi are squabbling about some minor point in their Monopoly game. Schools are still closed. The stores are out of milk, bread, and most other staples. I am so tired. Worn down. Each day seems to fade into the next, broken only by new spates of fear and uncertainty.

But still. My personal directives are right here in front of me; they’re so clear. I don’t need much imagination to know what is needed from me, what I can do to assist and add to this global effort for each Jew.

I paste a smile on my face, lift my head, and put cheer into my voice. Please Hashem, don’t let me get distracted from my sacred mission.


 (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 865)

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