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VIRTUAL REALITY

by Rabbi Binyomin Friedman    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

The following is a direct translation from the Hebrew text of the Yalkut Shimoni, a thirteenth century midrashic anthology:
Abraham requested aging of Hashem. He said a man and his son would be in one place and no one would know which to honor. As the verse states, "And Abraham aged" (Gen 24:1).

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The following is a direct translation from the Hebrew text of the Yalkut Shimoni, a thirteenth century midrashic anthology:
Abraham requested aging of Hashem. He said a man and his son would be in one place and no one would know which to honor. As the verse states, "And Abraham aged" (Gen 24:1).
Isaac requested suffering. He said a man dies and has to contend with divine justice without any suffering to expatiate his guilt. As the verse states, "And when Isaac's eyesight was dimmed" (Gen. 27:1).
Jacob requested illness. He said a man dies and doesn't have an opportunity to settle issues with his children. As the verse states, "And it was told to Joseph, behold your father is ill" (Gen. 48:1).

Before our Patriarchs, the aging process, suffering, and illness did not exist. Today, they are universally recognized as curses that everyone tries to avoid. Why would our Patriarchs pray to have them introduced? If we analyze the attributes of the forefathers, we will find that they were each acting according to their own individual character. Abraham is recognized as the embodiment of the attribute of chesed, loving kindness. He is acutely aware of the need for and absence of chesed. He realizes that the world will be a better place if the young can honor the old.

Isaac represents the attribute of din, justice. His life is dedicated to the struggle to control oneself and do Hashem's will. He is concerned with the ultimate day of judgement. He realizes that man will be better if he can expiate some of his guilt over a period of time, rather than dealing with it all at once. Suffering will serve as an atonement for sin, as well as a catalyst to repentance.

Jacob stands for tiferet, glory. This is the beautiful balance between the attributes of his fathers. As a plain and simple man, he is drawn to neither extreme. Jacob realizes that the true beauty is found in the reconciliation of different personalities. He wants to give each son his unique blessing. He wants to designate each one's role in life so that they can achieve a harmonious balance. Jacob realizes that only when the sons see that their father is going to die will they respect his words. The Yalkut Shimoni provides a fascinating insight into the character of the Patriarchs. In addition, this commentator also provides a fascinating insight into the ability of man to create his own reality.

We generally try to serve Hashem with the tools that he has given us, such as our physical and mental faculties as well as our environment. We feel that a successful Jew is one who has utilized everything Hashem has given him. This was not the attitude of the Patriarchs. They did not recognize a limiting reality. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob each prayed to Hashem to create a new reality so that they could better express their attributes to His service. The forefathers teach us that if we desire additional tools in the service of Hashem, He can provide them.

The opposite, however, is also true. We find in the book of Kings that in his old age, King David could not remain warm regardless of how many garments were placed upon him. The Yalkut Shimoni explains that garments would not warm King David because he had disgraced the garment of King Saul when he had cut off its corner. (Obviously, our Rabbis understood that King David could have accomplished his goal without cutting the garment.) In doing this, David showed a lack of regard for the tools with which Hashem had provided him. Hashem, therefore, changed the reality. Garments which normally provide warmth would no longer warm King David.

The lesson that we can learn from here is that we should neither take for granted nor feel limited by our circumstances. There is no reality. The only reality is the virtual reality of the moment created by our level of desire to serve Hashem.

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Rabbi Binyomin Friedman is rabbi of Congregation Ariel and a card-carrying member of the Atlanta Scholars Kollel.

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