And Avraham was old, well on in years.
[With this verse] the holy Torah teaches us the ways of the Tzaddikim and how they should act in order to arouse kindness and mercy and draw down divine blessing into this world.
We will explain [this teaching] by bringing the Sages’ commentary on the verse “These are the generations of heaven and earth, when they were created [בהבראם]” (Bereishis 2:4). The Sages say that this can be read as “ה''א בראם — with the letter hei [heaven and earth] were created” (Menachos 29b). In other words, this world was created with the letter hei, as it is written, “With Kah [י-ה] G-d formed worlds” (Yeshayahu 26:4) — with the letters yud and hei Hashem created worlds. [This world was created with the hei, and the World to Come was created with the yud.] * The Sages also taught that בהבראם can be read as באברהם, “through Avraham [the world was created]” (see Ba’al HaTurim, Bereishis 2:4, quoting Midrash Rabbah 2:9).
Both of these midrashim can be understood with the same approach that we used to explain the Sages’ teaching that “at first Hashem thought to create the world through the attribute of strict justice. * However, He saw that the world would not be able to continue existing in this state, so He added the attribute of mercy.” * Heaven forbid that we should think that the One true G-d would alter His deeds or change His mind. Rather, the Sages meant that the upper worlds were created through the attribute of judgment. This is the meaning of “at first Hashem thought” — the first thing created through the attribute of judgment was the upper worlds, which are called “the realms of thought.” “However, He saw that the world would not be able to continue existing” — this world cannot exist through judgment alone, “so He added the attribute of mercy,” as it is written, “The world is built on kindness” (Tehillim 89:3). Therefore, the Sages’ teaching can be understood [as follows]: this world, which was created with the letter hei, * was created “through Avraham” whose attribute is kindness.
Thus the Tzaddikim arouse the attribute of kindness and draw it down to this world, in accordance with my explanation of the verse “Gomel nafsho ish chassid — A man of kindness brings good [ גומל ] upon himself ” (Mishlei 11:17). *Gomel has the same root as vayigamel, from the verse “And Yitzchak was weaned [ ויגמל ]” (Bereishis 28:8), indicating that if you “wean your soul from lust and physical desires, you are an ish chassid,” a pious man who controls the chasadim, the kindnesses. You can then channel them, drawing them down to this world on behalf of klal Yisrael. *
The main thing is that this drawing down of the shefa, the influx and blessing, comes through learning Torah for its own sake. This is the meaning of “And Avraham was old, well on in years.” “Avraham” alludes to the attribute of mercy, and “old” alludes to the holy Torah, for the Midrash relates that at Mount Sinai Hashem revealed Himself as an old man full of mercy. “Days” alludes to this world, which is called “days” because it is bound by time. The verse can therefore be read as follows: “And Avraham — that is, the Attribute of Kindness — came down to this world * through “old,” that is, through the holy Torah.” [Thus the kindness should be drawn down through Torah lishmah.]
“And Hashem blessed Avraham with everything” — this hints that the Name of Havayah [the four-letter Name of G-d] unites the Attribute of Kindness with the world, which is called “kol.” In this way, all the worlds are united.
“And Avraham said to his servant” * — the Attribute of Kindness is speaking to the Tzaddik, so to speak, for Avraham alludes to the Attribute of Kindness, and the Tzaddik is called a faithful servant. “The elder of his household” — [“elder” refers to the Torah]. The Torah is concealed and hidden from man. Before a man comes out of the womb, he is taught the entire Torah. Then an angel comes and strikes him on his mouth, causing him to forget it (see Niddah 30b). Why is this done? It is so that the power of the Torah will be concealed and hidden potentially within man. When he toils in studying Torah for its own sake, he can uncover and reveal the Torah truths that were impressed upon him in the womb. Thus we see that Torah exists in man even before he comes out of the womb to this world; therefore the Torah can be called “aged” or “old.” This then is the meaning of “elder of his household,” that the Tzaddik attains the Torah that is the elder hidden within him.
Alternatively [the “elder” is the Tzaddik]. The Tzaddik always considers himself as an elder even in his youth. He always thinks about his demise and the day of his return to the realms beyond and his final resting place, and therefore he is in a constant state of repentance. And so the Tzaddik is called an “elder of his household, in charge of all that is his,” meaning that the Tzaddik is in charge and can control his evil inclination and also has control over Hashem, so to speak, as the Sages taught, “Who rules over Me? The Tzaddik” (Mo’ed Katan 16b).
The Attribute of Kindness says to this Tzaddik, * “Place your hand beneath my thigh.” In the upper realms the klippos have no grasp; only in this lowly world can they gain a foothold. Therefore the Tzaddik must detach and separate the klippos from this world, preventing them from attaching to it. This is why we make the daily blessing “who gives sight to the blind.” The Tzaddik’s purpose is to “open the eyes” Above so that they will watch over Israel. The blessing “who clothes the naked” has a similar purpose: to clothe and cover this lowly world from the klippos so they cannot gain a foothold. This is hinted at in the verse “The heavens are My throne” (Yeshayahu 66:1). The word for “My throne,” כסאי , has the same root as the word מכוסה , “covered” or “concealed.” The upper heavens are concealed and hidden from the klippos, since the klippos have no hold on them, as we previously explained. “And the earth is my footstool” (ibid.) — it is on the earth, the lowly realm that is at the foot of the world, where the klippos can get a hold. Man’s purpose is to prevent them from having a hold on this world [by serving Hashem]. This is what is meant by the verse “The heavens belong to Hashem, and the land was given to mankind” (Tehillim 115:16). The lowly realms were given over to man so that he should separate the artziyus, the earthly, from the klippos. This is what is hinted at by “place your hand,” meaning your strength, “beneath my thigh,” in the lower realms, where you must see to it to remove the klippos.
“I shall have you swear by Hashem, the G-d of the heavens…do not take a woman for my son Yitzchak from among the Canaanites, among whom I dwell” — the Attribute of Kindness also says to the Tzaddik: Strengthen yourself by an oath, that you shall not take a woman for my son, meaning you shall not draw down [along with the divine blessing] physical influences which are called “woman,” to my son, Yisrael, who is called “My firstborn son” (Shemos 4:22). Do not influence him through the Canaanites — that is, do not mix him up with lusts and evil deceit in the manner of the Canaanites, as it says, “Canaan grasps the scales of deceit in his hands” (Hoshea 12:8). “Since I dwell among them” — I cannot hold them back [from harming you if you mix among them].
“The servant answered him” — the Tzaddik replies to the Attribute of Kindness: “Maybe the woman will not desire to follow after me?” In other words, what if these blessings and goodness do not wish to be drawn down, Heaven forbid? *
[Here “woman” has a positive connotation, of blessings and godness, as opposed to the previous paragraph, where it is used in a negative sense.]
“Should I bring your son back?” — should I blame your son the Jewish people, who must repent and return to Hashem because of their sins, which are causing these divine blessings to be withheld?
“Avraham answered him” — meaning the Attribute of Kindness said, “Guard yourself lest you take my son back there.” Heaven forbid that we should blame any inadequacy on them. Rather, just do your duty.
“So the servant placed his hand under the thigh and swore to him” — we now understand in this context that the Tzaddik does what he is told.
“And the servant took ten camels” — we can [explain this verse] with another verse from parashas Lech Lecha: “Malkitzedek, king of Shalem, took out bread and wine” (Bereishis 14:18). This hints at the attribute of Malchus, Kingship or Sovereignty, through which all good blessing is drawn to the Jewish people and the whole world. “And he [Malkitzedek] was a priest to the most exalted G-d” (ibid.) — through this [the attribute of Malchus] all kindness of the upper realms pours forth. “And [the king Malkitzedek] blessed him saying, ‘Blessed is Avram’ ” — when the sefirah of Malchus receives divine blessing in order to pour forth goodness upon Israel, it fills the upper worlds with joy and happiness and praises and blessings. This is what it means by “And he blessed him saying, ‘Blessed is Avram to the most exalted G-d’” — unify the attribute of kindness [which Avraham represented] with the upper worlds.
“And blessed is the most exalted G-d who has delivered your enemies into your hand” means that at this moment, when the attribute of Malchus is blessed, ready to pour forth blessing, no foe or enemy has the ability to reign over the Jewish people, Heaven forbid. Just the opposite: those enemies are given over into the hands of the Jewish people, and the hand of Israel overpowers them. This is what the Sages mean when they say, “The day of rain [ גשם ] is greater than the day of the ingathering of the exiles” (Ta’anis 8b). The time when physical blessing [ גשמיות ] is drawn down is compared to the ingathering of the exiles, when the nations of the world shall bend to the Jews. *
“And he [Avraham] gave him [Malkitzedek] a tenth of everything” — the word kol, everything, refers to the righteousness of the Tzaddik, who acts with great holiness in everything that he does. Even when eating and drinking, he brings everything into the realm of holiness. And ma’aser, a tenth, hints at holiness, which is called “eser.”
[Perhaps this idea that holiness is called “eser” is an allusion to the ten divine emanations called “sefiros.”]
Now we can explain the verse “And the servant took ten camels.” It refers to the Tzaddik, the faithful servant, who draws down the divine blessings for Israel, as mentioned above. He “takes ten camels [ גמלים ],” meaning that all his deeds and services and acts of loving-kindness which are called גמילות חסדים, which has the same grammatical root as גמל , “camel,” he makes all these holy, which is hinted at by the number 10. These are the “ten camels from among his master’s camels” — for he cleaves to the traits of the Master of the world, as the Sages teach, “Cleave and attach yourself to the traits of Hashem: just as He is merciful, so too you should be merciful” (Shabbos 133b).
“He [the servant] set out with all the good of his master in his hands” — this refers to the fact that Hashem places all goodness and blessings into the hands of the Tzaddik, His faithful servant, so that he can draw down blessings and goodness to the Jewish people.
“He got up and went on to Aram Naharayim” — this hints at the idea that with his holiness the Tzaddik can also transform all low, base physical things into great spiritual lights. ארם thus alludes to רמאות , “cheating,” and נהרים comes from the same word as אורות , “lights” [in Aramaic, נהור is“light”].
“And he saddled the camels” — this indicates that all this is accomplished by breaking down his bad traits [which are called גמוליו ]. The word ויברך , “he saddled,” has the same grammatical root as הרכבת אילן , “grafting a tree,” for breaking one’s bad traits is just like grafting a tree — it requires bending and exertion to change oneself and help one grow.
“Outside the city” — the body is called a “city,” as in “a small city with many people in it” (Koheles 9:14). The body does not benefit from the fact that he has physical lusts and desires. That is the meaning of “outside the city” [that the bad traits represented by the camels are “outside the body”].
“To the water well” — this alludes to the fact that only through the wellsprings of the holy Torah does one reach such lofty levels, becoming a flowing spring of knowledge.
“By evening time” — through learning the holy Torah for its own sake, the Tzaddik is refined and purified; it sanctifies him so that it is sweeter [ערב, from the same root as ערב , “evening”] to him than honey or any other taste.
“At the time when the women come out to draw water from the well” hints at the time when you will be able to draw down great blessing and goodness to the Jewish people, without interruption.
May Hashem give us the merit to serve Him with honesty, awe, and great love, Amen.