Beyond Names, Beyond Words (on Parashat Vayera)

Excerpt from The Torah Commentary of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach: Genesis, Part I.

NOW LISTEN TO THIS, FRIENDS. IT SAYS “VAYERA elav Hashem be’Alonei Mamre” (Bereishis 18:1), God revealed Himself to him in Alonei Mamre. What does it mean that God revealed Himself to him, why doesn’t it say that God revealed Himself to Avraham?

I want you to open your hearts in the deepest depths. Imagine if I would live all alone in the world, would I need a name? I only need a name because there are more people besides me in the world.

There are two kinds of names in the world. Sometimes I call a person because they are far away. I need their attention, so I call out to them. Obviously, if I would be all alone, would I need a name? Now imagine something else. There is somebody I love very much and I can’t stop saying their name, this is the deepest depths there is.

So, you see what it is, the deepest place someone can reach is the place beyond a name. There is a place which cannot be reached by a name, and in that place my connection is beyond choice. If my connection is only from that level of names, then one day we will stop calling each other altogether.

So you know what was revealed to Avraham when it says, “Vayera elav Hashem?” After Avraham entered the covenant with God, God revealed to him that the covenant is in that place which has no name . . . in a place which is beyond choice.

Vayera elav,” to him.

The beginning of Vayera is Avraham Avinu having the highest God revelation, but what is so deep is that God didn’t say anything.

I want you to open your hearts.

The highest thing is not Torah SheBichsav (the Written Torah), when God says something to me. The Ribbono Shel Olam made the covenant with Yidden not because of the Torah SheBichsav, the Written Torah. The covenant with Yidden is Torah SheBa’al Peh, the Oral Torah. Until Avraham Avinu was a Yid, God told him exactly what to do. After the covenant, he is beginning Torah SheBa’al Peh.

Let me ask you friends, when is the beginning of Torah SheBa’al Peh? It doesn’t say anywhere in the Torah how you have to greet guests, so can you imagine what kind of a Torah SheBa’al Peh Avraham Avinu brought down? Unbelievable.

I want to share with you the deepest depths.

The beginning of Vayera is the highest most awesome, not knowing but mamesh knowing God revelation. Deep, deep in his heart, God revealed to him what He is all about.

The Zohar HaKadosh says (Zohar Vayera 98a) why didn’t God say any­thing to him? God mamesh revealed to Avraham what it is to believe in God. At that moment, God revealed to Avraham Avinu what it is to be a Yid, what the Torah is all about. This deepest depths which was revealed to him is beyond words.

I’m sure Avraham Avinu greeted other guests before this covenant with God, but only now God revealed to Avraham what he is doing when he greets a stranger. When God reveals this to you, you can’t rest for a second. Where are my guests? You see what it is, if I can make a million dollars and it’s a hot day, I am still running out to get it. So the beginning of the parsha is God revealing to him this beyond knowing, deeper than knowing, on the level of Torah SheBa’al Peh.

From Yitzchak on, something else begins, it’s deeper than knowing. How do children know that these are their parents? Imagine if children would not know who their parents are until they are twenty, or until they study biology and read a few books about what makes a good marriage. Imagine suddenly the door opens and then, gevalt, you meet your producers. Let me ask you, how much would they love their par­ents? Not at all, nothing. Thank you so much, but no thanks. So how do children know that these are their parents? It’s the deepest knowledge. All we can pray is that even after children know how children are born it should not destroy this deepest kind of knowledge.

I can know God like I study biology. I can even know God from Mount Sinai which is very deep, but Avraham Avinu knows God even deeper. “Vayera elav Hashem.” Why is Avraham Avinu called “our father?” You know what he gave over to us? Avraham Avinu gave us over God knowledge on the level of parents and children.

Here I want you to know something very deep. If I talk on the level of good and bad then it’s for everyone. Meaning to say that if something is not kosher, then it’s not kosher for everyone, and if it’s kosher, then it’s kosher for everyone. Here it says “Vayera elav Hashem” (Bereishis 18:1), it was just for Avraham. You know what the essence of Yiddishkeit is? What is Avraham Avinu all about, what is Torah SheBa’al Peh all about? Mamesh, the Ribbono Shel Olam was just talking to me. When did Avraham Avinu reach the deepest God knowledge of not knowing at all? This is by the Akeida, he mamesh didn’t know if God wants it or not. It’s not just not knowing, my knowledge tells me that everything is wrong. Akeidas Yitzchak is that not only everything is against me, even God is against me. Everything I know of God is against me, and I’m still ready to do it.

The Ishbitzer says the deepest Torah (Mei HaShiloach 2, Vayera, last piece). Whenever God is testing you, He takes away everything you know, there is mamesh nothing left inside of you. Avraham Avinu asked God, “Don’t ever test me again, please let this be the last test.” Avraham

Avinu says, “Don’t ever take this away from me, I cannot live without this deepest depths of God knowledge. When I know that everything is against it, gevalt, do I need it every second.”

Friends, let me ask you, how did we make it in the galus (exile) for two thousand years? How did we make it that the Ribbono Shel Olam burnt down the Beis HaMikdash, we are driven out and we are running back to Yerushalayim all the time? Where did the strength for this come from? It’s all from the Akeida.

By Avraham Avinu it says “Vayar es haMakom me’rachok” (Bereishis 22:4), he mamesh saw Yerushalayim from afar. Do you know what kind of koach Avraham gave us? That even, so to speak, when God puts you far away, you cannot take your eyes off of Yerushalayim.


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