Slonimer Rebbe: Lech Lecha: With Pleasure & Humility
“And he trusted in God, and He reckoned it to him as Tzedaka.” (Genesis 15:6) This can be compared to a powerful king who wants to benefit his officers and servants. However, he wants to first determine who of them believe in his goodness and will trust in him. The servants who trust and believe will be perfect vessels to receive the king’s abundant kindness and will help the king do good to many others. This is what the verse means when it says, “And he trusted in God,” and Abram became a vessel to receive God’s abundant good so as to share it with the world. God considered this, Abram’s willingness to be such a vessel, as if it were an act of Tzedaka. (Bereishit Rabbah)
We must examine another verse in order to understand this Midrash: “After these events, the word of God came to Abram in a vision, saying, ‘Fear not, Abram, I am a shield for you; your reward is very great!’” (15:1)
Compare this to: “How abundant is Your goodness that You have stored away for those who fear You, that You have performed for those who seek refuge in You in the presence of men.” (Psalms 31:20) King David is teaching us that there are two essential qualities for one who seeks to truly serve God. He must combine the two and never allow them to separate from each other: The first quality of his service should be a sense of ultimate Simcha – joy – and pleasure, as the verse says; “Because you did not serve God, your Lord, with gladness and goodness of heart.” (Deuteronomy 28:47)
He must combine this joy and pleasure with a sense of humility. One who can combine both of these qualities in his service is considered to be living a life of Olam Habah even on this world. It is considered to be a victory over the limitations of this material world because the natural response to physical wealth is, “Your hearts will expand and you will forget God.” (Deuteronomy 8:14) The natural response of one who is blessed with plenty is to lose his humility.
The equally natural response of a poor person may be humility, but it is difficult for him to maintain a sense of joy and plenty.
The person who can combine both the joy of plenty with humility has overcome the natural boundaries of the mundane and is considered a Ben Olam Habah.
If not for the mask that obscures our vision and clarity, people would see that they stand before the Creator, Blessed is He, that He alone is the great King, and they would immediately derive great pleasure without arrogance when they are privileged to serve Him. The pleasure that comes from this clarity does not lead to arrogance, but from the awareness of the abundant kindness and good that we receive from God.
This awareness develops from one who trusts in God and understands that no one can help or hurt him, save according to the Divine Will, as it says, “People had never herd, never observed, no eye had ever seen a power – except for You – that acted for those who trust in Him.” (Isaiah 64:3) This teaches that one who trusts and waits for God will live as one in a world that has yet to be seen – Olam Habah – the World to Come. This is the explanation of the verse we mentioned earlier: “How abundant is Your goodness that You have stored away for those who fear You, that You have performed for those who seek refuge in You in the presence of men.” (Psalms 31:20)
Abram’s only concern after receiving such a wealth of open miracles from God, was that he not lose the humility in all the pleasure. Therefore, God said, “Fear Not! I will shield you.” And thus, Abram became the perfect vessel to receive and then share God’s goodness.