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Posted on January 19, 2023 (5783) By Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein | Series: | Level:

I appeared to Avraham, to Yitzchok, and to Yaakov as Kel Shakkai, but my name Hashem I did not make Myself known to them.[2]

Kel Shakkai means the G-d who said “enough” to His world. It indicates limitation, contraction. In other words – tzimtzum. Hashem dealt with the avos through limiting His connection with them at times. Limiting that connection might easily lessen the depth and sophistication of a person’s daas.[3] He did this in order to test them. How would they function after their comprehension of what can be humanly understood about Him was compromised? Would the imprint left by the fuller complement of daas that they possessed earlier, when they were more tightly connected, allow them to weather the test? Particularly, because one of the ways Hashem is metzamtzem Himself is through din, the consequences of which are often uncomfortable or painful. Would “packaging” his relationship with them within a vehicle of din set them back?

The avos passed their tests. That is the upshot of our pasuk. Hashem related to them at times with Kel Shakkai, i.e. He limited His direct connection with them, shrinking their daas. The fullness of His name “YKVK” was thus withheld from them at those times. Nonetheless, their Emunah was not blunted by the experience. They passed all their tests. They accepted His Elokus in any manner that it was displayed to them.

The gemara[4] speaks of a time that Hashem presented overwhelming evidence of the sins of Klal Yisrael to the avos. Both Avraham and Yaakov are so overwhelmed by the inventory of sins, that they agree that their children must c”v be destroyed. This, however, was not the response that HKBH was looking for. He turns to Yitzchok, who offers an extremely liberal and creative way to deal with the sins of his descendants. This plea for compassion is exactly what Hashem wanted to hear!

The passage is enigmatic. After all, Yitzchok’s characteristic of din makes him the least likely to look at Klal Yisrael charitably. How could he succeed where Avraham and Yaakov, representing chesed and rachamim, failed?

The explanation is as follows: A person who relates to Hashem through the midos of chesed or rachamim cannot have complete daas. He needs to be challenged by the rigors of din. By relating only with the two more comfortable midos, he invites a tzimtzum of his relationship with Hashem in which he is challenged by din. In effect, he turns rachamim into din.

One who fully accepts Hashem’s Elokus, however, even when He relates to him with Yitzchok’s midah of din, merits an upgrade in his connection. He thus turns the din with which he is ordinarily treated to rachamim.

In so doing, he can save Klal Yisrael.

  1. Based on Meor Einayim by Rav Menachem Nachum, Rebbe of Chernobyl
  2. Shemos 6:3
  3. The author makes frequent use of this theme in the opening parshios of Shemos. This piece is essentially a continuation of the one that was discussed here last week.
  4. Shabbos 89b