Our parsha begins with Hashem appearing to Avraham Avinu who is recovering from having had his bris two days prior, at the opening of histent. In the middle of this visit, three angels disguised as Bedouin travelers stop by, and Avraham leaves Hashem to attend to their needs. Before he does so, he asks Hashem not to depart from the opening of the tent until he returns from taking care of his guests, saying, “Al na sa’avor mei’al avdecha” – Please do not pass from upon Your servant.

The Torah contains within it 613 mitzvos, Hashem’s divine guidelines for His holy nation. The root of the word “mitzvah” is “Tzivui”, commandment. But the Chassidic masters teach that it also derives from the word “Tzavsah”, Aramaic for connection. While, on the surface, the mitzvos are God’s rules for the Jewish people – laws and rituals we are obligated to heed, there is a deeper element that is oftentimes missing from the experience – the aspect in which a mitzvah is a conduit to a world beyond, an opportunity for the deepest connection with our Father in heaven. Performed properly with the joy born of holy consciousness and depth of understanding, the mitzvos can allow a Jew to bind his or her soul to the Source of life, illumination, and vitality and get in touch with the spirit of Gan Eden that envelops them. (See Nefesh HaChaim 1:6,12)

Based on this understanding, the Meor Einayim says the most amazing thing. When Avraham asks Hashem, “Please do not pass from upon Your servant”, he isn’t simply asking Him not to leave while he goes to take care of his guests. Rather he is asking Hashem to come with him, yearning for his involvement with the mitzvah of hachnasas orchim to not merely signify the fulfillment of a “tzivui” – commandment, but the fortification of “tzvasah” – connection. From the fact that Avraham was willing to break his overt connection in the form of receiving the Shechina for the uncertain bond that he hoped to attain through hachnasas orchim, our Sages learned that hosting guests is even greater than receiving the Shechinah; that mitzvos can provide a Jew with an even greater level of connection with the Master of the world than an overt encounter with Hashem’s presence. (See Tanya, chap. 2, 23, 39) It was a risk – there was a chance Avraham would fall into the mindset of viewing the mitzvah as a commandment alone, and for that he needed to beg the Master of the world, “Al na sa’avor mei’al avdecha – please accompany me in this mitzvah and allow me to realize it as being the highest level of connection with You.”

This week, join me in saying the following prayer each morning. “Master of the world, al na sa’avor mei’al avdecha! Please allow me to perceive Your loving presence from within the mitzvos I perform today.” I have a feeling that this little prayer can go a long way in ensuring that we maintain a soulful connection with our avodas Hashem and tap into the deep joy and excitement of serving the Author of existence!

On the surface, the word “mitzvah” comes from the word “tzivui”, commandment. At its core, it derives from the word “tzavsah”, connection.

Rav Menachem Nachum of Chernobyl
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R’ Yaakov Klein is the founder of the Lost Princess Initiative, an author, musician, and lecturer devoted to sharing the inner light of Torah through his books, music, and lectures.

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