A Person Becomes His or Her Actions

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A Person Becomes His or Her Actions

Michael Berg
October 20, 2021
Like 36 Comments 6 Share

In the beginning of the portion Vayera, there is the story of Abraham; on the third day of his circumcision, he's in great pain, and he sees what we know to be three angels. However, he thinks they're three regular people, invites them to eat with him, and prepares a whole meal.

There is a section that speaks about all the physical actions Abraham was taking. It tells us the details of his running after the animals, and then specifically how he cooked them. Even on a very simple level, it seems strange that the Torah would go into so much detail, telling us all about Abraham's food preparation; as such, there must be a spiritual understanding behind it.

What is the secret? It says that in the moment Abraham saw the three people who he ran to invite, the Light of the Creator was being revealed to him. And it says that Abraham essentially said to the Creator, “Wait here. Let's stop this connection so I can go take care of these three people.” The three people could have waited… so, what was Abraham’s rush?

To understand this, there's a very important section from a book called the Sefer HaChinuch which is a discussion of the 613 Mitzvot, the 613 spiritual actions, and some reasoning to each of them. In what's called the 16th Mitzvah, in the 16th section, it talks about all the different detailed actions that we do during Pesach, and the author stops to ask the question: Why do we need to do so many actions to connect us to going out of Egypt? Just as we find the same question we asked about Abraham's detailed description of his food preparation process, we ask what the need is for so many details within the action of connecting to Pesach.

Why is the Creator asking us to do so many detailed actions? Very often, people - even those who are spiritual - like to meditate or make some sort of connection, but don’t think that getting into the details of things, or to be exact about things, is “spiritual.” However, we know, kabbalistically, that it's not enough to have a consciousness or connection, or to meditate; there actually has to be action manifest in this world.

So, why can a person never achieve the purpose for which he came into this world if he is simply studying or even connecting and meditating? Why is that not a path that can lead an individual to the complete revelation of their soul's purpose in this world? And therefore, why is detailed and constant action, necessary?

One can say that on Pesach there's a great Light revealed, so we should sit for an hour and meditate for the Light of freedom, the Light of Pesach to come to us. Instead, we spend hours with so many details within the actions at the meal. Why is that necessary?

It tells us in Sefer HaChinuch that if we want to know wisdom, we should listen to this teaching: A person becomes what he does. A person becomes what his actions are. Most people think it's the other way around; if I'm a good person, I do good actions. If I'm a bad person, I do bad actions. My actions are an expression of who I am. However, he's saying the opposite is true, and that the actions actually make us who we are. And without going into the details, Nachmanides, the Ramban, speaks about all the tests that Abraham went through, a combination of which appear in the portion of Vayera,and expresses the same idea. Because, since the Creator knows what's in Abraham’s mind, heart, and soul, why is it necessary to test him?

The Ramban says that the tests were not just to reveal, but also to enable Abraham to become a more elevated person. Because a person becomes what he does. A person who does actions that are positive, sharing, or of a spiritual connection, becomes more spiritual because of those actions. We become, and we are, the actions that we do.

Now, here he says an amazing and important thing. Let’s say an internally bad person who has negative thoughts and desires decides that for the next year he’s going to force himself to do only actions of sharing and spiritual actions, even though he doesn’t want to and thinks it's the worst thing in the world. Then, he says, that since our thoughts, desires, soul, and Light are a manifestation of what we do, those actions will change the person, because we become what our actions are. And the actions will remove all the negativity from his heart and his mind. Because the heart, desire, thoughts, and mind follow the action. It is so important to understand.

Even if someone is the most elevated and spiritual person in the world, whose singular desire is to only do good and to share, and whose thoughts are all pure, does actions that are negative for a month, for example, then after that month he will be a negative person. His mind, soul, and desires will change. Because what we do affects our thoughts, creates our connection, and makes our desires. Every person becomes what they do.

We are talking here in extremes – a positive person who does only negative actions would become negative, and negative person who does only positive actions would become a positive person. But most of us are not in the extreme, we are right in the middle. So what we need to understand is that if we don't make sure that in the next day we push ourselves to do actions that are good and sharing, we cannot be sure that we are going to be a good person tomorrow.

It's very important, because this tends to go against the way most of us think. Most of us think if we’re a good person, we’re going to be a good person. Maybe we'll elevate more, become more connected, and have more Light and blessings because of it. But, this is not the case, because we become the actions that we push ourselves to do. Which means that if in the next day, we do ten actions of sharing and connection, then we are a ten times better person than if we’ve only done one action of sharing. Even if in our mind, we are pure, meditating, and only Desire to Share, but only happen to manifest one action today and another person manifests ten actions, that other person would be ten times better.

It says in the Talmud that the Creator wanted to elevate every person, and therefore, we are given so many actions and details. As such, if we want to become a better person, we have to make sure we’re doing more actions. Because the amount of actions of sharing and connections we do are how spiritual and connected we will be; and it is by those actions that we become good.

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