This week we read Parshas Vayaira. At the end of the parsha we read the story of the binding, when Hashem instructs Abraham to bind his son Isaac, and to sacrifice him as an offering to Hashem. Abraham proceeds to take his son, bind him, and takes the knife to sacrifice him. At the last second he is stopped, as an angel calls out to him and stops him. ďAnd the angel of Hashem called out to Abraham and told him for now I know that you are one who fears G-d, and you did not hold back your son from meĒ. (Genesis 22:12) A few verses later, the angel appears to Abraham a second time, and praises him for not holding back his son (22:16). There the phrase from me does not appear. Why is there a change in the wording? To add to this question, certainly Abraham wasnít going to offer his son as a sacrifice to the angel. Why, then, did the angel mention from me at all? At least, he should have started out the way he spoke in verse 16 Ė speaking in the name of Hashem?
The Gaon of Vilna offers a beautiful explanation. We are taught in Ethics of the fathers (Chapter 4:11) that when one does a mitzvah, a positive commandment, they acquire a divine advocate, an angel, who will intercede on their behalf. So too, if one does a sin, he or she acquires an angel who accuses and prosecutes against them. How strong or powerful are these angels? They donít all stand on the same level. When a mitzvah is done whole heartedly, with feeling and joy, a strong, powerful angel is created. The more love for Hashem we feel when we do the mitzvah, the more we feel fear of heaven when it is performed, the greater and stronger this angel will be. On the other hand, when we do a mitzvah begrudgingly, or half heartedly, only because we have to, the angel created by the mitzvah is weak. The less excitement and energy we put into the mitzvah, the less we feel love and fear of Hashem when we do it, the weaker and more deficient this angel is.
The converse is also true. When we do a sin or an avaira, the more willingly and with our full intent we do it, the stronger the prosecuting angel we create is. The more the sin is by mistake, or as an oversight, the weaker the angel is.
The angel that was talking to Abraham was the angel that was created from the mitzvah he had just done at the binding. This is what the angel meant when he said now I know, now I know that you are one who fears G-d. How do I know that? From me Ė from the fact that I was created; not only that I was created, but the way I was created - that shows me that you really fear G-d. The fact that I am so strong and healthy shows that you really did this mitzvah properly, with fear of G-d.
Remember Ė itís not just that we do the mitzvah, itís how we do the mitzvah!!