Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky
Lifting One's Eyes
The theme of "lifting one's eyes and seeing" appears in several places in Parshas VaYera. Avraham is described as one who saw in this manner, whereas others in the parsha failed to observe things properly. Sitting outside his tent in the heat of the day, Avraham chooses to lift up his eyes to view potential guests (Breishis 18:2). Furthermore, years later, as Avraham is traveling to the Akeida, he once again lifts up his eyes and observes Har Hamoriya from a distance (Breishis 22:4). What is the significance of not merely seeing, but also lifting up one's eyes to see?
We can appreciate the manner in which Avraham observed things by contrasting this to others in the parsha who failed to see. Chazal note that after seeing Har Hamoriya from afar, Avraham turns to Eliezer and Yishmael and instructs them to remain behind as he and Yitzchak proceed to the Akeida. Avraham saw a cloud of glory hovering over the mountain whereas Eliezer and Yishmael saw nothing. Something special can be present, but if one fails to "lift one's eyes" and search for it, he may never notice it. Avraham actively sought out spirituality and thereby merited to see the Divine Presence.
Looking for opportunities to "lift our eyes" is not just important in searching for Hashem, but it is critical for developing our relationships with our fellow man as well. In this area, Avraham also excels and actively seeks out opportunities to perform acts of chessed. Notwithstanding recovering from his bris at the age of ninety-nine, he eagerly searches for guests despite the intense heat of the day. In contrast to when Avraham "lifts up his eyes" and sees the potential guests, Hagar also finds herself in a situation in which she can perform a great chessed. Her son, Yishmael is ill and in great need of her care. Rather than comforting her suffering child she deliberately distances herself by saying, "I do not want to watch him die." Hagar had not learned from Avraham regarding how to search for opportunities to perform chessed. Rather, she chose to close her eyes and ignore the dire situation that presented itself.
It is not coincidental that Yishmael did not see the Divine Presence as he stood before Har Hamoriya. He had not learned from his father to seize the opportunity and search for it. Rather, he followed the path of his mother, Hagar's example of turning away.
As the descendants of Avraham Avinu, we must follow his legacy of always "lifting our eyes" and finding ways to connect to Hashem and our fellow man. By actively searching for spiritual growth we will merit that Hashem will look to us as well. At the culmination of the Akeida Avraham names the very place that would later house the Beis Hamikdash, "Hashem will see." May we soon merit the fulfillment of the prophecy of Yeshayahu (60:4), "Lift your eyes and see that your children have gathered to come to you." We yearn to see the day that the place in which Hashem sees will once again serve as our vehicle to see His presence and inspire us to follow in His ways by bestowing chessed upon one another.