by the Reisha Rav, HaGoan Rav Aaron Levine TZ"L
Elucidated and Adapted by Efraim Levine
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For I have cherished him, because he commands his children and his household after him that they keep the way of Hashem, doing charity and justice in order that Hashem might bring upon Avraham that which He had spoken of him. (Bereishis 18:19)
The simple interpretation of the posuk conveys that the reason Avraham commanded his children and household to follow in the ways of charity and justice is so that he be rewarded and receive the good fortune that Hashem promised him. The difficulty is that this interpretation stands in contradiction to a well-known Mishna in Pirkei Avos. The Mishna (1:3) states that one should not serve Hashem as a servant who serves his master solely for the purpose of receiving reward but rather should serve Hashem as servant who serves his master not for the purpose of receiving reward. In our posuk it appears that Avraham was serving Hashem for the sake of receiving reward. How can we reconcile the Mishna with the behavior of Avraham based on our interpretation of this posuk?
Perhaps we may suggest that the word yitzaveh which we have simply translated as command can alternatively be interpreted as command what not to do. We find two precedents for such an interpretation. In Parshas Vaeschanan (Devarim 4:23) the posuk reads and you will make for yourself a molten image in the likeness of anything which Hashem your G-d has commanded you. Rashi there comments that the word commanded should be interpreted as commanded not to do. The posuk in its entirety now reads and you will make for yourself a molten image in the likeness of anything which Hashem your G-d has commanded you not to do. Likewise at every Jewish wedding we recite a blessing who has sanctified us with his commandments and has commanded us with regard to forbidden unions... The Avudraham interprets the word commanded in this blessing as commanded not to do. The blessing is thus interpreted as meaning that Hashem has commanded us not to engage in forbidden unions.
With these two precedents we may suggest that here too the posuk and the Mishna are in sync. The posuk may now be interpreted as a testimony by Hashem that His love for Avraham stems from the fact that Avraham has commanded his children and household to observe the path of Torah not for the purpose of receiving reward but rather only to serve Hashem for its own sake without any other motive.