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Uplifting the Fallen Sparks & The Hidden Light in the Torah

Parshas Bereshis: (4th piece)

"And Hashem said let there be Light," We have to ask ourselves what was added by the fact that Hashem said let there be light, what innovation does this introduce? Also we should strive to understand the meaning of the teaching of our sages in the Midrash that, "At first Hashem thought to create the world through the attribute of strict justice. However He saw that the world would not be able to continue existing in such a way so He contributed the attribute of mercy."1 The earlier commentators have already explained that Heaven forbid the idea that Hashem alters His deeds. The One true G-d whose simple unity is indivisible does not think one way in the beginning, and later change his mind. Perish the thought! *

We shall attempt to explain all this by way of the verse "The spirit of Hashem was hovering above the waters." The holy writings (Usually this refers to the Kabalistic commentaries such as the Zohar, Arizal and others) explain that the letters that spell the Hebrew word "hovering" MeRaCHeFeT, also spells RaPaCH MeT - 288 died. (The gematria numerology of the 3 letters Rapach , Resh= 200, Peh =80, Chet=8 is a total of 288) This alludes to the 288 sparks of holiness that fell to a lower spiritual state and were scattered during the shattering of the vessels. Our divine service is to rectify and elevate these sparks.

The shattering of the vessels is a Kabalistic teaching. During creation the sefirot (divine attributes) which are compared to vessels were unable to contain the great awesome light of the Infinite and therefore shattered. The sparks of holiness from that light were exiled and dispersed among all mundane physical matter. This created a state of imperfection and can only be rectified by Tikun, effectively refining this material world and elevating the sparks back to their original source. Performing the will of the Almighty through His holy Torah, and its commandments or Mitzvot which are actions performed in this physical world elevates the sparks and rectifies the shattered vessels.

Now we will explain the meaning of "Elokim said - and Elokim saw the light and it was good." This is also puzzling, since we cannot say that Hashem only saw the light was good after its creation and not before, Heaven forbid we should think such things about the Creator. Rather the root of the matter is that the speech of the Divine is ideal and complete in all ways without any imperfections at all. There is nothing to rectify in His speech since all is perfect and finely tuned.*

We see therefore that if Hashem had immediately said "Let there be light," as soon as the 288 sparks had fallen, all the light would have returned to its former state like before the shattering of the vessels. However this would defeat the purpose of the creation since Hashem actively desires the service of the righteous Tzadikim. He wishes that they should be the ones to uplift and elevate the fallen sparks. If Hashem would have spoken as we explained all would be rectified and there would be nothing for the Tzadikim to elevate. However if Hashem did nothing at all, then the Tzadikim would also not be able to perform the Divine will as the sages teach "If not for Hashem's help we could never overcome the evil inclination." Talmud tractate Succa 52a.

In other words. The Divine Service is to elevate the fallen sparks. These are obscured and hidden in the physical reality of this world. In order to find these sparks of light in the darkness of this world the Tzadik needs Hashem's help and guidance. This comes in the form of Torah which is a shining light from above. The Light of the Torah is like a beacon in the darkness to show the Tzadik what to do. The performance of the Mitzvos are the actual deeds and actions that will elevate these sparks back up to their source. The Yetzer Harah - the evil inclination tries to impede the Tzadik on his path and that is why he requires Hashem's help.

Hashem in his abundant mercy and lofty wisdom saw and gazed at the light, meaning the sparks thereby helping the Tzadik so that he may be able to elevate them.

This then is the way we explain the verses "Elokim said" and "Elokim saw the light and it was good." If Hashem would have said let there be light and immediately there would have been light, meaning that all the light would have returned to its former state before the shattering of the vessels as we explained above. If Hashem would have spoken all would be rectified and there would be nothing for the Tzadikim to elevate. Hashem specifically desires the service of the Tzadikim. * Therefore "He saw that the light was good" Hashem saw and gazed at the light, in order to aid and assist the Tzadik so that he may be able to elevate the sparks as previously explained. This is what the verse means when it says "was good" as the sages taught this refers to the Tzadik who is called good. This also explains the teachings of our sages that "Hashem hid this light for the righteous in the future."2 Meaning that Hashem hid the light for these Tzadikim who would come in the future to elevate it.

"And Hashem called the light- day" this refers to the simple literal meaning of the text. "and the darkness" this refers to all that remains to be rectified by the Tzadik but has not yet been set right. All things that remain in disrepair are called darkness "and He called it night." * G-d willing when the Messiah shall arrive when all shall be repaired and rectified completely there will also be total unity. This is the meaning of the next statement "And it was evening lit. Erev." When the righteous Messiah will sprout and come forth the night will become erev, meaning the darkness shall be sweetened as erev also means pleasing and sweet. This also alludes to the holy Shechina, the divine presence that is to the west the Ma'arav, which has the same linguistic root as erev. By evening time, the time of sweetening; the light will shine all will be restored and set right there will be complete unity as previously existed before the shattering of the vessels. * "and there was morning one day," Everything will come together in unity and oneness then night will also be transformed into day.

Now we can understand "At first Hashem thought to create the world through the attribute of strict justice." The time before the spiritual fall is called the realm of thought. There is no need for mercy in an abstract realm of thought therefore the attribute of strict justice was absolute. * "However He saw that the world would not be able to continue existing in such a way" meaning He saw the light and saw the need to help the Tzadikim elevate the sparks back to their lofty place as discussed above. "So He contributed the attribute of mercy," to aid the righteous with his mercy to help overcome evil. Understand this well. *

And at the beginning of Parshas Chukas "the Rebbe Elimelech explained the idea that the light G-d created on the first day was hidden away for the Tzadikim for the future means that the righteous in this generation will have that light revealed to them and gaze with it from one end of the world to the other."

Also on Chanukah (5th night) The miracle of the Channukah lights is from the hidden light concealed for the righteous who guard the bris milah of circumcision and who hold to the attribute of Yosef the Tzadik.

Related Stories:

Seeing with the Hidden Light in the Torah

The Baal Shem Tov (who lived in Europe) wrote a letter to the holy land to his brother in law, Rabbi Gershon Kittover who resided there. In the letter the Baal Shem Tov asked his brother in law why he saw that on a certain Shabbos his brother-in-law was outside of Israel. Rabbi Gershon wrote back - explaining that on this particular Shabbos a certain wealthy Jew who lived outside of Israel made a Bris (circumcision ceremony) and sent for Rabbi Gershon to be the Mohel (to perform the ceremony). The Baal Shem Tov was truly able to see from one end of the world to the other, this was all accomplished using the hidden light in the Torah. (Degel Machene Efraim parshas Bereshis on the verse "and Hashem saw that the light was good.")

In the name of the Gaon Rabbi Moshe Katz Elavitsh from his grandfather Rabbi Shaul Landa from Bardyov:

Rebbe Elimelech once wished to travel to the land of Israel. At the outset of his journey he stopped at a town near Brode. Once word went out in Brode that such a holy figure was staying in the nearby township many people came out to see the Rebbe. Among them was a wealthy man traveling with his young unmarried daughter. She was dressed up with fine jewelry, earrings and was wearing a pearl necklace. When they both came before the Tzadik, Rebbe Elimelech exclaimed, "See this pearl necklace. It was bought for 50 silver rubles." The wealthy Jew countered that the pearls were bought for only 49 Rach." Immediately his daughter answered that even though her father offered the merchant the sum of 49 silver rubles, the merchant was unwilling to accept it. So she secretly added 1 silver ruble from her own pocket to buy the pearls. The Holy Rebbe said "See it is impossible to cheat Elimelech." He also explained that through the holy Torah everything can be known, as long as one studies it well with open eyes. (Eser Tzachtzachos #32)

Making the Words of our Prayers Shine

Parshas Noach: (7th piece)

"Make a Tzohar an opening or window for the Teyva ark." The famous commentator Rashi explains that the word Tzohar is a precious stone. We can also suggest that the Hebrew word for ark -Teyva can also mean "a word". Therefore the verse can be read "Make your words into a precious stone." This teaches us that we should cause all the words we speak to shine with brilliance similar to the luster of a precious stone. * And to a cubit finish it above - this alludes to true unity, since a Tzadik must walk in unity in the higher worlds. *

On a slighty different note the verse teaches us that we should "Make a Tzohar a light for the Teyva words" Make your words shine. Through the words of Torah that the Tzadikim learn they can transform Tzara into Tzohar1, calamity and disaster can be altered to spell radiance and light. 2

Tzara and Tzohar are both spelled with the same three letters Tzadi, Hei and Reish depending upon their order. The word Teyva again means word as well as ark. Therefore the Rebbe is saying that the Torah says Make your words shine forth. Transform the words of pain and darkness from evil into good. Transform the words from darkness into light.

The Tzadik Must act to rectify all 3 levels of humanity (8th piece)

"Make the ark with a lower, middle and upper deck." This can imply the three levels of mankind: the completely pious righteous ones, the average man, and the wicked evil ones. The lower level hints to the wicked as Rashi explains for waste, since the wicked are constantly involved in waste and disgusting loathsome actions like sin. The middle level is explained by Rashi to be used for dwelling. The average man lives and dwells in the pleasures of the physical world even though he is free of sin. The upper level is for Men called Adam. These are the completely righteous Tzadikim who dwell in the upper worlds. The Tzadikim must rectify all of these levels with their holy deeds. The verb of action Taaseh meaning make or do, is written in the verse next to the third upper deck or level. (In the original Hebrew "With lower, second and third levels make it [the ark].") This teaches that the Tzadik must take action, actively doing all he can to repair and rectify all the levels of humanity.

This can also be seen as a parable to man himself. In his youth man pursues lowly and loathsome things. In his middle years he is active in the matters of this world. By his final days he should seek to rectify it all rather than sin though which he would be defiling his soul.

The Tzadik works together with Hashem abolishing harsh decrees (9th piece)

There is another way to understand the verse "and finish it above to a cubit." To understand this we will first introduce the Gemara in tractate Shabbos "He who prays reciting the verse "VaYechulu" about the completion of the world's creation with the Shabbos, becomes a partner with Hashem in the actual act of creation. As it says "And Heaven and Earth were finished or completed" do not read Vayechulu- finished or completed rather read it as VayeChlu were combined or merged. This can mean that we are included together with Hashem in the process of creation. The Tzadik nullifies harsh decrees and Judgments by elevating them back to their source thereby sweetening them.3 (Emphasis mine.)

All those who pray reciting the verses "VaYechulu" refers to the Tzadik who prays to end and nullify the harsh decrees and judgments. (In Hebrew the word LeKalot to end is also spelled with the letters of the word "VaYechulu"). He partners up together with Hashem. G-d decrees and the Tzadik abolishes it. As it says "do not read Vayechulu- finished or completed rather read it as Vayikalu they ended or were nullified." The harsh decrees and judgments are nullified by the Tzadik who elevates them to the heavens up back to their source in holiness.

This is the meaning of the verses Make a Tzohar for the Teyva, cause the words of your prayers4 to sparkle with brilliance like the luster of a precious stone in order to abolish the verdicts and decrees that have been pronounced against the Jewish people. How can these judgments be eliminated? The verse teaches " el amah " amah here means Em or mother. Divine mercy is called the merciful mother bird hovering above the young protecting them from all harm. Therefore through divine mercy Techalanah end the decrees by the mercy of the divine mother, through elevating them back to their source above.

We therefore read the verse "v'el Ama Techalenah MiLmaalah" as "through the divine mercy of the mother, we end and abolish [the decrees] by elevating them to their source in holiness."

The Teshuva of the Tzadik (10th piece)

"Put the entrance to the ark on its side": This hints at the teaching that a Tzadik must constantly be involved in repentance and returning to Hashem. As the Gemara teaches: "Why does the bottom leg of the letter Heh hang unattached? teaching that whoever whishes to enter returning to Hashem should enter through there." This is what the verse means put the entrance on the side- Enter through the opening on the side of the letter Heh that corresponds to the path for the penitent ba'al teshuvah.

Related Stories:

The Light of The Rebbe's Prayer Sash

Related by the Rabbi of Madin grandson of the Ropshitzer:

Rebbe Elimelech had a custom that after the afternoon Mincha service he would converse with his close followers. He would then proceed to a special private room to pray the evening Maariv service alone in seclusion, purity and sanctity. Rabbi Naftali Ropshitzer, a student of the Rebbe always yearned to also be in that room. He constantly wished to see the deeds of his Rebbe and how he prayed at that time. Once he stole into the room unnoticed and hid beneath the bed. The holy Rebbe entered and closed the door behind him. He took his "gartel," the traditional sash or belt1 used by Hassidim for prayer and preceded to fasten it about himself. The first time he wound the sash about his waist the whole house was filled with an awesome unbelievable light. The second time he tied the gartel winding it around, the light grew in intensity until the Ropshitzer could no longer endure it. He grew weak and found himself fainting. He called out in a loud voice. Rebbe Elimelech heard the cries of distress coming from his student and recognized their source. "Naftali my son are you here?" the Rebbe asked. "Fortunately, you did not remain here for the third and final time I wound the gartel. If you had remained your soul would have surely left your body from the intensity of the great light. Therefore leave now." (Eser TzachTzachos #27)

Going Out of Ourselves: Perfecting our Character Traits

Parshas Lech Lecha: (2nd piece)

"Lech Lecha MeArtzecha, umi-Moladetecha, umi-Beis Avicha el Haaertz asher areka - Go out from your land, from your birthplace and your father's house to the land which I will show you." This verse hints that a person should always search, investigate and explore the world to see and experience the wonders of the Almighty through everything he sees.

See Baal Shem Tov on the Torah parshas Bereshit number 39 (quoting from Likutei Amarim of the Mezritcher Magid ) Everything we see or experience is a message from Hashem that only needs to be seen in the correct light. In other words if we could perfect our traits we would truly see the world around us as a total expression of Hashem. The average person does not see the Divine guidance or the messages of Hashem in this world since Hashem is enclothed in nature. As it is taught the the word for nature in Hebrew "haTeva" has the same gematria numerology as the name of G-d Elokim (both equal 86). Once man has mastered his traits and bends them in the service of Hashem, the world is unmasked and you can see Hashem in everything. See also MavoShearim Chap4 in the name of the Baal Shem Tov "When one looks at the world one sees G-d." Likutei Moharan of Rebbe nachman of Breslov.

Perfecting ourselves allows Hashem to give us intellect and understanding to know and recognize the upper worlds in our daily lives. * The way to reach this level and to see the elevated nature of Hashem through this world is to begin by rectifying and repairing your character traits.

Hashem created us with many different traits and qualities. Every trait has both a good, holy side and a negative evil side to it. For example it is taught in the name of Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev that even though the trait of heresy and apikorsus is evil there is a positive way to use it. When you see poor people you might say to yourself I am a man of faith, I believe in Hashem. Surely Hashem will tend to this poor man and feed and clothe him. This is the opportune moment to use the trait of apikorsus and say If I wont give charity and Tzedaka to this poor man then he will starve and who will take care of him? Do not rely on your belief in Hashem and help the man yourself. This is a positive way to use and transform bad traits into good. (See Divrei Yisachar Parshas Ki Sisa)

By your own will you must break your bad character and to try to reverse it to the side of pure holiness alone. This will give you merit to recognize the lofty nature of Hashem. Then Hashem will open up the wellsprings of wisdom and help you better understand and comprehend things that you previously could not even imagine.

This is the meaning of the words Lech Lecha as taught by the commentator Rashi "go for yourself , for your own benefit." You should constantly introspect and examine yourself to aid you in detaching yourself from base worldy character traits called artzios implied by the word Artzecha. In other words go out of yourself from your lowly bad traits and repair them. * Bring these traits back to holiness.

"From your birthplace" - If you behave in a deplorable manner using only your poor qualities your offspring can only reflect this. This is because one bad trait generates and gives birth to others. This is illustrated by the teaching in Avos that sin drags and tows with it more sin. So too your inclination will influence their future actions. * This then is the meaning behind "From your birthplace and from your father's house." Certain traits are intrinsically part of you, they were inherited from birth, from your parents and they are part of your nature. * Nonetheless you must go out from them and bring them to a state of holiness, "from the house of your father- to the land which I will show you." This refers to the higher worlds, that you shall merit seeing and understanding even though you have never experienced them before. *

Therefore raise and uplift your negative traits. Once you have discovered them transform them into good actions. Translate your nature into something holy in the service of your creator. This will open your eyes and help you see the G-dliness in the world around you, just as you can discover Hashem in your bad traits and use them for good, so too can you discover Hashem hidden in nature of this world, speaking and calling out to you to serve him.

This is the meaning of the verse "Gol al Hashem Darkecha." Gol has the same root as the word Hitgalut- revelation, meaning reveal your ways and character, examine them and see that they should serve Hashem. "and Trust in Him", once you experience the loftiness of G-d this is called trust. You will see Hashem's hand in this world and therefore trust in Him that everything is happening for the best. And He shall do for you and create for you experiences which you have never previously seen or encountered. * And He will shine the light of your righteousness. * Understand this.

Related Stories:

True Cheshbon Hanefesh1

Rabbi Zisha of Hanipoli once related the following story during Shalos Seudos the mystical third Shabbos meal: Once when my brother Rebbe Elimelech of Lyzhansk and I were walking during our self-imposed exile we encountered a strong gusting wind. It was freezing cold and much snow had fallen on us that day. This was the third day we hadn't tasted any food from fasting. We realized that we needed to reach some inhabited area to eat something that night or we would perish! By nightfall we did indeed reach a remote village. After praying the Mincha and Maariv prayer services and tasting some food, I prepared myself to recite the bedtime Shema and to go to sleep on the ground.

My brother Rebbe Elimelech of Lyzhansk called out to me "Zisha what are you doing? We must be Masters of Reckoning." (Meaning that they should reckon and consider the day's past deeds in order to practice character refinement.) "Truthfuly spoken," said I. My brother began to put into writing a list of the sins he had committed that day. After listing them all, he counted 111 transgressions that he had performed on that day alone. He immediately began repenting and crying out profusely till Hashem had mercy on him and erased all his sins. Then he went to sleep on the ground. This was the story Rav Zisha recounted.

One of the listeners present at the table of the saintly Rav Zisha spoke up and said: "We aren't afraid of the types of sins your holy brother recorded and we surely wont get Gehinnom for committing them. Anyway what sins could he possibly have transgressed? He didn't eat any forbidden food because you were fasting. It wasn't on Shabbos so he couldn't have transgressed that either. Your brother was a Tzadik, a foundation and pillar of the entire world he surely wasn't a sinner. Especially on the third day of a week long fast. What could that list of 111 sins possibly be? Maybe he thought that he interrupted his divine rapture in the meditation of Hashem for one second and considered that a sin. But on our level we don't even think of that or fear such crimes."

When the saintly Rebbe Zisha heard the protests and arguments of his guest he grew angry. He shouted back at him loudly "What are you talking about? Why shouldn't you be punished for such sins? Maybe because that day you ate a nice meal and we starved fasting? Or because you sat warm and cozy at home while the wind and snow beat down on us outside? Or because you wore shoes and we traveled barefoot while the cold caused blood to flow from our feet? Why do you not fear such transgressions? If you are thinking of the teaching of our sages that "Hashem is more exacting with the Tzadikim and judges their deeds within a hair's breadth" (see Talmud Bavli tractate Yevamos 221b), then you have misunderstood that Talmudic statement! First you will be judged and punished in Gehinom for the greater sins you have committed. Then once you have been cleansed and are considered a Tzadik and a saint, then you will judged and punished exactingly within a hair's breadth for smaller violations. I am relating to you this story about my saintly brother to teach you that he counted 111 sins that he had committed. This should teach you how to what extent you should distance yourself from evil and do good."

(When I learned this over with my Rebbe the Clevelander Rebbe Shlit"a of Raanana he added that he had heard this story from his older brother ZTz"L and added that it ended with the following parable: If someone finds a white tablecloth in the mud first he must wash it to recognize that it is even a tablecloth and only afterwards can he go over and clean each individual spot and stain separately. So too with a Jewish soul - the neshama is like a beautiful white cloth. If one sins this cloth can fall in the mud. It is then unrecognizable. Only after it is washed does one even see and recognize that this is a Jewish soul. Once the soul has been washed, then Hashem becomes exacting going over each individual sin and transgression to get out each spot and stain.)

Parshas VaYera: (last final piece)

"And Yitzhak said - Here are the fire and the trees, but where is the lamb for an offering?" We can analyze the text of this verse with a question. Why did Yitzhak say the fire and the trees? Was he referring to a specific fire or particular trees? (In the Hebrew these words are preceded with the prefix Hei that connotes a specific one) Why not call them just fire and trees? The addition of the letter Hei, seems to imply that these were specially chosen fire and trees. It seems strange therefore that Avraham had in fact chopped these trees and carried them a three-day journey all the way from his home. Why did he do so? Were there no other trees to be found along the way during the whole journey? Even if we answer that he was worried perhaps he really might not find trees during his trip, why did he chop them up and ready them at home, he could have readied them later by the place where he would offer a sacrifice. We can further ask why did Yitzhak ask Avraham where is the lamb for an offering? Why not ask simply where is an offering?

In order to respond we must first begin by saying that the Creator Blessed is He and Blessed is His Name, has sanctified us through the performance of his commandments. Hashem has no need for us to fulfill his commandments, rather it is pleasing to Him that He has spoken and His will is done. Hashem's wish is that man should have a desire to fulfill His divine will entirely.

Ultimately we find that Hashem is after the intentions of man's heart. If man intends to carry out the will of Hashem and fulfill the commandments with a whole and complete heart, it is considered as if he immediately has done the actual deeds since his heart was completely devoted to the matter. Even though this is so, man must perform and execute the commandments. In so doing he truly actualizes them. It is impossible for man to truly have full and complete intention and desire to serve Hashem. * Even if you think you have full and complete desire to do the mitzvoth, do not believe in yourself till you have actually done them. * This is the nature of the physical body of man- to prevent him from actualizing his potential wholeheartedly.

The sages thus taught "If you thought to do a mitzvah and were prevented from fulfilling it through no fault of your own, it is considered as if it were done." This is similar to what we have previously discussed that Rachmana Liba Bai- Hashem desires the intentions of the heart. Hashem examines the heart, analyzes the kidneys and knows the deep inner thoughts of man, which are an honest, complete desire to fulfill the divine will. This is why He considers it as if the mitzvos were done.

A flesh and blood king who tests his subjects, commanding them to see if they will perform his commandments waits only to see actual results. If his will is done he does not then test the heart of his servants to see if their intentions were true, rather he evaluates their actions and deeds rather than their thoughts. Hashem however, searches the tracts and expanses of the stomach, examines the kidneys and the heart, knows the innermost thoughts of man, whether they are in fact honest, and true. Therefore if you could not perform the mitzvah through no fault of your own but desired to do so, He considers it as if the mitzvah was done. * The opposite is also true. If man does mitzvos in action and deed alone without full intention of the heart with awe and love they do not fly upwards. Rav Chaim of Chernowitz in his Teshuvah - Responsa concerning performance of mitzvos with the fullest intent - quotes the Tikkunei Zohar (#10 pg 25b) "Every mitzvah that is not performed with awe/fear and love of The Master does not fly upwards." He teaches that awe/fear and love are like two wings. "They are like the wings of a bird. A bird uses them to soar up through the air to the heavens. However were he to lack wings or if they should break he cannot fly upwards. So too the commandments which are done without love and fear. They are as if they lack wings and how should they fly and rise upwards?" (See also Tanya Chap. 16)

The nature of man is that initially when he desires to perform a mitzvah, his initial thoughts are full of great yearning, each man according to his own personal level. A complete Tzadik through his level of righteousness also burns with desire and yearning, with the fire of Hashem to perform mitzvos in a complete whole manner.

This was the intention of our forefather Avraham peace be upon him. Hashem commanded him saying "Take your one and only firstborn son whom you love, Yitzhak and go for yourself to the land of Moriah and sacrifice him as a burnt offering for me on one of the mountains I will designate." Avraham's heart burned like a fiery coal to perform the divine will. If there is any disruption or interruption before the person can finish and actually perform the commandments, he loses initiative and falls from his former state of longing that he previously had when the thought first entered his mind. This is what Avraham feared, that he would fall from the state of yearning and that the fire burning within him would cease. The three-day journey would interrupt these powerful emotions. He therefore immediately went about chopping wood, so that his immediate actions would capture his intense feelings before they dissipated.

This too answers our question as to why Yitzhak called it the fire. He was referring to the burning fire that the righteous have in their desire to serve Hashem. These trees prove that you have this fiery passion, since you immediately began hacking at them to immediately actualize your potential thoughts into actions, as if you were prepared to bring the offering this very instant.

This is the reason why Yitzhak called them the trees using the letter Hei. Then Yitzhak posed the question "Where is the lamb?" meaning why then do you need to offer me, a lamb should suffice.

Meaning that Hashem knows that Yitzhak's intentions are pure that he would offer himself fully, why then does he need to be actually sacrificed?

Avraham answered him "Elokim will see to the lamb, my son," meaning to say so that Hashem will see the true intentions. Once you have also contributed an action thereby actualizing your own potential through offering yourself as a sacrificial offering, then Hashem will see your own true intentions.

This is why even though Yitzhak was not actually burnt on the altar, the Talmud says that "Yitzhak's ashes are lying on the altar and when Hashem gazes upon them He acts mercifully with the Jewish people." Since Yitzhak actualized his potential by actually physically placing himself on the altar willing to be sacrificed his deeds are considered as if the sacrifice itself was performed. Once the potential has been actualized the thoughts of the mind and the beliefs of the heart are revealed in our deeds and actions. They can then influence this world, the world of action.

Related Stories:

An unusual guest for Tea

Related in the name of The Shinover Rebbe: The author of the Hasidic work Maor va'Shemesh was a student of the Rebbe Elimelech. Once he asked the Rebbe Elimelech to be allowed to serve him, thereby learning directly from his Rebbe. Rebbe Elimelech conceded and asked him for a cup of tea. After preparing the tea, the student entered the room to give it to the Rebbe. Inside he saw the awesome figure of an old man sitting beside Rebbe Elimelech. He was overcome by fear, trembling and shaking so much so that he dropped the cup spilling the tea on the floor and ran out. Later Rebbe Elimelech saw his student and asked him why he hadn't given him the tea he requested. He answered that he had brought it but when he saw the figure of the old man he was so frightened he spilled the tea. The Rebbe then said to him in Yiddish "Oy vey iz das kind voos ken nisht kiken dem taten in poonim arayn: Woe is to the child who cannot look his own father in the face." That old man you saw was none other than our forefather Avraham peace be upon him!