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Parshas Lech Lecha - Vol.
5, Issue 3
Compiled by Oizer Alport
Vayehi ka’asher hikriv lavo Mitzraymah vayomer el Sarai ishto hinei na yadati ki isha yefas mareh at (12:11)
Due to a famine in the land of Canaan, Avrohom and Sorah decided to travel to Egypt. As they approached the border between the two countries, Avrohom became aware of Sorah’s beauty and began to fear that the Egyptians would want to marry her and would kill him in order to do so. Why did he suddenly become aware of her beauty at this time?
Rashi explains that due to their tremendous modesty, Avrohom had never looked at her and was unaware of her attractive appearance. At this time, something occurred which caused him to look at her for the first time, and he recognized her beauty. Why does the Torah emphasize the seemingly irrelevant geographical fact that this occurred as they drew close to Egypt, and as there are no coincidences in even the minutest details of events, why did Hashem cause this to occur at this time?
Although we have difficulty relating to it, Avrohom was on such a high level in spirituality and modesty that he felt it appropriate to be married solely for the sake of Heaven and not to even look at his wife, a practice which he successfully upheld for decades. The Noda BiYehuda notes that this is even more remarkable in light of the teaching of the Gemora in Megillah (15a) that Sorah was one of the four most beautiful women in the history of the world, a reputation of which he was surely aware, and yet with tremendous self-control elected not to have any benefit from.
The Rambam writes (Hilchos De’os 6:1) that a person is naturally influenced by his surroundings. The Egyptians were a nation more immoral and depraved than any other, excelling in their passion for illicit relationships (Rashi Vayikra 18:3). Rav Moshe Wolfson explains that as Avrohom approached the Egyptian border – even before he crossed it – he was negatively influenced by the immorality which permeated the very air of Egypt, which caused him to fall from his great heights of personal modesty, and for the first time he glanced at his wife’s beauty.
The recognition of the effect one’s surroundings can have on even the greatest of men should serve as a lesson for us, who have much farther to fall, about the importance of dwelling and spending our leisure time in environments which are conducive to Torah values.
Va’yotzei oso ha’chutza vayomer habeit na ha’shamayma us’for hakochavim im tuchal lispor osam vayomer lo ko yih’yeh zarecha (15:5)
In the times of Avrohom, the kings of four major kingdoms in the region went to war against an alliance of five other kingdoms. In the ensuing battles, Avrohom’s nephew Lot, who lived in one of the warring regions, was taken captive. Upon hearing about this, the hopelessly outnumbered Avrohom armed himself and his disciples and went to battle to rescue Lot.
After Avrohom miraculously defeated the armies of the four kings and rescued Lot and the other captured people and possessions, he feared that the miracles Hashem performed on his behalf had detracted from the reward awaiting him in the World to Come. Hashem reassured him and promised that his reward would be very great. Avrohom then expressed his worry that he had no children to inherit his spiritual legacy, to which Hashem replied by promising that he would merit having children.
Hashem then took Avrohom outside and instructed him to gaze toward the Heavens. He challenged Avrohom to attempt to count the number of stars and cryptically added, “So shall your offspring be.” Why did Hashem present him with such an impossible task, and what did He mean with His blessing, “So will your offspring be?”
Rav Meir Shapiro explains that although finite, the number of stars is clearly beyond human comprehension, and certainly uncountable with the naked eye. An intelligent person who is challenged to count them will certainly decline the impossible task. Knowing that he will be unable to successfully finish the project, he will choose not to even begin. Avrohom was also aware of this reality. Nevertheless, when Hashem suggested that he attempt to count the stars, he quickly went outside, looked up in the sky, and began counting, “One, two, three.”
Avrohom was undaunted by apparent restrictions, recognizing that the power of one’s will and his commitment to a project can allow him to succeed where others foresaw only failure. Upon recognizing Avrohom’s contagious enthusiasm and willingness to disregard naysayers, Hashem quickly blessed him that his offspring should be a nation known for their dedication and perseverance against all odds. This blessing has constantly been fulfilled as the Jewish people struggled throughout the centuries as the most persecuted people in history, yet continuously outlived their many oppressors and tormentors.
Not surprisingly, Rav Meir Shapiro – whose yahrtzeit (7 Cheshvan) traditionally falls in the week of Parshas Lech Lecha – lived by his own teachings. More than any other single figure in the 20th century, he single-handedly revolutionized Torah study as we know it today through his development of the concept of Daf Yomi – learning one page of Talmud daily. The odds of his program spreading and taking off were clearly stacked against him. The potential for any of a number of obstacles to derail his plan before it got off the ground was great. Yet like his forefather Avrohom before him, Rav Shapiro, whose memory we honor this week, ignored the probability of not succeeding, realizing that with the aid of the fire which burned within him, he would be able to reach the stars, and beyond!
Vayomer Ado-nai Hashem ba’meh eidah ki eerashenah (15:8)
The Gemora in Berachos (7b) derives from our verse that Avrohom was the first person in history to call Hashem “Adon” – Master. The author of a new commentary on the Siddur brought his manuscript to the Vilna Gaon to solicit his comments and to request a letter of approbation. The Gaon began to examine the work and noticed an original insight explaining why the morning prayers begin with Adon Olam.
The Gemora in Berachos (26b) teaches that each of the Avos instituted one of the daily prayers: Avrohom enacted Shacharis, Yitzchok originated Mincha, and Yaakov introduced Maariv. Since the morning prayers were instituted by Avrohom, who was the first person to refer to Hashem as àãåï, we begin Shacharis with Adon Olam. Upon reading this, the Gaon was overcome with joy and remarked that if only for the beauty of this one insight, the publication of the entire work would be justified!
In a similar vein, the Meshech Chochmah explains why we are accustomed to wear a Tallis and Tefillin only during the morning prayers, even though both mitzvos are applicable the entire day. After miraculously defeating the armies of the four kings, Avrohom brought back all of the people and possessions which had been taken captive. The King of Sodom suggested that Avrohom return to him the people while keeping the possessions for himself.
Lest the wicked king of Sodom take credit for making him rich, Avrohom refused to accept any gifts, emphatically swearing (14:23) that he wouldn’t accept even a thread or a shoestrap. The Gemora in Sotah (17a) teaches that in the merit of this statement, Avrohom’s descendants received the mitzvos of Tallis and Tefillin. Although they may be worn the entire day, because we merited receiving them through the actions of Avrohom, we are accustomed to commemorate this by wearing them during the morning prayers which he instituted!
the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) Rashi writes (13:11) that in parting from Avrohom, Lot renounced Avrohom and his G-d. Why do we find him in next week’s parsha eating matzos on Pesach (19:3, Rashi) and risking his life for the mitzvah of hosting guests (19:1-11)? (Zichron Meir Parshas Vayeira)
2) A person who sees a large and impressive lake recites the blessing “Oseh Ma’aseh Bereishis” – Who makes the work of Creation (Orach Chaim 228:1). However, this is only the case if the lake was created in that location at the time the world was formed, but not if it was subsequently formed through the actions of man (Mishnah Berurah 228:6). Does one who sees the Dead Sea recite this blessing, as the Torah seems to indicate that it was only created in the time of Avrohom (Rashi 14:3), but the Gemora in Bava Basra (74b) seems to indicate that it was one of the 7 lakes which was formed at the time of Creation to surround the land of Israel? (Ayeles HaShachar, Shu”t Shevet HaLevi 9:47, Nimukei Orach Chaim 228, Piskei Teshuvos 228:3)
3) To which book of Tanach did Malki-Tzedek contribute? (Bava Basra 14b)
4) Is the mitzvah of circumcision (17:12) one which is performed once in one’s life, at the time of the cutting off of the foreskin, or is it a mitzvah which is continuously fulfilled every second of one’s life that he remains circumcised? (Mahara”ch Ohr Zarua 11, Beis HaLevi Vol. 2 47:4, Pri Yitzchok 2:30, Chavatzeles HaSharon, Ma’adanei Asher 5769)
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