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 Parshas Lech  Lecha - Vol. 8, Issue 3
Compiled by Oizer Alport


Imri na achosi at l'ma'an yitav li ba'avureich v'chaysa nafshi biglaleich (12:13)

There was once a man who fell into difficult financial straits. Unable to pay for even the most basic necessities, he had no choice but to begin accepting loans. Unfortunately, his situation didn’t improve and his debts continued to accrue. Recognizing his desire to pay off his debts and his frustration over lacking the means to do so, a friend offered to pay off the loans for him as a present.

The man was very appreciative of his friend’s generosity, but he felt uncomfortable accepting financial gifts of such magnitude. Though his friend encouraged him to reconsider, he remained obstinate in his position, justifying his decision with the verse in Mishlei (15:27) "Sonei matanas yich'yeh" – One who hates gifts will live, advice which is codified as law (Choshen Mishpat 249:5). With neither friend willing to budge, they agreed to present their “dispute” to a Rav for resolution.

After hearing the two sides, Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein ruled that the debtor was obligated to accept the gift. He supported his ruling by noting that as Avrohom and Sorah approached Egypt, Avrohom asked Sorah to pretend to be his sister so that the Egyptians would give him presents on account of her. Why was Avrohom, who later refused to accept even the smallest gift from the king of Sodom (14:23), so interested in receiving presents from the Egyptians?

After leaving Egypt to return to Canaan, the Torah relates (13:3) that Avrohom traveled on the same path which he had taken on his way down. Rashi explains that he stayed in the same inns in which he had lodged on his way to Egypt. As Avrohom had lacked the means to pay for his accommodations, he was forced to stay in lodging which extended him a line of credit. On his way home, he was careful to stop at each of these inns to pay the bills he had accumulated.

We can now understand that as Avrohom approached Egypt in a time of famine, he feared that on his return journey he would be no better off than before and would lack the means to pay off his creditors. As much as he was loathe to accept gifts, he was even more uncomfortable remaining a debtor to people who had been kind enough to help him in his time of need.

Out of desperation, he hatched a plan to claim that Sorah was his sister so that the Egyptians would shower him with gifts, thereby allowing him to repay his debts. As îòùä àáåú ñéîï ìáðéí – the actions of our forefathers guide us in our lives – we may derive from Avrohom that it is indeed appropriate for a person facing financial hardship to accept presents in order to pay off his accrued debts.

Vatomer Sarah el Avram chamasi alecha anochi nasati shifchasi b'cheikecha va'teire ki harasa va'eikal b'eineha (16:5)

After Avrohom and Sorah had lived together in the land of Israel for ten years and had not been able to successfully bear a child, Sorah suggested to Avrohom that he should attempt to have a child with her maidservant Hagar. Avrohom accepted Sorah's advice, and Hagar conceived a child, at which point she lost her respect for her master, claiming that Sorah wasn't as pious as she appeared to be, as evidenced by the fact that she had been unable to have a child with Avrohom for so many years, while Hagar became pregnant immediately.

Sorah then approached Avrohom and complained about his decision to remain quiet in the face of Hagar's allegations instead of speaking up and setting the record straight. Although she must certainly have been pained to hear her maidservant Hagar speak about her in such denigrating terms, it is difficult to understand why Sorah demanded that Avrohom speak up and support her instead of coming to her own defense by directly responding to Hagar's accusations.
Rav Meir Shapiro suggests that Sorah's reticence can be understood based on a fascinating episode which is quoted and discussed by the Taz (Orach Chaim 128:39). A Kohen was once pouring water over Rabbeinu Tam's hands. Observing this, one of Rabbeinu Tam's students challenged the permissibility of his conduct in light of the ruling of the Yerushalmi (Berachos 8:5) that it is forbidden to make use of a Kohen for mundane purposes, and one who does so is considered to be misusing the Kohen's holiness. Rabbeinu Tam attempted to justify his conduct, but his student refuted his logic, at which point he remained silent.

The Taz explains that it is permissible for a person to allow a Kohen to assist him if the Kohen desires to do so. In this case, the Kohen recognized that Rabbeinu Tam was a renowned Torah scholar and specifically wanted to serve him. Rabbeinu Tam was aware of this and therefore allowed the Kohen to do so. Nevertheless, he remained quiet when challenged by his student to justify his actions, as he was uncomfortable describing himself as a Torah scholar, so he elected not to explain the true legal rationale for his actions.

Similarly, Rav Meir Shapiro posits that although Hagar reasoned that Sorah's inability to conceive a child with Avrohom revealed a lack of righteousness on her part, Sorah knew that this wasn't the case. The Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 45:4) teaches that the true reason that Sorah and the other Matriarchs were barren is that Hashem desires the prayers of the righteous. However, just as Rabbeinu Tam did not want to refer to himself as a Torah scholar, so too Sorah did not want to seem arrogant by explaining to Hagar that her tremendous piety caused Hashem to yearn for her prayers, so she had no choice but to rely on Avrohom to do so on her behalf.

V'hu yih'yeh pera adam yado ba'kol v'yad kol bo (16:12)

The Beis HaLevi was once involved in an important meeting in his home when a neighbor burst through the door and announced that the Rav’s young son, Chaim, was tormenting the other children who were outside playing near him. The Beis HaLevi, slightly embarrassed, called for his son to come inside. Upon entering, the Rav cryptically asked his son, “The first half or the second half?”

The young Chaim looked at his father and immediately answered, “The second half.” Satisfied, his father smiled and gestured that he may leave and return to his outdoor recreation. The only thing more baffling to those present than the Rav’s original question was Chaim’s answer and the Rav’s acceptance of it. Garnering their courage, they asked the Rav to explain the perplexing sequence of events.

The Beis HaLevi smiled and answered them that in informing Hagar that she would conceive and give birth to a son, the angel added that the son would be quite wild, prophesying that his hand will be against everyone, and everyone’s hand will be against him. The Beis HaLevi’s neighbor had informed him that his son was causing trouble, but the Rav understood that although Chaim may have been the instigator, he may also have been an innocent victim acting out of self-defense, which would cast his actions in a completely different light.

Calling his son in, he attempted to clarify which scenario was correct by asking whether it had been as described by the first half of our verse – his hand against everyone – or the second half – the hands of the other kids against him. When Chaim understood the reference and replied that it had been as described in the second half of the verse, his father understood that he had merely been protecting himself and quickly dismissed him, an explanation which young Chaim corroborated when questioned about it.

Answers to the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
To receive the full version with answers email the author at oalport@optonline.net.

Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1) To which book of Tanach did Malki-Tzedek contribute? (Bava Basra 14b)

2) Rashi writes (17:3) that when Hashem appeared to Avrohom, he threw himself on his face out of awe for the Divine presence because until he was circumcised, he didn’t have the strength to stand while receiving prophecy. Why is no mention made of Avrohom falling on his face for this reason during the previous episodes (e.g. 12:1-3) in which Hashem spoke with him? (Sifsei Chochomim, Panim Yafos, Meshech Chochmah)

3) 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)

4) May a woman call her husband by his first name? (Radak 17:15, Shu"t B'tzeil HaChochmah 1:70)


  © 2012 by Oizer Alport. Permission is granted to reproduce and distribute as long as credit is given. To receive weekly via email or to send comments or suggestions, write to parshapotpourri@optonline.net


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