Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 9   No. 3

This issue is sponsored by an anonymous donor
and by a friend of the Zeigler family
in recognition of their acts of chesed

Parshas Lech Lecha

The Mitzvah of the B'ris Milah
(Part I)
(based on the Yalkut Yitzchak)
The Reason for the B'ris Milah

The Seifer ha'Chinuch, in presenting the reason for the Mitzvah of Bris Milah, explains that G-d wished to fix a sign on the bodies of the people whom He had designated to represent Him in this world. He wanted to extend the spiritual distinction that already exists in their Neshamos to their physical bodies, so that the distinction between them should be absolute. And He fixed it specifically on the part of the body that symbolizes the continuity of mankind.

He also chose to create man incomplete, designating him the task of completing himself, rather than creating him already completed, in order to convey the message that, just as he completes himself physically, so too is he able to complete himself spiritually. Indeed, he is obliged to.


The Nachalas Binyamin offers a similar explanation. He attributes the Mitzvah of Milah to the need to make a distinction between the chosen people and the rest of the world, in the same way as He distinguished between Kasher and non-Kasher species of animals as regards animals, birds and fish. It would have been befitting for Him to make a similar mark of distinction between the 'Kasher' and the 'non-Kasher' species of human-beings, he adds. But he didn't, so as avoid conveying the impression that there are two Creators, each of whom created His own champion on earth. So He opted to create all of mankind equal, and instructed Yisrael to make the distinction themselves. With this explanation, the question as to why G-d did not complete man Himself, is automatically answered.


Why the Mitzvah of Milah
Was not Given to Adam

G-d did not give the Mitzvah of Milah to Adam, explains the Eizor Eliyahu, because the work of Hashem's Hands is perfect. Consequently, Adam had to be created circumcised, and the Mitzvah was not practical, as far as he personally was concerned. Nor was it given to him to perform on his children, since having foreseen the degree of perversion reached by his early descendents, culminating in the generation of the flood, G-d withheld the Mitzvah, to prevent it from falling into abuse. Better wait, He decided, until His anger with the generation of the Flood abated, before searching for a worthy recipient who would cherish the Mitzvah, and treat it with respect.


A Hundred Years Old

There are a number of reasons that Avraham waited until he was a hundred before performing the Mitzvah of Milah, the Ezor Eliyahu explains. Perhaps the best-known of them is because, seeing as a person can only perform the Mitzvah once, he preferred to wait until he was commanded to perform it. And he based his decision on the principle that 'someone who performs a Mitzvah when he has been commanded is greater than someone who volunteers to perform it'.

Others say it is bound up with the reason Chazal give for the Mitzvah, namely, in order to curb one's desires. That being the case, Avraham had no need for it, seeing as he was one the three whom G-d assisted to overcome the Yetzer ha'Ra entirely.

But there is another reason for the Mitzvah, Hashem taught him. And that is to complete the name Shakai on a Jew's body (the two arms lifted up and the head forming the 'Shin', the arm and half the body forming the 'Daled), and the Milah which forms a 'Yud' completes the Name.

And besides, the B'ris Milah is compared to all the other Mitzvos (see 'The Covenant of the Milah', Parshah Pearls ). Consequently, Avraham first made a point of fulfilling all the other Mitzvos, even that of Eiruv Tavshilin (which is only mi'de'Rabbanan). Only then, did he perform the B'ris Milah, to demonstrate this to the world (in keeping with the saying 'Acharon Acharon Chaviv'), and the Divine command preceded its fulfillment, to stress the Mitzvah's importance.


According to the Medrash Tanchuma, Avraham waited until he was ninety-nine before performing this Mitzvah, to encourage potential Geyrim to convert, irrespective of their age. And in similar vein, the Korban Eliyahu attributes the fact that man is not created circumcised to the fact that, if he was, potential converts would be discouraged from going through with the conversion. The fact that native Jews would be Divinely circumcised, whilst they were circumcised manually, would give them the feeling of inferiority, causing them to go back on their decision to convert.


Parshah Pearls
Lech Lecho
Avraham Wants Presents!?

"Say now that you are my sister ... in order that he will be good to me for your sake "and my soul will live because of you" (12:13).

The "good" referred to here, explains Rashi, is that Par'oh would give him presents.

Now not only is it difficult to comprehend why Avraham should want presents, in direct contravention of the Pasuk in Mishlei "Sonei matonos yichyeh"? But it is also strange that here he anticipates presents, whereas later in the Parshah (14:23), he refuses to take as much as a shoe-lace from the king of S'dom?


Perhaps the phrase under discussion is linked to the following one ("and my soul will live because of you"). Perhaps what Avraham meant to say was that if he could elicit a positive response from Par'oh, then Par'oh would be less likely to kill him. This is because people do not tend to go from one extreme to the other. In other words, the gifts that he anticipated was nothing more than a means of safeguarding his life.


The Shem mi'Shmuel explains that Avraham wanted gifts, in keeping with the principle 'Ma'aseh Avos si'man le'banim'. He knew that his going down to Egypt was the presage of Galus Mitzrayim. And it was in order to ensure that Yisrael would leave Egypt with a great wealth that he carefully planned for Par'oh to give him presents.


And yet a third explanation is based on the Pasuk later (13:3) "And he went on his travels", on which Rashi comments that on his return journey, he paid all his debts.

Now why should Avraham have had debts? Firstly, he was a man of means. Secondly, Chazal at the end of Yuma, frown on Talmidei-Chachamim buying on credit (because of the Chilul Hashem involved when, as a result, people suspect them of not paying their debts). So why did he not pay immediately?

It appears however, that when Avraham arrived in Cana'an, he arrived as a poor man, with insufficient funds to pay for all his hotel bills. On the other hand, Hashem had promised him that his travels would turn him into a rich man (see Rashi at the beginning of the Parshah). Consequently, when Hashem instructed him to extend his journey down to Egypt, he predicted that Hashem's promise was about to materialize, and that he would become rich. In this way, he would be able to repay all his debts, and remove all traces of Chilul Hashem.


Micha'el the Refugee

"And the refugee came, and told Avraham ... (about the capture of Lot)" (14:13).

The refugee, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, quoting the Pirkei de'Rebbi Eliezer, was none other than the Angel Micha'el. Why was he given such a title?

Because, when G-d cast down Sama'el from his place, he grabbed hold of Micha'el (the guardian angel of Yisrael) to pull him down with him, but Hashem rescued him from Sama'el's clutches. Similarly, when Yechezkel writes that the refugee arrived from Yerushalayim with the news of the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, he is referring to the Angel Micha'el (see also Rashi on this Pasuk).


It's Good to Be a Suspect

"And he considered it for him a righteous act" (15:6).

On two other occasions the Torah uses this expression "And he considered her to be a prostitute" (Yehudah, in connection with Tamar), and "Eli considered her (Chanah) to be drunk".

This concurs beautifully with Rebbi Yossi in Shabbos, who says 'Would that my lot was together with those whom people suspect unjustifiably.

Tamar was unjustifiably suspected of having committed adultery, for which she was compensated with the birth of Peretz and Zerach (two Tzadikim); And because Chanah was suspected unjustifiably, she merited to have a son of the caliber of Shmuel.

Because, as the Torah hints here, wherever the word "he considered her" {'va'Yachshevehah) appears, the person concerned has to his credit a righteous act (Ba'al ha'Turim quoting his father the Rosh).



"And the fourth generation will return here" (15:16).

The word 'and ... generation' ("ve'Dor") appears again in Koheles (1:4) "A generation goes and a generation comes".

The fourth generation ("ve'Dor Revi'I" ["dor"=210 - the number of years they spent in Egypt]) will return to Eretz Yisrael. They will not remain there however. They will go into exile again. The good news is that 'all's well that ends well' - because they will finally come back, for 'a generation may go', but 'a generation returns'.


Avraham's Merit

"And the sun was setting and there was darkness, and behold an oven of smoke and a fire-torch that passed between these pieces" (15:17)

The G'ro once overheard a children's rebbe teaching his children this Pasuk. The words "that passed" appear not only superfluous, but out of place. The Torah after all, is speaking at that time about that time. What it should therefore have written is (instead of "asher ovar") "over" - 'is passing'. "Asher ovar" implies that the oven passed between the pieces at some time before that?

The Pasuk it seems, is hinting at Avraham Avinu, who merited to stand at the B'ris bein ha'Besorim on account of his first test, when he allowed himself to be thrown into the furnace rather than to acknowledge the gods of Nimrod. And that is what is meant by "asher ovar"; the reason that the fire passed between the pieces was "because he (Avraham) had passed (on that previous occasion)".

When the G'ro heard the rebbe's explanation, he declared that this is the true meaning of the Pasuk, even though it does not follow the simple translation.


Getting his Own Back

"And she said, I am running away from my mistress Sarah" (16:8).

This same word appears in Yirmiyah (4:29) "From before the noise of the horse-riders and the shooting of the bows the entire city (of Yerushalayim) is running away".

"The shooting of the bow refers to Yishmael, who is described as "an archer" in Bereishis (21:20).

Do you know why Yisrael had to run away from Yishmael, says the Ba'al ha'Turim? It is because Sarah forced (Hagar and) Yishmael to run away from her!

See also the Ramban (16:2), who maintains that Sarah sinned in her harsh treatment of Hagar.


The Covenant of the Milah

"This is My covenant which you shall keep between Me and You and your children after you, circumcise all your males" (17:10).

The reason that this Mitzvah is called 'B'ris' (covenant) is because of the numerical value of the word - 612, plus this Mitzvah, which makes 613. The B'ris Milah is equal to all the other Mitzvos, because without it, one cannot enter the Jewish faith.


Holy from Birth

"And My covenant I will establish (okim) with Yitzchak" (17:21).

The acronym of "okim" is 'asher kidesh yedid mi'beten' (who sanctified the beloved one from birth - the opening words of the b'rachah that we recite at a b'ris).

The significance of this phrase is of course, the fact that Yitzchak was the first person to be circumcised at eight days old. It serves, among other things, as the answer to Yishmael, who boasted that he was superior to Yitzchak because he was thirteen when he was circumcized.

The Torah teaches us here however, that it is a bigger deal to be circumcised at eight days than at thirteen years!


The Chronological order of events in the Chumash

(based mainly on the Seider ha'Doros)

Lech Lecha:
2023 Avraham leaves Choron for Eretz Yisrael ... Famine ... Avraham goes down to Egypt ... splits up with Lot ... the battle with the kings ... the king of S'dom ... the B'ris bein ha'Besorim (according to the Seider Olam, this took place in 2018).
2033 Hagar and Sarah
2034 Hagar gives birth to Yishmael
2047 Avraham circumsizes himself, Yishmael, at 13, and all the members of his household on the thirteenth of Nisan ... his name is changed from Avram to Avraham, and Sarai's to Sarah.


The three angels ... the overturning of S'dom ... Lot's daughters, the birth of Amon and Mo'av ... Avimelech and Sarah
2048 The birth of Yitzchak on the 15th Nisan
2050 Yishmael mocks Yitzchak ... Hagar and Yishmael are sent away ... Yishmael moves to Midbar Paran ... Avraham lives in Be'er Sheva ... Avraham and Avimelech
2083 Terach dies in Choron.
2085 The Akeidah ... Rifkah is born to Besuel and Milkah (according to others, she was born eleven years earlier in 2074).


Chayei Sarah:
Sarah dies ... Efron and the people of Cheis.
2087 Lot dies.
2088 Eliezer and Rifkah, Lavan and Besuel ... Yitzchak marries Rifkah ... Avraham (re)marries Keturah ... the children of Keturah.


2108 Yitzchak and Rifkah Daven for children ... Eisav and Ya'akov are born
2121 Eisav and Ya'akov grow up.
2123 Eisav goes hunting ... returns exhausted after murdering Nimrod ... Avraham dies ... Ya'akov buys the birthright from Eisav.
2126 Yitzchak sends Ya'akov to the Yeshivah of Shem and Eiver. Yitzchak and Avimelech and the wells.
2148 Eisav age forty, marries Yehudis and Bosmas.
2171 Eisav and Ya'akov and the B'rachos ... Ya'akov returns to the Yeshivah of Shem and Eiver ... Elifaz, Eisav's son, takes all his possessions ... Yishmael marries Eisav's daughter, Machalas ... he dies the same year.


2185 Ya'akov leaves Yeshivah ... the dream ... he arrives in Charan ... works seven years for Rachel.
2192 Ya'akov marries Leah, and Rachel - for whom he has to work another seven years.
The birth of Ya'akov's sons
Reuven is born to Leah (on the 14th Kislev).
2193 Shimon is born to Leah (on the 28th Teives).
2194 Ya'akov marries Bilhah ... Levi is born to Leah (on 16th of Nisan), and Dan to Bilhah (on the 9th of Elul).
2195 Yehudah is born to Leah (on the 15th Sivan), and Naftali to Bilhah (on the 5th Tishri) ... Ya'akov marries Zilpah
2196 Gad is born to Zilpah (on the 10th Cheshvan) and Yisachar to Leah (on the 10th Av)
2197 Zevulun is born to Leah (on the 7th Tishri), and Asher to Zilpah (on the 20th Sh'vat).
2199 Yosef is born to Rachel (on the first or the 27th Tamuz), and Dinah to Leah ... Ya'akov works six years for his own needs ... Lavan attempts to swindle him constantly.
2205 Ya'akov runs away from Lavan ... Rachel steals her father's idols ... Lavan chases after Ya'akov ... the confrontation ... the treaty ... Ya'akov's confrontation with Eisav ... the parting of their ways ... Ya'akov stays in Sukos.
2506 He arrives in Sh'chem and he builds a Mizbe'ach ... Dinah and Sh'chem and Chamor ... Shimon and Levi kill Sh'chem ... Devorah, Rifka's nurse dies, and so does Rifkah ... Ya'akov's name is changed to Yisrael ... He travels to Beis-Eil and fulfils his promise to set up the stone as the House of G-d.
2207 Binyamin is born (on the 11th Cheshvan) ... Rachel dies ... Ya'akov arrives home in Chevron, after thirty-six years absence.
2228 Yitzchak dies ... the generations of Eisav, and the kings of Edom.


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