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

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Vol. 10   No. 3

This issue is sponsored in honor of the marriage of
Yisrael Moshe Dubin and Rachel Zippora Slater n.y.
Yizku liv'nos bayis ne'eman be'Yisrael.

Parshas Lech-Lecha

The Four Kings, Lot and Avraham
(adapted from the Or ha'Chayim)

After informing us of the victory of the four kings over the five and the capture of Lot, the Torah adds that Lot was Avram's nephew and that he resided in S'dom, both of which we already know. It seems however, that the Torah's intention here is to stress the four kings culpability in capturing Lot, without which Avraham would have had no justification in attacking them.

So the Torah informs us that a. the kings knew exactly who Lot was (and they were certainly aware of the esteem in which Avraham was held by the entire world, and what's more, personally, they were on peaceful with him), and b. that Lot was residing harmlessly in S'dom, and was not involved in the fighting.

The Ha'amek Davar goes still further, claiming that they deliberately captured Lot in order to anger Avraham.


Initially, we might apply the principle 'Amon and Mo'av became permitted through Sichon', in which case Lot too ('forbidden territory' under normal circumstances, was fair game now that he lived in S'dom (who had chosen to fight the four kings).

But that is simply not true, says the Or ha'Chayim. The above principle may well act as a carte blanche with regard to Amon and Mo'av, and other rogue nations with whom one is not currently engaged in war, but not to nations who are allies or at least with whom one is at peace. Take for example the Keini (descendants of Yisro), to whom Yisrael issued a clear warning to leave the area before attacking Amalek. And that is the sort of treatment Lot should have received at their hands.


Bearing all this in mind, it is hardly surprising that Avraham did not even warn the four kings before waging war with them. Their actions clearly indicated that they had no regard for Lot, his nephew, and that they therefore considered Avraham an enemy too. According to the Ha'amek Davar whom we quoted earlier, Avraham's actions were even more justifiable.


Avraham and the Four Kings
(adapted from the P'ninei Torah)

Avraham's battle with the four kings is reckoned among Avraham's ten trials, demonstrating beyond any shadow of doubt, that it was an act of extreme self-sacrifice. It is not clear though, why Avraham saw fit to sanctify G-d's name, risking his own life, as well as the lives of his men (or at least that of Eliezer his servant, as Chazal explain), for the sake of saving his relative Lot. More than that. If his motive was merely to save Lot because he was his nephew (as the Torah stresses), then how could Avraham's personal prejudice be considered a Kidush Hashem. And this becomes even more puzzling when we consider that that nephew had become an apostate, as Rashi explains, and it was questionable as to whether he was worthy of salvation in the first place.


One might argue that, bearing in mind Lot's decision to leave his home in Charan, to travel into the unknown with him, and suffer whatever fate awaited him, Avraham felt that, irrespective of Lot's degeneration, he owed him the effort to save him from the ignominy of captivity. Moreover, he was the one to have travelled to Eretz Cana'an, in which case to a certain degree, he considered himself responsible, albeit indirectly, for Lot's current predicament. So it was the combination of hakaras ha'tov (gratitude) and feeling of guilt, that sparked off Avraham's reaction to Lot's capture. However, a more subtle explanation is given in the name of Reb Heschel . . .


Based on Lot's striking resemblance to Avraham, Reb Heschel explains, Avraham's attack of the kings was actually a continuation of his confrontation with Nimrod (alias Amrafel, chief of the four kings) many years earlier. On that occasion, it will be remembered, Avraham defied Nimrod's attempt to convert him to adopt his belief in the god of fire, and that he emerged unscathed from the fiery furnace into which the latter had cast him (see Rashi 14:1). Now, Avraham reckoned, having captured Lot, Amrafel would confuse him with Avraham (or at least that is what he would tell the world). And he would then force him to denounce his belief in G-d (not a very difficult task, according to Chazal's description of Lot), and to publicly announce that he now adopted the faith of Nimrod.

Avraham Avinu perceived the danger of a terrible Chilul Hashem in the making, and his attack of the kings was intended to prevent such a Chilul Hashem from taking place. How was that? If he succeeded in defeating Nimrod, he would expose his lies; whereas should Nimrod defeat him, the word would spread that Avraham had been killed, and nobody would believe Lot when he claimed that he was Avraham denouncing his faith.

In this way, Avraham's battle was not a personal one, but one that he fought on behalf of G-d, like everything else that he did. It was not a family vendetta, but an act of supreme Kidush Hashem, like everything else that he ever did throughout his life.

* * *

Parshah Pearls

Lech Lecha

(adapted from the P'ninei Torah)

Lot's Motive

"And Lot accompanied him ... and Avram was seventy-five" (12:4). The reason that Lot accompanied Avram, explains the Chasam Sofer, was because Avram was seventy-five. Avram had no children of his own, and Lot, his nephew was next of kin. So, hoping that Avram (no youngster), would die on the way, and he would inherit him, he considered it prudent to be on hand should this happen. A

Why Was He Suddenly Interested?

"Behold now I know that you are a beautiful woman" (12:11).

Avraham Avinu was bereft of physical desires, explains the Besht, which is why he expressed surprise at suddenly noticing Sarah's beauty.

He concluded that it must be a sign from Heaven, to make him aware that they were approaching Egypt, and that he needed to take special precautions to protect her.


Living a Modest Lifestyle

"And Avram was heavily laden with cattle, silver and gold. And he went on his travels" (13:2/3).

Avram arrived in Egypt a poor man and he left a wealthy one, yet he remained unaffected by his wealth, explains Rebbi Yosef Shaul Natanzon. On the way down to Egypt he stayed in modest hotels, because that is what he could afford. And those are precisely the hotels that he visited on his return journey (as Rashi explains, though with slightly different connotations), despite the fact that he was now able to afford far more expensive ones.


It All Depends On Looks

"And Avram said to Lot, please let there not be a quarrel between me and you ... because we are brothers" (13:8).

'We look alike', comments Rashi.

So what if they looked alike? Is that why Avraham saw fit to implore his nephew not to quarrel? Indeed it was, explains the Pardes Yosef. Because, when a Tzadik quarrels with a Rasha, everyone knows who is right, and there is no Chillul Hashem. It is two Tzadikim quarrelling who create a Chillul Hashem, inasmuch as people are shocked to see such a sight, knowing that one of them must be wrong.

Consequently, seeing as Lot resembled Avram, the latter was afraid that people would jump to the conclusion that two Tzadikim were involved in a dispute, and this would result in a Chillul Hashem.


And it just shows how careful we have to be when we find ourselves in the limelight, sometimes unintentionally. We must always take to heart, not only what G-d expects of us, but what others, who perhaps see us in a more significant light than we see ourselves, expect of us.


The Deed and the Motive

"And the refugee (Og) came and told Avram the Hebrew that his brother had been captured" (14:13).

According to the Medrash, Og's intentions were that Avram would attack the four kings and get killed in the process. Then he would be able to take Sarah as a wife.

Yet in spite of his selfish motives, he was rewarded for having been instrumental in the saving of Lot, and G-d granted him hundreds of years of longevity.


From here we learn that a person is rewarded for a good deed that he performs, even if his intentions are evil.

And we might also explain with that what the Gemara says in Kidushin 'Hashem combines a good thought with a good deed'.

What Chazal mean in this context is that if one's motives are pure, then Hashem adds the thought to the deed and rewards for both. But where it is not, then he rewards for the deed, and sometimes even punishes for the thought. (P'ninei Torah)


Don't Get too Heimish

"Because your children will be strangers in a land that is not theirs" (15:13). When Yisrael are in exile, the Kotzker Rebbe explains, they should see to it that they remain strangers, and not aim at becoming nationals with equal rights.


Alernatively, this is not a request, but a piece of information. G-d is informing us here that when we are in exile, He will not allow us to become nationals with equal rights. Either we take upon ourselves to remain different (as G-d decreed through the mouth of Bilam - Bamidbar 23:9), or He will incite our host nation against us to ensure that we remain different.


Hey, Which Nation?

"And also the nation whom they will serve, I will punish" (15:14). Why does the Torah not name the nation concerned?

The Besht explains that the Torah deliberately leaves this open. We know the principle 'G-d brings about ... bad things through bad people (in order to give them their just punishment). So based on that principle, He decided to wait until the time arrived, and then to pick out the nation that deserved to be at the receiving end of His Divine wrath, and to use them as a tool to punish Yisrael, before punishing them for all their misdeeds.



Translated from the Seifer by Rav Kalman Kahana z.l.

The Din of Neta Revai (Chap. 20)

1. The moment the Isur of Orlah ceases to exist, the fruit of the fourth year is holy like Ma'aser Sheini, and is referred to by Chazal as '(Neta) Revai'. Nowadays, one redeems Revai with a Perutah, just like Ma'aser Sheini. Someone who redeems his own Revai, must add a fifth, exactly as we learned in Chapter 8).

If the Neta Revai is not a Safek, one recites the B'rachah ' ... asher kidshonu be'mitzvosav ve'tzivonu al pidyon neta revai'. But if it is a Safek, one redeems it without the B'rachah.

2. The reckoning of the years of Neta Revai follows the same pattern as that of the years of Orlah. Consequently, fruit that began to ripen between Tu bi'Sh'vat of the fourth year and the fifth year, is Revai. And the differences of opinion that we discussed in chapter 8:4) with regard to Orlah, apply with regard to Neta Revai, too.

3. In Eretz Yisrael, Neta Revai applies to all kinds of fruit-trees, but in Chutz la'Aretz it is confined to vines. In fact, it is best to take the stringent view of those who hold that it pertains even to a single vine.

The skins and the pips are not subject to Revai, even though they are subject to Orlah, as we learned above.


Upon Seeing the Cities of Yehudah,
Yerushalayim and the Beis-Hamikdash
(Chapter 43)

1. Someone who sees one of the towns of Yehudah in ruins recites the Pasuk in Yeshayah (64:9) ''Orei kodshecho hoyu midbar'' ('Your holy cities have become a desert') and rents his clothes. This is not necessary with regard to other towns of Yisrael, which are less important. 'In ruins' has two connotations 1. If Jews have not settled there. 2. Even if they have, but they are governed by gentiles.

2. Someone who sees Yerushalayim in ruins (and we are referring to the old borders of Yerushalayim, in the Arab section known as Silwan) recites the Pasuk (ibid.) "Tziyon midbar hoysoh, Yerushalayim shemomoh. Kiloh Hashem es chamoso, shofach charon-apo, va'yatzes eish be'Tziyon va'tochal yesodosehah" ('Tziyon became a desert, Yerushalayim a desolate area. G-d vented all His anger, poured out His burning wrath; He set fire to Tziyon and consumed its foundations').

And upon seeing the cite of the Beis-Hamikdash, one first recites the Pasuk (ibid. 64:10) "Beis-Kodsheinu ve'sif'arteinu asher hilelucho avoseinu, hoyoh li's'rerifas eish, ve'chol machamadeinu hoyoh le'chorboh" ('The holy House of our glory, where our Fathers praised You, has been burned in fire, and all our precious places have been destroyed'). Then one rents one's clothes.

And one is obliged to weep over the destruction of the Beis-Hamikdash, to wail and to mourn over it. One then says 'Boruch Dayan ho'emes' ('Blessed be the Judge of truth' [without the Name of Hashem]) and then adds 'Ki chol mishpotov tzedek ve'emes' (For all His judgements are righteous and true). "Ha'Tzur tomim po'olo, ki chol d'rochov mishpot, Keil emunoh ve'ein ovel, Tzadik ve'Yoshor Hu" (The Rock whose work is prefect, for all His ways are justice, a Faithful G-d devoid of injustice, He is Righteous and Upright" [Devorim 32:4]). And You are righteous irrespective of what befalls us, because You did what was right, whereas we were wicked'. Finally, one recites Kapitel 79 in Tehilim ("Mizmor le'Asaf").


3. 'K'riy'ah' (renting one's garments) requires a Tefach (ten centimeters). Someone who first tore on seeing the Beis-Hamikdash, and then saw Yerushalayim, only needs to add slightly to the original tear.

4. Someone who sees Yerushalayim within thirty days of having torn, does not need to tear again, and the same applies to someone who saw the towns of Yehudah or the Beis-Hamikdash. A resident of Yerushalayim who did not visit the site of the Beis-Hamikdash within thirty days, is obligated to tear when he sees it next, though this is not the prevalent Minhag.

5. All of the above tears must be performed by hand and not with a knife or any other implement, standing, and on the left-hand side, until one's heart is exposed. However, venerable Rabbis have testified that they tore only one of the top garments. These tears may never be expertly re-stitched, though they may be inexpertly repaired.

6. Nowadays, when we are all Tamei Meis (Tamei through contact with dead bodies), entering the area of the Beis-Hamikdash is strictly forbidden on pain of Koreis (excision). And this extends to the site of the Har-Habayis (though that area is slightly more lenient, inasmuch as someone who Toveled may enter its outer extremity as long as he adheres to a series of strict conditions).

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