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Vol. 19 No. 3
Zevulun Doron ben Shimshon z"l
The B'ris Milah
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)
The Torah describes the Mitzvah of Milah as 'Os B'ris' (a sign of the covenant [17:11]), since it serves as a constant sign of one's Jewish identity.
In fact, says Rabeinu Bachye, there are three Mitzvos that share the title 'Os' - B'ris Milah, Shabbos and Tefilin. (I like to think of them as the Nefesh, Ru'ach and Neshamah [in that order] of the Mitzvos.) All of them are a testimony and a sign of the Oneness of G-d and of our faith in Him. And since Chazal have said that everything is established through two witnesses, one should make certain that one is always accompanied by two of the three witnesses. That is why, during the week, every Jewish man should take great care to wear Tefilin, and on Shabbos, when we do not wear Tefilin, the Os of Shabbos serves as the second Os.
Yisrael alone have merited the Mitzvah of B'ris Milah (incorporating p'riyah - pulling the skin back over the Milah, which the sons of Yishmael do not perform). And it is through this Mitzvah, says R. Bachye, that they have been granted three extraordinary, eternal gifts - the kingdom of Beis David, Eretz Yisrael and that the Shechinah will always rest with them. Moreover, all three are hinted in this Parshah:
Malchus Beis David … when the Torah writes (in Pasuk 6) "And I will make you into nations, and kings will descend from you"; The author stresses the fact that this Pasuk is written after the Pasuk " … I will place My covenant between Me and you" (Pasuk 2).
Eretz Yisrael … when the Torah writes (in Pasuk 8) "And I will give to you and to your children after you the land of your sojourning, the whole of Eretz Cana'an as an eternal possession", a promise indicating that no other nation will ever inherit it or take possession of it. It also implies that even if for a short spell, Yisrael will be exiled from it (as indeed they were), they will return to it, since it is theirs forever. And an amazing proof of the veracity of this promise lies in the fact that throughout the long years of Galus, Eretz Yisrael remained abandoned and forlorn. No other nation ever succeeded in settling the land and in building it up on a large scale. (Interestingly, it is only after we began to return to the land in large numbers that the Arabs suddenly laid claim to it!) But, as the Ramban wrote (in Bechukosai) some seven hundred years ago, it will remain in a state of destruction and desolation until its fledglings return to it when the time arrives.
The Shechinah rests in Yisrael … when the Torah writes (also in Pasuk 8) "and I will be for you a G-d", implying for the descendants of Avraham exclusively, a privilege that no other nation has ever experienced.
R. Bachye concludes 'How fortunate is the people who has been promised these three priceless gifts - Malchus Beis David that is eternal, that the Holy land will be theirs alone as an everlasting possession and that G-d's Divine Presence will dwell among them forever, three gifts to which no other nation has ever had access.'
Indeed, that is what David ha'Melech was referring to when he said "How fortunate is the nation who experiences this! How fortunate in the nation whose G-d is Hashem!'.
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Who Received the Bigger Punishment?
"And G-d plagued Par'oh great plagues and his household" (12:17).
Why, asks the Riva, did Par'oh receive a greater punishment than Avimelech (in Parshas Vayeiro)?
And he answers because unlike Par'oh, Avimelech took Sarah before he knew that she was married to Avraham, as the Pasuk relates - "Avraham said that Sarah his wife was his sister, Avimelech … sent, and took Sarah" (20:2). What's more, the Torah specifically testifies that Avimelech was innocent on that score, when it writes there (Pasuk 6) "I too know that you acted in innocence … ".
However, the Riva himself rejects this explanation, on the grounds that Par'oh too, did not take Sarah before he had been told that Sarah was Avraham's sister, as he himself said to Avraham "Why did you say - she is my sister?"
What's more, he claims, the question is erroneous. Who says that Par'oh was punished more than Avimelech. Par'oh was stricken with Ra'asan (a plague that renders intimacy difficult and painful), whereas Avimelech was stricken in that they had difficulty in using the bathroom (as Rashi explains) - and who's to say which punishment was worse?
And if you want to extrapolate from the Pasuk here, which, in connection with Par'oh refers to "great plagues", by Avimelech too, the Torah uses the expression "deeds which are not usually done were performed with them".
In short, there is nothing to indicate that the one suffered more than the other.
What Happened to G-d's Promise?
"And Avram said 'Behold, you have not given me children, and behold the member of my household (Eliezer) will inherit me!" (15:3).
How could Avraham say such a thing, asks the Riva? Had G-d not promised him that He would give the land to his children? And He had also promised to give him children?
To answer the question, he cites Rabeinu Tam from Orleans, who attributes Avraham's statement to his fear that he may have sinned, thereby losing his claim to G-d's promise (just as Rashi explains later in connection with Ya'akov Avinu who said "I have becomes small" - through sin, despite G-d's promise to him).
Others explain that what Avraham meant was that since he had now become old and did not yet have children, by the time he would reach life's end, his son would be very small, and his servant would be bound to exploit the situation, and take away his inheritance by force. That is why G-d assured him that "This one (Eliezer) will not inherit you, but your son … !"
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HIGHLIGHTS FROM ...
... TARGUM YONASAN
'And I will bless her in her body (See Rashi) and I will also give you a son from her … and kings who will govern nations will descend from her' (17:16).
'And Avraham fell on his face, and he wondered and he said in his heart, "Will a man of hundred father a child …?"
... THE BA'AL HA'TURIM
Oy Vay - Tzoros
"And it was in the days of (Vay'hi bi'yemei) Amrafel … " (14:1)
Five times the phrase "Vay'hi bi'yemei" appears in T'nach, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, citing the Gemara in Megilah, and whenever it does, it denotes Tzoros: "Vay'hi bi'Yemei Amrofel" (here), "Vay'hi bi'Yemei sh'fot ha'shoftim" (at the beginning of Seifer Shoftim), "Vay'hi bi'Yemei Achaz" and "Vay'hi bi'Yemei Yehoyakim", (both in Melachim), and "Vay'hi bi'Yemei Achashverosh" (at the beginning of Megilas Esther).
"Boruch Avram le'Keil Elyon" (14:19).
There are seven Pesukim in the Torah, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, which contain a B'rachah to Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu …
"Boruch Hashem Elokei Sheim" (No'ach 9:26).
"u'Boruch Keil Elyon" (Lech-l'cha 19:26).
"Vayomar: 'Boruch Hashem Elokei Adoni Avraham' " (Chayei-Sarah 24:27).
"Vo'Ekod, vo'eshtachaveh la'Hashem va'avorech es Hashem" (Chayei-Sarah 24:48).
"Vayomer Yisro, 'Boruch Hashem' " (Yisro 18:10).
"ve'Ochalto ve'sovo'to u'verachto es Hashem … " (Eikev 8:10).
"Boruch marchiv Gad" (ve'Zos-ha'B'rachah 33:20).
The above Pesukim contain a total of a hundred words, corresponding to the hundred B'rochos that one is obligated to recite each day. The seven Pesukim correspond to the seven B'rachos of the Shabbos and Yom-Tov Amidah. In five of them, the Name of Hashem is next to the word "Boruch", corresponding to the five Books of the Torah over which one recites a B'rachah, and if one adds to them "u'Boruch Keil Elyon", they correspond to the six Sedarim of Mishnayos.
Twenty-Five Years Hence
" … Look up to the sky and count the stars … And he said to him (Avraham) 'So (koh) will be (yih'yeh) your children!' " (15:5).
The Gematriyah of "koh" is twenty-five. G-d was hinting to Avraham that Yitzchak would be born in twenty-five years time. Avraham was seventy-five years at the B'ris bein ha'Besarim (where this Pasuk was said), and Sarah gave birth to Yitzchak when he was a hundred.
Moreover, the Gematriyah of "yih'yeh" is thirty, a hint that in every generation there will be thirty Tzadikim of the caliber of Avraham Avinu.
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