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

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Vol. 21   No. 3

This issue is sponsored
L'iluy Nishmas
Zevulun Doron ben Shimshon z"l

Parshas Lech-L'cha

Avram, King of the World

"And the king of S'dom went out to meet him (Avram), after he returned from defeating K'dorlo'omer and the kings who were with him, to the valley of Shoveh, that is the valley of the king" (14:17).

The Medrash (quoted by Rashi) in a play on the words "Eimek Shoveh" explains that the nations of the world agreed to confer upon Avram the title 'King of the world'. So they built a tall platform, upon which they sat Avram and they declared 'You are our king, you are our prince you are our god!'

It is remarkable, comments the Oznayim la'Torah, that this acknowledgement of Avraham's greatness occurred only after he had smitten the four kings. Avraham sacrifices his life for his faith in G-d, preferring to be burned alive in a fiery furnace rather than to bow down before Nimrod; he is miraculously saved from certain death, but the people do not confer upon him any divine titles!

Avraham passes through lands, calling out the Name of G-d (inviting the people to join his ranks), but nobody refers to him as a prince!

Avraham plants an Eishel (an inn) where all travelers are offered food and drinks, free of charge, but nobody acknowledges his righteousness and goodness of heart, to place him on a platform and sing his praises!

And Avraham performs justice and charity to one and all, but nobody thinks of crowning him king!

When do they suddenly deem fit to refer to him as prince, king and even god - when he displays his strength and might in defeating the four kings! Only then does it dawn on the nations of the world to get together and to heap upon him praises and to crown him king. This is goyishe psychology. Their one characteristic that they look up to is physical strength. The leader who is able to strike down his adversaries, he is the true leader. So different from the Jewish People, who heroes are their Torah sages and pious men. (Hence Chazal have said 'Who are the kings? The Rabbanan!) And this is reminiscent of Yitzchak's profound statement, when he was not quite sure whether the man standing before him was his son Ya'akov or Eisav "The Voice (of Torah) is the voice of Ya'akov, but the hands are the hands of Eisav!" (Ya'akov acknowledges Torah, Eisav, might).


Even today, (the author wrote this over sixty years ago), he concludes, when the United Nations are trying to disarm the nations of the world, they acknowledge Yisrael as a nation that is worthy of independence only after they have thoroughly defeated the seven Arab nations that attacked them simultaneously.


The Oznayim la'Torah concludes with Avraham's response to the people of the world 'The world is lacking neither a king nor a G-d'.


G-d, Master of Heaven and Earth

"And he (Malkitzedek) blessed him and said 'Blessed be Avram to the most high G-d who owns the Heaven and the earth" (14:19).

Avraham too, three Pesukim later, observes the Oznayim la'Torah, refers to Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu by the same title, a title that we do not find anywhere else in the Torah!

To understand this, the author points out, we need to bear in mind that the battle of the kings that Avraham had just fought and won took place only twenty-seven years after the episode with the tower of Bavel. At that time, it will be recalled, the people, under the leadership of Nimrod (alias Amrafel), rebelled against G-d's sovereignty over the heaven ('Who gave Him the right to choose for Himself the upper realms, leaving us only the lower realm?')

Having failed in their quest to oust G-d from His celestial residence, they accepted the fact that He was G-d of the Heaven, but insisted that the earth belonged to them, and with that in mind, they crowned the mighty Nimrod king of the earth.


Following Avram's miraculous victory (where earth turned into swords) over Nimrod, the entire world agreed to crown Avram as the new king of the world (See previous article). At this point, he, together with Malki-Tzedek, decided that this was the appropriate time to inform the world that G-d (and not he) ruled not only over the Heaven, but also over the earth too.

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Parshah Pearls
(Adapted mainly from the Oznayim la'Torah)

Reaping the Rewards

"And G-d said to Avram 'Go for yourself from your land " (12:1).

Interestingly, G-d used the same expression "Go for yourself!" later in connection with the last test (22:2) as He used here in connection with the first one. Perhaps this is because both tests turned out to be to Avraham's advantage (as implied by the word "for yourself"). The former, that the move would merit for him children, wealth and fame, as Rashi explains. And the latter, that his willingness to sacrifice his beloved son would earn him and his descendants all sorts of blessings. (See later 22:17).

We do not find this in connection with the other tests.

Perhaps the promise of reward was part of the two tests, to see whether Avraham would have the reward in mind when following G-d's instructions. But of course, the facts indicate that this part of the test too, he passed with flying colours. We can safely assume that, on neither occasion, did he even take note of the word (l'cho), since receiving reward for serving G-d was not part of his mindset. Had he indeed done so, it would most certainly have detracted from his greatness - and his reward.


In the Footsteps of Avraham Avinu


As is well-known, the Avos set the pattern for their offspring, and that many things that happened to them also happen to us, often with uncanny accuracy (See Parsha Pearl on 13:2).

The Oznayim la'Torah points out how Araham's descendants throughout history, seem to have followed in Avraham's footsteps as regards both the first of his tests and the last one.

We Jews are, on the one hand, forever travelling from place to place, from one country to another (hence the title 'the Wandering Jew'). And on the other, as generation follows generation, who like the Jew has willingly sacrificed his children to be slaughtered, displaying a loyalty towards G-d and His Torah that is truly remarkable?

That is why Chanah told her youngest son, just before he followed his six brothers to die al Kidush Hashem 'Go tell Avraham Avinu, "you sacrificed one son for G-d's sake; I sacrificed seven!" '

And that is what Jewish parents have being doing ever since the Akeida.


A Blessing to the World

" and be a blessing" (12:2).

The Avos, who illuminated the world with their wisdom and who stood out as examples of piety and righteousness, were a blessing to the world by virtue of their very existence.

Hence, G-d did not tell Avraham to bless the inhabitants of the world, says the Oznayim la'Torah, but to 'be a blessing'. As long as a Tzadik lives, he brings blessing upon the world, not necessarily by word of mouth, but by living a righteous life.


The Deeds of the Fathers

"And Avraham owned a lot of animals, silver and gold" (13:2).

Where did he obtain silver and gold, asks the Oznayim la'Torah. For the list that the Torah presents describing all that Par'oh gave Avraham in order to obtain Sarah's hand in marriage, does not include money.

Initially, he suggests, Avraham simply sold some of his sheep and cattle to make travelling easier.

But then he adds a second explanation, based on the well-known adage 'The deeds of the fathers set the pattern for their offspring', and he proceeds to elaborate: When Avraham Avinu moved to Eretz Cana'an, he says, which he did in order to facilitate the eventual conquest of Cana'an, he prepared a number of signs predicting the future. He built a Mizbe'ach beside his tent (See above, Pesukim 7 & 8) - in the vicinity of Mishkan Shiloh, which would serve as the centre of Avodah for hundreds of years.

Later he bound his son Yitzchak (just as they would subsequently bind the Korbanos) in the exact location where the Beis-Hamikdash was destined to stand. When a famine struck Eretz Cana'an, he went down to Egypt, a sign that his children would do the same thing for the same reason. And not only was King Par'oh smitten by plagues, but he issued instructions for Avraham to 'Take (his wife) and go!' And this too, was later repeated when a later Par'oh would suffer ten plagues and order Moshe to leave, together with all his people and all their possessions.

Like Avraham, Yisrael left Egypt heavily laden with sheep and cattle. Yisrael were also destined to take with them silver and gold. And it was as a sign that his descendants would indeed do so, that Avraham had to sell some of his animals to ensure his leaving Egypt with silver and gold, presaging what his children would do when it was their time to leave.


The Damaging Hand

" his (Yishmael's) hand is against everyone " (16:12).

The Oznayim la'Torah maintains that this is the hand that we mention in Musaf of Yom-Tov, when we lament that we are unable to perform the Avodah in the Beis-Hamikdash because of the hand that is stretched out against it' - the hand that is mentioned in the current Pasuk, the hand of Yishmael. The Medrash has already informed us that Yishmael stretched out his hand against the Beis-Hamikdash, and that is why the Pasuk at the end of Chayei Sarah predicts his ultimate downfall.


His descendants have built a mosque on the exact location of the Beis-Hamikdash, and have opted to fight with Yisrael who have returned to their land, the author continues. And that explains why the Pasuk here refers to him as a wild-ass of a man. This is because, Chazal have taught that if the nations of the world would only realize how much B'rachah they receive on account of the Beis-Hamikdash, they would set up guards to ensure that no harm befalls it! And along comes Yishmael, seizes the Temple Mount as if it belonged to them, and refuses us permission to claim it back, cutting their nose to spite their face. A stupid ass indeed!

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