This issue is sponsored in honour of
Vol. 10 No. 4
David Moshe ben Shimon Baruch
and his family
Following the sacrifice of the ram that Avraham brought in place of Yitzchak, the Pasuk writes "And Avraham called the place 'Hashem Yir'eh', that it shall be said today that on the mountain of G-d it (or He) shall be seen". The Pasuk per se cannot be translated literally, and the commentaries offer a variety of explanations.
According to the Sifri, Avraham saw the Beis Hamikdash built ("Hashem Yir'eh"), destroyed ("asher ye'amer ha'yom be'Har Hashem"), and built once more (be'Har Hashem ye'ra'eh"). The Pasuk hints at one destruction, and not two. Presumably this is because the Beis Hamikdash described by the Navi there, was meant to be the second Beis-Hamikdash, and it is only when they failed to merit that level of Hashra'as ha'Shechinah, that G-d postponed its building until the time of Mashi'ach. He built the second Beis-Hamikdash in the interim, as Rashi comments in Yechezkel.
Rashi here, citing Targum Unklus, explains that Avraham prayed to Hashem to pick this site to rest His Shechinah there and to bring Korbanos, so that people in future generations will say that on this mountain Hashem appears to His people.
Rashi's version of Unklus seems to differ from ours. This is how our version of Unklus translates it "And Avraham worshipped and prayed in that place and he said before G-d, 'Here the generations will worship, Indeed it shall be said that on that day (or 'on that day it shall be said' that) Avraham worshipped Hashem on this mountain' ".
Finally, Rashi quotes the Medrash 'Hashem will see this Akeidah to forgive Yisrael each year and to save them from punishments. So that it will be said on this day in all future generations, on the Mountain of Hashem the ashes of Yitzchak will be seen, piled up and waiting to atone'.
According to the Ramban, Avraham was simply praying that the Akeidah should be a source of reward for his descendants as well as for himself.
From all of these explanations we may be tempted to believe that Yerushalayim and the location of the Beis ha'Mikdash were chosen as a result of the Akeidah and Avraham's subsequent Tefilah. And that is certainly what is implied by the first explanation cited by Rashi. Yet for two reasons this cannot be the case. Firstly, the Medrash teaches us that Adam, Kayin and No'ach all sacrificed in Yerushalayim. And secondly, this Parshah informs us that G-d told Avraham to take his son ... and to go with him ''to the land of Moriyah'', which has the same numerical value, the Ba'al ha'Turim points out, as 'bi'Yerushalayim'. Rashi, citing a Pasuk in Divrei Hayamim, corroborates this equation, and he goes on to interpret the name "Har ha'Moriyah" in two different ways. Firstly, as Chazal have said, Yerushalayim is called by that name, because 'ho'ro'ah' (Halachic teaching) comes out from there, for so the Navi Yeshayah writes "Because Torah will go out from Tzi'yon ... ". Whereas Unklus translates it as 'the Land of worship (avodah), because the Beis-Hamikdash was destined to be built there, and in it would be offered the Ketores, comprising many spices, one of which was called 'Mor'.
The K'li Yakar adds that in fact, the root of "Ha'moriyah" is 'Mor' (as we find in Shir Hashirim "Eilech Li el Har ha'Mor" (in keeping with this latter explanation), and that the Pasuk adds the 'Yud' and the 'Hey' for two reasons: a. because that is where the foundation stone (the 'Even She'siyah') of both Heaven and earth (for Yerushalayim is the gateway to Heaven) is to be found, and as Chazal have taught, Olam ha'Ba was created with the letter 'Yud', Olam ha'Zeh, with a 'Hey', and b. because Yerushalayim represents the ultimate union between Hashem and Yisrael (as the last Mishnah in Ta'anis explains), and in that context too, Chazal have taught that man was created with a 'Yud', woman with a 'Hey'.
In fact, this was a sign to Avraham that the Beis Hamikdash would be built fifteen generations later (the sum total of 'Yud' and 'Hey').
Rabeinu Bachye too, cites the two above interpretations of 'Har ha'Moriyah', and he adds a third, which he quotes (in spite of the Rashi cited earlier) in the name of Unklus. Unklus actually translates Har ha'Moriyah as 'Ar'a Pulchana' (the land of worship), the same word that he uses when translating our key Pasuk. Unklus connects the word "ha'Moriyah", he explains, to 'Morah', meaning fear, because, as the Torah writes in Re'ei, a visit to Yerushalayim infused the fear of G-d into the visitor. Indeed, Rabeinu Bachye describes how, at the Akeidah on Har ha'Moriyah, Yitzchak saw the image of a lion ('aryeh', which spells 'yirah') on the Mizbe'ach, since that conforms with his Midas ha'Din (also known as 'Pachad Yitzchak').
And Rabeinu Bachye then goes on to cite the Medrash which quotes Avraham 'Ribono shel Olam, You swore, and now I swear ... that I will not descend from the Mizbe'ach before I have said what I have to say - when my children are in trouble, You will remember the Akeidah and deliver them!'.
And he goes on to cite the Medrash which attributes the name Yerushalayim to the combination of 'Yir'ah' and 'Shalem' that Avraham and Shem, son of No'ach, respectively, called it, because it creates a fear that leads to perfection (or perhaps 'Shalem' means peace).
Clearly then, G-d's choice of Yerushalayim preceded the Akeidah. If anything, it was because the location of Yerushalayim and of the Beis-Hamikdash was already predetermined, that G-d led Avraham and Yitzchak there for the Akeidah, and not the other way round.
The K'li Yakar initially connects the two words "yir'eh" and "yera'eh" to the same two words that the Gemara in Chagigah uses in explaining the Pasuk in Ki Sisa "ye'ro'eh kol zechurcha" obligating all males to visit Yerushalayim three times a year. Chazal explain there how every Jew appears before G-d each Yom-Tov to 'see' Hashem and to be seen by Him ('Ani le'Dodi ve'Dodi li').
And he goes on to explain why Avraham used the future tense in the words that immediately precede this phrase - "asher ye'amer hayom" (that it will be said today). He bases his explanation on the fact that Hashem declined to reveal the location of Yerushalayim, or even its name, to anyone (even Avraham) right up to the time of David Hamelech. Indeed, David and Shmuel had to sit down and work out the exact location of the Beis-Hamikdash, as Chazal explain. It is only at a later date, says the K'li Yakar, explaining the current Pasuk, that Hashem will reveal this information. And the reason for this secrecy, he explains in Parshas Re'ei, is so as not to detract from the importance of Shiloh, Nov and Givon, during the period that the Mishkon and the Aron were situated there.
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(Adapted from the Ba'al ha'Turim)
On the Merit of the Milah
"And G-d appeared to him" (18:1).
The Torah juxtaposes this next to "they were circumcised with him" the Ba'al ha'Turim explains - to teach us, that it was on the merit of the B'ris-Milah that G-d appeared to Avraham. Indeed, someone who is uncircumcised can never experience a complete revelation (see Rashi Lech-Lecha 17:3).
And he backs this up by pointing out that the numerical value of "Vayeiro eilov" is the equivalent of 'Zeh bi'ch'vod Milah niglah eilav'.
Oh to Dwell with Tzadikim!
The last letters of "Vayeiro eilav Hashem" spell 'ivah' (He desired), because G-d desired to dwell in the tent of Avraham. Although Hashem dwells among the angels - indeed His Throne is supported by the four arch-Angels (Micha'el, Gavriel, Uriel and Refa'el), He prefers dwelling among the Tzadikim. This is because Tzadikim are greater than angels, due to the fact that they choose to do good, whereas angels can only do what they are told to do.
Also interesting is the fact that the letters that spell 'ivah' ('Alef', 'Vav' and 'Hey') are synonymous with the three letters that are missing nowadays from G-d's Name ('Vav' 'Hey') and from His Throne ('Alef'). See Rashi on the last Pasuk in Beshalach.
S'dom's 'Righteous' Judges
"Ulai Yesh chamishim Tzadikim be'soch ho'ir" (18:24); "le'ma'an chamishim ha'Tzadikim ... " (ibid.); " ... im emtzo bi'S'dom chamishim Tzadikim" (18:26); "Ulai yachserun chamishim ha'Tzadikim chamishoh" (18:28).
Each of these four words is missing a 'Yud'. This is because they hint at the four wisest men in S'dom, the judges. One might have expected the judiciary at least, to fit the title 'Tzadik', but alas, this is far from the case. In fact, the Gemara in Sanhedrin (109b) describes them as judges of shame. Well, with names such as Liar, Big liar, Forger and Twister of justice, what would you expect!
The Gemara cites many examples to demonstrate the 'wisdom' of S'dom's justices, not to speak of their sense of 'fair-play' and 'justice'. Here is the first example cited there.
If Reuven struck Shimon's pregnant wife, killing the unborn fetus, then he had to take her and live with her, until she became pregnant, before returning her to Shimon. In this way, they maintained, Reuven would have made up for the damage he had done, and the cause of justice would have been well-served.
Matzos on Pesach
"And he baked Matzos ... (u'Matzos ofah)" (19:3).
The Or ha'Chayim cites Chazal, who say that this took place on the fifteenth of Nisan, which will explain why Rashi comments that it was Pesach.
The Ba'al ha'Turim extrapolates this from the only other place where the word '"u'Matzos" occurs - in Bo (12:8) "Tz'li-eish u'Matzos al merorim yochluhu".
Just as there the Pasuk is talking about Pesach, so too here.
"Kumu Tze'u min ha'mokom" (19:14).
These words occur in one other place, in Parshas Bo (12:31), where following the plague of Makas Bechoros, Paroh said to Moshe "Kumu Tze'u mi'toch ami ... ".
What happened here, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, was that the angel permitted Lot to leave S'dom together with his entire family, yet some of them chose to remain in S'dom and were killed. In the same way, Paroh permitted all of Yisrael to leave Egypt, yet some of them chose to remain in Egypt and were killed.
The Way of the Land
"And there is no man to come on us like the way of the land" ("kederech kol ho'oretz [19:31]).
The Torah uses the same word by the quails in Beha'aloscho (11:31) "ke'derech yom koh ... ".
Perhaps this is the source of Chazal, who have said that when Yisrael grumbled for meat, it was more than just meat that wanted; they wanted marital freedom, to be able to enjoy sexual relations with whomever they wished, just like the daughters of Lot.
All or Nothing
"ha'Goy gam Tzadik taharog" (20:4).
Rashi, based on Targum Unklus, translates this to mean 'Will You kill a nation (a king) even though he is innocent'?
According to the Ba'al ha'Turim however, what Avimelech was saying was 'If you will kill me, then you must also kill the Tzadik (Avraham)' who caused me to sin.
Consulting the Heavenly Court
"And Hashem remembered Sarah" (21:1).
Whenever the Torah uses the word "And Hashem", it always refers to Hashem and His Beis-Din, comments the Ba'al ha'Turim. And what did the Heavenly Court have to say here?
First of all, they put in a good word for Sarah, he explains. If Sarah did not conceive immediately, the redemption (from Egypt) would be delayed. For G-d had already decreed that Avraham's children would be slaves in a foreign land for four hundred years, starting with the birth of Yitzchak. So it was essential that Sarah bore a child, the sooner the better.
Secondly, they argued that if the daughters of Lot could conceive via a permissive relationship with their father, then why should Sarah not conceive via a permissible relationship with her husband Avraham?
And thirdly, they pointed out that Sarah had been secluded with Avimelech, but did not have relations with him; and did the Torah not write that if a woman is secluded with a man but does not have relations with him, then she will bear children?
Now we don't know which argument won the day, but we do know that following the angels involvement, "Sarah became pregnant and bore Avraham a son in his old age".
When Sarah became pregnant and gave birth, all the other barren women became pregnant and gave birth too.
Perhaps they derive this from the word "es", which always comes to include something, like Rebbi Shimon ha'Amsuni teaches.
The Ba'al ha'Turim however, points out that the numerical value of "va'Hashem pokad es Sarah ... " is equivalent to that of 'Af Kol Akoros Pokad' ('He also remembered all the barren women').
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(based mainly on the Siddur
The B'rachah of Al ha'Tzadikim (cont)
Ve'Sein Sochor Tov le'Chol ha'Botchim ...
Even assuming that Shimon lives up to Reuven's expectations of him, and helps him in whatever it is that Reuven needs help, Shimon is unlikely to reward him for placing his trust in him. G-d is different, explains the Dover Shalom. Not only does He never betray our trust, but on top of that, He also rewards us for having placed our trust in Him. And that is 'the good reward' that is mentioned here.
According to the Iyun Tefilah however, we are not asking for any material rewards at all. It is not correct, he explains, to ask for a reward for Mitzvos, which, when all's said and done, we are duty-bound to fulfill. What we are asking for here, is that G-d responds positively to our faith in Him, and does not let us down, so that the nations of the world know that it pays to place one's faith in Him. It is similar, he says, to what we say in the Rosh Hashanah Amidah 'and give good hope to those who seek You' ...
Ve'lo Neivosh ki Ve'cho Botochnu
... when we conclude 'and let us not be ashamed, because we trust in You', that is precisely what we mean. It is bad enough when one's trust in a human being is betrayed. But it is considerably worse when one's prayers to Hashem, whose ability to answer us is as boundless as His kindness, go unanswered.
The Dover Shalom, in keeping with his interpretation of the good reward that we cited earlier, explains this quite differently. Someone who needs his friend's assistance he explains, even on the assumption that that assistance is forthcoming, feels embarrassed at the very fact that he needs to ask for assistance in the first place. As opposed to that, he says, not only is relying on Hashem nothing to be ashamed of, but it is actually something to be proud of. And that is why we say here 'and let us not be ashamed, because it is You in whom we place our trust (and not in someone else).
Ve'sim Chelkeinu Imahem Le'olam
It sometimes happens, says the Eitz Yosef quoting the Negid u'Mitzvah, that a person forfeits some of the reward that is due to him for his performance of Mitzvos, by having performed certain sins (such as Lashon ha'Ra). Instead, that reward is given to a Tzadik who has earned it. On the other hand, there are great Tzadikim who are prepared to return that reward to its rightful owner, provided he does Teshuvah. And that is what we are referring to here when we say 'and place our portion (the portion that we worked for) with them', a prayer that the Tzadikim who received the reward should graciously return it to us, because we are full of remorse for our sins.
Mish'an u'Mivtach la'Tzadikim
A support to lean on in this world, and a fortress in the World to Come, explains the Eitz Yosef.
Alternatively, he says, 'Mish'an' might refer to a support to protect oneself against the Yeitzer-ha'Ra, as Chazal have said 'The Rasha (the Yeitzer-ha'Ra) lies in wait for the Tzadik with intent to kill; and were it not for Hashem's assistance, he would not stand a chance against him'. And 'Mivtach' refers to the bastion called Hashem, who without fail, will reward the Tzadikim in full for their good deeds, when the time arrives.
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