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

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Vol. 13   No. 4

This issue is sponsored
in honour of the B'nos Mitzvah of
Shirah Keilah and Tovah Rus Chrysler n.y.
May they continue along the path of
Torah and Mitzvos and go from strength to strength
to be a credit always to their family
and the whole of Klal Yisrael

Parshas Vayeiro

Making Hay ...
Adapted from the Ma'ayanah shel Torah

"And he saw and behold three 'men' were standing beside him" (18:2).

Refa'el, explains Rashi, who had come to heal Avraham from the sores of the B'ris Milah, went on to save Lot.


On the day that the Gaon R. Shlomoh Kluger took up the position as Rav of B'rod, he was honoured with the Sandeka'os at a B'ris. Arriving at the location where the B'ris was due to take place, he was informed that the father of the baby was dangerously ill, and they were waiting for him to die so that they could name the baby after him, as was customary at that time. But the new Rav insisted that they perform the B'ris as quickly as possible. This was done, and remarkably, the father recovered.

Needless to say, the above episode became the talk of the town, and the people began to refer to their Rav as 'a miracle-worker'.

Not at all, an amused R. Shlomoh Kluger corrected them, when the comments reached his ears. He had learned it from the above Rashi, and he proceeded to explain ...

At first glance, the Rashi is very difficult to understand. Is G-d short of angels, that He had to send the same angel who healed Avraham to go and save Lot. Why did He not send him an individual angel, like He did to inform Sarah that she would give birth to a son?

Presumably, he replied, it was because the merits of Lot were not sufficiently numerous to earn himself an angel all on his own. So G-d circumvented the problem by taking an angel that had been sent down anyway to save Avraham (from his illness), to save Lot at the same time (most appropriate, since whatever merits Lot did have was certainly the result of his having joined Avraham's retinue in the first place). So it made good sense for the angel that saved Avraham to save him too. 'I therefore took my cue from this Rashi', R. Shlomoh Kluger concluded. I assumed that they were judging the baby's father in Heaven as to whether he should survive or not, and that perhaps he did not have sufficient merit to warrant a special angel to be sent down on his behalf. So I ordered the B'ris to take place immediately, in the knowledge that Eliyahu the 'Mal'ach ha'B'ris' would have to come down anyway, to cure the baby, and once he cured the baby I reckoned, he might also cure the baby's father in the next room, with or without special merit.

Perhaps we can even connect this idea with Chazal, who have said in Bava Metzi'a (8a) that even in situations where somebody cannot acquire something on behalf of a second person, he can do so if he acquires it for himself at the same time ('Migu de'zachi le'nafsheih. Zachi nami le'chavreih'). And who knows, perhaps this is even the source of the famous adage 'Make hay while the sun shines'.


Saved by David, by the Grace of Avraham

The Chidushei ha'Rim gives the following explanation as to why G-d did not send an independent angel to save Lot, particularly in view of Rashi's statement that one angel cannot carry out two missions ...

One of the reasons that Lot was saved was due to the merit of David ha'Melech, who was destined to descend from him. The problem that plagued the Sanhedrin generation after generation was whether David Hamelech was even eligible to enter the ranks of K'lal Yisrael (let alone to rule), seeing as he descended from Rus, who was a daughter of Mo'av. Nor was the ruling (based on the Pasuk in ki Seitzei "Lo yovo Mo'ovi bi'Kehal Hashem"), "Mo'ovi", 've'lo Mo'ovis', precluding Mo'ovi women from the prohibition, fully accepted at that time, because just as the men were disqualified for not offering the Jewish men (who were their cousins) food in the desert, so too, should the women be disqualified for not offering the women.

The Gemara's conclusion is that the Mo'avi women were not culpable, because, ideally speaking, the place of a woman is in the home, in which case the Mo'ovi women could not be taken to task for not making the journey to the desert with food for the Jewish women.

This principle in modesty it seems, is not so obvious, the Chidushei ha'Rim concludes, and might not even have been accepted as Halachah, had Avraham not replied to his visitors 'Behold she is in the tent' thereby fixing the Halachah that women belong in the home, and not in the street, for as is well-known, the ruling in Heaven follows the ruling of the Gedolim on earth. Had he not made that declaration, the Mo'ovi women (whose failure to bring the Jewish women food was certainly not a result of Avraham's statement), would have indeed been taken to task for not doing so, and David would have been pronounced disqualified.

In any event, it transpired that, when G-d initially sent the angels, the reason to save Lot was as yet not applicable, and therefore there was no reason to send a fourth angel.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
Adapted from the P'ninei Torah

The Angels Can Wait

"Hashem ... Please do not pass away from your servant" (18:3).

According to Rashi's second explanation, the first word in the Pasuk refers to Hashem (and not to the three 'men'). Avraham was asking G-d to wait whilst he went to see to his guests.


One Friday night, when the Chofetz Chayim had guests, he first made Kidush and ate, and only then did he sing 'Shalom Aleichem'. 'The guests are hungry', he explained, 'and need to eat. The angels can wait!'

He took his cue from Avraham, the P'ninei Torah explains, who asked Hashem to wait whilst he went to look after his guests.


Flour and Torah

"Hurry (bring) three Sa'ah of fine flour ... " (18:6).

When Moshe came to receive the Torah, Chazal say, the angels came up with various arguments, to try and prove that Torah belongs in Heaven, and not on earth ... until G-d showed them Moshe Rabeinu, in the likeness of Avraham Avinu. He reminded them how they had been guests at his table, and reminded that them that they owed him a debt of gratitude. That was when they fell silent and Moshe took the Torah. Hence the Chachamim state in Pirkei Avos 'If there is no flour, there is no Torah' (a hint, says the Maharam Shif, that had Avraham not fed the angels who came to visit him, Moshe would not have succeeded in taking the Torah down to earth).

On the other hand, he explains, if the Avos had not kept the entire Torah (including Hachnasas Orchim), Avraham would not have served the angels flour. And that is hinted in the second half of the Mishnah 'Im Ein Torah, Ein Kemach' (had there been no Torah, Avraham would not have fed the angels).


When G-d 'Walked' Away

"I will not destroy (S'dom) on account of the ten.' G-d went away, and Avraham returned to his place" (18:32). The question is asked as to why Avraham stopped at ten. Why did he not he not go down to nine, eight and seven (see Rashi)? In fact, says R. Yosef Shaul Natanson, the Pasuk itself answers the question. Immediately after declaring that He would not destroy S'dom for the sake of ten Tzadikim in the town, the Pasuk continues "And G-d went away", a clear indication that there was nothing more to say (see Bereishis Rabah).


Anything But the Truth

"This fellow came to sojourn and he already judges!" (19"9).

The expression used for the last part of the phrase is 'va'yishpot shofot', a seemingly excessive phrase.

The mere fact that Lot was a stranger and was already acting like a judge was not unusual in S'dom, where the word 'conventional' (particularly when it concerned judging) was a misnomer. Their accusation was that Lot's decisions did not conform with the rules practiced in S'dom, but rather with the truth. That is why they said "va'yishpot shofot", 'and he will judge justly!' That is unacceptable! (Rashbaz).


Vanity & Perspective

"And there is no man in the land to marry us" (19:31).

The daughters of Lot considered themselves extremely important, and were complaining that there was nobody on their level to marry them, explains the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos.

So what did they do? They connived to have relations with their father, whose Yichus posed no problem for them.

And the elder sister publicized what they did by naming her son 'Mo'av' (intimating that he was born from her father ['me'Av'], as Rashi explains).

Come and see, says the P'ninei Torah, what vanity can do to a person's perspective. Lot's daughter was not ashamed to call her son 'Mo'av' (from my father), as long as nobody suspected her (heaven forbid) of marrying below her status.


Who Will Influence Whom

"Drive out this maidservant and her son" (21:11).

The Chafetz Chayim explains the dispute between Avraham and Sarah regarding whether or not to send Yishmael away. Sarah wanted to send him away, for fear that he would influence her son Yitzchak. Avraham on the other hand, wanted him to remain, so that Yitzchak would influence him.

G-d intervened and made it clear that Sarah was right "Whatever Sarah tells you, do as she says", because, when good and evil clash, the chances that evil will prevail are too strong to take a chance. The evil must go!

* * *

From the Haftarah
Adapted from the Ma'ayanah shel Torah

A Belated Death

"And a woman from the wives of the sons of the Nevi'im cried out to Elisha saying 'your servant my husband died, and the creditor (Yehoram ben Achav) has come to claim my two sons as servants' " (Melachim 2 4:1).

The woman, who was the wife of the deceased prophet Ovadyah, mentioned the death of her husband here, the Avnei Azel explains, because, as Chazal have said, as long as a person's sons continue to go in their righteous father's ways, he is considered as if he was still alive.

Consequently, before King Yehoram came to claim his debt, the woman had hoped to bring up her children in the ways of their illustrious father. But now that he was taking them away to serve in the palace, the chances of that happening were slim. So she felt justified in now referring to Ovadyah as having died.


Black Sheep & White Sheep

"And you know 've'Atoh yoda'ato ... ' that your servant (Ovadyah) feared G-d" (ibid.)

In the opening phrase, comments the Mekor Boruch, the word "ve'Atoh" appears to be superfluous, since 'yoda'ato' itself means 'you know'. And he explains it in the following way.

As is well-known he says, Ovadyah was a servant in the palace of King Achav (Yehoram's father). Now the Pasuk says in Mishlei (29:12) that the servants of a wicked ruler are bound to be wicked just like their master. So how could Ovadyah's wife refer to her husband as a G-d-fearing man?

The answer must be that he was the exception to the rule. And based on the Gemara in the first chapter of Chulin, which informs us that the same principle holds true in the reverse case (that the servants of a righteous man are all righteous), we can corroborate it from Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the prophet, for here we have Elisha, a righteous leader, whose closest disciple was wicked. Evidently, every rule has its exceptions.

And that explains why the wife of Ovadyah added the word "ve'Atoh" in the above Pasuk. 'You more than anyone else,' she was saying to Elisha, 'will have to admit that the fact that my husband was a servant of Achav did not clash with his title Tzadik, any more than the fact that Gechazi having served you did not clash with the title Rasha.'

* * *

Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Please bear in mind that the rulings in this article reflect the opinion of the Seifer ha'Chinuch and are not necessarily Halachah.

Mitzvah 35:
Not To Commit Adultery with a Married Woman

It is forbidden to commit adultery, as the Torah writes in Yisro (20:13) "Do not commit adultery". The traditional interpretation of adultery is being intimate with a married woman (and does not include incest, which has its own series of La'avin). This Mitzvah is repeated in Parshas Acharei-Mos (18:20) where the Torah specifically forbids having relations with a married woman.

Reasons for the Mitzvah ... for the world to be inhabited in a way that conforms with G-d's wishes, and G-d wants each species that He created to reproduce from their own species, and not by mixing one species with another. Similarly, He wants the offspring to recognize their father, and not to mix the seed of one man with that of another. In addition, adultery causes the negation of many aspects of the obligation to honour one's parents, whom the children born from an adulterous relationship do not generally recognize. And another stumbling block that results from adultery is with regard to the prohibition of marrying one's sister (or any other close blood-relative for that matter) who remains unknown to that child. Then of course, there is the aspect of Gezel (stealing a woman from her husband) which, logic dictates, is wrong. And sometimes, it even causes loss of life, due to the violent reaction of the husband, (since it is only natural for a husband to react zealously when he discovers that another man has been with his wife, and to seek revenge). And there are other obstacles that result from adultery.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah ... Distancing oneself from the sin, such as by not secluding oneself with a married woman ... The punishment of both the adulterer and the adulteress (who is no less guilty than the man) ... and the other details ... are discussed in Maseches Sanhedrin and elsewhere in Shas. The Gemara there (51a) rules that both parties receive Chenek (strangulation) if the woman is married, and the more stringent punishment of Sekilah (stoning) if she is betrothed, unless she is the daughter of a Kohen, in which case she is sentenced to S'reifah (burning), though the man still receives Chenek . This Isur is among those that extend to the whole of mankind. There is a slight distinction however, between our Mitzvos and those of the B'nei No'ach, in that a gentile acquires a woman through intimacy, whereas a Jew acquires her through Kidushin (betrothal). In any event, it would make no difference, since the punishment by a gentile is always Hereg (death by the sword, as we learned in Mitzvah 34).


Mitzvah 36:
Not to Kidnap a Fellow-Jew

It is forbidden to kidnap a fellow-Jew, as the Torah writes in Yisro (20:13) "Do not steal", and traditionally this refers to kidnapping (stealing a person).

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah ... It makes no difference whether the person being kidnapped is a grown-up or a child, a man or a woman, since "Nefesh" incorporates them all (Rambam Hilchos Geneivah 9:6) ... The Din of a father who kidnaps his own son, or a Rav, his Talmid ... and the remaining details, are discussed in the eleventh Perek of Sanhedrin.

The Mitzvah applies everywhere to men and to women. Someone who contravenes it and kidnaps a Jew is subject to Chenek, provided he also sold him, as the Gemara explains in Sanhedrin (85b); and the source for this is the Pasuk in Mishpatim "And someone who steals a person and sells him shall surely die" (Sh'mos 21:16).


Mitzvah 37:
Not to Testify Falsely

It is forbidden to give false testimony, as the Torah writes in Yisro (20:13) "Do not testify falsely against your fellow-Jew". Elsewhere, the Torah uses the expression "Eid shov" (futile testimony) rather than "Eid sheker" as it writes here. The reason for this Mitzvah is self-evident, since falsehood is totally rejected in the eyes of any intelligent person. And besides, the world stands on truthful evidence, since every dispute can be settled with the testimony of people who know the truth. If so, false testimony causes the disintegration of society.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah ... From whom one may and from whom one may not accept testimony ... What invalidates a person from testifying ... How Beis-Din accept the witnesses ...There are some people who are forbidden to testify as a result of their high position ... The cross-examination and questioning of the witnesses ... The differences between the witnesses in cases regarding money matters and those regarding matters of life and death ... The two levels of examination (known as D'rishah and Bedikah), and the difference between the written testimony in a document and oral testimony in Beis-Din ... together with the remaining details, are all discussed in Sanhedrin and elsewhere in the Gemara.

This Mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times to men, but not to women, who are not eligible to testify since testimony requires concentration and an abundance of Yishuv ha'Da'as (a settled mind). Someone who contravenes this La'av and testifies falsely against his fellow-Jew receives whatever punishment his testimony would have resulted in the defendant receiving, as well as Malkus, as is explained in Sanhedrin.

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