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

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Vol. 15   No. 4

This issue is sponsored le'Iluy Nishmas
Gedalyah ben Chippy Tziporah z.l.
by his family

Parshas Vayeira

All About the Akeidah
(Adapted from the Oznayim la'Torah)

What Was Yishmael Doing There

"And he took his two servants with him" (22:3).

His two servants were none other than Yishmael and Eliezer, says Rashi.

'Yishmael?', asks the Oznayim la'Torah. But Yishmael was in the desert, where he resided since being expelled from his parental home earlier in the Parshah? Nor can we switch the order of the two Parshiyos, based on the principle that the Torah does not always follow the chronological order. Why not? Because Sarah, who was instrumental in Yishmael's expulsion, died immediately after the Akeidah.


Perhaps, the Oznayim la'Torah suggests, Avraham brought Yishmael back, to take him as one of the two servants that every important person takes with him on a long journey.

This answer however, appears strange. Was there nobody else who could accompany Avraham other than Eliezer and Yishmael? What was wrong, for example, with his good friends Oner, Eshkol and Mamrei?


I seem to recall however, that, based on the Medrash that we once cited, where following a visit from Avraham, Yishmael took his father's advice and divorced his inhospitable wife and married a kind-hearted woman who treated guests in a way that met with Avraham's approval, the commentaries explain that Avraham recalled Yishmael - before the Akeidah took place.


On the Way Back

The Oznayim la'Torah also comments that the second servant was only necessary for the return journey, seeing as, on the way to the Akeidah, Avraham had Eliezer and Yitzchak, and it was only after Yitzchak had been Shechted at the Akeidah, that a second servant would be needed.

Yitzchak, points out the Oznayim la'Torah, was not Shechted, yet Avraham's efforts to obtain a second servant were not in vain, for the Pasuk concludes that Avraham returned to Be'er Sheva with his two servants - Yitzchak is not mentioned. As the Medrash informs us, angels whisked him away to learn Torah in the Yeshivah of Shem & Eiver.


Yishmael's 'Attachment' to the Beis-Hamidkash

"And he (Avraham) saw the place from afar" (22:4).

He actually saw a Cloud (symbolizing the presence of the Shechinah) hovering over the mountain.

The Medrash explains that when he asked Yitzchak what he saw, he replied that he too, saw the Cloud, but that when he asked Yishmael and Eliezer the same question, they replied that they saw nothing.


So much for the Arabs' claim that the location of the Beis-Hamikdash is holy to them too, comments the Oznayim la'Torah. Here we see that their father Yishmael openly admitted that he saw no Kedushah on the mountain, even when the Shechinah was resting on it!


Hidur Mitzvah

"And Avraham took the wood of the Olah and he placed it on Yitzchak his son " (22:6).

The Oznayim la'Torah wonders at this, comparing it to the story cited in the Medrash of the spirit of a certain deceased sinner, whom R. Akiva once met, and whom the Heavenly Court had sentenced to carry a bundle of wood on his shoulders, one which would subsequently be used to burn him with.

Now Yitzchak was not a sinner, so why did Avraham force him to carry the wood with which he would subsequently be burned?


Eventually, he discovered a Selichah which describes the wood that Yitzchak carried as an ornament. In other words, it was considered a Hidur Mitzvah to bring the Korban with the wood on his shoulders to the Mizbei'ach; much in the same way as they would adorn the basket containing the Bikurim before taking it into the Beis-Hamikdash. Likewise, the moment Avraham saw the 'place from afar', he adorned 'the Korban' by placing the wood with which he was about to be burned on his shoulders.


Second Time Lucky

"And an angel of Hashem called to Avraham a second time and he said because I will surely bless you " (22:15-17). The question arises as to why G-d did not bless Avraham when He spoke to him the first time, and instructed him to desist from Shechting his son. Why did He do so only after the second time?


It appears, says the Oznayim la'Torah, that a Korban that is brought satisfactorily is a catalyst to B'rachah; like we find in Shemini, when, on the eighth day of the Milu'im, Aharon blessed the people only after he had finished bringing the Korbanos of the day.

Likewise, here, it was only after Avraham had replaced Yitzchak with the ram, which he found and brought up in his stead, that G-d blessed him.

* * *

Parsha Pearls

The Three Angels

"And he saw, and there were three men standing next to him " (18:2).

One of the three angels, comments the Medrash, was disguised as an Arab, one as a grain-merchant and one as a sailor.

The Ma'ayanah shel Torah citing the Zera Barech, explains the Medrash in the following way. It is common practice that a big-time merchant with multiple merchandise appoints managers over each individual storehouse. In the event that he becomes ill, the first ones to visit him are those managers.

Commenting on the Pasuk in Bereishis "These are the generations of the heaven and the earth when they were created ("be'hi'bor'om", which contains the same letters as 'be'Avraham'), Chazal explain that the entire world was created specifically on behalf of Avraham. They also say elsewhere, that the world is divided into three parts, a third, desert; a third inhabited land, and a third, sea.

Assuming that G-d placed an angel to manage each section, then what the Medrash is teaching us is that the three visitors that visited Avraham were none other than those very three angels, each one manager of part of the vast storehouse that was owned by their boss, who was now ill.


The three angels, say Chazal, were Micha'el, Refa'el and Gavriel. Micha'el came to give Sarah the news that she was destined to give birth to a baby, Refa'el came to heal Avraham from the sores of the B'ris Milah that he had just undergone, whereas Gavriel came to overturn S'dom. According to Rashi, the three angels represented Chesed, Rachamim, and Din respectively, and Refael went from there to save Lot (another act of Rachamim).


Rabeinu Bachye however, maintains that Refael's exclusive task was to heal, and it was therefore Micha'el who went on to save Lot. As for one angel not performing two missions simultaneously, he explains, that is only if the two missions are diametrically opposed (e.g. if one is Din and the other, Rachamim), but there is no problem if the two missions comprise Chesed and Rachamim, which are complementary.


R. Bachye also points out that the three angels represent three of the four camps that surround G-d's Throne. The fourth angel (Uriel) he explains, had already appeared to him at the B'ris bein ha'Besarim.


Hachnasas Orchim, Avraham-Style
(Adapted from the Ma'ayanah shel Torah)

"And Avraham hurried to the tent to Sarah, and he said 'Hurry ' " (18:6), a word which is repeated a number of times in the Parshah.

The Torah is coming to teach us here, says the Avnei Azeil, that, in order to perform Hachnasas Orchim properly, one needs to do it quickly. And he cites the story from Ta'anis 21, where Nachum Ish Gamzu was once stopped by a poor man who asked him for food. He descended from his camel and began untying one of the sacks of food that he happened to be transporting to his father-in-law's house. But before he managed to complete the task, the poor man dropped dead - from hunger.

One never knows quite how hungry one's guests are. It may not always be a matter of life and death. Nevertheless, alleviating the pangs of hunger of a hungry guest is part of the Mitzvah of Hachnasas Orchim, and on Avraham's level of Hachnasas Orchim, every second that he could alleviate their suffering, would have been considered a Hidur Mitzvah, and so he ran as he saw to their every need, in spite of the heat and in spite of his physical pain following the Milah, in order to remove their pangs of hunger as quickly as possible.


According to R. Leibele Charif, the issue was not Hachnasas Orchim, but Pesach. As Rashi points out, the incident with the angels took place on Pesach. The Halachah dictates that one is not allowed to knead more than the minimum amount of Shi'ur Chalah, in case it becomes Chametz.

The Rosh queries this from the Lechem ha'Panim, which was baked as Matzah, and where each Chalah comprised two Esronim (whereas the Shi'ur Chalah is one Isaron)?

To which the Magein Avraham replies that the Lechem ha'Panim was different, inasmuch as it was baked by Kohanim, who are known to be Z'rizim (alert), and who would therefore take special care that the dough did not become Chametz.


Avraham wanted Sarah to bake three Sa'ah of flour (ten times the amount of Shi'ur Chalah), on Pesach. The only Heter to do this was to employ someone who was a zariz to do it, as it had to be done in a hurry. A bigger Zariz than Sarah he could not find, and, knowing he could rely on her, he reminded her to hurry whilst she did it.


No Chametz on Pesach

"And he took butter and milk, and the calf that he had prepared " (18:8).

He did not bring the bread that Sarah had prepared, say Chazal, because Sarah had become a Nidah, and Avraham was particular to eat even Chulin in purity.

Is that a reason, asks Rabeinu Bachye, to deprive his guests of a proper meal. Is it because he was strict to eat his Chulin be'Taharah, that his guests should be deprived of food?


Not at all, he answers. It was Pesach and what happened was, the moment Sarah became Tamei, she stopped kneading the dough with which she was currently busy. And Avraham was afraid that during the period that Sarah hesitated, the dough may have become Chametz, so he declined to serve it. And we know it was Pesach, says Rabeinu Bachye, from the fact that the Torah mentions the word "Ugos" (cakes) here, and "Matzos" in connection with Lot, which together, read "Ugos Matzos", which is how the Torah describes Matzos on Pesach (in Parshas Bo).

For so is the way of the Torah, he explains (following in the footsteps of the Ramban), to supplement in one place, what is missing in another.


Why Ask Avraham?

"And Hashem said to Avraham, 'Why did Sarah laugh ?' " (18:13).

Why, asks R. Yisrael Salanter, did G-d address these words to Avraham, rather than to Sarah herself?

And he answers with a parable from everyday life. If somebody walks into his friend's kitchen and discovers that his friend is not particular about Kashrus, he places the blame on the husband. Because when a man is lax in these matters, his wife is more lax still, and the servants are more lax still.

Here too, when Sarah laughed, Hashem immediately questioned Avraham, because if it was a flaw in Sarah's level of Emunah, then there must have been some flaw in Avraham's. And it was to teach us this lesson that G-d asked Avraham why Sarah laughed.


Relatively Speaking

"Perhaps there are fifty Tzadikim in the midst of the city" (18:24).

There are two kinds of goodness, says the Meshech Chochmah, one intrinsic, the other relative. When Avraham suggested that perhaps there were fifty Tzadikim in the midst of the city, he meant that perhaps, compared to the other residents, they were Tzadikim, but not for one moment did he think that there were fifty real Tzadikim in S'dom (much in the same way as one opinion explains the Tzidkus of No'ach 'in his generations').


Tzadikim of a Kind

"Come, let us satiate our father with wine" (19:32).

The Torah deliberately tells us this immediately after the downfall of S'dom, says the Chasam Sofer, to give us an idea of the depraved character of the people of S'dom, if, by comparison, Lot and his daughters were considered Tzadikim.


Avraham's Humility

"And they went together to Be'er Sheva" (22:19).

Avraham Avinu had just been through what was the most difficult Nisayon imaginable, and he had emerged with flying colours. He had reached the highest levels of spirituality that a human being can attain; yet there was not as much as a speck of pride to be found in him. He went together with Yishmael and Eliezer (on a par with them) without any feelings of superiority, as if nothing had happened (R. Shalom mi'Kaminka).

* * *


"And he raised his eyes, and he beheld three angels in the guise of men standing before him one came to give him the news that Sarah would bear a boy; one came to save Lot and one came to overturn S'dom and Amorah " (18:2). See Parshah Pearls 'The Three Angels'.


"And I will prepare a feast and you will eat and thank Hashem and then you will proceed on your way, seeing as the reason that you happened to come past your servant at mealtime was in order to participate in the feast " (18:5).


"And one of them said 'I will return to you this time next year. You will still be alive, and Sarah your wife will have a son. And Sarah heard from the entrance of the tent, and Yishmael, who was standing behind her, took note of what the angel said" (18:10).


"And G-d said to the administering angels 'The complaints against S'dom and Amorah, who rob the poor and who have decreed that whoever gives bread to the poor will be burned in fire, are many " (18:20).


"Perhaps there are fifty innocent people in the city, who will pray to You, ten from each town " (18:24).


"Perhaps from the fifty innocent people there are five missing;is it on account of the five missing men from Tzo'ar that you will destroy the entire town (i.e. all five towns)?" (18:28).


"And he continued to speak before Him, and he said 'Perhaps only forty will be found, ten from each of the four cities; Will you not spare Tzo'ar, whose sins are few, for the sake of Your mercy" (18:29).


"And he said ' Perhaps there will be thirty who will pray to you, ten for each of three of the cities, and Tzevoyim and Tzo'ar You will spare for the sake of Your mercy" (18:30).


"And he said ' Let me speak just this once; Perhaps there will be only ten, then I and they will plead with You to have mercy on the entire place. Will You not forgive them? " (18:32).

* * *

The Haftarah

The Shunamis

The Shunamis, the commentaries explain, was the wife of Ido ha'Navi (a Talmid of Eliyahu ha'Navi). She was actually the sister of Avishag ha'Shunamis, the girl who kept David ha'Melech warm in his old age, as the Pasuk in Melachim explains. Interestingly, the Shunamis lived in the time of Elisha, whereas the story with Avishag and David took place over a hundred years earlier.


A Great Woman

Defining the Shunamis' title "a great woman", that the Navi bestows upon her, the Zohar explains that she was outstanding in good deeds, to the point that all the members of her household praised her, in that she was the cornerstone of her house. Moreover, says the Zohar, she was greater than all the other women in the world, who were miserly-inclined towards their guests. She on the other hand, was genuinely happy when Elisha arrived, incurring expenses on his behalf and going out of her way to make him confortable. She made his bed every evening and every morning, and it was from the fragrant smell of Gan Eden that emanated from his sheets that she understood that he was a man of G-d.


Rosh Hashanah

"It happened one day". That day, says the Zohar, was Rosh Hashanah, when G-d judges the world. When Elisha asked the Shunamis whether he could speak with the King on her behalf, he was referring to G-d, King of the world; and when she answered 'I dwell among my people', she meant that she preferred to remain anonymous, another Jewess, without turning the spotlight on herself, as that would merely intensify the Midas ha'Din on herself.


The Shunamis' Son

Chazal also point out that the Shunamis' son was Chavakuk, who later became a Navi in his own right.

Why was he called 'Chavakuk'? The Zohar explains that it is based on the words that Elisha said to his mother "At this time next year you will hug a son (at chovekes ben). And the double 'Kuf' in his name, says the Zohar, stands for the double hug that he received; one from his mother, the other, from Elisha himself, who had to hug him in order to bring him back to life.


On the Merit of the Shunamis

The Gemara in B'rachos (10b), based on the Pasuk in Yeshayah, 38:2 'And he (Chizkiyahu ha'Melech) turned his face to the wall and he Davened", explains how Chizkiyahu ha'Melech (after being told by the Navi that he was destined to die for not getting married), asked G-d to spare him, using the argument that, if the Shunamis son was spared on the merit of his mother, who had built one wall for Elisha, then surely he ought to be spared on the merit of his great-grandfather David, who had 'overlaid the entire Heichal with silver and gold'. And his prayer was answered. He lived another fifteen years.

* * *

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