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Vol. 19 No. 4
Shimon ben Wolf Frenkel z"l
Now I Know …
Commenting on the Pasuk (22;12) "Now I know that you (Avraham) are a G-d-fearing man", Rashi explains 'Now I have something (concrete) to answer the Satan and the nations of the world, who wondered at My love for you. I now have an answer for them, as they can see (for themselves) that you are a G-d-fearing man'.
Rashi is clearly perturbed by the fact that G-d knows everything, and that He was therefore aware of Avraham's greatness already before the Akeidah. Indeed, the very fact that the Torah uses the past tense ("yoda'ti" - I have known) and not the present ('Ani yodei'a') indicates this.
In similar vein, the Ramban comments that Avraham's fear of G-d, that hitherto had been merely potential, now came into the open for all to see.
In one of his two explanations, the K'li Yakar translates 'yoda'ti' as 'I have made known' (as if the Torah had written 'hoda'ti') - According to others, one simply translates the word as if it was punctuated 'yida'ti with the same effect. After all, he explains, the purpose of the test was to publicize Avraham's greatness to the world, as is implied by the word "nisah" (which is based on the word 'neis' - a flag or sign).
The Seforno points out that it was not G-d Himself who was speaking, but an angel. 'Now I know', the angel was saying, 'that G-d was justified in raising you higher than the angels' - as the Gemara says in Sanhedrin (93a) 'Tzadikim are greater than the angels'.
And he interprets the word "mimeni" (at the end of the Pasuk) to mean that 'Avraham fears G-d more than I do!' This is, no doubt, because angels fear G-d by rote, whereas Avraham (and other Tzadikim) do so by working on themselves.
What the angel is therefore saying is that he now came to realize Avraham's fear of G-d, something that G-d had known all along.
… that You are a G-d-Fearing Man
(Adapted from the Chasam Sofer)
The Chasam Sofer explains that, seeing as Avraham served G-d out of love (which is generally considered to be on a higher plane than fear), this Pasuk is clearly referring, not to the regular Yir'as Hashem, but to a level that is known as 'Yir'as ha'Romemus', an intrinsic awe of G-d (rather than fear of His punishments), that develops from Ahavas Hashem, but that rises higher than it, as we shall now explain.
G-d loved Avraham and fulfilled all his requests, so it was natural that Avraham, in return, loved G-d. When G-d told Avraham that his reward was great (see Lech-L'cha 15:1), he replied that any reward he might receive was meaningless as long as he had no children. G-d responded by promising him a son. Clearly then, that was the only thing that really mattered to him. Consequently, his love of G-d was basically dependent on the fulfillment of that request. Now that he was about to sacrifice his son, his one wish was being denied him, and as Chazal have said 'Any love that is dependent upon something dissipates when that something becomes negated'. That being the case, had Avraham been imbued with Ahavas Hashem alone, he would not have been able to withstand the test of the Akeidah, and it was only because that Ahavas Hashem led to Yir'as ha'Romemus, which is not dependent upon anything, that he was able to do so.
Hence G-d referred to him as a Yerei Shamayim, whose fear of G-d is absolute and cannot be swayed. And that explains why G-d went on to promise to increase his children like the stars of the Heaven … whom He would love even if they sinned - measure for measure.
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(Adapted from the Riva)
"And G-d appeared to him (Avraham) in the plains of Mamrei" (18:1).
Rashi, citing a Medrash Rabah, explains that Mamrei was the one to advise him on the B'ris Milah.
The Medrash relates how, when G-d commanded Avraham to perform the Mitzvah, he went to consult his three friends, Aner, Eshkol and Mamrei. Both Aner and Eshkol advised him to desist; the former, because 'Why should an old man of a hundred cause himself such pain?', and the latter because 'Why castrate yourself among your enemies?' Mamrei, on the other hand, said to him 'Did G-d not stand by you in the fiery furnace, in the time of famine and when you fought the four kings? So now when he asks to perform the Milah, will you refuse?!'
It is inconceivable, says the Chizkuni, that Avraham could ask advice as to whether to perform G-d's command! And he explains that Avraham was merely testing his friends, who had entered into a covenant with him, to determine their level of trustworthiness. Sure enough, he discovered that his only genuine friend was Mamrei.
Others explain that Avraham asked his friends whether to perform the Mitzvah in public, or whether to do it secretly; and yet others explain that it was regarding details concerning whereabout on the body he should perform the Mitzvah. Neither of these explanations however, seem to conform to the Medrash that the author cited earlier.
Sarah Might Laugh
"And behold there were three men" (18:2).
One of them, Rashi explains, came to inform Sarah (that she would give birth to a son).
But why was this necessary, asks the Riva. Already in last week's Parshah, G-d informed Avraham that Sarah would give birth. Surely he would have passed on the good news to Sarah?
He didn't, answers the Riva, because he was afraid that Sarah would laugh it off as a joke.
Sarah laughed anyway, the author points out (but that was G-d's business, not Avraham's).
Avraham laughed too, as the Pasuk in Lech-l'cha attests, but, as Rashi explains there, he laughed out of joy, whereas when Sarah laughed, she did so out of skepticism.
The question arises why Sarah did not believe the news in the way that Avraham did? Moreover, how did Avraham know that she wouldn't?
In answer to these questions, the Riva reminds us that whereas Avraham heard the news directly from G-d, Sarah heard it from an angel - an angel who resembled a human-being to boot!
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THE BA'AL HA'TURIM
"For I love him, because he will command his children (asheR yetzaveH eT banaV and the members of his household after him …" (18:19).
The last letters of these four words spell 'Torah', the Ba'al ha'Turim points out, as well as being equivalent to the Gematriyah of 'B'ris'.
"And I am (merely) dust (ofor) and ashes (eifer)" (18:27).
Chazal state that it is due to these words (depicting Avraham's humility) that Yisrael merited the 'dust of the Sotah and the ashes of the Parah adumah'.
Indeed the Ba'al ha'Turim comments, the Gematriyah of "ofor" is equivalent to that of 'le'Sotah' (spelt with a 'Siyn', as in "Ish ki sisteh"), whereas that of "vo'eifer" is equivalent to 'be'Parah'.
" … and he (Lot) baked Matzos (u'matzos), and they (the angels) ate" (19:3).
The word "u'Matzos" also appears in Parshas Bo (12:8), in connection with the Korban Pesach "tz'li eish u'matzos … ". This teaches us, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, that the incident with Lot took place on Pesach (See also Rashi).
"And his (Lot's) wife (ishto) looked behind her … " (19:26).
The Gematriyah of "ishto" is equivalent to that of 'hi Iris' (which was her name).
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