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

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Vol. 21   No. 4

This issue is sponsored
לעילוי הנשמות הטהורות והקדושות הי"ד
של ששת המיליון
שנספו בשואה על קידוש ה'.

Parshas Vayeira

Avraham's Friends

"And G-d appeared to him (Avraham) in the plains of Mamrei, and he (Avraham) was sitting at the entrance of the tent, in the heat of the day." (18:1).

Rashi explains that Mamrei merited that G-d appeared to Avraham in his portion of field, because he was the one to advise him with regard to the B'ris Milah.

According to the Medrash Tanchuma, cited by the Oznayim la'Torah, he first consulted his friend Aner, who advised him against performing the B'ris Milah, because, he said, the relatives of the four kings, whom Avraham had just defeated, would be certain to attack him in revenge for what he had just done, and he would be in no position to escape.

He then went to Eshkol, the second of his close friends, who maintained that performing B'ris Milah at his age, was dangerous and was therefore highly inadvisable. According to others, he advised him to go ahead with the actual Milah, but that he should not do it publicly.


Many commentaries ask why Avraham Avinu, who went through ten tests without consulting anybody, should ask his friends for their opinion when it came to the B'ris Milah - a Mitzvah which every Jew subsequently performs without question?

What would Avraham have done had they unanimously advised him against it (which according to some, is almost what happened)?


The author therefore explains that, Avraham to be sure, was careful to go in the ways of G-d, who said " … for I am G-d, who loves justice, who hates a burnt-offering that involves theft" (Yeshayah 61). Consequently, when performing a Mitzvah, he took care that his Mitzvah should not cause anybody else a loss. Thus it was, when he decided to go ahead with the Mitzvah of B'ris Milah, to circumcise himself together with all the members of his household on the same day, he realized that this may well cause serious harm to his friends, Aner, Eshkol and Mamrei, with whom he had made an alliance. In fact, what he was about to do threatened that very alliance. His friends relied on him and on his three hundred and eighteen 'troops' to protect them in case of an attack; but now that they would all be incapacitated for a few days at least, the fear that their enemies would take advantage of the allies inability to come to their aid.

One has only to see how the entire town of Sh'chem found themselves at the mercy of Shimon and Levi, because they had all circumcised a few days earlier, to realize just how real that fear was.

And that fear was particularly tangible in the form of the relatives and friends of the four kings and their armies whom Avraham had just defeated. That explains why Avraham felt duty-bound to discuss the situation with the three allies, to see what could be done to safeguard their alliance, to find ways and means to ensure that they would come to no harm.

In any event, there was no question of him changing his mind, since he had been commanded to perform the B'ris Milah, and that is what he was going to do. And in the event that they objected to him going ahead with it, then they would be fully entitled to withdraw from the alliance and even to publicize the fact that from now on, they would have nothing more to do with him.


What transpired was that Aner advised him against performing the Mitzvah and Eshkol (according to the second explanation that we cited earlier) advised him to do it discreetly, so that their enemies would not get to know about it. And it was only Mamrei who willingly stuck to the alliance. He advised him to have faith in G-d and to go ahead with the Mitzvah without reservations. And that is why G-d appeared to Avraham in his portion of land.


Interestingly, the Oznayim la'Torah concludes, when it came to the crunch, when all the members of Avraham's household were circumcised, his three friends circumcised too. Indeed, the Medrash, commenting on the name 'Kiryas Arba' (the original name of Chevron), explains that it was so-called because four Tzadikim performed the Mitzvah of B'ris Milah there - Avraham, Aner, Eshkol and Mamrei. It seems that ultimately, Avraham dispelled their fears and convinced them that, if they can't beat him, they should join him.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Based on the Oznayim la'Torah)

The Heat of Gehinom

" … and he was sitting at the entrance of the tent in the heat of the day" (18:1).

See Rashi.

The Oznayim la'Torah, quoting the Medrash, explains that G-d bored a hole in Gehinom, allowing some of its heat to escape and heat up the world - until it became unbearable to walk outside.

This gives us a slight insight, says the author, as to what Gehinom feels like. B'ris Milah, he reminds us, is the Mitzvah that spares a person from having to suffer the fire of Gehinom.


Avraham's Chesed

" … in the heat of the day" (18:1).

Rashi explains that G-d deliberately 'turned on the heat', in order to spare Avraham the trouble of entertaining guests immediately after performing the B'ris Milah. Then, when Avraham was upset because no guests arrived, He sent angels … to cheer him up.

The question arises, if Avraham wanted guests, why did G-d see fit to perform two seemingly superfluous miracles?


The answer lies in the fact that the purpose of this test (as well as all his other tests) was not so much to discover Avraham's greatness (which G-d knew anyway) but to show the world who Avraham was; to follow in his footsteps, and why G-d chose him and loved him. Hence the root of the word "Nisoyon' (test), just like the word 'Neis' itself, is identical to the word that means a 'flagpole' ('Neis'). And the purpose of a flagpole is as a marker, to show the people where they need to go.

Consequently, the current test was to teach the people the true meaning of Chesed. That it may be a wonderful thing to perform Chesed when it comes one's way. But from Avraham Avinu we learn that a genuine Ba'al-Chased actually feels miserable when he cannot perform charitable acts, and to the extent that the above episode demonstrates.


The Three 'Men'

"And behold three men were standing next to him …" (18:2).

The Oznayim la'Torah explains that the angels appeared to Avraham in the form of men, because, had they appeared in the form of angels, Avraham would have become even more upset than he was. At least now, he explains, he genuinely believed that he was performing a. the Mitzvah of Hachnasas Orchim, and b. that of bringing idolaters under the wings of the Shechinah, Had they appeared to him as angels, he would have felt terribly frustrated at having received no guests with which to perform Chesed.

Perhaps one may add that the fact that they appeared in the form of man, also afforded him the opportunity of performing many Mitzvos, for which his descendants were destined to receive much reward. This also explains why the same angels appeared to Lot as the angels that they were - since he was unworthy of receiving such a privilege.


Nobody Knew

"And Avimelech said 'I don't know who did this thing (stole Avraham's wells), neither did you tell me, nor did I hear about it until today'" (21:26).

Commenting on the seemingly unnecessary repetition, the Oznayim la'Torah citing the Ha'mek Davar, explains that Avimelech answered Avraham's rebuke with 'I don't know who did this thing', Then, turning to Pichol (the general), he said to him 'Neither did you tell me about it'; to which Pichol responded 'Nor did I know about it until today!'


A Genuine Test

" … and G-d tested Avraham" (22:1).

G-d issued Avraham with ten tests, the Oznayim la'Torah observes, yet this is the only one where the Torah actually says so.

All the other tests were either Divine decrees that came about either through natural circumstances, or via kings or princes, from whose hands G-d subsequently saved Avraham.

Not so this one, where G-d specifically ordered him to take his son and slaughter him, and then promptly nullified the decree with a command to desist. It was the only test that clearly came in the form of a test, and could not be understood in any other way.


Chopping Wood

" … Avraham got up early in the morning; he saddled his donkey and took with him his two servants as well as Yitzchak his son; he chopped wood and arose and went to the place …" (22:3).

It is safe to assume, says the Oznayim la'Torah, that just as Avraham saddled his own donkey (as Rashi explains), so too did he make a point of personally chopping the wood.

In that case, he asks, why did he gather Yitzchak and the servants before chopping the wood?


He therefore suggests that Avraham waited until he was on his way before chopping the wood, to avoid Sarah confronting him and asking him why he needed all that wood.

It seems to me however, that the words "and arose and went" suggests that he left only after chopping the wood.

* * *

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