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Vol. 22 No. 4
R' Yaakov ben Eliezer z"l
whose Yohrzeit was on 24 Tishrei
by his children
Two Schocking Episodes
(Adapted from the Ramban)
"And they (all the residents of S'dom) called to Lot and they said to him 'Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them to us and let us 'know them!' '
The Pasuk in Nevi'im (Shoftim, chapter 19) relates a somewhat similar episode, regarding the concubine of Giv'ah, in which the aristocracy of the town fell upon the guest's concubine and gang-raped her, as a result of which the wretched woman died the following morning.
The latter story however, cannot be compared with the incident that occurred in S'dom. The objective of the latter was to dissuade visitors from entering their town, and the sin of homosexuality that they had in mind to perform is infinitely worse than that of the men of Giv'ah. This is especially so, considering that not only was the victim a concubine, whom the Ramban does not consider a married woman, but she had also been guilty of prostitution. Moreover, whereas in S'dom the entire town was partner to the attempted rape, in Giv'ah, it was confined to the aristocracy, as we explained.
Also looking at Lot on the one hand and the guest (and his host) on the other, the former performed the unthinkable by volunteering to save his guests at the expense of his daughters, the latter merely set out to save himself at the expense of his unfaithful concubine.
The Pasuk in Shoftim goes on to describe the ensuing battle that the other tribes initiated punishing the tribe of Binyamin for not taking the sinners to task, and how the first two battles were won by the far smaller forces of Binyamin, who were outnumbered by less than one to ten, before they were finally decimated by the larger force of Yisrael.
To explain the course and final outcome of the civil war, the Ramban explains that at the outset, Binyamin were guilty for not taking any measures to punish the malcreants. Although the latter had committed neither adultery, as we explained earlier, nor murder, since the victim died only later, presumably of exposure to the cold, as the Pasuk suggests. Nevertheles - they had commited a serious breach of morality and decency, for which they deserved to be taken to task.On the other hand, bearing in mind that the guilty party was not actually Chayav Miysah, Yisrael did not have the authority to attack Binyamin. Granted, Beis-Din is permitted to take the law into its hands and punish or penalize wherever they see fit, they ought to at least have consulted the elders of Binyamin before taking such an extreme course of action. And in any event, the onus of repairing a breach in the moral fabric of Binyamin lay in the hands of the Beis-Din of Binyamin (based on the obligation of each tribe to judge its own inhabitants [Sanhedrin, 16b]). And they sinned further when they asked Hashem who should lead them into battle, but not whether they should fight in the first place, a clear indication that they placed their trust in their superior numbers, rather than in the Hands of G-d.
So G-d, for His part, left both sides to their own devices, with the result that Binyamin, who were mighty warriors, won the first round.
The following day, Yisrael realized their mistake, and asked G-d for permission to continue fighting, which was granted. They still relied heavily on their own strength and failed to ask G-d whether they would win, so for the second time, they suffered defeat. Following that defeat, they cried out to Hashem, fasted and brought Korbanos, and that was when He assured them of victory over Binyamin - who had also added to their list of sins by slaughtering so many of Yisrael, rather than merely chasing them away from their borders.
Both sides, the author concludes, were equally guilty, in which case he suggests both sides lost forty thousand in total, if one adds the men, women and children whom Yisrael killed in their towns during the course of the fighting.
In conclusion, the Ramban cites Chazal in Sanhedrin (`103b) who attribute the defeat of Yisrael in the early stages of the war to the fact that they did nothing to save G-d's honour which was severely impaired by 'the image of Michah', which was being worshipped at that time, whereas for the honour of a human being, they were prepared to go to war. That, the Gemara explains, is why G-d twisted their minds, encouraging them to engage in a futile war, causing misery and death to both parties, until both parties realized their mistakes and did Teshuvah.
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(Adapted from the Ramban)
It Was all a Dream!
G-d appeared to him
and behold there were three men (angels) standing near him
According to the Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim, the second Pasuk explains the first, that the angels were in fact, the manifestation of the vision. And he learns this way since the Torah says nothing else about the vision.
The Ramban however queries the Rambam's explanation. Firstly, he asks, it then transpires that Avraham saw, not a vision of G-d's presence, but 'three men eating meat', and secondly, everything that subsequently transpired was merely a dream, from Sarah's baking of cakes till the overturning of S'dom. Could it be that it was merely a dream, and never took place?
He also rejects the Rambam's contention that the visit of an angel always signifies prophecy (the basis of his explanation here equating the appearance of the angels with the vision). He cites Hagar and Daniel, both of whom met angels, even though they were not prophets.
The Ramban therefore explains that the vision and the angels were, in fact, two different incidents. Citing as an example Yisrael at the Reed Sea, and after building the Mishkan, who experienced a Divine Revelation devoid of any verbal communication, simply as a sign that G-d was pleased with their belief in Him and in Moshe His servant, and of the great Mitzvah that they had just performed, respectively. So too here, G-d appeared to Avraham on the merit of the Mitzvah that he had just performed. And independently, He sent angels to cure him, to inform Sarah of the imminent birth of a son and to save Lot.
Why Sarah Laughed
"And Sarah laughed (scoffed) in her heart
The Ramban wonders how this righteous woman could scoff at something that G-d had spoken to her husband, who was a prophet.
The question assumes that they recognized the three men as angels (although Rashi [in Pasuk 4] clearly does not think so).
He answers that although Avraham, in his deep wisdom, knew that they were angels, Sarah did not. And the reason that G-d took her to task was because, rather than dismiss the blessing outright, she should have believed it to be possible and to even have answered 'Amen'.
This teaches us the importance of taking to heart the blessing of whoever it might be ('Do not take the blessing of an ordinary person for granted'), and to answer 'Amen'.
"Will You in anger (ha'Af) destroy the Tzadik together with the Rasha?" (18:23).
The word 'ha'af' signifies Midas Ha'Din, says the Ramban. Avraham thought that Ha'Kadosh-Baruch-Hu was judging S'dom with Midas ha'Din, he explains; but even assuming that He was, Avraham was saying, it was not becoming to punish the Tzadik together with the Rasha. What he did not realize however was that when G-d informed him that He was about to destroy S'dom, it was with Midas ha'Rachamim (which did not find them worthy of support). Hence, the Ramban observes, Pasuk 20 opens with the words "Vayomer Hashem" (Midas ha'Rachamim), whilst Avraham keeps addressing G-d with the Name of Adnus (which denotes Midas ha'Din).
And it is precisely because G-d was judging them with His Midas ha'Rachamim that Lot managed to save, not only his own family (who were worthy of being saved in their own right), but the entire town of Tzo'ar, at his request, as the author explains later.
and he chopped wood for the Olah" (22:3).
Avraham took the trouble to chop a large amount of wood and to schlep it with him for three days, the Ramban explains, due to the unlikelihood of his not being able to find wood at his destination, or even if he did, it might contain worms, which invalidate wood from going on the Mizbe'ach. Based on the latter contingency, he also inspected the wood that he took with him for worms before setting out to his unknown destination.
This, says the author, speaks volumes about Avraham's Z'rizus (zeal) in the performance of Mitzvos.
Why, one may well ask, did Avraham not have Bitachon that G-d would supply him with the wherewithal to fulfil the Mitzvah that He had commanded him to perform?
The answer is that Bitachon is something that we are expected to display with regard to our needs (which G-d provides). When it comes to G-d's needs (ke'vayachol), which He expects us to provide, then the onus to prepare the wherewithal to carry out His will lies with us.
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