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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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Dear Sedrah Selection readers: I attempt to expand my Torah commentary library to have a larger pool of commentators from whom to offer divrei Torah on the weekly parsha. For well over a decade I have attempted to procure the works of Rabbeinu Chaim Paltiel, a Rishon. It has been out of print for a while and the family of the motzi lo'or had none left in stock. It has just been reprinted b"H, and upon purchasing it I immersed myself into the writings of this oft-quoted Rishon. You will now understand why almost every dvar Torah on this parsha is taken from the writings of Rabbeinu Chaim Paltiel. Only those divrei Torah that are from another source will carry an attribution in this week's Sedrah Selections.

Ch. 18, v. 2,3: "V'hi'nei shloshoh anoshim, Va'yomer A-DO-NOY" - And behold three men, And he said A-DO-NOY - There is a false theological concept of trinity, that there are three combined spiritual powers/beings that combine into becoming one deity, hence tri-nutty. They bring a proof from these two verses. Three people came in front of Avrohom and he addresses them as one and calls them a-do-noy, one.
This cheap bit of theological logic is readily rebutted: 1) If indeed Avrohom was addressing the 3/1 as G-d, why did he offer them/him food?
2) If, as they posit, the three join to become one inseparable unity, how is it that they part, as only two went on to S'dom, "Va'yovo'u shnei ho'anoshim S'domoh" (19:1)?
3) In 18:22 the verse states, "Va'yifnu mishom ho'anoshim va'yeilchu S'domoh," - the people turned away from there and they went to S'dom. They left Avrohom, and yet the verse continues, "v'Avrohom o'denu omeid lifnei Hashem," - and Avrohom was still standing in front of Hashem. If they are G-d Himself and they/he left, how could Avrohom still be standing in front of Hashem? We might add that this third point explains why the verse says "o'denu," a seemingly superfluous word. We can say that the verse wants to stress this rebuttal, adding that although they left he was STILL in front of Hashem. (Nirreh li)

Ch. 18, v. 5: "Vo'ek'choh fas lechem" - And I will take a piece of bread - Why doesn't the verse say "kikar lechem"? In verse 6 it says "vaasi UGOS," while by Lote (19:3) it says "uMATZOS ossoh." Here there is no mention of "mishteh," while by Lote there is (19:3).
This can all be explained with information supplied by the M.R. 48:8 (with slight variations). The three people came to Avrohom on the eve of Pesach in the fourth hour of the morning. A limited amount of chometz was available, hence he only offered "pas lechem," a piece of bread. Alternatively, we can say that Avrohom said little (a piece of bread), and did a lot, giving bread in abundance. This also explains why Avrohom did not offer night lodging in the beginning and even said that they should feel free to leave immediately after the meal in verse 5, "achar taavoru." (This might also explain the omission of "mishteh" in Avrohom's words.) Once the time came when chometz was Rabbinically prohibited he asked Soroh to make UGOS, enriched matzoh, made with eggs and the like. This is not acceptable for matzos mitzvoh, and may therefore be eaten on the eve of Pesach. Proper matzoh may not be eaten on the 14th of Nison (gemara Yerushalmi P'sochim 10:1). The 2 messengers reached Lote in S'dom in the evening (19:1), when Pesach had begun. He therefore baked specifically matzos and also offered drink, as two goblets of wine are required before the matzoh is eaten.

Ch. 19, v. 8: "Asher lo yodu ish" - Who have not known a man - The words "lo yodu" seem problematic. Since the man is the active partner in cohabiting the verse should have said "lo y'do'on ish," as we find in 24:16, "v'ish lo y'do'oh." This expression alludes to what would shortly take place. Lote was intoxicated and cohabited with his daughters He was stone drunk and they were the motivators (19:33,36). Hence he was saying that as of now his daughters had not instigated cohabiting and were virgins. Later they would instigate his cohabiting with them.
Similarly, we find this anomalous expression by the daughters of Midyon, who instigated sin with the bnei Yisroel, "kol ishoh YODAAS ish" (Bmidbar 31:17).

Ch. 19, v. 17,26: "Al tabit acha'recho, Vatabeit ishto mei'acharov" - Do not look behind yourself, And she looked from behind him - The intention of not looking behind themselves was simply so that they should leave as quickly as possibly, which would be hampered by looking behind themselves. The rush was to avoid becoming enveloped in the cloud of sulfur and salt. Iris, the wife of Lote, slowed down and was indeed caught in this noxious cloud and was stopped in her tracks. She then became encased in a thick layer of salt. Pirkei d'Rebbi Eliezer (end of chapter #25) relates that the pillar of salt that was Lote's wife became a cow lick.

Ch. 19, v. 33: "Vatashkenoh es avi'hen yayin balayloh hu" - And they gave their father to drink wine on that night - In this verse, relating the actions of the older daughter, the verse mentions the wine ahead of night, while in verse 35, where the actions of the younger daughter are related, the verse first mentions night and then wine, "balayloh hahu es avi'hen yoyin." Two other differences are that by the older daughter the verse says "es ovihoh" and "vatovo," while by the younger daughter it says "imo" and "vatokom."
These three differences are explained as follows: The older daughter waited until almost the end of the night before she cohabited with her father, hence first wine and then night. This also explains "es oviho," as he became slightly cognizant of his situation hours after he was drunk. This also explains "vatovo," as she came from another matter before the act, waiting numerous hours. The younger daughter cohabited with her father as soon as he was totally drunk, hence night and then wine, as there was no passage of hours of the night after the drinking and before the act. This also explains "imo," as her father had no knowledge that he was a father cohabiting with his daughter. He was still totally drunk. There was also no "vatovo," as she did not have a dividing matter between his becoming drunk and the act, hence, "vatokom."
Note that both Ovos d'Rebbi Nosson ch' #34 and the Baal Haturim disagree with Rabbeinu Chaim Paltiel, as they write that the dot above the word "uvkumoh" in verse 33 indicates that the older daughter had relations with her father before midnight.

Ch. 20, v. 12: "V'gam omnoh achosi vas ovi hee" - And also in truth she is my sister the daughter of my father - Why does Avrohom explain his misleading words here to Avimelech, and by very similar circumstances with Paroh (12:19) he makes no attempt to explain? Sifsei Chachomim (Maharsha"l) answers that only here did Avrohom have to explain himself because Avimelech asked his question twice, clearly necessitating an answer.
Perhaps another answer will emerge by prefacing with the famous words of the Ramban on Breishis 12:6, "Kol mah she'ira l'ovos simon labonim" (Tanchuma #9), - all that happened to the Patriarchs portends what will happen to the descendants. Avrohom would surely prefer to justify his words, and that is exactly what he did in our parsha with Avimelech. He could have done the same and explained similarly to Paroh. However, he prophetically knew that his descendants would be exiled to Egypt, and that their leader would request a three-day hiatus from Egypt to serve Hashem. In the strictest literal form this ended up being a lie. "Maa'sei ovos" required that he plant a seed through his own dialogue with Paroh for this to happen. He therefore gave no explanation afterwards so that his saying that Soroh was his sister should indeed be false. (Nirreh li)

Ch. 21, v. 30: "Es sheva kvosos tikach mi'yodi baavur t'h'yeh li l'eidoh" - Seven sheep shall you take from my hand so that it shall be for me a testimony - Sheep are a most unusual item to offer a king. Why not give him an item of beauty? Since Avrohom wanted the item to serve as testimony that the well was his, sheep served this purpose very well. Had he offered an item such as jewellery, Avimelech would have just added it to his chest of trinkets, out of sight. By offering sheep, and specifically female sheep, Avrohom's purpose was well served. Males are slaughtered, while fmales are kept alive to reproduce. By giving livestock, they would be brought daily to the well to drink, people would ask about the addition of these sheep to the flock, and the reminder of the wells belonging to Avrohom would be the topic of conversation. Intentionally seven sheep were given, as "sheva" is phonetically similar to "shvuoh," an oath (verse 31).

Ch. 22, v. 3: "Va'yachavosh es chamoro" - And he saddled his donkey - We find the same expression by Bilom, "va'yachavosh es asono" (Bmidbar 22:21). The reason the same term is used by both, while we find other terms for preparing an animal for travel, is because of the connection between these two, "k'var kodomcho Avrohom."
Paa'nei'ach Rozo explains that the same term is used by Yoseif, "va'ye'sor es markavto" (Breishis 46:29), as by Paroh, "va'yesor es richbo" (Shmos 14:6), to indicate that Yoseif's action would overpower Paroh's.
On a simple level it seems that the differing expressions are appropriate for the situation. When preparing a donkey for traveling, one just saddles it, "v'ayachavosh." When one prepares horses for pulling chariots, tying down headgear and ropes connected to the horses and chariots is required, hence "va'ye'esor." (Nirreh li)

Ch. 22, v. 14: "B'har Hashem yei'ro'eh" - On the mount of Hashem it will be seen - The gemara P'sochim 88a says that Avrohom called the Temple Mount a mountain, "har." Yitzchok called it a field, "so'deh." Yaakov called it a house, "bayis." Perhaps this is alluded to in our Yom Tov prayer "V'seiro'eh l'fo'necho asiro'seinu," where we say "HoSHeiV sh'chinos'cho l'Tzion." HoSheiV is an acronym for Har, So'deh, Bayis. (Nirreh li)



See also Oroh V'Simchoh - Meshech Chochmoh on the Weekly Parsha and Chasidic Insights

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