by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHAS VA'YEIRO 5769 BS"D
To all the choshuva readers of Sedrah Selections and Chamishoh Mi Yodei'a: I have been unable to send Divrei Torah on parshios Noach and Lech L'cho because I was the caretaker for a family member who had a health issue. B"H things are greatly on the mend and I am now able to continue, v'itchem haslichoh.
Ch. 19, v. 14: "Va'y'hi chimtzacheik b'einei chasonov" - And it was as a joke in the eyes of his sons-in-law - What was a joke?
1) The words related by Lote. (Rabbeinu Myochos)
This seems to be supported by the M.R., which says that his sons-in-law said, "Behold numerous musical instruments are always being played in the city, so how will it suddenly be destroyed? Destruction always comes in stages.
2) This was a derision of Lote. When they heard him say this they considered him mentally unstable. (Rabbeinu Menachem)
3) The people of Sdom were light-headed and also great scoffers. These words were compared to the general behaviour of the local people. (Tosfos Hasho'leim)
4) Take note that in verse 12 the angels told Lote to remove his family members, "hotzei." In verse 14 Lote tells his sons-in-law, "Kumu tz'u," arise and leave. This was the joke. Since they had been among those who were struck with the visually debilitating "sanveirim" of verse 11, how did Lote expect them to find the gate of the city to be able to exit? This is why the angels said "hotzei," that you have to cause them to leave by guiding them. (Ponim Yofos)
The issue raised by the Ponim Yofos is actually dealt with by a Rishon. Moshav Z'keinim cites Horav Yeshayoh who asks how after being smitten with "sanveirim" does our verse say "b'einei chasonov." I believe he doesn't literally mean that this is a problem because by saying that it was a joke in their EYES need not mean that they had proper vision. One can make a remark to a blind person and if he takes the words as a joke we can also say that it was "as a joke in their eyes." Rather, he is likely concerned with Lote's bidding them to leave on their own after they were stricken with "sanveirim." However, he answers that "sanveirim" was not a debilitating eye disorder that left them without the ability to find the exit of the city. Rather, it was a temporary phenomenon of their seeing things that did not really exist, a sort of false vision, so that they not find the guests and harm them.
Ch. 19, v. 16: "Va'yachaziku ho'anoshim b'yodo uvyad ishto uvyad shtei vnosov" - And the men took hold of his hand and the hand of his wife and the hand of his two daughters" - In verse 1 they are called angels and here and in verses 10 and 12 they are called people. Rabbeinu Nisim explains that when they acted as humans, as when they pulled Lote into the house and when they grabbed his and his family members' hands, the verse calls them people. I don't know how this explains verse 12, which only tells of their talking. Rabbienu Efrayim explains that angels are fiery creatures, as per the verse, "M'shorsov aish lo'heit" (T'hilim 104:4). When they had to take hold of Lote to bring him into the house and here where they actually took hold of the hands of these people, Hashem changed their natures to have human-like hands of flesh so that they not burn Lote and his family. Likewise, verse 12 needs clarification.
The gemara Yerushalmi Sotoh raises this question: The simple words of the Torah in parshas Sotoh tells the Kohein who processes the sotoh to place his hands under hers when she lifts her meal offering. Why isn't this improper behaviour, to actually place his hands against hers? The gemara answers that the evil inclination has no affect for a very short period of time. Rabbi Yochonon Luria explains that this means that the short time of contact compounded with the seriousness of the sotoh possibly dying a hideous death shortly creates a very serious atmosphere and therefore the hand-to-hand contact does not bring to improper thoughts. He says that our verse could well be the source for this, as the angels, here called people, took hold of the hands of these women. This is because death was about to visit the city of Sdom .
It would seem that one could differentiate between our situation and that of a sotoh, in that here the angels took hold of their hands to hasten their departure and save their lives, literally "pikuach nefesh."
Ch. 19, v. 31: "Hinei noh ho'alti" - Behold now I have wanted - Rashi says that "ho'alti" means "rotzisi," I have wanted, just as we find, "Va'yo'eil Moshe" (Shmos 2:21 ). The Chizkuni finds a seeming contradiction in Rashi. Rashi on the words "ho'il Moshe" (Dvorim 1:5) says that it means "Moshe began" just as "hinei noh ho'alti." He answers that Rashi is referring to "hinei noh ho'alti" of verse 27, where Avrohom refers to his having begun to plead.
This answer seems to answer other questions as well. Why didn't Rashi comment earlier, on verse 27? The answer, based on the Chizkuni, is that Rashi assumed that we know the default translation of "ho'alti" as "I have begun." It is only in our verse, where it means something else that Rashi comments. As well, why does Rashi comment at all on "ho'il Moshe," since he already explains things here? Again, based on the Chizkuni it is understood. Now that Rashi has given us a second translation for this word he finds it necessary to tell us that "ho'il Moshe" means "Moshe began" rather than "Moshe wanted."
Ch. 19, v. 33: "Va'yeilech Hashem kaasher kiloh l'da'beir el Avrohom" - And Hashem went when He ended speaking with Avrohom - Rashi comments; Once the defender is quiet the Judge goes His way. How is Rashi clarifying or enhancing our understanding of the verse? The Chizkuni explains that Rashi is forewarning that we find numerous places where Hashem appears in a prophecy and there is a dialogue, but when the prophecy is complete the verse does not say that Hashem left when He ended speaking. Rashi explains that it is specifically here that this is pointed out because Avrohom attempted to defend the people of S'dom and the surrounding communities. Hashem is most eager to hear the defense offered, even for evil people, in keeping with the dictum, "Ki lo sachpotz b'mose ha'meis ki im b'shuvo v'choyoh." Hashem, so to speak, lingered, hoping to hear more reasons to pardon the people. It was only when Avrohom had nothing more to say that He left.
Rabbeinu Nisim explains that when a prophet is in the exalted state of receiving prophecy, when the communication ends the prophet does not immediately "come back to earth." Rather, he remains in this state for a while longer and slowly returns to "normal." Hashem, knowing that Avrohom would do everything in his power to defend the people and avert destruction, knew that Avrohom would continue negotiating for their pardon. Knowing that with less than a collective "minyan" quorum of righteous people in the communities there was no glimmer of hope to save them, Hashem immediately left, even though Avrohom was still in the prophecy state, so as to spare him pleading that would be to naught. He adds that this also allowed Avrohom to return home while it was still daylight.
I don't know how Rabbeinu Nisim would explain Avrohom's words in verse 32, "Va'adabroh ach hapaam."
M'lochim 2, ch. 4, v. 23 - "Madua at ho'leches eilov hayom lo chodesh v'lo Shabbos" - Why are you going to him it is not the new month nor is it Shabbos - The gemara Brochos 51b, P'sochim 114a, Sukoh 54b, and Megiloh 29b states that "todir v'she'eino todir todir kodem," when we have two items, one which is more often than the other, the one that is more often has priority. If so, why didn't the husband of the Shunamite woman mention Shabbos first and say that it is not Shabbos nor is it Rosh Chodesh?
1) Since he said that it IS NOT R. Ch. NOR Shabbos, it is more often NOT R. Ch. than it is NOT Shabbos. (mipi hashmua b'sheim Reb Chaim'ke Soloveitchik z"l Brisk-Kamenitz)
2) Perhaps her personal history of traveling to Elisha was more often for R. Ch. than it was for Shabbos, thus R. Ch. was more often.
3) The gemara R.H. 16b derives from these words that "chayov odom l'hakbil pnei rabbo b'Shabbos u'v'regel - a person is required to visit his teacher on Shabbos and Yom Tov. This deserves clarification. Yom Tov does not seem to be mentioned in our verse, only R. Ch. and Shabbos. Commentators answer that Shabbos means Yom Tov, as we find Pesach referred to as Shabbos in Vayikroh 23:11 and 23:15. Thus R. Ch. comes more often than Yom Tov. However, this seems to not be a proper answer as R. Ch. only came 12 times a year since the ruling of one and two day Roshei Chodoshim was not yet instituted. There are 18 days of Yom Tov in Eretz Yisroel. If we say that the term Shabbos when used to mean Yom Tov refers specifically to the days that are "mo'eid-chag," i.e. days that have major work restriction, then we have 7 day that are Yom Tov and 12 days that are R.Ch., so R. Ch. is mentioned first. Alternatively, even if there are 18 days of Yom Tov and only 12 days that are R. Ch., R. Ch. is considered more "todir," if we understand "todir" to mean STEADY rather than OFTEN. Yomim Tovim appear at times of the year that are not spread out with equal intervals, while Roshei Chodoshim are.
4) As just mentioned, we can say that Shabbos means Yom Tov. If so, he mentioned the holier (Yom Tov) ahead of the less holy (R. Ch.), as per the dictum "kol hamkudosh meichaveiro kodem es chaveiro" (gemara Z'vochim 89a).
5) The Rada"k says in his father's name that the meaning of these words is "it has not passed a Chodesh nor Shabbos that you haven't seen him, so why go now?" Thus if it was just after R. Ch. he spoke in order of closeness of her most recent visit.
6) As per the Rada"k just mentioned, perhaps it was just before R. Ch. and Shabbos would take place after R.Ch. He said to her that it is not R. Ch., which is just about to come and she would see him then, nor is it Shabbos, which would come a bit later.
7) Perhaps it was just before R. Ch. and a few days after R. Ch. would be Shabbos. His intention was "wait a few days for R. Ch. or a few more days for Shabbos." (Very similar to the previous answer but without the Rada"k component)
8) We cannot say that he meant "it is not Shabbos so why are you going now." If it were Shabbos she surely wouldn't be going. We see from verse22 that it was a distance to Elisha, as she asked for a youth and a donkey to travel. Traveling beyond the Shabbos boundary, "t'chum," is prohibited. We must say that his intention is that it is not before Shabbos. If so, he mentioned R. Ch. ahead of a day or so before Shabbos, a perfectly proper order with the rule of "kol hamkudosh meichaveiro kodem es chaveiro" mentioned earlier in answer #4.
9) He mentioned the day that it was easier to get away ahead of the day that it was harder to get away. R. Ch. is a day that women are exempt and even restricted from doing many types of work. On the eve of Shabbos (as per answer #8) women are usually very busy with preparation for Shabbos.
10) The original question raised has no basis. The rule of "todir v'she'eino todir todir kodem" does not apply to the order of items mentioned in one's speech, but rather to prioritizing when doing an action, for example to sacrifice the "tomid" ahead of the "musof" offering.
Once we are involved with this verse I would like to take the opportunity to mention a most thought provoking "vort" I heard from one of my Rebbeim shlit"a. The Shunamite's response to her husband was "sholom." Similarly, we find that she said the same one word response to Geichazi when asked about her welfare and that of her husband and child (verse 26). Can we understand this word to mean "peace" or "good-bye" in our verse and as "all is well" in verse 26? Obviously not, since her child had died. My Rebbi shlit"a said that her intention was "sholom," - I find myself totally at peace with myself, not feeling that I lack anything in my spiritual pursuits. This is indeed a powerful response to "Why are you rushing off to see Elisha?" and likewise she didn't really answer Geichazi's question, but only gave the reason for her wanting an immediate audience with Elisha.
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