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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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Ch. 18, v. 7: "Va'yikach ben bokor rach votov" - And he took a calf tender and good - Rashi comments that Avrohom actually had three calves slaughtered, enabling him to serve each guest a complete tongue with mustard. It is most puzzling that Rashi mentions mustard. It seems to lend no clarity to the verse. The words "ben bokor rach votov" teachus that there were three calves, but the rest of his comment seems superfluous. The M.R. on the words in verse 4, "V'hisho'anu tachas ho'eitz says that Avrohom had a clear sign as to which potential guest was a proper G-d fearing person and who was an idol worshiper. He only accepted the former. The Holy Zohar Chodosh 1:102b says that the G-d fearing people caused the branches of the tree to create a sort of canopy over them, protecting them from the sun, and the others would result in the tree spreading its branches far apart, exposing the person to the sun. G-d fearing people would likewise have good character traits, and in particular these three traits: They like poor people, they are satisfied with a limited amount of physical accommodations, and they are "cha'reidim lidvar Hashem," seriously concerned about fulfilling Hashem's will. This is the intention of the words "sholosh l'shonos B'CHaRDoL." The letters of this word can be reconfigured in these three ways, "B'CHaR DaL," choose a poor person, "CHaDoL RaV," refrain from a lot, and "CHoReiD LeV," heartfelt fearing. (GR"A)

Ch. 18, v. 8: "Va'yikach chemoh v'cholov u'ven habokor" - And he took butter and milk and the young calf - Rashi (gemara B.M. 87a) says that he did not bring the bread that he asked his wife to prepare because in the interim his wife menstruated as her youthfulness returned and the dough became defiled. Defiled "chulin" bread is permitted for consumption, but there are some very punctilious people who act stringently and do not eat it, "ochlei chulin b'taharoh." The Nezer Hakodesh raises the question of why Avrohom did not serve defiled bread to his guests since it was only his personal stringency, so why foist it upon his guests. The Shaar Hamelech hilchos ishus 9:16 remains in doubt as to whether when a person accepts a certain stringency upon himself if he may be lenient when offering this to others, as he might according to his raised standard transgress "lifnei i'veir," since for himself the matter is prohibited. He therefore is stringent in ruling that one who himself does not light up a cigar from a prohibited fat (cheilev) fueled fire may likewise not offer the fire to someone else to suck into his own cigar to draw the fire into the cigar and light it. It would seem that the Shaar Hamelech could have brought a proof to be stringent from our verse based on the gemara and Rashi. Why was he in doubt and why didn't the Nezer Hakodesh likewise realize that there is proof for this stringent position?

The Pardes Yoseif answers that the Rosh at the end of the fourth chapter of the gemara R.H. cites the gemara Yerushalmi Shabbos 1:1 that during the ten days of repentance people should be strict to eat "chulin b'taharoh." The Korban Nesanel (#60) adds that the gemara doesn't mention that this applies to R.H. itself because it is self-understood, based on the ruling that "chayov odom l'ta'heir atzmo b'regel." Since the Korban Nesanel writes that included in one's responsibility to remain pure on Yom Tov includes eating "chulin b'taharoh," it is well understood why there is no proof for the Shaar Hamelech's stringency based on his doubt. The wayfarers came to Avrohom on Pesach and had to retain their purity even with eating only undefiled bread.

Ch. 18, v. 8: "U'ven habokor" - And the young calf - Why didn't Avrohom serve his guests fish? The Kedushas Levi answers that he wanted to serve them items that were imbued with the sanctity of mitzvos. A calf requires ritual slaughter, removal of non-kosher veins of fat, and salting. Preparing a fish has none of these mitzvos. We now understand why Hashem will serve the Livyoson, a fish, at the grand banquet for the righteous in the world to come, as we will no longer have the yeitzer hora to keep us from doing mitzvos.

Ch. 18, v. 12: "Vatitzchak Soroh b'kirboh" - And Soroh laughed inwardly - How can we fathom Soroh's reaction? It is well known that when a "tzadik" gives someone a blessing it is important that no person who bad spirited, begrudging person be present. He might well be unhappy that someone receive a blessing for success, and might place an evil eye upon that person and at the least, negate the blessing. This is true even if the blessing is given by an angel. However, if the blessing comes from Hashem, it cannot be negated by an "ayin hora." The verse says, "V'Soroh shomaas pesach ho'ohel v'HU acharov" (18:10). Targum Yonoson ben Uziel says that the antecedent of v'HU is Yishmo'el. He surely begrudged Soroh this blessing, as at this point in time he reveled in being the "ben yochid." We can thus explain our verse as follows: Soroh was JOYOUS just as we interpret Avrohom's "va'yitzchok" of 17:17 as JOY (see Rashi there) "b'kirboh," inwardly. "Leimore," outwardly she verbalized that "acharei vlosi hoysoh li ednoh ," that it was hard to believe that she would bear a child in her old age. This would thwart off Yishmo'el's "ayin hora." Hashem nonetheless admonished Soroh because in 17:16,19 He Himself told Avrohom that Soroh would bear him a son. A blessing given directly by Hashem is not subject to an "ayin hora," and it was not in place for her to even outwardly say that she doubted the veracity of the blessing. (Admor Rabbi Sholo-m of Belz)

Ch. 18, v. 14: "Lomoh zeh tzochakoh Soroh" - Why this that Soroh laughed - Avrohom likewise laughed, so why wasn't he reprimanded? The Meshech Chochmoh answers this based on the words of the Rambam in his prefatory commentary to Mishnayos. He says that when a Prophet receives a "good news" message directly from Hashem, it is still open to revision, for example if there is no longer merit. However, if this message is transmitted by a Prophet to someone else, it can no longer be rescinded (gemara Shabbos 55). Since Avrohom heard the prophecy from Hashem, he was somewhat disbelieving, as he thought he did not merit such a miracle, and Hashem might very well not carry through. However, when Soroh heard this from the Prophet Avrohom she had no room to think that it might be rescinded, and laughing about the improbability of its fulfillment was not in place.

Medrash Hagodol says that really they both deserved to be reprimanded. We can learn a lesson from this that when two people act improperly, and one is greater than the other, it is proper to reprimand the one of smaller stature and the one of greater stature will surely realize that it applies to him as well. (This is likely why Hashem criticized Soroh to Avrohom instead of confronting her directly.)

Ch. 18, v. 14: "Lamo'eid oshuv ei'lecho ko'eis chayoh ul'Soroh vein" - At the set time when you will be alive I will return to you as Soroh will have a son - The Rokei'ach writes that this means on the day of Yitzchok's bris miloh.

Ch. 19, v. 26: "Vata'beit ishto mei'acharov va't'hi n'tziv melach" - And his wife peered behind him and she became a pillar of salt - In the name of R' Chaim'ke the son of the Gri"z we have the following query: Was her turning into a pillar of salt the result of her transgressing the words of the angels, who said to not look back, or was it the result of not having sufficient merit to survive if she looked back?

On a simple level we might say that she connected herself with the city of Sdom, which was destroyed through a downpour of salt, hence it was a lack of sufficient merits (see Biu'rei Mahara"i by the Baal trumas Ha'deshen). It would then be well understood that we make a blessing upon seeing this pillar of salt, which is explained by the Mishnoh Bruroh as a blessing that represents the merit of the righteous, in this case Avrohom, which saved Lote, a strong indication that his wife, who did not survive, lacked this merit. If she was punished for not listening to the angels, then Lote was saved because he did listen, so where do we see that the merit of the righteous Avrohom was at play here?

Targum Yonoson ben Uziel says that she was punished because she sinned by being stingy with salt for her guests. Based on this it seems that she was destined to die, but in the merit of listening to the angels she would be saved. It was not the demerit of not listening that brought about her death. All of this can be argued, but it makes for an interesting "lomdishe" exercise.



See also Oroh V'Simchoh - Meshech Chochmoh on the Weekly Parsha, Chasidic Insights and Chamisha Mi Yodei'a

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