by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHAS VA'YEIRO 5771 BS"D
Ch. 18, v. 27: "V'onochi ofor vo'eifer" - And I am but earth and ash - Rashi explains that Avrohom meant to say that if not for Hashem's miraculous intervention he would have been earth, i.e. killed in his battle against the four kings and have been decomposed in the earth, and ash when Nimrod had him thrown into a cauldron for sticking to his belief in Hashem. This seems problematic, as the incident with Nimrod preceded that of the war with the four kings. He should have said, "v'onochi eifer v'ofor." Two answers are offered:
1) The Holy Zohar explains why the name Amrofel is used by the list of warring kings, as he was really Nimrod, as explained by Rashi, that Amrofel is a compound of "omar pol," - He said throw down, meaning he commanded that Avrohom be thrown into the fiery cauldron. He obviously gathered his ministers and countrymen to witness the auto da fe. Imagine his embarrassment when Avrohom was miraculously saved. Not only were his plans foiled, but his ideology was likewise dealt a slap in the face in the public arena. To save face, when he was involved in the war of five against four he made it his business to capture Lote, seemingly not part of the battle strategy. Avrohom and Lote were look alikes (Rashi on 13:8). Amrofel felt that if he could capture Lote, he could claim that he had captured Avrohom and that Avrohom was not such a holy person, as he couldn't even save himself from being captured. This shaming of the look-alike of Hashem's holiest representative on earth motivated Avrohom to save Lote, even though he knew that he was taking great risks in the attempt. Once he wrested Lote out of Amrofel's hands the incident of Ur Kasdim was reinstated to its former glory. Avrohom, being interested only in the glorification of Hashem mentioned "ofor" first because it was only after being saved from becoming earth that the miracle of not becoming "eifer" at Ur Kasdim was reestablished as a permanent sanctification of Hashem.
2) When was "vaagadloh shmecho" (12:2) fulfilled? Rashi on 14:17 cites a Medrash Agodoh, which says that when Avrohom was saved in the war, ALL the kings assembled in a valley and instated him as a minister and leader over them. This was Hashem's grand plan to have him no longer be Avrom, a patriarch over just his family, but to become AvroHom, "Av hamone goyim" (17:5), the king over nations, besides the primary Patriarch of the bnei Yisroel. OFOR is a compound of "Ayin par," 70 oxen, which represent the 70 nations. Only afterwards would he become the patriarch of the bnei Yisroel, as Yitzchok was not yet born. EIFER is a compound of "Alef par," 1 ox, corresponding to the bnei Yisroel. The bnei Yisroel came into being later, while he was accepted as a leader by all the kings earlier, hence we have "eifer" ahead of "ofor."
(Rabbi Mechel Zilber Rosh haYeshiva Chasidei Zhvil shlit"a)
Ch. 19, v. 15: "V'es shtei v'nosecho hanimtzo'os" - And your two available daughters - This is Rashi's explanation, that there was only enough time to save Lote's two daughters who were in his home, and not his daughters who were married and consequently in their own homes.
It seems obvious that if only two of his daughters were to be saved that it would mean those who were at hand. Rabbi Shlomo Ashtruk explains that these two daughters were to be destroyed along with the rest of the inhabitants of S'dom, and they could only be saved by being removed from the evil city. They would then be like newly found people who were extricated from a death penalty.
The medrash on parshas Breishis expounds on T'hilim 89:21, "Motzosi Dovid avdi b'shemen kodshi m'shachtiv," - Where have I found my servant Dovid? The answer is in S'dom. Although it is well understood that the ancestors of Dovid were Lote and his daughter who gave birth to Moav, and after a number of generations we find Rus, and eventually Dovid, but how is this expounded from the word "motzosi" and why is this connected to S'dom? After all, there were numerous other ancestors. Why not pick on the birth of Zerach or Yishai, for example?
The key word form similar to "motzosi" found in the incident of S'dom is "hanimtzo'os," which seems to be extraneous. As is well known to those who know it well, the souls of very lofty, historically pivotal people who affected the destiny of the bnei Yisroel in a very positive manner don't easily enter a physical body. The powers of evil attempt to thwart this and the only way to bring it about is to cloak their coming into this world in seeming negativity. Avrohom was the son of an idol worshipper, Moshe was the son of someone who married his aunt, which would later become prohibited by the Torah, and so on in other cases. This is surely true when it comes to the royal lineage of the house of King Dovid and his descendant Melech Hamoshiach. Although there are many stations along the way in the development of the royal family line, it is specifically in the incident of S'dom where there is possibility of planting the nascent seedling of Moshiach, and this is since the conception of the next link came about in such a negative manner. This diverts the evil forces from attacking and foiling the holy souls from coming into being. Avrohom is likewise called a "metzioh" as per the verse "Umotsoso es l'vovo ne'emon l'fo'necho" (Nechemioh 9:8). The medrash says that there are three "metzios" and cites verses for this. They are Avrohom, King Dovid, and the nation Yisroel.
If we take note of the final letters of the verse "MotzosI DoviD avdI b'shemeN kodshI m'shachtiV," we have the letters of the word YaYiN and the letters Yud-Vov-Dalet, which spell the letter YUD. For the family of Dovid to develop into the royal family required wine, which was miraculously found in the cave in which Lote and his two daughters found refuge (19:33). Lote's becoming intoxicated led to his siring Moav and Amon with his daughters. The letter Yud is the pivotal point of allowing a descendant of Rus to be accepted into "k'hal Hashem." Although the final decision that the prohibition for only males who are Amoni orMoavi to enter "k'hal Hashem" is an oral tradition, it seems obvious that if the Torah would have only written "Lo yovo Amon uMoav bik'hal Hashem" rather than "AmonI uMoavI," people would not have accepted the seemingly far-fetched interpretation of "v'lo Amonis v'lo Moavis," since without the suffix letter Yud the verse clearly indicates anyone of those two nations, male or female, is included in the prohibition. (shomati)
Ch. 19, v. 24: "VaShem himtir" - And Hashem caused it to rain - It is the opinion of the Chizkuni that Rashi explains that it means it actually rained because "himtir" has to be taken literally. It was only after it first rained that lower spheres poured down sulfur and fire. The Mahara"l of Prague disagrees with the Chizkuni, citing Shmos 16:4, Hin'ni mamtir lochem lechem min hashomayim." There was no rain there. (In a previous edition the opinion of a Rishon was cited who says that the manna came down drenched in much moisture, similar to rain.) The Mahara"l posits that "himtir" is a borrowed term and can also be used for sending anything down from the heavens, similar to rain. What forced Rashi to say that it actually rained is that nothing bad descends from the heavens.
Ch. 19, v. 24: "Mei'eis Hashem min hashomayim" - From Hashem from the heavens - These words seem to be superfluous. Rashi comments that our verse is in keeping with the concept expressed in the verse, "Ki vom yodin amim yi'tein ochel l'mavkir" (Iyov 36:31). Hashem rewards and gives retribution as may be the case, from the heavens. He likewise sent manna to miraculously sustain the bnei Yisroel from the heavens.
Rabbi Shlomo Ashtruk says that the verse has to point out that this was an "act of G-d," although all rewards and retributions are, because here we have a combination of rain (himtir) and fire (aish).
Rabbeinu Nisim says that "min hashomayim" teaches us that we should not mistakenly think that sulfur and fire, which are found in abundance in Gehinom, somehow rose into the heavens and then rained down upon the city. Rather, it was "mei'eis Hashem," totally heavenly sourced, and totally against the laws of nature.
The Baalei Tosfos in Moshav Z'keinim say somewhat similar to Rabbeinu Nisim, that the verse tells us that the sulfur and fire were not sourced from Gehinom. Rather, Hashem brought down only rain from the heavens, a blessing, and when it entered S'dom and the surrounding cities it miraculously turned into fire and sulfur. See how great was Hashem's ire, that "gishmei vrochoh," rain which is a blessing, turned into destructive fire and sulfur.
Compare the words of our verse with, "Hin'ni mamtir lochem lechem min hashomayim" (Shmos 16:4). The desert is the most uninhabitable place on earth. The Torah goes into much detail in parshas Eikev in describing the harsh conditions present in the Sinai desert. Contrast this with S'dome pre-destruction. It is called, "K'gan Hashem k'eretz Mitzrayim" (Breishis 13:10). See Rashi who says that it is likened to "gan Hashem" for trees and Eretz Mitzrayim for vegetation. The Ramban clearly states that "gan Hashem" means Gan Eden. S'dom was the best place on earth. The grievous behaviour of S'dom's residents forced Hashem to turn it into the worst place on earth. Nothing grew there any more. The bnei Yisroel were on their way to receive the Torah and to shortly enter Eretz Yisroel. The formerly inhospitable Sinai desert became a virtual Gan Eden. There was climate control, delicious food and drink, no need to pursue a livelihood, destruction of dangerous creatures, etc. in both cases the environment was a result of the behaviour of the people. What greater application is there of the words, "Mipi elyone lo seitzei horo'os v'hatov" (Eichoh 3:38)? (Rabbi Mechel Zilber Rosh haYeshiva Chasidei Zhvil)
Ch. 21, v. 17: "Shoma Elokim es kole hanaar baasher hu shom" - Elokim has heard the voice of the lad in his present state - Rashi comments that these words are the source of our sages statement that the prayers of the ill person are more readily heard by Hashem than those of others. His prayers are first to be accepted. The gemara Brochos 5b applies the dictum that "An incarcerated person cannot liberate himself from jail," i.e. he requires others to get him released, to prayers for an ill person. Another person praying for the ill person is more readily able to affect mercy in heaven and bring healing to the ill person.
There seems to be an obvious contradiction between these two statements. The Baal Haturim and Rabbi Eliyohu Mizrochi raise this question. Some differentiate between an ill person who still retains clarity of mind, in which case his prayers are the most effective, and an ill person who because of his illness cannot muster up sufficient concentration in his prayers. Then an outsider's prayers are more effective.
The Chasam Sofer (Sefer Zikoron) differentiates between a ben Yisroel and a non-Jew. A ben Yisroel through his great connection between himself and his fellow ben Yisroel also feels ill and is totally caring for the other's situation. At the same time the illness is not actually on his "own skin." He thus has the advantage of somewhat being like the ill person himself, but is at the same time an outsider. Having this unique perspective, his prayers have greater efficacy than those of the ill person. A non-Jew, although caring for the plight of an ill person, does not take it as seriously, and we cannot equate him with the ill person. Therefore the ill person's prayers for himself are the most effective. In his Droshos he offers other answers.
Possibly we can find this concept in these words of our verse. Elokim hearkened to the voice of the lad, and not to his mother who surely also prayed for his well-being. This is because of, "baasher HU shom," only he was there, and not his mother. Verse 16 tells us that his mother Hogor left him alone because, "Al ereh b'mos ha'yo'led." A truly caring parent would push aside his own personal discomfort and pain of seeing his child die right in front of his eyes to at least be present and offer comfort. This limited measure of empathy makes the outsider's prayers less effective. (n.l.) Rabbi Betzaleil Ranshberg likewise stresses "baasher HU shom." The gemara Shabbos 12b says that the "Sh'chinoh" rests above the head of an ill person. Hogor distanced herself from her deathly ill son. Elokim hearkened to the voice of the lad as HU, Hashem's Holy Spirit, was there.
Ch. 22, v. 5: "V'nishtacha'veh v'noshuvoh" - And we will kneel and we will return - Rashi says that Avrohom verbalized "WE will return," although he thought that only he would return, as Yitzchok would be sacrificed. This was a sort of prophecy that issued forth from his mouth, as in truth they would both return.
This is sourced from the Medrash Tanchuma. Although Rashi's heading for his comment is only the single word "v'noshunoh," the Medrash Tanchuma's lead words are, "v'nishtacha'veh v'noshuvoh a'leichem." I believe that the point made by the M.T. is rooted in "v'nishtacha'veh" as well. The medrash says that when Avrohom was about to offer Yitzchok, Avrohom had the status of a Kohein Godol and his offering was that of the incense offered in the Kodesh Hakodoshim on Yom Kippur. We might say that the requirement of doing this in the Beis Hamikdosh was accomplished by the pillar of cloud that hovered over the mountain. Now, if Avrohom were to be held back from offering Yitzchok he would have entered the Holy of Holies without doing a service. The Rambam in hilchos bi'as mikdosh 2:4 says that one who enters the Kodesh Hakodoshim for naught is deserving of the Heavenly death penalty. On the other hand the Rambam says that just paying homage at this holiest of places through prostration, "hishtachavo'oh," is also considered having done a service, and is not considered entry for naught. The prophecy that emanated from his mouth therefore is not just that "WE will return," but also "v'nishtacha'veh," that we will prostrate ourselves, to avoid a "bi'oh reikonis." Once it turned out that he offered the ram that came upon the scene, there was no need to prostrate, and indeed the verse does not say that they did so. (n.l.)
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