Chamishoh Mi Yo'dei'a

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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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CHAMISHOH MI YODEI'A - FIVE QUESTIONS ON THE WEEKLY SEDRAH - PARSHAS CHA'YEI SOROH 5766 - BS"D

1) Ch. 23, v. 1: "Mei'oh shonoh v'esrim shonoh" - Rashi comments that Soroh at the age of one-hundred was free of sin just as she was at the age of twenty, since the heavenly court does not punish until the age of twenty. Is it then possible to say that someone who has transgressed a sin whose punishment is excision, "kor'eis," under the age of twenty, would not receive heavenly punishment?

2) Ch. 23, v. 2: "Lispode l'Soroh v'livkosoh" - The gemara Mo'eid Koton 27b says that the first three days following the death of a person are for weeping, and the first seven days are for eulogy. It would then seem that the words of our verse are reversed, as "lispode" should come after "v'livkosoh."

3) Ch. 24, v. 3: "Lo sikach isho livni mibnos haK'naani," similarly, Yitzchok tells Yaakov (28:6), "Lo sikach ishoh mibnos K'naan" - Why were our Avos strongly against taking a K'naanite woman? The families that they pursued were also idol-worshipper.

4) Ch. 24, v. 10: "Migmalei adonov," Ch. 24, v. 32: "Vayifatach" - Rashi in the name of the Medrash says that the camels of Avrohom were unique in that they were muzzled to keep them from eating from fields of others. The Medrash 60:8 relates a story (Yerushalmi D'mai 1:3) of the donkey of Rabbi Pinchos ben Yair which was stolen. For three days it would touch no food. The robbers feared it would die of starvation and the stench would reveal their hideout. They released the donkey and it returned to the home of R' Pinchos ben Yair. When he heard it braying, he had his worker feed it immediately, knowing that it had not touch any food of the robbers. The donkey refused to eat until the food was tithed.

Rav Huna asked Rav Chia, "Is it possible that Avrohom's camels needed to be muzzled? Are they on a lower level than the donkey of Rabbi Pinchos ben Yair?" The Ramban on 24:32 explains that this is a question that refutes the interpretation that "vayifatach" means the muzzles were undone, as there was no need to muzzle Avrohom's camels. Instead, it means that the riding gear was undone. How will Rashi, who interprets it to mean that the muzzles were removed, answer the above question?

5) Ch. 24, v. 39: "U'lai" - Rashi comments that since "u'lai" is spelled without a vov, it can be read "ei'lai," to me. Eliezer indicated that if he would be unsuccessful in bringing a wife for Yitzchok from Avrohom's relatives, that possibly "ei'lai," Avrohom could turn to me for my daughter as a wife for Yitzchok. Why is this self-interest of Eliezer shown here when he relates the story to B'suel's family, and not earlier, in his conversation with Avrohom in verse 5?

Answer to questions on parshas Va'yeiro:

1) Ch. 18, v. 4: "V'rachatzu ragleichem" - And bathe your feet - Rashi says that Avrohom thought that they were Arabs. Arabs are descendants of Yishmo'eil. If so, how could they possibly be Arabs, as Yishmo'eil had not yet had any children at this point in time? Rabbi Ovadioh of Bartenura answers that Rashi's intention is that Avrohom thought that they behaved as today's Arabs do, and that they would bow to the dust of their feet.

2) Ch. 18, v. 20: "Zaakas Sdom va'Amoroh ki raboh" - The Prophet Yechezkel writes (16:49) "Hi'nei zeh hoyoh avone Sdom ...... v'yad oni v'evione lo hechezikoh," - The sin of Sdom was that it did not give support to the poor and destitute. Why was Sdom destroyed for lack of compassion to the plight of the poor if that is not even one of the seven Noachite commandments?

Rabbi Elchonon Bunim Wasserman Hy"d answers with the words of Rabbi Chaim Vi'tal who writes in Shaa'rei Kedushoh that the reason the Torah does not overtly write a prohibition against having bad character traits is that it is self-understood that the mitzvos of the Torah cannot be properly fulfilled by one who has bad character traits. Even without the Torah specifically stating so, one must attempt to improve upon his character. This is true not only for bnei Yisroel but also for bnei Noach. We see from this verse in Yechezkel that not only is one responsible to do this, but is even held accountable to the point of suffering total destruction, as was the punishment for the brutal people of Sdom.

3) Ch. 22, v. 1: "V'hoElokim nisoh es Avrohom" -

We find in the narrative of the test of the Akeidoh that Avrohom was the great hero upon whom the spotlight shines. Why doesn't the Torah stress the greatness of Yitzchok who was willing to be slaughtered?

1) The Beis haLevi notes that throughout the story of the Akeidoh we find Avrohom being the courageous hero, and in our prayers we mention the Akeidoh of Yitzchok as our merit, as in the musof prayers of Rosh Hashonoh we say "va'akeidas YITZCHOK l'zaro b'rachamim tizkor." He answers that to have a merit that carries over from the Ovos, or any previous ancestor, we require a connection to that merit. If we display a bit of that lofty characteristic, then we can cash in on the same merit in a larger dose from previous generations. The merit of Avrohom was his selflessness in being willing to sacrifice his child. Yitzchok's merit was his eagerness to be sacrificed. The trait that has carried over to us in a greater measure is that of Yitzchok, not of Avrohom. Indeed, Avrohom's deed was greater than Yitzchok's and it is therefore Avrohom who is highlighted in the story of the Akeidoh, but when we ask Hashem for the merit of our Patriarchs' actions, we must stress the action of Yitzchok.

2) Avrohom heard what seemed to be a prophecy that contradicted a previous statement of Hashem, "Ki b'Yitzchok yiko'rei l'cho zorah" (21:12), and still proceeded. (Ponim Yofos)

3) Fulfilling a mitzvoh actively is greater than fulfilling a mitzvoh passively (Ritvo ch. 1 of gemara Y'vomos). This is an insight into why "a'sei docheh lo saa'seh," when a positive and negative mitzvoh are in conflict, the positive mitzvoh is done at the expense of the negative mitzvoh. Avrohom participated with action, but Yitzchok as a sacrifice, was passive. (Ponim Yofos)

4) The gemara Kidushin 31a says, "Godol mitzu'veh v'oseh mimi she'eino mitzu'veh v'oseh," - One is greater if he is commanded to do and does than one who is not commanded to do and does. Avrohom was commanded while Yitzchok wasn't. (Ponim Yofos)

5) Avrohom envisioned that upon slaughtering his son he would suffer the terrible loss for the rest of his life, while Yitzchok was called upon to show heroism for a short period of time only. (See gemara K'subos 33b which makes this point regarding the test of Chananioh, Misho'eil, and Azarioh.) (Ponim Yofos)

6) Since Yitzchok already said to Yishmoel (M.R. 55:4) "I am ready to be offered as a sacrifice to Hashem," his test was not as demanding. (Nachalas Yaakov)

7) Had this test been attributed to Yitzchok, his son Eisov would have demanded a reward for his progeny as well. This does not apply to Yishmoel having a claim to the merit of Avrohom since he was specifically excluded from being the continued progeny of Avrohom when Hashem said, "Ki b'Yitzchok yiko'rei l'cho zorah" (21:12). (See Shaalose U's'shuvos Mahari"t O.Ch. vol. 2 teshuvoh #6.) (Meshech Chochmoh)

8) Perhaps, since Avrohom taught the world that offering human sacrifices was not the will of Hashem, had he now done so himself, he would have been the laughing stock of society. This would have brought him life-long humiliation of the greatest order. Yitzchok was called upon to show heroism for a short period of time only. This thought is quite similar to answer #5.

9) Another possibility: I believe the Noam Elimelech says on the words "Va'yar es hamokome meirochoke" (22:4), that Avrohom saw Hashem (haMokome meaning Hashem the Omnipresent) from a distance, not perceiving Hashem's presence as he was used to perceiving. When totally in touch with Hashem this test would be relatively small. The main point of the test was to offer his son while Avrohom was feeling like an average person, quite removed from Hashem. Hashem did not remove this closeness from Yitzchok, and his test was much easier.

10) Another possibility: Rabbi Mendel mi'Riminov explains the words "Va'yishlach Avrohom es yodo va'yikach es hamaa'chelles." Why doesn't the verse simply say "va'yikach es hamaa'chelles?" He answers that Avrohom had so thoroughly trained himself to do Hashem's bidding that his organs always sprang to the task. However, since it was not truly Hashem's intent to have Avrohom carry out the actual slaughtering of Yitzchok, Avrohom's hand did not respond with its normal alacrity. This required a special effort to stretch out his hand, hence the extra words "Va'yishlach Avrohom es yodo."

According to this, perhaps Avrohom's test was greater than Yitzchok's because Yitzchok responded to the call with alacrity, doing everything that Hashem intended him to actually do. Not so with Avrohom. He had to force himself to act at the crucial moment of taking the knife.

By the way: Medrash Tanchumoh answers the question of the need to say "Va'yishlach Avrohom es yodo" in a different manner. It says that the "sitro acharo," the evil forces, attempted to stop Avrohom all along the way as he pursued fulfilling Hashem's will. Avrohom had already picked up the knife, but the "sitro acharo" knocked it out of his hand. This required a separate "Va'yishlach yodo," "reaching out" his hand and again picking up the knife.

11) Perhaps an insight from HRH"G R' M.M. Shach shlit"a into the greatness of Avrohom at the time he received the prophecy of the Akeidoh will also answer the question. He says that we know that only Moshe was a prophet of such stature that he received a clear, unequivocal prophecy from Hashem (see Bmidbar 30:2). All other prophets, including Avrohom, received a clouded message, somewhat open to interpretation. This being the case, how might Avrohom have reacted upon receiving a prophecy to bring his son as a sacrifice? This was contrary to everything that Hashem had taught him and that he espoused to the world. Add to this the prophecy that through Yitzchok he would have a chain of descendants (21:12). Add the fact that Avrohom had this only son from Soroh at a very advanced age. It would have been exceedingly easy for him to read another interpretation into the prophecy. Yet he understood it properly and proceeded to fulfill it with alacrity. However, Yitzchok followed suit by relying on his father.

12) Perhaps an insight from the Malbim will also answer the question. He says that the greatest component of the test of the Akeidoh was when Avrohom heard that he should not slaughter his son. How would he react at this point? Would he say to himself, "B"H my son's life is saved," and immediately unbind him, or would he do this with the same attitude of fulfilling Hashem's wish? We see from the words of the angel, "Al tishlach yodcho el hanaar v'al taa'seh lo M'UMOH" (22:12), which the M.R. 56 says means "don't cause even the smallest blemish (mum mah) in Yitzchok," that Avrohom wasn't relieved at the turn of events, but to the contrary, he was still very eager to sacrifice Yitzchok. Only upon being specifically commanded to stop in his tracks did he relent. This is why Avrohom was credited with this test, while we have no such test for Yitzchok.

13) See the Holy Zohar page 120.

14) Yitzchok was not aware of his being the sacrifice until after he was bound hand and foot and it was too late for him to do anything about it. (Abarbanel)

15) The Ramban at the beginning of Vayikra writes that when a person offers a sacrifice for atonement he should view it as if he were to be slaughtered, dismembered, and burned on the altar. Yitzchok already made this mental preparation and when advised that he was the actual sacrifice he was ready for it. Avrohom had no reason to be prepared to offer his son. (Rabbi Naftoli Trop)

4) Ch. 22, v. 1: "V'hoElokim nisoh es Avrohom" - Why does Hashem give a test to a tzadik since Hashem already knows the outcome?

1) The Ramban answers that with the test the tzadik has brought his capabilities into ACTION, thus increasing his reward.

2) The Rabbeinu Yonah in his commentary on the 10 tests of Avrohom, Pirkei Ovos 5:3, says that with the ACTIONS of Avrohom, the world recognizes that he has fear of Heaven and is complete in good character qualities, as it says 19:12, "Atoh yodati ki y'rei Elokim atoh."

3) The M'iri on Pirkei Ovos 5:3 says that through Avrohom's ACTIONS the future generations can learn how far a person must go to act, tolerate, and put in effort for the honour of his Creator.

4) Possibly, only through ACTION can a person create a sufficiently powerful spiritual energy that can carry forward to future generations and inject into their spiritual genes the good character traits acquired by the tzadik when he passed his test. This might be alluded to in the commentary of the Tosfos Yom Tov on the above mishnoh when he explains the title "Ovinu" given to Avrohom only at the end of the mishnoh, where it mentions his passing the 10 tests. He is our "father" when he passes on his values through the ACTION of passing the 10 tests.

5) Ch. 22, v. 12: "Ki y'rei Elokim attoh" - The gemara B.B. 15b says that the praises STATED by Iyov exceed those STATED here by Avrohom. Here it only says that Avrohom was a "y'rei Elokim," while by Iyov (1:1) it states, "Ish tam v'yoshor v'yo'rei Elokim v'sor mei'ra," numerous other praises beyond just "yo'rei Elokim." Are we to understand that Iyov was much greater than Avrohom?

1) HoRav M.M. Shach zt"l answers that all the other praises mentioned by Iyov were included in Avrohom's complete and in-depth "yiras Elokim." Iyov's praises were departmentalized attributes, one independent of the other. Having all these positive attributes included in "yiras Elokim" is akin to one large diamond of numerous carats of weight. Separate attributes not building a unified "yiras Elokim" are like numerous separate diamonds. It is obvious that a 5 carat diamond is significantly more valuable than 5 one carat diamonds.

2) Perhaps another answer can be offered. Avrohom was praised to his face by the angel, so the rule of "miktzas shvocho b'fonov" (see Rashi 7:1) applies. The verse praising Iyov was not said to his face, thus all his praises may by STATED. Thus the gemara tells us that by IYOV, that which was STATED is greater, but by no means is it telling us that in fact Iyov was greater.

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


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