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October 22-23, 1999 13 Heshvan 5760

Pop Quiz: How old was Abraham when Yishmael was born?

by Rabbi Reuven Semah

"Go for yourself from your land" (Beresheet 12:1)

Our perashah tells us of the beginning of the Jewish people. Abraham, the first father of our people, lived in Ur Kasdim and then in Haran. While Abraham lived in Ur Kasdim, a truly fantastic miracle took place. The evil king, Nimrod, threatened to throw Abraham into a fiery furnace. Nimrod said that Abraham must accept his idol and forsake his belief in Hashem. Abraham refused, was thrown into the furnace, and the Midrash says that Hashem Himself saved Abraham, His loyal servant.

Now Hashem appears to Abraham and tells him to leave Haran and enter the land of Israel. Hashem promises him that he will have children and he will be able to spread the word of Hashem to the pagans there. It is interesting that the Sages count this move as one of the ten trials with which Hashem tested Abraham. However, this is questionable. Imagine someone who is childless, and you promise him a child if he travels far to a certain doctor. Wouldn't he go right away? What is the test?

Hacham Obadiah Yosef (quoted in Peninim) explains. This was truly a great test for Abraham. We know that Abraham's greatest desire was to teach the world about Hashem. While Abraham lived in Haran, he was famous. Everyone knew about the miracle of Ur Kasdim and the furnace.

He was the star of the show, a true celebrity. All the people followed him, but now he would be leaving. He would be going to a new place where nobody heard of him or of the miracle. What would be with all those people who knew of him in Haran, who had great potential to be brought closer to Hashem?

With this test, Hashem teaches Abraham a fundamental lesson of our religion. A person who believes in Hashem as a result of logical reasoning and learning will remain in that conviction far more than one who comes to believe as a result of a miracle. Abraham was to go to the land of Israel in order to teach monotheism. No miracles, no wonders.

Just teaching, learning and caring, and he would succeed. This is reflected in our society today. Those who return as a result of artificial inspiration or exposure do not last as long as those who come because of the realization of the facts together with emunah, true belief. Using our minds to understand is our greatest source of belief. Shabbat Shalom.

by Rabbi Yaacov Ben-Haim

"And he showed kindness to Abram for her sake" (Beresheet 12:16)

The Talmud states: A person must always be careful about his wife's honor, because blessing is found in a person's house only on account of his wife, as it is stated, that Pharaoh treated Abram well on Sarah's account. And this is what Rava meant when he told the people of Mechoza: Honor your wives in order that you may become wealthy.

These two statements are a little confusing. The first statement indicates that a person gets blessed in his home because of his wife, and that's why he should honor her. The second statement says that if a person honors his wife, he will be wealthy and have a blessing in his home. This is like the old question - which came first, the chicken or the egg? Will the blessing come to his home first, or does he have to honor his wife first and then the blessing will come?

Rabbi Yoshiya Pinto answers this question with an important lesson. A husband must respect and honor his wife both before and after the blessing. He deserves the blessing only because he honors his wife, and as a result of this blessing he needs to respect his wife even more than before. This shows that this is a continuous misvah, not a one-time deal. May we always have the proper respect for each other, and may Hashem shower us with blessings forever, Amen. Shabbat Shalom.


"And he went on his journeys from the South to Beth-El, to the place where his tent had been in the the place of the altar which he had made there at first" (Beresheet 13:3-4)

Why does the Torah discuss Abraham's return journey from Egypt at such length?

Upward mobility often leads people to change communities. Unfortunately, often the new neighborhood is less compatible with Torah values than the old one. The new area at times lacks proper yeshivahs, shuls, mikvaot, etc., and this causes an obvious decrease in religious observance.

Abraham started his travels as a poor man and established his residence in the vicinity of Beth-El, an area which was spiritually in accordance with G-d's desires for humanity. The Torah emphasizes that on his return, after being blessed with an abundance of material wealth, he did not change his style of living. He returned to the area of Beth-El, where he originally lived when he possessed modest means. Despite his affluence, he remained in the "old" Jewish neighborhood. (Vedibarta Bam)

Answer to Pop Quiz: Eighty-six.

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