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October 29-30, 1999 20 Heshvan 5760

Pop Quiz: To what city did Lot go to escape the destruction of Sedom?

by Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

We are all familiar with the story of the three angels appearing to Abraham, and how he ran about doing kindness for them in order to show them hospitality. We also see in this same perashah that Lot received angels graciously and exerted himself on their behalf. There is, however, a major difference in how they are referred to in the Torah.

When the angels came to Abraham, they are called "anashim - people" - and indeed, the Midrash says they looked like Arab peasants. When they came to Lot, they are called "mal'achim - angels" - because they looked like what they were. This is not coincidental, but rather to teach us an important lesson about the different types of hesed done by Abraham and Lot. Lot went out of his way to entertain his guests because they looked like angels. Had they appeared as regular people, and for sure as peasants, they would not have gotten such treatment. Abraham was on a higher level and even when he saw peasants, he went all out to take care of them. We, who are descendants of Abraham, must emulate our forefather and do kindness to everyone, not only the important people who need favors but even (and especially) the regular folks. That shows our hesed to be genuine and part of our inner self. Shabbat Shalom.

by Rabbi Reuven Semah

"And it happened after these things that Hashem tested Abraham" (Beresheet 22:1)

In our perashah, Abraham faces the ultimate test. Hashem commands Abraham to slaughter his son, Yitzhak. Abraham, who is about to slaughter his son, is told by Hashem at the last moment to let Yitzhak go. As a result of this willingness of a father to kill his son, and a son ready to be killed by his father on the command of Hashem, our nation merits eternal blessing from Hashem.

My friends, we live in a day and age where we see many people ready to die for an ideal. The world today lives in fear of the terrorist ready to blow himself up for his homeland. There is no defense against the suicide bomber ready to die. What really separates our people ready to die for the honor of Hashem from these reckless terrorists?

Rabbi E.M. Bloch explains that the difference lies in the way we view life, as opposed to the way the rest of the world does. The gentile views life as a physical existence whose main focus is on enjoying life.

If the world is not the way he feels it should be, if he doesn't enjoy life, then he has a logical option to end it all. To leave this world in a blaze of glory is very alluring to one who is less than satisfied with life. After all, in his eyes, he is not giving up a lot. The devoted Jew, however, has a totally different perspective. His life on this earth is a life of spirit. In every moment of his life, he strives to sanctify and give honor to Hashem. His link to life is very precious.

Even if he lives in great pain, he struggles to survive in order to continue serving and praising Hashem. This is why the Jewish people, the most merciful of all people, are against "mercy killing". How can one end his life early and not use every precious moment? To give up one's life is unthinkable, but when Hashem commands, we do the unthinkable.

How great are your people, Hashem! Shabbat Shalom.


G-d's angel called Hagar from heaven and said to her, 'What troubles you, Hagar?'" (Beresheet 21:17)

Wouldn't anyone seeing a child crying for water in a desert understand why the mother was crying?

The reason for Hagar's crying was indeed obvious to the angel, and he was not asking her why she was crying. On the contrary, he was telling her that she was not fulfilling her maternal obligation to her child!

The words of the angel, "What troubles you, Hagar?" mean - "Hagar, what kind of mother are you? When your child is dying of thirst, the lack of water in the desert does not excuse you from turning over every stone and searching! Sitting in the near distance and crying will not help the situation: A sincere parent does everything for the sake of her child, including what may seem to strangers as the impossible!"

Immediately afterwards we read, "And Hashem opened her eyes and she saw a well of water" (21:19). According to Seforno, this was not a miracle; the well was there all the time. She had taken it for granted that there would not be any water in the desert and had therefore made no effort to search. (Vedibarta Bam)

Answer to Pop Quiz: Tso'ar.

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