OCTOBER 29-30, 2004 15 HESHVAN 5765
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"Inasmuch as you have passed your servant's way" (Beresheet 18:5)
Abraham Abinu exhibits in our perashah his great attribute of kindness. Despite his ailing condition due to his circumcision, he goes all out to help three strangers on the road with his famous hospitality. He senses their hesitation to come in so not to impose upon him. Rabbi Naftali Weinberg explains that our verse mentioned above reveals his compelling argument to convince them. He tells them that the very reason they were passing was so that he could host them. He reasoned that it was not by coincidence that they were walking by, for there is no such thing as coincidence. Everything that happens is part of Hashem's plan, and if he sent the three angels Abraham's way, it was because he was supposed to invite them inside. Abraham told the passersby that they could not decline his invitation because this was the way Hashem intended matters to be.
The angels could not disagree with his argument and they came in.
There are a number of examples of this principle in the Torah, people who came across or witnessed certain incidents and regarded it as a sign from Heaven that the incident was relevant to them. One who witnesses the Sotah in her state of degradation should abstain from wine. If you are one of the few who saw her, then it is a sign to lead a less frivolous life. Reuben, the oldest brother of Yosef responded to save Yosef's life from the hands of his brothers. The commentaries explain that he heard something his brothers didn't hear. The pasuk says, "Reuben heard," and he rescued Yosef. He heard a voice saying, "Then we shall see what will become of his dreams."
He took these words as a prophecy that Yosef's dreams will indeed come to pass. Reuben reasoned that if no one else heard this, it is obviously upon him to save Yosef.
Hashem runs the world on a need-to-know basis. If one sees or hears something significant he should use the experience for his personal growth.
What you see and hear is meant for you to see and hear, and to act upon it. If you didn't hear about something or you don't know about something, you do not have to try to find out. Keeping up with the latest news is not the way to grow spiritually. Whatever you need to know, you will find out, and what you don't know, you do not need to know, so there is no reason to inquire about it further. This is an important lesson in life.
Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
Whenever we study the story of Abraham and his beautiful deeds, we can't help but be amazed at the contrast between him and his nephew, Lot.
Although Lot was his faithful student at the outset, as time went on he went his own way and ultimately landed in Sedom. We see a contrast between Sarah and Lot's wife in this perashah. Lot's wife, on the way escaping from the burning fires of Sedom, turned around to see what was happening behind her.
She turned into a pillar of salt. Rashi tells us that she was stingy with her guests and wouldn't even give them salt for their food, so she was punished with becoming a pillar of salt. We see how much the influence of Sedom affected her. She, who saw her husband's uncle exhibit phenomenal hospitality, learned from her evil neighbors and became selfish and stingy.
In contrast to her, Sarah was very sensitive not to learn from evil influences. When she saw Yishmael behaving negatively, she told Abraham to send him away, because she didn't want Yitzhak to learn from Yishmael. We see the outcome of Sarah's wisdom, that Yitzhak became a sadik and Yishmael became the head of the Arabs! We must be so vigilant not to let evil influences penetrate our home and families! Not only must we be aware of our children's friends and check them out carefully, we must also combat the influence of the media in our homes. We must monitor what TV (if any) is allowed in the house, and be especially vigilant with videos and Internet.
We are the ones carrying on the legacy of Abraham and Sarah, and we must take our mission very seriously! Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"And [Abraham] lifted up his eyes and he saw and behold three men were standing near him and he saw and he ran to greet them from the entrance of the tent" (Beresheet 18:2)
From verse 2 until verse 8 the Torah tells us in great detail every specific act of Abraham in his hospitality towards the guests who came to him. "He lifted up his eyes," "and he saw," "and he ran to greet them," etc. There are seven verses describing the details of Abraham's kindness.
Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz commented on this with an analogy. When a person inherits a house, he will usually just say, "I have a house." He will not elaborate on all the details since he received everything at one time.
But a person who builds a house for himself will talk about every detail from the beginning until the end. He will describe how he purchased the land for the site of the house, how he bought the material that went into building the house, and so on. Each aspect is very dear to him. The more effort he put into the house, the more he will talk about it.
Similarly, said Rav Yeruchem, the actions and behavior of the righteous are like a building (see Berachot 64a). With each action, a righteous person is building a great edifice. For this reason the Torah tells us about each detail of Abraham's hesed. Every movement was another stage in the building of a righteous person.
When you view yourself as building a great person, every detail of what you do is invested with meaning and importance. Every positive action you do is creating a great human being. Keep this in mind when you do an act of kindness for others. Every movement you make is a necessary part of the entire construction. Don't wait for the end to appreciate what you are doing. Rather, feel the joy of growth in even the smallest act of kindness that you do. (Growth through Torah)
"And Hashem tested Abraham" (Beresheet 22:1)
Hazal state that this was the tenth time that Hashem tested Abraham Abinu's devotion. The first nine tests were only preparations for the Akedah, the ultimate test of faith. Rabbi Nissan Alpert offers two insights regarding the Akedah which shed light on this incident and its ramifications for the future of our people. Throughout Abraham's previous tests, he clearly displayed his tenacious devotion and utter loyalty to Hashem's imperative.
Indeed, in Ur Kasdim he was prepared to die for his belief. At the Akedah, however, he indicated his willingness to give up all that he possessed for Hashem. All his efforts, teachings and accomplishments would have been sacrificed with Yitzhak on the Akedah. He was about to publicly contradict everything which he had been teaching about a loving G-d, whose hallmarks are benevolence and altruism. He was suddenly directed to perform the most irrational act of his life by the G-d upon whom this belief focused. Perhaps the greatest test of faith is to perform an act which is not justifiable under ordinary circumstances. The ultimate validation of one's conviction is the ability to pierce through the veil of ambiguity and remain steadfast in one's belief in Hashem. People will always raise questions regarding Hashem's Divine Providence and make demands for explanations. We should respond with expressions of belief in Hashem despite the shadow of uncertainty.
There is yet another aspect of the Akedah which demands interpretation.
Why was this test oriented towards Yitzhak, his son? Until this juncture every trial was of a personal nature, focusing on Abraham's own compliance.
Rabbi Alpert suggest that until now it was not clear whether Abraham's devotion had been transmitted to Yitzhak. Did this devotion begin and end with Abraham, or was this the beginning of a family, and, consequently, a nation? Would Yitzhak show the same resolute faith which his father had taught the world, or would it become extinct with Abraham? Was this belief inculcated into the next generation, or was it a sterile spirituality?
Was Abraham a "father" whose lifelong goal was to transmit this heritage to his offspring? The involvement of Yitzhak in the test transformed it into the ultimate test of Abraham. This trial would assess the extent of Abraham's spiritual success and his ability to transmit his spirituality and faith to future generations. (Peninim on the Torah)
Question: Why do we tie the left shoe before the right?
Answer: Regarding tying, the Torah gives priority to the left. This is seen regarding tefillin which is tied on the left arm. This explains why a lefty, who ties his tefillin on his right arm, should tie his right shoe first. (Sefer Ta'amei Haminhagim Umkorei Hadinim)
"And Hashem tested Abraham" (Beresheet 22:1)
Throughout history, there have been many Jews who have sacrificed their lives for the sake of Hashem. Yet, there is one aspect of Akedat Yitzhak that further demonstrates the greatness of Abraham Abinu.
One can only imagine the thought processes in Abraham's mind when he received the order from Hashem to sacrifice his son. Of course, he rushed to fulfill the command, and he was probably on a very high level of spirituality and concentration. Nevertheless, when his son, Yitzhak, asked him a question, he immediately responded, "Here I am, my son." He did not say, "Hold your question for a while. I'm a little preoccupied right now."
And he most certainly did not snap, "Can't you see I'm concentrating? Stop being such a pest!" Rather, Abraham would not let anything get in the way of his devotion to his children, no matter what was going on in his life.
This is a lesson we should take from Akedat Yitzhak. Regardless of what kind of day we've had, how tired or grouchy we are feeling or any other stressful matter that is on our minds, we must emulate our father, Abraham, and always give the proper attention to our children, whenever they need it.
Question: Do you put aside your personal matters when your children ask for your attention? What would your children answer if you asked them this question?
This Week's Haftarah: : Melachim II 4:1-23.
In our perashah, angels tell Abraham, "Just like you are alive today, you will be alive next year..."
In the Haftarah, we find the same phrase is used by the prophet Elisha. As he passed through Shunam, a woman saw him and invited him into her house.
This woman, although of meager means, convinced her husband to build Elisha a room in their attic, to make the holy man more comfortable.
Elisha wanted to pay her for her kindness. He discovered that the woman wanted only one thing in life - a child. He told the woman, "Just like you are alive today, you will be alive next year, and you will embrace a child." (Tell it from the Torah)
A quick tip to boost the power of your prayer. Hazal tell us (Masechet Baba Kama Daf 92A) that Hashem loves the tefilot of one Jew for another so much that anyone who prays on behalf of a fellow Jew with similar needs will have his prayer answered first. A special service has now begun to provide people with names of others who find themselves in a similar predicament. You can call with complete anonymity and get the name of someone to pray for and give the name of someone that needs our prayers. The name of the service is Kol Hamitpalel. Categories include: Marriage; Income; Health; To have children etc.
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