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Haftarah: Melachim II 4:1-23

NOVEMBER 2-3, 2012 18 HESHVAN 5773


"Hashem appeared to him…while he was sitting at the entrance of the tent." (Beresheet 18:1)

After Abraham Abinu performs milah on himself, he sits at the opening of the tent to find guests. When guests arrive he runs, despite his bleeding wounds, to serve them an enormous meal. All of this was Abraham's own inventions, in accordance with his system of emulating the Creator. But, wasn't this a little extreme? What would have been so terrible if Abraham took some time to allow himself to heal? This question only comes up when one doesn't understand the importance of hesed, doing acts of kindness.

In his book about hesed, the Hafess Hayim puts the subject in the proper perspective. One who needs a certain daily dose of medicine to stay alive does not leave the dosage to chance. It's too important. He does whatever is necessary to remember the medication and to keep a strict account of it. He can't have a situation in which at the end of the day he must wrack his brain to remember whether he took today's dose.

Hesed is the soul's life-sustaining medicine, yet the dosage is often left to chance.

On some days opportunities to help come and are seized. On some days opportunities are bypassed, and on some days no one asks for help. The Hafess Hayim sees this as a dangerously haphazard system for conducting one's life. It's comparable to a diabetic saying, "Some days I take my insulin. Some days I remember it but I don't bother with it. And then, some days I just don't feel I need it."

Hesed is too important to one's life in this world and the next to be handled in such a manner. The Hafess Hayim therefore urges each person to pursue hesed on a consistent daily basis. It doesn't have to be something big, even simple favors count. To give a compliment, to lend someone the use of his cell phone, buying a raffle to support a local institution, to give some advice.

Abraham Abinu's actions now don't seem so extreme. He fully realized more than any man how important hesed was and couldn't imagine a day without it, even if he needed those days to heal. Let us all begin this program of daily hesed. 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


"Abraham arose early in the morning to the place where he had stood before Hashem." (Beresheet 19:27)

In the Talmud Berachot 6b, this pasuk is used as a source for an interesting halachah. "Anyone who sets himself a makom kavua, fixed place, in which to pray, will have the G-d of Abraham in his aid. Furthermore, when he dies, he will be eulogized thus: 'Alas for the humble one, alas for the pious one, a disciple of Abraham Abinu.'" This pasuk indicates that Abraham "stood," which is interpreted as "prayed," in the fixed place which he had used before. The question that confronts us is simple: What connection can there possibly be between picking a fixed place and the character trait of humility?

In order to explain Hazal, Rav Meir Bergman cites a Midrash that gives us a perspective on the disciples of Abraham Abinu. The Mishnah in Pirkei Abot 5:19 teaches that the disciples of Abraham possess the following three positive character traits: a kindly eye, a humble temperament, and a subdued spirit, while Bilaam's disciples manifest a grudging eye, a haughty temperament, and an uncontrolled spirit. If their disciples display opposite characteristics, it stands to reason that Abraham and Bilaam were also opposites. We learn this from their individual behavior in two parallel situations.

When Balak engaged Bilaam to curse the Jewish people, they went from place to place building altars and offering sacrifices, all to no avail. Each time that Balak did not experience success, he suggested that they try a different place. Perhaps another place would effect a better response to their cause. Three times they went, and three times they were stymied. Each time, Balak attributed their failure to the place. Bilaam knew the truth. The place was not the problem. He was the problem. Thus, he continued underscoring the place, rather than focusing on the mission, which did not have Hashem's approval. Instead of acknowledging that his request was going unfulfilled because his personal behavior was lacking, he blamed the place. His arrogance did not permit him to see the true cause of his failure.

Abraham, however, rendered long entreaties on behalf of the people of Sodom. Finally, he was down to ten righteous men, but Hashem could not find even ten righteous men in this wicked city. Although Abraham's request was not granted, he arose early the next morning, returned to the place where he had prayed the previous day and began over again. He did not go elsewhere. He did not convince himself that his failure was due to the place at which he prayed. No, his sole thought was that he failed because he had not prayed hard enough and with great enough fervor. It was his fault - not that of the place. His humility would not allow him to blame anyone, or anything, other than himself.

This conceptualizes the contrast between Abraham and the wicked Bilaam. Abraham returned to the same site, because he blamed his failure on himself. Bilaam knew the truth. He was acutely aware that he was at fault. Yet, he blamed the place for his failure. This is why someone who chooses to pray in one particular place - and does not alter his position - indicates that he is humble and pious, a disciple of Abraham. He acknowledges that the success or failure of his prayers has been dependent on his own deeds - not the place in which he prayed. Is there a better demonstration of humility than this? (Peninim on the Torah)


Entering a new business relationship shares a common pitfall with beginning married life. Every new undertaking has potential positive and negative issues, and requires a certain amount of give-and-take to make it work. But people sometimes don't anticipate the contributions that will be needed on their part in order to make the "deal" work at the end of the day.

We must sometimes do tasks that we find unpleasant. I once overheard a proud father boast, "I don't change diapers!" He is probably the one who doesn't help clear the dishes off the table or take out the garbage, either. This selfish attitude overflows into all areas of personal and professional life.

In order to really succeed, you must be prepared to take the good with the bad. When your partner needs your help in doing one of those unpleasant things that you don't like to do, remember, you have committed to make the "marriage" work. That means that sometimes you have to change a diaper or run an unpleasant errand. It's the spirit of co-operation that will help you and your partner build a successful "business" - together! (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)

* * * * *

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.

Call to 646-279-8712 or email (Privacy of email limited by the email address)

Please pass this message along. Tizku L'misvot.

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