Vayera
 


Parshat Vayera          15 MarCheshvan 5765              October 30, 2004              Vol.14 No.7


In This Issue:

Rabbi Joel Grossman

Ben Krinsky

Avi Wollman

Halacha of the Week

Rabbi Chaim Jachter

 

 

The Chesed of Avraham
by Rabbi Joel Grossman

In the beginning of this week's parsha the Torah describes how Avraham Avinu was sitting dejectedly as Rashi says, because there were no guests and he wanted to perform the Mitzvah of Hachnasat Orchim. Rav Moshe Feinstein in his Darash Moshe says that it is very difficult to understand, why Avraham was so upset, since there is no Mitzvah if there are no guests. Rav Moshe compares it to someone who is sad on Tuesday that today isn't Shabbat! There is no point to it! Rav Moshe explains that the reason for Avraham's sadness was because of his great love to do acts of kindness. It is itself a Mitzvah to desire to be involved in Mitzvot, in particular acts of kindness, in the same way that people desire certain foods or other physical pleasures. The fact that the food they want is not in front of them does not take away their hunger for it; the only way to end their hunger, is to find that food and partake of it.
This was the intensity of the hunger of Avraham to do acts of kindness; even though potential guests were not available, he still thirsted for the Mitzvah.
We are the descendants of Avraham Avinu and must learn from his wonderful desire to do Mitzvot, how we should behave. The Gemara says that one of the three character traits of a Jew is someone who is Gomel Chesed, who does acts of kindness. Many of us talk about the importance of giving charity, which of course is a very big Mitzvah, but the Gemara in Masechet Succah teaches us that in three ways, Gemilut Chessed is even a greater Mitzvah than giving charity. They are: 1) Tzedakah is only to the poor where Gemilut Chessed can be done for the rich too and 2) Tzedakah can only be done with your money while Gemilut Chessed can be done with you're body, too, and 3) Tzedakah can only be done to the living while Gemilut Chessed can be done to the dead, as well.
There is a famous story told about a man who was brought up in a religious home but when he went off to college, decided to give up on religion and become totally secular. One day, many years later, when he was at work and very successful, he heard some children playing outside. Suddenly, he heard a loud crash and then one of the boys screaming. He went to the window to see what happened and heard the boy scream over and over, "What will father say!" After a while he went outside to try to do an act of kindness and calm down the boy. He asked him what happened and why he was crying so much. The boy related that he was very poor and his father had saved enough money in order to buy oil for the Chanukah menorah and he asked him to purchase the oil and bring it straight home for use tonight on the first night of Chanukah. Instead he stopped to play with his friends and the bottle of oil broke and that is why he stood there screaming, "What will my father say." The businessman took out some money from his wallet and gave it to the boy and told him to buy new oil and bring it home and enjoy Chanukah. When the boy ran off, the sound of "what will my father say" kept resounding in the man's head and he asked himself the same question, what will my Father say about the way I am living my life. He decided right then and there to come back to Judaism. We see from this story that when we help others, we help ourselves as well.
May we learn this message of the love of Gemilut Chassadim from Avraham Avinu and may we keep this story in mind as we constantly ask ourselves, "What will my father say," and hopefully, we can live our lives in a way that we emulate our father Avraham, where we worry about the needs of others, not only ourselves, and make this world a better place for everyone to live.

Going the Extra Meal 
by Ben Krinsky

At the beginning of this week's Parsha, Avraham invites three angels into his house and offers to feed them. He says in 18:5, "'Viekcha Pat Lechem, Vesaadu Libchem'.Vayomru, 'Kein Taaseh Kaasher Dibarta,'" "'And I will get a morsel of bread, and you shall satisfy yourselves'.and they said, 'Do so - as you said.'" He merely offers them a little bread, and they respond that this will be enough. However, later we see that Avraham serves the angels an elaborate and sumptuous meal, which includes homemade cakes and some of his best calf meat. Why, after they say they only want a small amount of food, does it make sense for Avraham to serve them so much food? All they said they needed was a piece of bread!
The Gemara in Bava Metzia explains that this is the quality of the righteous, who always go above and beyond what is required in the performance of Mitzvot. Avraham was the perfect example of this behavior. First of all, he did not have to invite the angels into his tent at all. He also could have just offered them a place to stay so that they could avoid the sweltering heat. Even when he provided them with food, he could have just given them a small piece of bread as he offered, and they would have been satisfied. Yet Avraham did as much as possible to completely fulfill the Mitzvah of Hachnasat Orchim and accommodate his guests. To accomplish this goal, he did his best to provide them with everything they wanted. When he found that all they said they wanted was a little bread, he was afraid that they were being modest and did not want to cost him too much, and so had not informed him of what they truly wanted. Avraham therefore gave them much more than they requested. Avraham's actions are a lesson not only in the importance of going out of our way to do Mitzvot, but also in the importance of not cutting corners when we do them. Like Avraham, we must find the best and most complete way to perform each Mitzvah.

Against the Odds
by Avi Wollman

One of the highlights of Parshat Vayera is Hashem's destruction of the city of Sodom. When Hashem approaches Avraham to tell him about His plans, Avraham begs of Him not to destroy the city in the merit of any righteous inhabitants who may be living there. However, Avraham's prayers are to no avail, and Hashem ultimately destroys the city. This incident is very interesting and raises several questions. First of all, why is Avraham pleading with Hashem to spare the city of Sodom from destruction? This city even recognized Hashem but still defied Him outright; it was entirely evil! In fact, there is a Pasuk in Mishlei that states, "When the evil are destroyed, it calls for rejoicing (song)." Based on this, it seems that Avraham should, in fact, want the city of Sodom to be destroyed. Why, then, of all the things he could do, does Avraham choose to pray for Sodom? Additionally, what is Avraham doing praying for a city which Hashem has decided to destroy? What gives him this right?
In truth, Hashem did not have to notify Avraham of his plans to destroy Sodom. Because Hashem did notify him, Avraham perceived that he could pray on the city's behalf. Hashem was granting him a special opportunity to intercede. Still, the Pasuk in Mishlei seems to indicate that he should not have been praying for them, but rather rejoicing over their destruction. We may explain this difficulty based on a Gemara in Masechet Nidarim that states that Bnei Yisrael's enslavement in Egypt was due to Avraham's actions when he won the war against the four kings. In 14:21-23, the Torah says, "The King of Sodom said to Avraham, 'Give me the people and take the possessions for yourself.' Avraham said to the King of Sodom, '.I shall not take anything of yours..'" Since Avraham did not take this opportunity to convert the king of Sodom, the Gemara says, he was punished with his children's enslavement. Now, when the time came for Sodom's destruction, Avraham tried to correct his previous mistake. He took the special opportunity Hashem had given him to pray that the city of Sodom to be saved from complete destruction. Nonetheless, as we know, Sodom and its inhabitant were wiped out.
We are often presented with valuable opportunities which we sometimes miss. When this happens, it is important to do our best to correct our mistakes, even when the odds are against us. We must learn to be like our forefather Avraham, and to take advantage of the wonderful opportunities with which we provided.

 

Halacha of the Week
Many people eat natural peanut butter that contains no hydrogenated oils. This appears to be a wise choice, as avoiding hydrogenated oils seems to fulfill the Mitzvah of Vinishmartem Meod Linafshoteichem (maintaining our health). Indeed, Rav Hershel Schachter stated at a convention of the National Council of Young Israel Rabbis that Rabbanim should urge their constituents to make healthy choices regarding the foods they consume. Natural peanut butter, though, must be stirred before use because the oil and peanut butter separate during shipping and storage. It is possible that this stirring might constitute a biblically forbidden act of Lishah, kneading, on Shabbat. Consult your local Rav for a ruling.

 

 

Staff at time of publication:

Editors-in-Chief:  Ely Winkler, Willie Roth
Executive Editor: Jerry M. Karp
Publication Editors: Jesse Dunietz, Ariel Caplan
Publishing Manager: Andy Feuerstein-Rudin
Publication Managers: Orin Ben-Jacob, Moshe Zharnest
Business Manager: Etan Bluman
Webmaster: Avi Wollman
Staff: Duvie Barth, Mitch Levine, Josh Markovic, Moshe Schaffer, Chaim Strauss
Faculty Advisor: Rabbi Chaim Jachter

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 This week's issue of Kol Torah has been sponsored by Michael and Cecile Wollman in honor of their son Charlie's Bar Mitzvah.
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This week's issue of Kol Torah has also been sponsored by Moshe and Ilana Wertenteil in memory of Moshe's father, Louis Wertenteil, z"l, Yehuda Baruch ben R' Dovid.

 


This publication contains Torah matter and should be treated accordingly.