Upon hearing that in one year she will give birth, Sarah laughs in amazement. According to Rashi, she evaluates herself physically and out of a sense of abandon, expresses some form of skepticism. She has fully accepted her present condition and is not expecting nature to extend itself on her account. Hashem questions Avraham as to why she laughed at this possibility. Avraham is then asked a rhetorical question (18:14), “HaYipalei MeiHashem Davar?” This is normally translated as, “Is anything beyond Hashem?” or, “Is anything too hard for Hashem?” How does the word, HaYipalei fit with this translation?
Rashi, quoting Onkelos, explains that it means to “cover.” This would mean that the Avraham is asked if anything is covered or hidden from Hashem, thus preventing His control over it. The Maharal explains that Rashi is approaching this with the idea that HaYipalei relates to the use of that word in the context of vows. In connection with vows, the Torah uses the word Yafli, as if to say that a vow separates the object of the vow from the person. A vow to abstain from wine would separate the wine from the person. The Maharal then goes on to explain that conceptually, when something is separated from someone, it is also covered, preventing their direct awareness or control.
This shows us that Sarah is being asked if she believes that anything can be covered or separated from Hashem. We would all imagine that Sarah believed that nothing could escape the awareness of Hashem! Perhaps she thought that the awareness could not impact her reality. Hashem may know of her problem, but that does not erase it! Hence, she is told that Hashem being aware equals Hashem being involved. Nothing is covered from His awareness or His involvement. This is how Hashem operates! We can now see how this rhetorical question is usually translated as challenging Hashem’s ability to pull off a miracle. Is anything too hard for Hashem to do? The answer to this is obvious. The connection between Hashem’s awareness and involvement is not as obvious, especially to those going through hard times as those Sarah experienced.
Indeed, by choosing Avraham, Hashem may have been looking for this quality on a human level. Before Hashem destroys Sedom, Hashem contemplates (18:17): “HaMechaseh Ani MeiAvraham Asher Ani Oseh,” “Should I cover up from Avraham what I am about to do?” If Hashem wants to bring about Avraham’s full potential, He must “uncover” His plans so that Avraham’s awareness can lead to his involvement. Our charge in this is clear! Knowing the truth demands that we be a part of it. The only way we can be a part of it is to act on it. Shielding our eyes from reality and life’s challenges can only foster our apathy. The more we know and are aware of, the more we can do to further our loyalty to the truth. In this way we can use our “Tzelem Elokim” to emulate Hashem’s ways as we journey through time towards our eventual redemption.
by Stewart Doberman
When Hashem was destroying Sedom, Lot was the only resident who was saved. This is seen in Bereishit 19:29: “And Hashem remembered Avraham, and saved Lot from the upheaval of Sedom.”
How did Lot merit to be saved? Rashi explains that since Lot did not expose Avraham when, as Avraham entered Mitzrayim, he said that Sarah was his sister, Lot was saved here.
This explanation is particularly troubling to Rabbi Yisrael Salanter. Rabbi Salanter asks: Why was Lot saved for keeping his mouth shut; was it not greater that he practiced Hachnasat Orchim?
Rav Salanter answers that Lot’s Hachnasat Orchim was only performed since he had seen Avraham do it. Silence in Egypt, on the other hand, was Lot’s own decision and action.
The Beit Haleivi adds that Lot’s hospitality was not enough, because he had only done it for Malachim. Avraham, on the other hand, did it for Anashim, even though he did not know they were prestigious.
We can extract two ideas from this: first, that it is profoundly important not to betray a friend to an evil authority, and second, Hachnasat Orchim should be done regardless of the status of the guest.
by Ilan Griboff
When discussing the destruction of Sodom, the Pasuk records, “Vayhi BeShacheit Elokim Et Arei HaKikar, VaYizkor Elokim Et Avraham VayShalach Et Lot…,” “And it was, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Avraham and he sent Lot…” (19:29). Rashi comments on this Pasuk that it was not Avraham himself who was being remembered here; rather, it was what Lot did for Avraham in Egypt by not divulging Avraham and Sarah’s true relationship.
Rav Shlomo Kluger wonders why Rashi chose to change the meaning of the verse. Why is it impossible that Hashem remembered Avraham? He answers that only something that has been forgotten can be remembered. Since Hashem loved Avraham and He spoke with him often, it is not possible that He could have forgotten him. Therefore, Hashem must have been remembering something else.
Rav Aharon Kotler asks a different question on this Rashi: why was Lot’s silence the act that was remembered here? Why was it not Lot’s hospitality, for example? He answers that Lot’s hospitality was not a distinctive quality of his own character. Since Lot had been around Avraham a long time, he learned to be hospitable from him and it almost became a habit. His silence, on the other hand, was from his own qualities, not just a habit learned from Avraham.
Thus, though Avraham was clearly the greater Tzadik and was always on Hashem’s mind, it was not his goodness that saved Lot, but rather the positive qualities Lot developed for himself. What Lot gained under his own power, though seemingly more trivial, was far more valuable in this case than even Avraham’s greatness.
The Legacy Lifeline
by Gavriel Metzger
Parshat Vayeira begins with Avraham’s extravagant display of Hachnasat Orchim to three men who appear at his doorstep. In this famous story, Avraham spares no expense in his kindness towards these guests. A lesser-known story however, is that of Vayeira’s Haftarah, located in Melachim Bet. In the Haftarah, the Navi Elisha supplies assistance and generosity to two women in two intriguing situations.
The first occurrence concerns a widow whose late husband was one of the prophets whom Achav and Izevel, an evil king and queen of Malchut Yisrael, attempted to eradicate. This widow runs and cries out to Elisha: “Avdecha Ishi Meit…VeHaNosheh Ba Lakachat Et Shenai Yeladai Lo LaAvadim,” “Your servant, my husband has died…but now the creditor has come to take my two sons to be his slaves” (Melachim II 4:1).
Apparently, as many Mefarshim note, her husband was Ovadiah HaNavi, who spent his entire fortune supporting and hiding the Nevi’ei HaEmet, the true prophets, whom Achav and Izevel so desperately tried to wipe out. A creditor, supposedly Yehoram ben Achav, previously arrived at the widow’s house demanding payment of Ovadiah’s debts, and when she could not reimburse him, he threatened to enslave her two children as payment instead.
The Avnei Ezel raises an obvious question: why does this prophet’s wife mention here that her husband died if he actually passed away many months earlier? The Avnei Ezel gives a simple answer: before his sons were taken away, Ovadiah’s Neshamah had not yet passed completely from Olam HaZeh. In fact, the widow had the complete intention of finishing the education of her sons in the path of Ovadiah, and helping them become God-fearing Jews as their esteemed father was. Until that point, Ovadiah’s soul still remained, sustained by his sons’ wisdom and Torah knowledge. This is not a foreign concept to Judaism; indeed, the Gemara in Bava Batra (116a) teaches, “All who raise their sons in their ways live on forever as if they had never died.” Thus, now that Yehoram has snatched Ovadiah’s lifeline away from his wife, she cries out to Elisha that her husband has just died and that she therefore needs Elisha’s assistance even more.
Just as Ovadiah’s sons were able to become his lifeline by carrying on his legacy, we, too, should realize our place in this world as maintainers of the legacy of our ancestors through our Torah, actions, and Yirat Shamayim.
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