Parshat Vayera Vol.10 No.9

Date of issue: 20 Marcheshvan 5761 -- November 18, 2000

This week's issue has been sponsored by Rabbi and Mrs. Yosef Adler in honor of the forthcoming marriage of Zvi and Lauren.

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This week's featured writers:

Rabbi Darren Blackstein
Ilan Tokayer
Yair Manas
Moshe Hus
Yehuda Turetsky
Rabbi Howard Jachter
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*Ein Bishul Achar Bishul*
Halacha of the Week
Food For Thought
-*by Dani Gross*

Soul Survivor
by Rabbi Darren Blackstein

In addition to reviewing the Parsha of the week, it is also a most worthwhile task to gain an understanding as to why Chazal chose a particular Haftara to be attached to a particular Parsha. This job is especially difficult this week, being that Parshat Vayera is packed with wonderful stories and morals having to do with Avraham Avinu. These episodes concerning Avraham, culminating with the famous near-sacrifice of Yitzchak, are told to generation after generation as the ultimate testimony to the idea of Maaseh Avot Siman Labanim. With such a Parsha, we are not as tempted to run to the Haftara for insight. However, let us digress for a moment to look at the connection that this Parsha may have to its accompanying Haftara.

Taken from Sefer Melachim II chapter 4, our Haftara discusses an episode that occurs between Elisha and a Shunamite woman. This woman provided food and a chamber for Elisha to stay in during his travels. Elisha is so overwhelmed with her hospitality that he asks her if she is in need of anything. She does not make a request. However, Elisha's servant points out that this woman has no son. Consequently, Elisha promises that she will have a son at this time next year. This seems to be the link! In our Parsha, Hashem promises Avraham that Sarah will have a son at this time next year.

This seems all too obvious. Perhaps we can say that the link is even deeper. Towards the end of the Haftara, this boy of the Shunamite woman cries of pain in his head and then dies in his mother's lap, a clear tragedy, deviating from the near-sacrifice of Yitzchak. Elisha eventually visits the boy and after confirming his death Elisha performs a miraculous act. Elisha begins with prayer to Hashem. Then he places his mouth to the boy's mouth, his eyes to the boy's eyes, and his palms to the boy's palms. The boy's flesh becomes warm, seemingly due to blood circulation, and he awakens. The tragedy is reversed and all is well.

If we scrutinize Elisha's life-restoring procedure, we can see some additional connections to our Parsha. Elisha begins with prayer, just as Avraham must have been praying having just undergone a circumcision. Elisha uses his mouth. This is the mouth of Avraham as he asks for mercy for the people of Sedom and Amorah. Elisha uses his eyes. These are the eyes of Avraham as he sees the destiny and place for Akeidat Yitzchak. Elisha uses his palms. These are the palms of Avraham as he cooks for guests, even though he is the one who is in distress.

Our first parallel was the birth of a child, but it is not good enough to have children. We must be involved in other ways if we are to sustain them physically and spiritually. Prayer is crucial: we must teach our children to pray and develop their own connections to Hashem. Our youth must also be taught, by our example, how to use their mouths. The goal is always to speak with as much Nachat Ruach as possible. We must teach our youth to always see the good in people; it is far too easy to criticize one's neighbor. Only with great care and sensitivity may one see that opportunities for Mitzvot are constantly knocking at our door. Finally, our palms, the work of our hands, should be involved with acts of Chessed as opposed to acts that only serve our own needs. Indeed, Avraham and Elisha have taught us that the survival of our people depends not only upon being together but also upon our constant love and involvement. May Hashem provide all of us with the courage, strength, and sensitivity to complete our task with success.

Lot's Angels
by Ilan Tokayer

In the beginning of this week's Parsha, we read about three angels coming to Avraham. The Pasuk says, Vayisa Einav Vayar Vehinei Shelosha Anashim Nitzavim Alav, "And [Avraham] raised his eyes and he saw, behold, there were three men standing before him" (Bereishit 18:2). The angels, here referred to as Anashim, men, come and tell Avraham that Sarah would give birth. One of the angels leaves, and the Torah then says, Vayavowu Shnei Hamalachim Sedoma, "The two angels came to Sedom" (19:1). The two angels came to Sedom, whereas men appeared to Avraham. Why does the Torah call the angels Anashim at first and then Malachim?

Chazal explain that they are first called Anashim because at first they did nothing miraculous. The angels simply told Avraham that Sarah would give birth to a son. In Sedom, however, the angels performed deeds beyond the capability of mortal men. Therefore, the Torah describes them as Malachim in Sedom.

Reish Lakish suggests that these angels appeared as men, or equals, to Avraham, who was on such a high level. To the people of Sedom, who were on a very low level, however, the angels were awesome and were therefore referred to as Malachim (Bereishit Rabbah 83).

Rav Zalman Sorotzkin was troubled by this concept. How could the people of Sedom see Kedusha that Avraham could not? He answers that Hashem wanted the citizens of Sedom to see these angels as Malachim. By doing so, Hashem gave Sedom a chance to do Teshuva before He wiped them out. He even made His test easier for them: although the angels came Ba'erev, in the evening, when it is dark and the angels could have snuck into someone's house without the town members' knowledge, everyone knew that they had come because the angels asked everyone to host them.

This shows us how bad the people of Sedom were. They saw the angels of Hashem in their town, and nobody invited them to stay for the night. Normal people would fight for the privilege of housing such guests!

For Lot, however, Hashem's final test worked. He had just been appointed the new chief justice of Sedom (Bereishit Rabbah 40) and was therefore sitting by the gate of the city. Being the city's judge, he would have abided by Sedom's corrupt code of law and treated the angels as any other guests. However, Lot was reminded of Avraham's hospitality and graciously invited the angels in. Lot was inspired by Avraham's hospitality. Avraham invited those same angels into his home, although he thought that they were only men.

There are many stories about Tzaddikim going out of their way to perform Mitzvot, even when doing so is difficult. We must learn from Lot that we should be inspired by these Tzaddikim, and at the least we should not pass up the easy Mitzvot that come to our doors.

Kindness and Virtue
by Yair Manas

One of the virtues that permeates Avraham's character is Chessed, kindness and generosity to others. Chessed is one of the three pillars that the world stands upon. Without Chessed, man cannot live in society.

Hashem provides Avraham with the model for Chessed. It is because of Hashem's kindness that we are supplied with food, sunshine, happiness, and all of the good things that come to us in life. Avraham recognized this abundance of kindness and succeeded in copying Hashem's ways. Avraham did not help others because of an ulterior motive such as wealth or greatness; rather, it was because he knew that the will of Hashem was the right thing to do.

Avraham's Brit Mila occurred when he was ninety-nine years old. While he was recovering, Hashem made the desert hotter than usual, causing everybody to stay inside his or her tents, so that no one would bother Avraham while he was recovering. If anyone had approached Avraham, he would have entertained these guests, even though it would cause him discomfort. Avraham noticed the lack of visitors, and the inability to perform the Mitzva of Hachnasat Orchim upset him. Hashem, therefore, sent three angels to visit Avraham, and Avraham was very pleased that he could fulfill the Mitzva.

On the other extreme, we see the paradigm of wickedness in this week's Parsha, Sedom. They enjoyed making others' lives miserable. They seem to have been the exact opposite of Avraham in their goal to do wickedness to their fellow man.

A valuable lesson can be learned from these two different types of people. We should strive to perform Chessed at all opportunities, without an ulterior motive. We should perform Chessed because it is the right thing to do, not because we can gain a reward. We should try to perform Chessed like Avraham and we should not act like the people of Sedom.

Jewish Continuity
by Moshe Hus

Why do three angels go to see Avraham? Rashi suggests that one is to visit Avraham, the second is to tell Sarah that she is going to have a child, and the third is there to help Lot in Sedom. We must ask, though, why one angel could not do all these things by himself. After all, these three tasks did not occur at the same time; why couldn't one angel do all three?

I would like to suggest that the number three symbolizes the continuation of the world. Pirkei Avot states that the world stands on three things: Torah - which can refer to the Mitzvot, Avoda - serving Hashem with prayer, and Gemilut Chassadim - good deeds. Avraham was doing all three things and thus kept the world going.

Even though Avraham was sick from his Brit Mila and was in a lot of pain, he still acted with Chessed towards the three angels. The Mitzva of Hachnasat Orchim was Avraham's Chessed.

Before Avraham invited the angels into his house, he asked them to wash their feet. Rashi explains that Avraham wanted to wash off their gods, the dust of the earth, from their feet. By doing this Avraham showed that he fully believed in Hashem and did not allow Avoda Zara to enter his home. This is Avraham's Avoda.

Third, Avraham sacrificed his own well being in order to fulfill the Mitzva of Brit Mila. Although he was old and Mila was dangerous, Avraham followed the word of Hashem and fulfilled the Mitzva. Avraham was committed to Hashem's laws and he fulfilled them even when they included dangerous surgery at the age of 100. Furthermore, there is a Midrash that states that the Avot kept all the Mitzvot. Avraham held the world up with his observance of the Torah's Mitzvot.

It therefore seems that the three angels came to point out to us that Avraham was holding up the world with the three aspects of Torah, Avoda, and Gemilat Chessed. Hopefully this Parsha can help us understand that the world will continue to function properly only if we, like Avraham, do our part in keeping it steady. The Mishna in Pirkei Avot tells us how: Torah, Avoda, and Chessed.

Universal Kindness
by Yehuda Turetsky

Avraham's actions in Parshat Vayera teach several important lessons. The Seforno emphasizes Avraham's Zerizut as seen in the Pasuk, "And he saw, and he ran to greet them." Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt"l, focuses on the double language of Vayar, which teaches what one's course of action should be in any situation. First one must determine what needs to be done, and then one must determine how to do it. By assessing every situation in that manner, one will be successful in all his endeavors.

There are many commentators who focus on a specific aspect of Avraham's Chessed. For example, Rav Shimshon Dovid Pincus explains that whereas most people honor guests according to their status, Avraham would honor any guest regardless of stature, to the best of his ability.

There is a famous story about Reb Levi Yitzchak MiBerditchev that illustrates this point. When Reb Levi Yitzchak was once visiting a certain town, he went to a rich and well respected person in town to ask for lodging. Since he did not reveal his identity, the rich man did not give him accommodation. A poor Melamed, however, was willing to accept Reb Levi Yitzchak into his house and treat him like a king, offering whatever he could. When Reb Levi Yitzchak was finally recognized, all the townspeople came to visit him. Among them was the rich man who had previously thrown Reb Levi Yitzchak out of his house. The rich man begged for forgiveness and pleaded that Reb Levi Yitzchak stay at his house because had he known whom he was, he surely would have invited him in.

Reb Levi Yitzchak responded to the entire crowd with the following piece of Torah. The Torah records that both Avraham and Lot received guests cordially. The difference between the two is that regarding Lot the Pasuk says, "Two angels came toward Sedom," but in reference to Avraham the Pasuk states, "And he saw three men." Lot saw angels and therefore treated them well, but Avraham saw poor and disheveled men, and that was enough to welcome them into his house.

Iturei Torah quotes a similar idea in the name of Rav Shalom MiBelz. Commenting on the Pasuk, Vehu Yoshev Petach Haohel, he explains homiletically that Avraham sits by the opening of Gan Eden and looks to see if anyone who sinned has repented. If someone has, Avraham goes out to bring him into Gan Eden. This demonstrates Avraham's desire to treat everyone well, even those who have sinned in the past.

Halacha of the Week

Subtle communication of Lashon Hara is forbidden, just as explicit expression of Lashon Hara is forbidden (Sefer Chafetz Chaim 1:8).

Food for Thought
by Dani Gross

1) Rashi (18:2) says that three Malachim visited Avraham because one Malach is unable to do two tasks at a time. Under the same Dibur Hamaskil, Rashi proves that Refael was the Malach who healed Avraham and saved Lot. How was Refael able to accomplish both these tasks if a Malach can only do one task at a time?

2) Some say that the Avot knew and followed all the Mitzvot. Why, then, does the Pasuk say that Avraham served his guests butter, milk, and meat? Doesn't this violate the laws of Kashrut?

If you have a response to these questions, please contact us at koltorah@hotmail.com Responses may be published upon agreement of the provider.

Staff at time of publication:
Editors-in-Chief: Avi-Gil Chaitovsky, Dani Gross
Managing Editors: Moshe Glasser, Zevi Goldberg
Publication Editor: Daniel Wenger
Business Manager: Ilan Tokayer
Staff: Josh Dubin, Zev Feigenbaum, Shuky Gross, Michael Humphrey, Binyamin Kagedan, Yair Manas, Uriel Schechter, Yechiel Shaffer, Gil Stein
Consultant: David Gertler
Faculty Advisor: Rabbi Howard Jachter

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