Parshat Vayera

A Student Publication of the Isaac and Mara Benmergui Torah Academy of Bergen County
Parshat Vayera            20 Cheshvan 5763             October 26, 2002              Vol.12 No.4

In This Issue:

Rabbi Avi Pollak
Etan Bluman
Dani Shaffren
Food For Thought

Rabbi Howard Jachter

This week's issue of Kol Torah has been sponsored by Debby and Mark Teicher and family in memory of the Yahrtzeit of Debby's father, Moshe Yitzchak Lovinger.

Unspoken Bond
by Rabbi Avi Pollak

The Torah tells us almost nothing about Avraham Avinu's fateful journey to Har Hamoria. Chapter 22 verse 3 briefly states that Avraham chopped some wood, prepared his donkey and took Yitzchak, Yishmael and Eliezer along for the trip. Not a single word or detail is then offered about the three day trip itself. We are simply told that on the third day, when Avraham located his destination, he and Yitzchak proceeded alone to the Akeida. The Torah's silence regarding the three day trip is agonizing. What did Avraham and Yitzchak feel along the way? Were they eager or reluctant to continue their mission? Did Yitzchak even realize his destiny as a Korban or did he accompany Avraham with blissful ignorance? These and many other questions plague everyone who reads the Pesukim that lead up to the Akeida.

Ibn Ezra tells us that Avraham did everything possible to conceal the real purpose of the trip from Yitzchak. If Yitzchak had realized that he was going to be sacrificed he might have gotten frightened and run away. This explains why Avraham told Yishmael and Eliezer that he and Yitzchak would bow to Hashem and then both return. Even though he fully expected to return alone, he could not yet afford to let Yitzchak realize this. When Yitzchak himself asked his father why they did not have an animal to offer as a Korban, Avraham was forced to answer that Hashem would show them the animal.

Finally, when Yitzchak asked his father about the missing animal, he stated, "Here is the fire and the wood," but neglected to mention the knife. Why the omission? The Ibn Ezra might answer (as Rav Zalman Sorotzkin does) that Avraham hid the knife so Yitzchak would not assume that it would be used to slaughter him. Even at this point, Avraham could not let Yitzchak know of his fate.

Other Meforshim assume that Yitzchak realized his fate before reaching the altar and accepted it as Hashem's will. According to this approach, Yitzchak, as well as Avraham, showed amazing inner strength by complying with Hashem's command. The single, brief conversation between Avraham and Yitzchak supports this approach.

Once Avraham and Yitzchak proceeded alone to Har Hamoria, Yitzchak turned to his father and said "Avi - my father" and his father responded, "Hineni Bni - here I am, my son." What was going on behind these elusive comments?

The Kli Yakar explains that as soon as Avraham and Yitzchak proceeded to the mountain, Yitzchak realized that he was going to be the sacrifice. He then turned to Avraham and asked, "Avi? Are you still my loving father? Even as you plan to sacrifice me, do you love me as always?" To this heartfelt plea Avraham responded, "Here I am, my son. I am your loving father now as always." The puzzled Yitzchak questioned further, "Then why are you going to offer me as a sacrifice?" Avraham responded, "It is Hashem's will alone that compels me to do this deed." The two then continued along their sacred path, father and son, together as one. We can also find support for this approach from Yitzchak's significant omission of the knife. Every year my father remarks that Yitzchak mentioned the fire and the wood and did not mention the knife because he was in a state of denial. He surely saw the knife in Avraham's hand (see verse 6) but could not admit it because he was still having a difficult time accepting his painful fate and for this reason neglected to mention the knife, not because he did not see it. Only after Avraham assured Yitzchak that it was truly Hashem's will that he be sacrificed did they continue together with pure emuna.

In the Heat of the Day
by Etan Bluman

At the beginning of Parshat Vayera, Rashi quotes Rabbi Chama Bar Chanina (Bava Metziah 86:42), who says "It was the third day after Avraham's Brit and Hashem came to find out how he was feeling." Rabbi Yisrael of Chortkov explains that this Rashi relates to the concept in Pirkei Avot that says that the world stands on three pillars: Torah, Avoda, and Gmilut Chasadim. Each one of our forefathers set the standard for each individual pillar. Avraham Avinu set the foundation for Gemiult Chesed. When one thinks of the Mitzva of Hachnasat Orchim the first person that comes to mind is Avraham. However, after he had his Brit he could not fulfill the Mitzva of Hachnasat Orchim. 

During these days Avraham was considered as Chashav Adam Laasot Mitzvah Vinaenes Vilo Asaah, "One who thought to fulfill a Mitzva and forcefully could not do so, and therefore was considered as one who did it regardless" (Kedushin 40). Avraham's good will and intentions to fulfill the Mitzva of Hachnasat Orchim for the past three days consumed him. Therefore, Hashem sent three angles that were created from Avraham's powerful will and fierce determination to fulfill the Mitzva. With the appearance of the three angles in Avraham's doorway, we learn that the visit indeed took place on the third day after Avraham's brit.

Public Outcry
by Dani Shaffren

In this week's Parsha, (18:20-21) Hashem tells Avraham that the outcry of the people of Sodom and Ammora have reached Him. He will therefore descend to these places to see if the people have acted in a way that would prompt this outcry. What exactly is this "outcry," and why does Hashem decide to go now to look at the cities when the people of these places have always been known to do evil (as is seen in 13:13)? 

An answer may be learned from the flood and Noach. In 6:11 the Torah says that the land became "corrupt" and filled with "injustice." Rashi explains that the meaning of corrupt is the transgressions of idolatry and sexual immorality, while injustice implies theft. Two Pesukim later in 6:13, Hashem says to Noach that the land has filled with injustice, or theft, and therefore the people will be destroyed. Rashi comments that this shows that the direct reason for the destruction is theft, not idolatry or promiscuity. Why was theft a bigger problem than idolatry? The reason could be that Hashem acts with mercy towards people until they commit sins that result in oppression of other innocent people. 

The Yalkut Shimoni supports this in Shemot 22:22. It says on this Pasuk that if someone oppresses another, and the other cries out to Hashem, He will surely listen to this cry and punish the oppressor. The Yalkut Shimoni comments that since it says when someone cries out Hashem will hear, one may think this to mean that Hashem will only listen to one who cries out. Really, it says, "surely listen" to tell us that Hashem will always hear his cries, but He will be swift to punish if the oppressed cries out. 

Therefore, in our Pasuk, we see that the nature of this "outcry" is the cry of the oppressed, and this also explains why Hashem decides to act now. This is because the cries of the people have reached Him, and He acts swiftly to punish in such cases. He did punish them before this because he was giving the evildoers of Sodom and Ammora time to repent and return from their bad.


Food For Thought
by Jerry Karp

1) Why does Avraham use the expression "Vanochi Afar Viafar" only by his request to lower the required number of Tzdikim in Sedom to 45?

2) Look at both 19:14 and 21:9, in which the word Mitzchak is used. What is the Torah trying to express by using the same word in two different contexts in close proximity?

3) Why does the Torah mention that with Avimelech came Pichl his general?

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