A Student Publication of the Torah Academy of Bergen County
Parshat Vayera 20 Cheshvan 5764 November 15, 2003 Vol.13 No.10
In This Issue:
Rabbi Avi Pollack
Orin Ben Jacob
Food For Thought
Halacha of the Week
Rabbi Chaim Jachter
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by Rabbi Avi Pollack
The Torah tells us almost nothing about Avraham Avinu's fateful journey to Har HaMoriah. Bereshit 22:3 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 Akeidah.
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 a blissful ignorance? These and many other questions plague everyone who reads the Pesukim that lead up to the Akeidah.
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 both go to bow to Hashem and then 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. 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 R' Zalman Sorotzkin does) that Avraham hid the knife so Yitzchak would not possibly imagine that it would be used to slaughter him. Even at this point, Avraham could not let Yitzchak in on his fate.
Other Mefarshim assume that Yitzchak realized his fate before reaching the altar and willingly accepted it as God's will. According to this approach, Yitzchak, as well as Avraham, showed amazing inner strength by complying with God's command. Support for this approach can be gleaned from the brief conversation between Avraham and Yitzchak before the Akeidah. Once Avraham and Yitzchak proceeded alone to Har HaMoriah, Yitzchak turned to his father and said “Avi,” “My father," and his father responded, “Hineni Beni,” “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 Avrham 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 God's will alone that compels me to do this deed." And the two continued along their sacred path, father and son, together. 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 he could not admit it because he was still having a difficult time accepting his painful fate. Only after Avraham assured him that it was truly God's will that he be sacrificed did they continue together with pure Emunah.
A Plea For Help
by Dani Shaffren
In Parshat Vayera 18:20-21, Hashem tells Avraham that the outcry of the people of Sodom and Ammorah 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 story of Noach and the flood. In 6:11, the Torah says that the land became “corrupt” and filled with “injustice.” Rashi explains that the meaning of “corrupt” is the transgression 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” (i.e. 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 reason 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. This Pasuk says that if a person oppresses another, and the other cries out to Hashem, the 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. Rather, the Torah says that Hashem will “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. It is because the cries of the people have reached Him, and He acts swiftly to punish in such cases. He did not punish them before this because he was giving the evildoers of Sodom and Ammorah time to repent and return from their bad.
Doing a Deed
by Orin Ben-Jacob
We learn in Parshat Vayera that Avraham Avinu was going to have a visitor that no one could imagine – Hashem Himself. Could anybody hope for more in a lifetime? However, even though he is getting a visit from Hashem, he asks Hashem to wait because there are three travelers that look like they could use something to drink. I think that it is amazing that Avraham Avinu would do Hachnasat Orchim rather than speak to Hashem. We learn from this that the entire world was built on kindness and charity.
The Gemara in Bava Batra says that when a person gives money to a poor person, he gets six Berachot, but when he goes over and talks to the poor person, he gets eleven Brachot. This teaches that giving money is not the only thing that counts. Therefore, even if one does not have a penny to give, he can just go over and comfort the other person and receive more Berachot. Everywhere, there are kind actions to do, but one must have patience like Avrahom Avinu did. He sat outside in the heat waiting for someone to help even though he was in pain. We should all learn a lesson from Avraham Avinu that we must want to do a Mitzvah, no matter how difficult.
The Three Pillars of Life
by Etan Bluman
At the beginning of Parshat Vayera Rashi quotes Rabbi Chama Bar Chanina (Bava Metsiah 86:42) who explains that in the beginning of Parshat Vayera, it was the third day after Avraham’s Brit Milah and Hashem came to find out how he was feeling. The world stands on three pillars: Torah, Avodah, and Gemilut Chasadim. Each one of our forefathers set the standard for each individual pillar. Avraham Avinu set the foundation for Gemilut Chasadim. When we think of Hachnasat Orchim, the first person that comes to mind is Avraham. However, after he had his Brit Milah he was stuck in his bed and could not fulfill the Mitzvah of Hachnasat Orchim. Rabbi Yisrael of Chortkov explains that during these days Avraham was considered “one who thought to fulfill a Mitzvah but could not do so, therefore, was considered as one who did it regardless” (see Kiddushin 40a). For every Mitzvah man fulfills, an angel is created. Avraham’s good will and intention to fulfill the Mitzvah of Hachnasat Orchim for the past three days consumed him. Hashem sent three angels that were created from Avraham’s powerful will and fierce determination to fulfill the Mitzvah. Hashem wished to appease Avraham and demonstrate that through fierce determination and perseverance in fulfilling a Mitzvah, it is considered as if the Mitzvah was indeed fulfilled. With the appearance of the three angels in Avraham’s doorway, we learn that the visit indeed took place on the third day after Avraham’s Brit Milah.
Does Hashem Change His Mind?
by Zack Rosenberg
In this week’s Parsha, Parshat Vayera, we read the story of Avimelech, the king of Gerar. The Torah says, “Avraham said of Sarah his wife, ‘She is my sister,’ so Avimelech, king of Gerar, sent for and took Sarah. And Hashem came to Avimelech in a dream by night and said to him, ‘Behold you are to die because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman.’ “Avimelech replies,” ‘Did not he [Avraham] himself not tell me: ‘She is my sister’? In the innocence of my heart and integrity of my hands have I done this.’” Hashem answers him saying, “‘I, too, knew that it was in the innocence of your heart that you did this, and I, too, prevented you from sinning against Me; that is why I did not permit you to touch her. But now, return the man’s wife for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live, but if you do not return her, be aware that you shall surely die…’” (Bereishit 20: 2-7).
From the text, it appears as though Hashem changes His mind First, Hashem announces that He is going to kill Avimelech, and then He offers Avimelech the chance to live. Does not this look like evidence of Divine modification? Yet, how could Hashem alter His intentions or change His mind? If Hashem is All-Knowing, then He knows everything beforehand and cannot really change His mind.
To solve this problem, we need to look at the story of the Meraglim spies, in which Bnai Yisrael believe the negative report about Eretz Yisrael brought back by the Meraglim. Hashem is furious. He appears in the Ohel Moed and says to Moshe, “How long will this people provoke Me, and how long will they not have faith in Me, despite all the signs that I have performed in their midst? I will smite them with the plague and annihilate them, and I shall make you a greater and more powerful nation than they” (Bemidbar 14:11-12).
Moshe replies, begging Hashem to forgive Bnai Yisrael and reasoning that Egypt and all the nations that heard of Hashem’s power would say that “Because Hashem lacked the ability to bring this people to the Land that He had sworn to give them, He slaughtered them in the Wilderness” (Bemidbar14:16). The next two Pesukim answer our question. Moshe says, “And now, may the strength of my Lord be magnified as You have spoken, saying…” Next, Moshe lists some of the Midot Harachamim, Hashem’s Thirteen Attributes of Mercy that He taught Moshe after the incident of the Golden Calf (Shemot 34:6-7). What does Moshe mean when he says that Hashem should show His strength? Showing strength would normally suggest taking action. Physical action, however, is not what the Torah means. The word “Koach,” strength, is next to the Midot Harachamim, which signifies that being strong is really having mercy.
Now, let us return to the story with Avimelech. In it, Hashem does not change His mind. Rather, He shows Avimelech his strength. Hashem could have killed him, but He exercised His strength, His mercy. The lesson we learn from this is that instead of being angry, we should control ourselves and treat others with mercy. That is true strength.
Food For Thought
by Jerry M. Karp
1) Why does Avraham use the expression “Vaanochi Afar Vaefer” only by his request to lower the required number of Tzadikim in Sodom to 45?
2) Look at both 19:14 and 21:9, in which the word “Mitzachek” 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 Avimelech came with his general, Pichol?
Halacha of the Week
Men who wear a Tallit Gadol should not recite a Beracha on their Tallit Katan, according to both Ashkenazic and Sephardic tradition (Mishnah Berurah 8:24 and Yalkut Yosef p.14 in the 5760 edition). One should intend that the Beracha on the Tallit Gadol cover the Beracha on the Tallit Katan.
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