Parshat Vayera  Vol.11 No.8

Date of issue: 17 Cheshvan 5762  -- November 3, 2001

TThis week's issue has been sponsored by
Passi and Moshe Bayewitz in honor of
the birth of their grandson, Asher Zalki,
born to their children
Divsha and Martin Tollinsky.

How to sponsor
This week's featured writers:

Rabbi Ezra Weiner
Yisroel Ellman
Zack Rosenberg
Yoni Shenkman
Rabbi Howard Jachter
-Modern Brit Milah Issues Part One



Take Two
by Rabbi Ezra Weiner

This week's Parsha, Parshat Vayera, relates that Avraham's preparation for the Akeida included the taking of two Niarim, lads, to accompany him and Yitzchak. Rashi explains the significance of two Niarim by saying that a distinguished man is not permitted to journey without two people, for when one of the men will need to relieve himself the other will still be with the important man.

R' David ben Shmuel Halevi (the Taz) in his work, Divrei Dod, poses a difficulty with this comment of Rashi in light of another comment of Rashi in Parshat Balak. In Parshat Balak(22:22), Rashi explains that the Torah records that Bilam took two Niarim to teach that a distinguished man who journeys should take two men with him to serve him, and who will also serve each other.

Why does Rashi offer two unrelated functions of the two Niarim on a journey? Secondly, the language that Rashi employs is not parallel. In Sefer Birashit he writes that a distinguished man is not permitted to go forth on a journey without two people, but in Sefer Bamidbar he writes that one should go forth with two men, but ascribes no prohibition.

The Taz offers the following explanation. The necessity of two Niarim to enable one Na'ar to relieve himself and the necessity of two Niarim to allow for one to serve the other complement each other. Often the scenario will dictate which one is applicable. If, for example, there are Anashim Chashuvim besides the primary Adam Chashuv that are taking this journey then there really would be no need for two Niarim to enable one to relieve himself. After all, as the single Naar relieves himself the Adam Chashuv is still guarded properly. However, the need for two Niarim would still exist so that each one could assist the other (since we would not expect any of the Anashim Chashuvim to serve a Naar). On the other hand, if this Adam Chashuv is Mochel Al Kavodo then there is no need for two Niarim to assist one another (as the Adam Chashuv would be willing to assist a single Naar). However, there still would be a need for two Niarim, for if only one Naar were present and he went to relieve himself the Adam Chashuv would be unprotected.

In Avraham's situation the two Niarim were only necessary to insure protection of Avraham if one of the Niarim would need to relieve himself. This is because Avraham was certainly Mochel Al Kivodo and would have assisted and served a single Naar, and because Avraham was the only Adam Chashuv on this journey. It is for this reason that Rashi writes in Sefer Birashit that the purpose of the two Niarim was to insure security for the Adam Chashuv while one Naar goes to relieve himself. The Adam Chashuv in Sefer Bamidbar however, was Bilaam Harasha, who was an arrogant individual who would not be Mochel Al Kivodo and in addition was accompanied by Sharei Moav, Moabite officers, other Anashim Chashuvim. The reason he needed two Niarim was not to insure his security if one Na'ar needed to relieve himself since he had distinguished Moabite officers with him. Two Niarim however, were needed so that each could help serve the other for there is no doubt that Bilam would not lower himself to assist a Na'ar.

This also explains the difference in Rashi's language. Avraham was "not permitted" (Aino Rishai to go without two Niarim because one should not put himself in a potentially insecure situation. Bialm however, whose two Niarim were there just so that each one had someone to assist him "should go forth" Yolich) with two Niarim, but there is no actual prohibition to leave one Na'ar without someone to serve him.

Visiting the Sick
by Yisroel Ellman

In this week's Parsha we see that on the third day after his circumcision, Avraham did not experience physical pain, which is normally the most intense on the third day. Instead, he experienced mental anguish because he had had not had guests for two days and that had bothered him.
He sent Eliezer to look for people to invite. Unfortunately, Eliezer returned alone. Avraham decided to sit in the doorway to see if there was anyone passing by.

That day it was very hot. The Midrash tells us that Hashem had brought some of the heat from Gehenom into the world. This would help heal Avraham's wound and at the same time it would keep people away so that Avraham would not have to deal with guests. But seeing that Avraham was suffering from not having guests, Hashem told the angels "we will go and visit Avraham."

This visit achieved two goals. It was a visit to a sick man and a chance for Avraham to have guests.
In addition, since Hashem personally went to Avraham to visit the sick, we see how important and proper visiting the sick is. Chazal teach us that one who visits the sick will be saved from the judgment of Gehenom and be rewarded in this world.

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 Tent of the Meeting 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.

You Get What You Pay For
by Yoni Shenkman

Parshat Vayera begins with Avraham sitting on the third day after being circumcised looking for visitors to serve. Three angels appear, and he runs to feed and clean them. Later in the Parsha, Avraham tries to save Sedom from being destroyed, claiming that there might be a few righteous people still left in the city. Avraham asks that "justice" then be used, and that the city be spared.
Shlomo Ressler, ( in his weekly email Dvar Torah, asks how this can be justice, that an entire city of evil people should be saved because of as few as 10 righteous people? The answer he gives is that for Hashem to spare Sedom for Avraham would have been justice, because Avraham did more then he had to in hosting guests and being kind to strangers. In the story at the beginning of the Parsha it was on the third day, which was the hottest day and the most painful day after the circumcision. Therefore, Avraham was never expected to have been so kind. Hashem had to act the same way towards Avraham and grant him more then he normally would have. Although his argument was not strong enough for Sedom in the end, Avraham's argument was still valid, and was good enough to save Lot and his daughters.

Shlomo Ressler applies this principle to us. The Torah is replete with of rules of equality (do onto others what you would have done to you, love your neighbor as you love yourself and the rules of giving charity to those less fortunate). Even the rules of paying back things that one has stolen are based on restoring equality and take embarrassment into account. The same rules apply to our relationship with Hashem. We can do only what we have to do and receive the reward we deserve. Or we can look for ways to do more that is required, and subsequently be rewarded far beyond that which we merely deserve. In every relationship, finding a way to do more is what shows our love and builds the relationship, and our relationship with Hashem deserves no less!

Halacha of the Week
One should meticulously dry one's hands after one has performed Netilat Yadayim (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 158:12).

Staff at time of publication:
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