פ’ וירא תשע”ט
Volume 26, Issue 4
INSIGHTS from the SEDRA
Insights from the Sedra is a project of the Scholar’s Kollel of Great Neck. It aims to provide several questions and answers about the Sedra, culled from various commentaries, including the following: Baal Haturim, Darash Moshe, Vedebarta Bam by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky, Torah Treasures by Dov Furer, Wellsprings of Torah by Alexander Friedman, and Kol Dodi by Rabbi Dovid Feinstein, Great Torah Lights by Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Goodman, Something To Say by Dov Wasserman, The Vilna Gaon, and Growth Through Torah by Zelig Pliskin.
With the successful conclusion of Avraham’s final test of faith, we note the following wonderful thought of R’ Meir Shapiro of Lublin: In “Bameh Madlikin”, the chapters of mishnayot recited on Friday night, the seventh mishnah states: “Three things must one say in his house on erev Shabbos before dark: ‘Have you tithed? Have you constructed an eruv? Light the candle.’” These three things encapsulate Jewish life: A Jew must separate the holy – such as tithes – from the profane in order to remain distinct, as part of G-d’s chosen people. Yet, he must also make an “eruv” (literally, a combination), concerning himself with the world around him, for he cannot influence and improve that world by locking it out. But how is he to know when, where, and how to synthesize these two contradictory ideas? By “lighting the candle:” The light of Torah will illuminate the proper balance between separation and synthesis.
Avraham embodied all three of these ideals: His recognition of distinctions was the very basis of his separation from Lot (13:9); his prayer for Sodom: “Will you destroy the righteous with the wicked?” (18:23); and his expulsion of Yishmael (21:14), lest he subvert Yitzchak. In fact, Ra’avad claims that Avraham invented tithing (Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Melachim 9:1)!
Yet, He also befriended everyone, fed all passersby, and spread G-d’s word throughout the land. He even made treaties with his neighbors, who called him “prince of G-d” (23:5). How did Avraham juggle these opposite modalities? His life was suffused with the light of morality and the spirit of G-d. With every test he passed, that light shone more brightly. And with his greatest trial, Akeidat Yitzchak, came the promise that his descendants would shine like the stars in the heavens. May the brief mishnaic formula of “Isartem, eravtem, hadliku es a haner” always remind us all of what we must strive for as Jews. (Aharon Surski)
ואנכי עפר ואפר
“But I am but dust and ashes…” (18:27)
Why does Avraham compare himself to dust and ashes? Dust has no past of note, but it can produce fine crops in the future. In contrast, ashes have no future but they are frequently remnants of a great and mighty past. Thus, Avraham humbly states, “I am nothing – no past, like dust, and no future, like ashes.” G-d rewards this humility with two great mitzvot: the ashes of the para adumah (red heifer) and the dust use din the trial of the sotah (suspected adulteress) (Sotah 17a). For while ordinary ashes have no future, those of the para adumah offer a pure future to anyone who has become impure. And while dust usually has no past, the dust of the sotah restores the peace and serenity that filled the home of the accused in the past, before she became suspect. (Beis HaLevi)
“But he tarried…” (19:16)
The musical note over this verb is a shalshelet, a long, drawn-out sound that rises and falls three times lingering or stalling. Obviously, it fits perfectly in our text. Its only other appearances in Bereishit are when Avraham’s servant is about to begin the search for Yitzchak’s bride (24:12), and when Yosef rebuffs the advances of Potiphar’s wife (39:8). I believe all three of these incidents are worthy of a shalshelet (lit. chain) because in each instance, the very chain of Jewish survival is at stake. Lot may wish to linger because of his doubts, but G-d’s will demands that he be saved, not because of his righteousness but because he is destined to father Moav, the ancient ancestor of Dovid HaMelech, an indispensable link in the Jewish chain! So too, Eliezer forges another vital link by joining Rivkah and Yitzchak. And had Potiphar’s wife corrupted Yosef, she would have changed the course of Jewish history.
Another shalshelet accompanies the slaughter of the ram that consecrates Aharon and his sons as kohanim (Vayikra 8:23), for there, too, the chain of the priesthood is forged forever. (Likutei Yehoshu)
ויאמר אברהם אנכי אשבע
“And Avraham said, ‘I will swear…’” (21:24)
QUESTION: The word “ishavei’ah” means “I will swear.” Why the superfluous word “anochi” – “I”?
ANSWER: Avraham’s mission in life was to make the world aware of the existence of Hashem. The first of the Ten Commandments, the one in which Hashem declares His Supremacy, starts with the word “Anochi” – “I”. During his negotiations with Avimelech, Avraham said, “I am ready to swear and will swear in the name of Anochi – the one and only G-d. Avimelech responded to Avraham’s rebuke, “V’gam Anochi Lo Shama’ati Bilti HaYom” – “I did not hear about it until this day either.” Here, too, the word “anochi” is extra? It can be explained that Avimelech was saying that the concept of “anochi” intrigued him. With amazement he said to Avraham, “I must confess that until this day I never heard of the philosophy of “anochi”. Thank you for enhancing my knowledge.” (Vedebarta Bam)
ויטע אשל בבאר שבע
“And he planted a tamarisk tree in Be’er Sheva…” (21:33)
אשל, tamarisk tree, is the acronym formed of the first letters of אכילה, eating, שתיה, drinking, and לינה, lodging. By planting an אשל, Avraham may have wished to hint at his intention to repair the damage brought about by Adam through eating, by Noach through drinking, and by Lot, amongst the people of Sodom, through lodging. (Vilna Gaon)
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