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Volume 31, 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 Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, The Vilna Gaon, Growth Through Torah by Zelig Pliskin and The Call of the Torah.
וירא אליו ה’ באלני ממרא
“And G-d appeared to him in the plains of Mamrei…” (18:1)
According to a midrash cited by Rashi, G-d appeared specifically at this site to reward Mamrei for giving advice to Avraham “advice about circumcision” (al hamilah). What was this advice?
The Talmud (Pesachim 7) debates whether the blessing over a mitzvah should be formulated with “le” (to), as in “lehadlik ner shel Chanukah,” or with “al” (about), as in “al netilat yadayim.” Avraham faced this same dilemma regarding the blessing over circumcision. Mamrei therefore advised him to say not “lamool” – to circumcise but “al hamilah” – about circumcision – the precise words used in the midrash!
This seemingly facetious explanation may be understood in a more serious vein: The Rishonim associate the “le” formulation with mitzvot performed by oneself (such as siting in a sukkah, reciting Hallel, taking challah, and affixing a mezuzah) and “al” with mitzvot often done by proxy (such as reading the megillah, and searching for chametz). While this approach leaves many problems, all theories have their difficulties. Thus, since Avraham had to circumcise himself (there was no other qualified Jew to do it for him), he thought the blessing should have been “lamool”. But Mamrei advised “al hamilah” because he understood that with Avraham’s greatness, G-d Himself would assist him. Indeed, the midrash tells us that is precisely what happened, as we say in Shacharit, “ve’charos imo habris” – And G-d established the covenant with him (Nechemiah 9:8), which the midrash interprets as his actual circumcision. (Yalkut Hagershuni)
ויגש אברהם ויאמר האף תספה צדיק עם רשע
“Avraham came forward to G-d, ‘Would You obliterate the righteous along with the wicked.’” (18:23)
When Avraham saw that the angles were already headed toward Sodom in order to annihilate them, he realized that he had to go against his naturally kind disposition and that he could not mince words. He had to argue vehemently and demand of G-d that He annul His decree.
From Avraham’s example, we learn that when we are presented with the opportunity to save another person, either physically or spiritually, we must not hesitate. We should immediately do all in our power to come to the person’s aid, even if that means acting in direct opposition to our natural disposition. (Likutei Sichot)
ולא ידע בשכבה
“And he was not aware of her lying down…” (19:33)
It has already been pointed out that in the diacritical point over the vav in the word ובקומה , the Sages see an allusion to the guilt of Lot, persisting in his state of drunkenness (Horayos 10b). This fact gives the reason for the law which excludes only the men but not the women of Moav and Amon from entry into the community. (Midrash Rabbah)
ארץ המריה…על אחד ההרים
“The Land of Moriah…upon one of the mountains…” (22:2)
Hashem told Avraham to offer Yitzchak as a sacrifice on one of the mountains in Moriah. This mountain was the place where the Beit HaMikdash would later be built. Why is it called Moriah?
One opinion is that the word Moriah is related to horaah – teaching. It is from there that the Torah was taught to the nation.
Another opinion is that Moriah is related to the word mora, fear. The idol worshippers were filled with fear when they heard about the greatness of Bnei Yisrael and their city Yerushalayim. (Ta’anis 16a)
ונשתחוה ונשובה אליכם
“We will worship, and we will return to you…” (22:5)
Sometimes a person can say something – even unintentionally – that is almost prophetic, and his words have the power to strengthen that prediction. When Avraham was taking Yitzchak to offer him as a sacrifice, he told his attendants “we” – in the plural – will return to you. According to the plan only Avraham was going to return, without Yitzchak. But without realizing it, Avraham said that “we” will return. In the end, Yitzchak did return with Avraham, just as Avraham had “mistakenly” said. (Moed Katan 18a)
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