פ’ וירא תשע”ח
Volume 21, 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.
וירא אליו ה’
“G-d appeared to Abraham…” (18:1)
G-d’s self-revelation here to Avraham was on a fundamentally higher plane than His previous appearances to him. By circumcising himself, Avraham became the first human being to surrender his selfhood entirely to G-d. Avraham could now experience G-d directly, without his ego getting in the way. Thus, Avraham’s circumcision paved the way for the Giving of the Torah, through which this self-transparency became the hallmark of Jewish existence. This means that by accepting the Torah from G-d and committing ourselves to living according to His vision for us, we can remove all barriers between G-d and ourselves. This, in turn, enables G-d to reveal Himself in our lives in increasingly tangible ways. (Likutei Sichot)
כי ידעתיו למען אשר יצוה את בניו ואת ביתו אחריו
“For I have known him, because he instructs his sons and his household after him…” (18:19)
By teaching our children and grandchildren about the behavior of Sodom and Amorah and the punishment they received, we arm them with the wisdom to turn away from evil and “do charity and justice.” This is why Avraham had to be told about it: “that he may instruct his children” – tell them about what happened to Sodom and Amorah – “that they keep the way of Hashem, doing charity and justice.” (Parsha Anthology)
ויאמר שוב אשוב אליך כעת חיה והנה בן לשרה אשתך
“And the angel said, ‘I shall return according to this time of life and your wife Sarah will have a son.’” (18:10)
QUESTION: When and where did the angel return?
ANSWER: At the Akeidah, Avraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son Yitzchak. At that moment an angel called to him saying, “Stop, do not do anything.” This was the same angel who 37 years earlier had told him that he would bring a living child into the world. Now he came to give Yitzchak an extension of life. With the words “Ka’eit chayah” – lit. “at the time of life” – the angel hinted to Avraham that he would reappear at the time when Yitzchak would be in need of life.
וישכם אברהם בבקר אל המקום אשר עמד שם את פני ה’
“And Abraham got up early in the morning to the place where he had stood before in the presence of Hashem.” (19:27)
After the destruction of Sedom and Amorah, the Torah tells us that Avraham woke up early and prayed to Hashem. Rashi quotes the Gemara (Brachot 26b), that at that moment Avraham instituted Shacharit, an idea that was augmented by his son, Yitzchak, who instituted Mincha and his grandson, Yaakov, who instituted Ma’ariv. Similarly, he stood “in his place before Hashem.” This, too, is a lesson we absorbed and continue to practice: that one should have a set place for tefillah.
As important as tefillah is, setting an example and providing direct instruction with davening is often a source of conflict between parents and children. An all too common sight in shul is a father raising his voice, reprimanding his son to compel him to daven, rather than teaching by example. This approach has been criticized by many gedolim.
Rav Yitzchak Hutner zt”l once observed a father disciplining his son during davening. Every time the child would get up or lose focus, the father sternly reprimanded him until he redirected his gaze. Rav Hutner asked the father what he was doing. “I’m teaching my son to daven,” the father answered. “No you’re not,” said Rav Hutner. “You’re teaching your son that when he grows up he should tell his own son, “Be quiet! Sit down! Pay attention!” It won’t help his davening! If you want to teach your son how to daven, then daven yourself!” Interestingly, parents who use this approach tend to be poor “daveners” themselves. They are, therefore, more intolerant of normal deficiencies in their children’s davening, based on the dictum of Chazal: Kol haposel b’muno posel – “One who invalidates is invalidated with the same defect” (Kiddushin 70a). In other words, when a person disqualifies another’s actions, he often does so in an area in which he himself is deficient. This is a classic example of “do as I say, not as I do.” (Torah Tavlin)
וישב אברהם אל נעריו ויקמו וילכו יחדו אל באר שבע וישב אברהם בבאר שבע
“Abraham returned to his young men, and they stood up and went together to Be’er Sheva, and Abraham stayed in Be’er Sheva.” (22:19)
After the Akeidah, Avraham descended the mountain where he had almost offered up Yitzchak as a sacrifice. We learn that Avraham returned and stayed at Be’er Sheva, but we don’t know what happened to Yitzchak. He is ignored. Surely, Yitzchak deserves mention for his spiritual achievement: He had just exhibited tremendous self-sacrifice in willingly offering himself to G-d. Where, then was he? Yitzchak had gone to the Yeshiva of Shem V’Ever. The lesson here is that, although one may do great deeds, without the study of Torah to augment those deeds, he will not reach his true fulfillment or purpose in life. Such is the paramount importance of learning. Avraham is mentioned because he had reached the pinnacle, but Yitzchak still had to perfect himself in Torah study. (Something to Say)
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