Friday, November 15, 2019

The Bombings in Eretz Yisroel: A Message, Perspective and Hope

ב״ה

Rachmana Litzlan, the Muslim Jihad has been sending lethal bombs into southern Israel, may Hashem guard us.  Baruch Hashem, many -- most -- of them have been intercepted by the Iron Dome, but nevertheless, they continue to pose a danger.  

The Arizal teaches a principle that the weekly Parsha alludes to things that happen in the world during the week that it is read.  The connection is quite clear this week.  The Torah tells us in Vayera that Sarah saw Yishmael 'mitzacheik -- מצחק', and Rashi (to 21:10) brings from Bereishis Rabbah that Yishmael shot arrows at Yitzchok.  In our days, the descendants of Yishmael  -- the Arabs -- are shooting at us, but with rockets.  

But since that is happening, then what occured next in the Parsha should come about soon, as well:  Yishmael was banished from near Yitzchok, and married a girl from Egypt -- returning to his Egyptian roots (see Rashi to 21:21).  So too, the Arabs should soon be banished from with "Yitzchok" -- Klal Yisroel, and have to retreat back towards Egypt.

May Hashem continue to guard and protect us, and may He very soon send us the Geulah Shleimah, with it coming alleviation from all our enemies, Amein.  So may it be His Will.

Good and safe Shabbos!

Parshas Vayeira 5780 Divrei Torah/Messages

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Parshas Vayeira

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And Hashem appeared to him [Avraham] in the Plains of Mamre, and he was sitting at the entrance of the tent, at the heat of the day. (Bereishis 18:1)
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In the life of a Jew, the words “I am not able,” or “I am not capable,” do not really exist.  Perhaps we can say, “I don’t want to,” or “I don’t have a desire for it.” Because if we really do have the true and strong will to do something, we will be helped to reach that height.  

HaRav Chaim Ephraim Zaitchik zt”l proves this from the story of the Angels coming to Avraham Avinu.  It was on the third day after his circumcision, we are told, and he was in immense pain, yet nevertheless, he wanted so badly that wayfarers should pass by so he could show them hospitality!  Hashem made it extremely hot (see Rashi zt”l) so that people should not be out and about and trouble Avraham when he was in such pain, but Avraham yearned for the Mitzvah!  And so much so, that Hashem sent him three Angels in the guise of humans to take into his home and wait on.  

We see that if we daven that we should be able to fulfill a certain Mitzvah, and we really want it so badly, then from Heaven we will be helped to do it, even not in a “natural” way!

(Aleinu L’Shabeiach)

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And Hashem appeared to him [Avraham] in the Plains of Mamre, and he was sitting at the entrance of the tent, at the heat of the day. (Bereishis 18:1)
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Why was Avraham Avinu sitting at the entrance of his tent?  Says Rashi zt”l (from Bava Metzia 86b):  לראות אם יש עובר ושב ויכניסם בביתו -- To see if there was anyone passing by, so that he could bring them into his house, and perform hospitality towards them.  

The Kotzker Rebbe {HaRav Menachem Mendel Morgenstern zt”l}, reads Rashi’s words a little differently:  Avraham Avinu was sitting at the entrance of his tent to see if there was an עובר -- someone who transgressed (was עובר), so that he could ושב, help and encourage them to do Teshuva for that, and then also bring them into his home.  

(Emes Ve’Emunah)

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The question is asked; why do we find that the hachnosas orchim (hospitality to guests) done by Avraham Avinu is spoken of in greater detail, and emphasized much more than that of Lot, when the Angels came to him in Sodom?  

It is told that Rebbe Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev zt”l once came to the city of L’vov, and he went to the house of one of the prominent and wealthy people of the city, and asked for a place to stay.  Now, Rav Levi Yitzchok had not revealed who he was, and, taking him to be a simple person, the wealthy man said that he was sorry, but he didn’t have a place for travelers.  Rav Levi Yitzchok pleaded with the man to perhaps give him just a small room, saying that he would not bother him with anything else. But the wealthy man replied that he was sorry; though if he wasn’t able to go to an inn, then he should go to a certain Jew who was a melamed (teacher) of young children.  He lived at the end of the street, and his house was always open wide to passersby.  Rav Levi Yitzchok went to the home of the melamed, and there, he was accepted cheerfully.  

After a little while, someone who recognized Rav Levi Yitzchok made known that the Rebbe was in the city, and staying at the house of the melamed.  In a very short time, virtually the entire city of L’vov gathered to the house of the melamed who was hosting Rav Levi Yitzchok -- and among them was the wealthy man who had refused to let him stay in his home.  

Quickly, it became revealed to the wealthy man what he had done:  He had pushed Rav Levi Yitzchok out of his home! He went into the house of the melamed, and with immense tears, begged the Rebbe’s forgiveness.  And he said that the Rebbe could come to his home with great honor, as all Gedolim would stay there when they would come to L’vov.

Rebbe Levi Yitzchok told him that Lot also did hachnosas orchim; but that was when he knew the “people” were really Angels -- as the verse emphasizes, ‘And the two Angels came to Sodom’ -- and that is not overly great.  Therefore, the Torah does not excessively praise him for it.  Whereas, Avraham Avinu, from whom we should all learn, brought even those who seemed like regular people, or less than that, into his home -- as the verse says regarding him, ‘And he saw three men standing near him’.  Furthermore, he begged these people to let him do so!. . .

(Lachatzos B’Noam Hashem)

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And he [the Angel] said: “I will surely return to you at this time [next year] and behold!  A son will be to Sarah your wife.” And Sarah heard at the entrance of the tent, and it was behind him.  And Avraham and Sarah were old, coming in days, there had ceased to be to Sarah the way of women. And Sarah laughed inside herself, saying: “After I have withered will I again have smooth skin?  And my husband is old!” And Hashem said to Avraham: “Why is it that Sarah laughed saying; ‘Is it even true that I will give birth? And I am old!’ Is anything too wondrous for Hashem?! At the appointed time, I will return to you at this time [next year] and to Sarah there will be a son.” And Sarah denied it, saying: “I did not laugh,” because she was afraid. . .’ (Bereishis 18:10-15)
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There are quite a few pressing questions that jump right out at us from this narrative; #1, why would someone as righteous Sarah Imeinu have not believed the prophecy that she would bear a son -- no matter how unlikely it seemed according to the “laws of nature”?  #2, How could Hashem seemingly change what Sarah said?  She said ‘And my husband is old’, not ‘And I am old’!  #3, Why did Hashem ask Avraham Avinu why Sarah laughed?  Why didn’t He rebuke, so to speak, Sarah herself? And #4, how could the great Sarah Imeinu seemingly lie, albeit the Torah testifies that she did so because she was afraid, but still?

B’Ezras Hashem, we shall provide some answers here.  Please note that we will use numbers to indicate to which question the answer corresponds:

#1:  The Ramban zt”l explains that, as we are told, the Angels came in the guise of regular people, so therefore, when they said that Sarah would bear a child, she did not think it was a prophecy at all.  And Avraham Avinu, for certain reasons, hadn’t yet told her what Hashem had promised him at the end of last Parsha (see 17:16-21).  She was taken to task, however, for the fact that instead of laughing at what the “person” had said, she should have said “Amein, so should Hashem do.”
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#2:  The Gemara in Bava Metzia (87a) explains that Hashem changed what Sarah Imeinu said for the sake of Shalom (peace).  But the question remains; would Hashem really speak “creative truth”, Chas V’Shalom?! 

The Ramban zt”l says very simply that what Hashem related to Avraham -- Sarah saying ‘I am old’, was really quite true.  Because it referred to when she said “After I have withered will I again have smooth skin?”, which, in effect, means ‘I am elderly already’.  So Hashem, in fact, merely gave a summary of what she said -- but, for the sake of peace, left out one thing.  

[We therefore see an incredible example from Hashem of avoiding speaking rechilus (telling someone something that another person did to/said about them which could possibly cause them to have ill feelings towards that other person), and yet still not lying!]

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The Maharal of Prague {HaRav Yehuda ben Betzalel zt”l} takes a different tact:  He explains that from the Torah’s perspective, animosity is a form of falsehood.  This attitude is expressed by the Sages’ term for animosity: Sinas chinam, baseless hatred.  Peace itself is a form of truth, and strife is a form of falsehood.  When we speak with the goal of avoiding strife, we are preserving truth and rejecting falsehood. (Brought in Chofetz Chaim:  A Daily Companion).1

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1 Of course, this does not mean we can just lie, and justify that it was for the sake of preserving peace. . .
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#3:  The Alshich HaKadosh suggests that if Sarah laughed incredulously, that was also a fault in Avraham Avinu, because when a wife has a deficiency, then that indicates a lacking on the husband’s part, too. (Brought in Maayanah Shel Torah).

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Once on the night of Shabbos, two of my brothers and I had this discussion, and we came to the following conclusion (with different thoughts from each of us together):  There is a concept taught to us by the Baal Shem Tov zt”l that when you see someone else doing something wrong, it is a hint to you that you have that flaw in some way, or something like it.  Hashem let you see that person doing something wrong in order to reveal to you what you need to correct.

In Parshas Lech Lecha (15:8), after Hashem promises Avraham Avinu that he will inherit Eretz Yisroel, Avraham asks, “How will I know that I will inherit?” Now, although Rashi zt”l brings that this was not a question out of doubt, elsewhere, Chazal (Nedarim 32a) say this was a fault in some way (see also Tanchuma, Kedoshim 13).

Perhaps, therefore, it could be that Hashem was trying to make Avraham Avinu introspect, and think about to rectify any minute doubts he might have displayed.  Indeed, He added after what Sarah said, “Is anything too wondrous for Hashem?!

Nevertheless, according to either answer, we still have the question; why did Hashem not ask Sarah directly?  He could have, theoretically, spoken to both Avraham and Sarah together, if He was trying to send a message to Avraham Avinu as well!

Perhaps we may suggest that, as Rashi zt”l (to v. 8) brings from Bava Metzia 87a, Sarah became a Niddah the day the Angels came.  And therefore, since she was in a state of ritual impurity, Hashem could not come and speak to her directly (see Rashi to Bamidbar 12:4).
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#4:  The Imrei Emes, {HaRav Avraham Mordechai Alter zt”l} quotes from his father, the Sfas Emes zt”l that Sarah Imeinu laughed ‘inside herself’, as the verse says -- meaning, deep inside herself, to the point that she herself did not know that she had laughed.  But Hashem, Who plumbs the depth of the heart and mind, knew the truth. (Cited in Maayanah Shel Torah).

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And Sarah conceived, and she bore a son to Avraham in his old age, at the appointed time of which G-d had spoken. (Bereishis 21:2)
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Rebbe Tzadok HaKohen of Lublin zt”l writes that a Jewish person should never despair from anything.  Whether it is in physical matters -- as Chazal say (Berachos 10a), even if, [Chas v’Shalom] a sharpened sword is at our neck, we should not lose hope; or in spiritual matters -- as we find in the Zohar (vol. 1, 219b), that even if we feel sunken deep in sin, or that Teshuva is very difficult, we should not give up that we can improve and pick ourselves up, with the aid of Hashem, out of the mire of sin and spiritual depravity. “For there is no despair at all by a Jewish person, and Hashem Yisborach is able to help in every matter.”

Rav Tzadok continues by saying that the very existence of our People was built after giving up would have seemed inevitable.  Avraham Avinu was 100 and Sarah Imeinu was 90. Would anyone entertain the thought that they would have a child, when they hadn’t together all the years before?  And yet, Hashem made it that they did! And furthermore, He specifically brought about the foundation of the Jewish People this way, to teach us for all eternity that we should never give up nor despair, no matter how the situation looks, because He is always able to help us -- and ‘Is anything too wondrous for Hashem?!

(Divrei Sofrim, Os 15)

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And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Avraham, jesting (מצחק).   And Sarah said to Avraham, “Drive out this maidservant and her son, for the son of this maidservant shall not inherit with my son, with Yitzchok.” (Bereishis 21:9-10)
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According to Rashi zt”l from Bereishis Rabbah, מצחק implies all three cardinal sins -- idolatry, immorality, and murder.  Thus, Sarah saw Yishmael engaging himself in either one of, or all three of those terrible things!  Ergo, she wanted to drive him and his mother away. And even though Avraham Avinu didn’t love the idea, Hashem told him to listen to Sarah, so Yishmael and Hagar ended up being sent off.

But a problem is inherent in Sarah’s statement.  She states ‘for the son of this maidservant shall not inherit with my son, with Yitzchok.’ But we find that the Torah forbids such things!  Towards the beginning of Parshas Ki Seitzei, we are commanded that if a man has two wives, one whom he loves more and one who he doesn’t love as much, and they both give birth to sons, but the firstborn is had by the less loved of the two, then he must still be given the inheritance rite of the firstborn!  So how could Yishmael be seemingly deprived of his rightful inheritance, when he was truly the firstborn?!2

Simply, the Kli Yakar {HaRav Shlomo Ephraim Lunshitz zt”l} says that the Sarah Imeinu meant ‘inheritance’ in a totally different way than we would think of it.  It did not refer at all to a monetary or mundane inheritance, and therefore, there was no problem posed. (See also Emes L’Yaakov here).  

But in a very interesting approach, HaRav Chaim Soloveitchik zt”l explains that once Hashem commanded Avraham Avinu to comply with Sarah’s wishes, then that became a Mitzvas Aseh, positive commandment, which, when in conflict with a negative commandment, takes precedence. “Aseh docheh lo saaseh.” Therefore, Avraham Avinu was now obliged to heed the positive commandment of sending away Yishmael, which overrode the negative commandment given in Parshas Ki Seitzei.  

(Question, and explanation of Rav Chaim 
zt”l from Torah of Brisk:  Sefer Bereishis)

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2 Of course we are not saying that Avraham Avinu necessarily hated Hagar.

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And Avraham arose early in the morning, and he saddled his donkey, and he took his two youths with him’ (Bereishis 22:3)
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The word for two (שׁני) is very close to the word for years, and the word for lads (נעריו) can also be interpreted to mean ‘his youth’:  Says the Baal Shem Tov zt”l:  Avraham Avinu took with him the “years of his youth.” He utilized the strengths of his youth -- i.e. passion, strength and energy, to do the Will of Hashem. 

(Quoted in Maayanah Shel Torah)

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And the two of them went together’ (Bereishis 22:6,8)
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In the story of the Akeidah, we see the phrase saying that Avraham Avinu and Yitzchok Avinu ‘went together’ repeated.

This emphasis teaches us a valuable lesson:  Look at how important being together and united is! Avraham and Yitzchok Avinu certainly could not have properly performed Hashem’s Will and pass this difficult test if they were, Chas v’Shalom, fighting and arguing along the way.  Only when they went together. . .

This goes for every one of us as well.  We will not be able to properly fulfill Hashem’s Will -- and we are not properly fulfilling His Will -- if we, Chas v’Shalom, are fighting amongst ourselves.  We must unite. And if we do come together in Achdus, we can indeed overcome even the hardest test.

According to the Gemara (Yoma 9b), why was the Second Beis HaMikdash -- the one right before this Exile -- destroyed?  Why are we in this Galus?  Because of Sinas Chinam, baseless hatred.  Unfounded hatred between Jews.

If anything, this problem is perhaps greater -- or worse, as the case may be -- today.  Look at how much fighting, strife, etc. is in our midst, and maybe even some, if we look, coming from us ourselves!  We can call our strife with, and dislike of, any other Jew (with few exceptions) whatever we want, and give many reasons or excuses, but when it comes down to it, it is still ‘Chinam’, ‘baseless’.

What we must do, though, is concentrate on the message we see from the Akeidah -- one of the great moments of Jewish History -- and try to take it to heart, B’Ezras Hashem.

Can we correct everyone else’s strife?  Perhaps not. . . right away. But what we can do is work on ourselves, trying to bond with others, to not cause strife, and to overall live with love and Achdus.  This, in turn, will also influence and help others to do so as well.  And they who see us will then be influenced and in turn influence others until the entire world of Jewry is united together with Achdus!  And with that, the elimination of the reason for the Galus in the first place, we will all merit the Ultimate elimination of problems and tribulations -- the Geulah Shleimah (Complete Redemption).  May Hashem help everyone to live in Achdus.

(Tal U’Matar)

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~ Maasim Tovim ~ One Sukkos, the great Rav of Vilna during the early-to-mid 1900’s, HaRav Chaim Ozer Grodzensky zt”l, had a guest.  When the visitor came to the building in which Rav Chaim Ozer lived, the Rav apologized to him, saying that he would not be able to join him in the Sukkah, as he was ill and in pain, and therefore, according to Halacha, he was exempt from eating in the Sukkah.  However, Rav Chaim Ozer asked the guest to go down to the Sukkah without him, and the Rebbetzin would feed him properly.  

The guest was distressed that Rav Chaim Ozer was ill, but nevertheless, he went down and ate in the Sukkah himself, as the Rav had requested of him.  

How shocked he was when, around an hour later, he saw the ill Rav Chaim Ozer enter the Sukkah and sit with him!  He asked him; did he not just say he was exempt from eating in the Sukkah?  Replied Rav Chaim Ozer zt”l, “Correct; I am truthfully exempt from the Sukkah.  But regarding hachnosas orchim, I did not find an exemption like this. . .”

(Related in Shemen HaTov; vol. 5)

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Some years before World War II, HaRav Elchonon Wasserman zt”l Hy”d visited Germany for a conference of Rabbanim.  In his speech, he quoted Avraham Avinu’s words in this Parsha, when he was asked by Avimelech why he had pretended that Sarah was his sister, “Because I said, ‘Only there is no fear of G-d in this place, and they will kill me because of the matter of my wife.’” Rav Elchonon wondered; why did Avraham Avinu say ‘Only there is no, etc.’?  The word ‘only’ seems to be superfluous!  And he explained:

When we find ourselves amongst educated people, or amongst an entire nation filled with wise and intelligent people, it would seem that we can dwell securely there.  For, surely we can rely on the fact that, being intellectuals, they will discern proper etiquette, and they will habituate themselves to good character traits. Similarly, it would be an obvious assumption that in such a place, things would be governed properly.  

Nevertheless, continued Rav Elchonon, Avraham Avinu said, even though I find myself in a place with all these qualities -- Gerar, I still am concerned that there is a great danger.  Because in just a moment, people like this, or a nation like this, can change into human beings who are extremely dangerous, and capable of killing, murdering, and doing every kind of evil and abominable thing.  How can this be so? Because they have no medium with which to rule over their yetzer hara.  Therefore, once a strong desire burns in them, they won’t have anything to help hold them back from putting that desire into action.  Their beautiful manners and nice customs won’t stand at a time like this. There is, however, a very powerful force, which can help prevent one from coming to such, and that is fear.  Only someone who is filled with fear of G-d, and knows that at all times, the Great King gazes down upon them and their actions, will be able to conquer their yetzer hara and to extinguish the flame of desire before it overcomes them. 

And this, explained Rav Elchonon, is what Avraham Avinu meant to say in the verse that we mentioned: ‘I see that there are people with good character here, doers of kindness, and other qualities.  Only one thing I did not find here -- fear of G-d.  And therefore, I said that there is a concern that ‘they will kill me because of the matter of my wife’, because if a strong desire awakens in them to take my wife, and they don’t overcome their yetzer hara, they are liable to kill me.  When a powerful passion and desire burns in them, their nice etiquette and other good qualities won’t stand.’

Rav Elchonon, with his deep Torah vision, or perhaps Ruach HaKodesh, intended his words to hint at the great danger that was liable to sprout from Germany, even though it was considered at that time to be an organized country, with very high standards of lawfulness and etiquette.  How prophetic his words turned out to be. . .

(From Ohr Elchonon, vol. 2, cited in Yalkut Lekach Tov)

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Gut and meaningful Shabbos to all!