Archive for October 2012

Parashat VaYera

Wednesday, October 31, 2012 · Posted in , , , , , , ,

Parashat VaYera
Bereishit 18:1 - 22:24


Parsha Summary

Sedom destroyed
Sarah and Avimelech
Sarah gives birth to Yitzchak
Covenant with Avimelech
Binding of Yitzchak
Rivkah is born


18:1 Vayera elav HASHEM be'Elonei Mamre vehu yoshev petach-ha'ohel kechom hayom
HASHEM appeared to him in the groves of Mamre and he was sitting at the door of the tent in the heat of the day.

In Parashat Lech Lecha, Avraham had sought advice regarding circumcision from his three friends, Aner, Eshkol and Mamre.  While each gave him different advice, only Mamre told him to obey G-d's commandment exactly.  Because of this, G-d appeared to Avraham in Mamre's groves. (Rashi; Zohar p. 98)

This happened "in the heat of the day," approximately 10:00 am. (Bachya).  The charitable sun carries healing in its rays (Malachi 3:20).

This is typical of Avraham, he was seated at the feet of his Master to receive the Divine teaching; seated at the entrance of Jewry's tent to welcome all those who wish to enter int the covenant; seated at the entrance of his home to offer hospitality to all strangers, whatever their religion; seated at the entry to Hell to bar the way to anyone bearing the sign of the covenant.  At the exodus from Egypt, the blood of the covenant likewise appeared as a sign of protection on the lintels and doorposts of Jewish home.  Likewise, Jews remain seated while reciting Shema' Yisrael in prayer, to receive the Divine message addressed to us.

The Torah also states that Avraham "was sitting at the door of the tent."  This might seem unnecessary; what difference does it make whether he was sitting by the door or in his living room?  And why does the Torah need to tell us what time it was?  The Torah could have said, "G-d appeared to Avraham."  Why does it merely state, G-d appeared to him," without mentioning his name?

The wording of this verse teaches how great it is to fulfill G-d's commandments.  It purifies a person, refines him and makes him a new man.  Because Avraham circumcised himself in his old age, he was very precious in G-d's eyes.  Until this time, when G-d had spoken to him, Avraham fell on his face on the ground.  He was unable to stand in the presence of the Divine.

Also, one condition of prophecy is that the recipient be in a segregated place, so his mind will be at ease to receive the revelation.  He must be in a state of joy and tranquility, with his mind free of all other thoughts. Only then is one fit for prophecy.  When a person is depressed, the Divine Presence cannot rest on him.

Avraham, however, had reached such a high level that he could receive prophecy without these conditions.  He was sitting at the door of his tent; people were constantly passing by, going in and out.  It was not early in the morning or late at night, when the world is quiet and the mind tranquil; but it was in the middle of the day, when everyone is about.  Still G-d appeared to him -  because he fulfilled the commandment of circumcision.

The Torah therefore says, "G-d appeared to him."  He was not merely Avraham, but the man who had fulfilled G-d's commandment.  As a result, G-d appeared to him even though he was sitting, even though he was at the door of his tent, and even though it was the middle of the day, when the mind is not tranquil.  He could behold the Divine Presence in Its radiance, and not fall on his face.

This also teaches us something about Avraham's saintliness.  Although circumcision was very painful, he did it with the greatest joy.  As a result of his joy, the Divine Presence revealed Itself to him.

In this entire account we do not find any reason for G-d's appearance to Avraham, nor is there any mention of G-d's saying anything to him.  Obviously, G-d would not appear to him without a reason.

This took place on 12 Tishrei (2048 - October 8, 1714 b.c.e.)  Since Avraham was circumcised on Yom Kippur, 10 Tishrei) this was the third day since his circumcision.  Usually when a person is circumcised, the inflammation is at its worst on this day.  This was certainly true of Avraham, since he was 99 years old.  Obviously he was suffering greatly from the pain and inflammation.  G-d therefore revealed Himself in order to visit him.  G-d was thus doing something that He requires us to do, visiting the sick. (Bava Metzia, Chapter 7).  G-d commanded us to visit the sick.  In Hebrew, this precept is called Bikkur Cholim.

Normally, when one observes a commandment, he precedes it with a blessing.  Since visiting the sick is such an important deed, one may wonder why we do not say a blessing beforehand.  This is because we are not in full control of observing this commandment.  We may go to visit a sick person, but he may not wish to see us and any blessing said would be in vain.  The Sages therefore did not ordain a blessing for this observance.  A blessing is only said over a precept over which the doer has complete control. (Teshuvot Rashba 18)

This precept is very precious.  Each morning in our prayers we recite the Mishnah that counts visiting the sick among the deeds for which "one uses the interest in this world, leaving the principal for the World to Come." A person who visits the sick is protected from punishment after death, and is safeguarded from the Evil Inclination and from suffering.

In Hebrew, a wealthy person is called a גְבִיר (gevir).  This word, GBYR, can be read as an acronym of Gomel Chasadim (doer of kind deeds), Beishan (humble), Yashar (upright), and Rachaman (merciful).  In order to be a true gevir - to be truly wealthy - one must have these four traits.

Gomel Chasadim - doer of kind deeds. One must act kindly toward others.
Beishan - humble - Although one may do many charitable deeds, he should not feel important.  Rather he must feel that he has not done enough; he should be ashamed, as one who has done nothing.  He must also be humble in not lording it over the poor, not shouting at them, and not making them feel like beggars.  He must always speak to them pleasantly.
Yashar - upright - All his dealings should be honest; he should not even want to do anything crooked.
Rachaman - merciful -  He should be kindhearted toward everyone.

Only a person such as this can be called a gevir.  If a person does not have these traits, no matter how wealthy he is, he is not a gevir. (Shenei Luchot HaB'rit)

18:2 Vayisa eynav vayar vehineh shloshah anashim nitzavim alav vayar vayarotz likratam mipetach ha'ohel vayishtachu artzah
He lifted his eyes and saw, and behold three men were standing near [on top] him. He saw [them], and ran from the door of the tent to greet them, and he bowed down to the earth.
G-d sent Avraham three angels - Micha'el, Gavri'el and Rafa'el.  They had to come anyway since they had messages for Avraham; but in order to give Avraham a chance to display hospitality, He sent them to his house in the form of human beings. (Bereishit Rabbah)

"Three men" - Micha'el to announce the good news concerning Sarah, Gavri'el to overthrow Sedom, and Rafa'el to heal Avraham.  Micha'el also went to save Lot in Sedom.  Normally, one messenger does not carry out two missions (Rashi), but because the same principle of love was involved in both missions and so one angel was authorized to carry out both missions. The messenger could not do so when the missions involve two opposite principles, such as strict punishment and mercy.  For the "peace which reigns in the celestial heights" (Iyov 25:2) is built on a hierarchical order governing the assignment of the functions of each factor of creation. (Rabbi Bachya)

 18:3 Vayomar Ad-nai im-na matzati chen be'eyneycha al-na ta'avor me'al avdecha
He said, "My Master, if I have found favor in your eyes, please do not bypass your servant.
The Hebrew word for "master" here is Ad-nai, the name usually reserved for G-d.  Since the Masoretes punctuated this name with a kamatz (אֲדֹנָי) seems to prove that they understood it to refer to G-d.  For nouns formed with the kamatz indicate the absolute state whereas those with the patach are in the construct.   Consequently, the word written with a kamatz designates G-d, but when formed with a patach it refers to men. It is therefore of the utmost importance not to confuse these two vowels, not only in writing but also in pronunciation, where the difference must also be distinctly noticeable.

According to the discipline of vocalizations there are seven gradations in the vowels (not including semi-vowels which are not audible but which nonetheless are not part of the consonants).  The vowel kametz ranks as highest of these seven levels.  It is followed in descending order by patach, tzere, segol, cholem, shurek, and chirek.  The entire Torah is structured around these seven vowels which affect pronunciation of the words.  They are also known as seven syllables, or seven sounds, concerning which David said in Tehillim 29, known as the hymn in honor of the giving of the Torah, "the voice", or sound of G-d occurs seven times.  This is also the meaning of Shemot Rabbah 28:4 that the Torah was given with seven kolot (sounds).  Concerning these seven sounds, Shlomo said in Mishlei 9:1 "she has hewn her seven pillars."  These seven sounds are the foundation upon which the whole structure rests.

The difference between the vowel kametz and the vowel patach (otherwise found in the word ad-nai) is merely a single dot, and usually such a dot is perceived as an allusion to the original "dot" of matter which was the beginning of the creative process of this universe (in Kabbalah, the dot is equated with the letter yud, itself an allusion to the Ten Emanations).  This is the mystical reason why such a dot (in the way we write the vowels) serves as seven different purposes.  When you place such a dot on top of a consonant it produces the vowel cholem.  When the dot is placed in the middle of the consonant vav the result is the vowel shurek.  If the dot is added to the vowel patach, the result will be the vowel kametz.  If the dot is added to the vowel tzere the result is the vowel segol.  If the dot is added to the semi-vowel sheva the result is the vowel kibbutz.  So you have seven different vowels merely by changing a single dot.

Concerning the letters themselves.  If a dot is inserted inside the letter heh it turns it into a chet.  If a dot is added to the left side top of the letter vav it becomes a zayin.  If a dot is added to make the base of the letter chaf protrude, it turns into the letter bet.  If you add a dot on the right top of the letter resh it turns into the letter dalet. (Rabbi Bachya)

We can understand therefore what the Sages mean when they say that an extra dot or a missing dot is liable to destroy the universe. (Sotah 20)

If Avraham had indeed addressed only Micha'el he would have had to say adoni "my (personal) master."  Neither the vowel patach nor the vowel kametz would have been appropriate.  It would be incongruous to vocalize the word אֲדֹנָי when used as a reference to G-d with the vowel patach, as this would imply that G-d is in some kind of subordinate relationship to anyone as suggested by the possessive clause represented by that vowel.  In short, if someone exchanges the kametz under this word for a patach he  cannot escape being guilty of one or two things:

  1. he is a heretic
  2. or he completely distorts the meaning of the verse in which this word appears.


 al-na ta'avor me'al avdecha - please do not bypass your servant

This is addressed to G-d, Whom Avraham asks to wait so that he can go and attend to the strangers. (Rashi).  Rabbi Yehudah teaches that from this we conclude that hospitality to wayfarers is greater than welcoming the presence of the Shekinah (Shabbat 127a).  Here, immediately following the covenant with Avraham, the Torah shows us that the first duty of a Jew is that of being hospitable to every person, whatever his origin.  And the purely humane duty to be good, charitable, and gracious comes before the religious duty to welcome the Shekinah and carry out the Divine service.

As mentioned earlier, G-d had come to Avraham to pay a sick call. The Divine Presence was still in the house, so in this verse, Avraham took his leave of the Divine Presence in order to care for these guests. (Bereishit Rabbah).  As the angels walked, Micha'el, the greatest of the three,  was in the middle, with Gavri'el t o his right and Rafa'el to his left.  If three men are walking together, the most important walks in the center, with the others on either side. (Yoma, p. 37)

18:10 Vayomer shov ashuv eleicha ka'et chayah vehineh-ven le-Sarah ishtecha veSarah shoma'at petach ha'ohel vehu acharav
He said "I will return to you next year, and Sarah, your wife will have a son." Sarah was listening at the door of the tent, that was behind him.
Up to this point Avraham did not know whether his guests were wayfarers or angels.  It was the announcement of the birth of Yitzchak that revealed the Divine Presence to him.  Indeed, the Zohar observes that none other than G-d could guarantee Sarah a son "since the key to birth, especially in the case of a barren woman, rests in the hands of G-d" (Taanit 2a).  And so it was the Divine voice which announced  shov ashuv "I will surely return" (as the use of the first person singular indicates). The word וַיֹּאמֶר (vayomer), without any indication of the subject, also generally refers to G-d.  The Divine Presence hovered invisibly over the entire scene announcing the miraculous birth of the son of Avraham and Sarah.

shov ashuv - I will surely return

The term שׁוֹב אָשׁוּב (shov ashuv) means, I will return "to remember Sarah" (as is recorded in 21:1) and I will return to give life a second time to Yitzchak at the time of his sacrifice, when his soul will be on the point of leaving him (Pirkei D'Rabbi 31).

18:22 Vayifnu misham ha'anashim vayelechu Sedomah ve'Avraham odenu omed lifnei HASHEM
The men turned from where they were, and went toward Sedom. Avraham was still standing before HASHEM.
Although the men had advanced toward Sedom to destroy it, Avraham remained standing before G-d to beg for mercy.  "Even when the sharp sword rests upon a man's neck, he should not despair of Divine mercy." (Berachot 10a)

18:23 Vayigash Avraham vayomar ha'af tispeh tzaddik im-rasha
Avraham came forward and said, "Will You [actually] destroy the righteous with the wicked?
What thought prompted Avhram's course of action?  He was aware that Noach had remained silent and asked nothing of G-d when it was announced to him that "The end of all flesh has come before Me."  So when G-d announced His intention of destroying the sinful cities, Avraham interceded at once.  Rabbi Elazar adds, "Avraham's intervention was also imperfect, for he prayed only that the righteous not perish with the guilty. But Moshe's supplication reached perfection, for when G-d made known His will to destroy the Jewish people following the sin of the Golden Calf, Moshe prayed for forgiveness on behalf of everyone, including the guilty, and disisted only when had obtained a general pardon; and he did so at the risk of destroying himself, "If not, blot me out of Your book which You have written" (Shemot 32:32; Zohar)

This entire scene which unfolds in this passage shows us that G-d, Whose judgments are judgments of absolute justice, wishes to rally men to help and care for their fellowmen.

19:1 Vayavo'u shenei hamal'achim Sedomah ba'erev veLot yoshev besha'ar-Sedom vayar-Lot vayakom likratam vayishtachu apayim artzah
The two angels came to Sedom in the evening, while Lot was sitting at the gate of Sedom. Lot saw them, and he got up to greet them, and he bowed with his face to the ground.
This is the first time these strangers are called angels.  The exemplary hospitality of Lot could then be explained by the fact that he recognized them as such.  Contact with superior beings gave rise, in Lot, to an outburst of love and kindness.  The exercise of these virtues which he had acquired during his long association with Avraham had been repressed since his sojourn with the Sedomi and a spark was sufficient to rekindle the flame.  So Lot showed himself extremely zealous and defied the formal prohibition against welcoming strangers.

The Torah switches between the terms "men" and the term "angels" according to the peshat (plain meaning) of the text, in order to say that whenever these messengers performed a mission involving mundane matters, matters which are the exclusive domain of terrestrial beings, the Torah refers to them as "men."  After they had copleted their respective tasks on earth involving earthly creatures, the Torah reverts to calling them "angels."  They then assumed their original lofty stature.

19:17 Vayehi chehotzi'am otam hachutzah vayomer himalet al-nafshecha al-tabit achareycha ve'al-ta'amod bechol-hakikar haharah himalet pen-tisafeh
When they were brought out [of the city], he [the angel] said, "Escape for your life! Do not look back! Do not remain anywhere in the valley. Escape to the mountain, lest you be swept away."
al-tabit achareycha - do not look back

"You have done evil just as they have.  It is by Avraham's merit that you are saved!  You do not deserve to see the punishment that will strike them while you are spared." (Rashi)  Whoever is saved from calamity by his own merit has the right to contemplate the victims of Divine chastisement, like Benei Yisrael at the shore of the Reed Sea who "saw the Egyptians dead" (Shemot 14:30).  "When G-d is for me, among the those who help me, I shall indeed look upon the punishment of my foes (Tehillim 118:7).  But, as RaMBaN, among others admits that the contemplation of the misfortune or the suffering of others can bring with it physical and moral ills.  Rabbi Eliezer adds that at the moment that the Omnipresent descends to earth to show His anger with men, no one has the right to harden his heart and stare at it with impunity (Pirkei D' Rabbi Eliezer 25)

Derash:

The reason the angels forbade Lot to look back was that he would see the Presence of G-d as it was pouring sulphur and brimstone on the valley.  Such a vision would prove fatal for him.  Irit, Lot's wife, had feelings of compassion for her married daughters who she had left behind, and this is what caused her to turn around.  She anted to see if these daughters now followed them.  She beheld the Shekinah instead and turned into a pillar of salt.

Whoever sees this statue should pronounce the benediction reserved for Divine punishment: Baruch Dayan HaEmet (Blessed is the True Judge).  This obligation is not codified by RaMBaM (Berachot 54a) because the statue was swallowed up by the Dead Sea following an earthquake.  But it "was still standing" at the time of Rabbi Eliezer, and Flavius Josephus reports to having seen it.


20:2 Vayomer Avraham el-Sarah ishto achoti hi vayishlach Avimelech melech Grar vayikach et-Sarah
Avraham said regarding Sarah, his wife, "She is my sister." Avimelech, king of Gerar sent [messengers] and took Sarah.

When Sarah had been abducted by the Pharaoh of Egypt, she was 65 years old and could still have been very beautiful.  Now, she was 90 years.  How could she have preserved her beauty?  RaMBaN responds that she had found her beauty and her femininity once more when the angels announced her impending pregnancy. (Bava Metziah 87a).

20:6 Vayomer elav ha'Elokim bachalom gam anochi yadati ki vetom-levavcha asita zot ve'echsoch gam-anochi otcha mechato-li al-ken lo-netaticha linego'ah eleiha
G-d said to him in a dream, "I also know that you did this with an innocent heart. I also prevented you from sinning against Me. That is why I did not give you the chance to touch her.
al-ken lo-netaticha linego'ah eleiha -That is why I did not give you the chance to touch her

"It was not by your own restraint that you did not touch her.  It is I who prevented you from doing evil; I did not give you the strength." (Rashi)  Referring to the words עָצֹר עָצַר (completely restrained) twice repeated in v18, the Midrash Rabbah tells us that Avimelech was stricken with an occlusion of the genital organs from the time Sarah entered his palace.  Although she had already been in his house for a long time, the king did not realize the cause of this ailment until he heard the Divine warning in his dream. (RaMBaN)

12 Vegam omnah achoti vat-avi hi ach lo vat-imi vatehi-li le'isha
In any case, she is my sister, the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother, and she became my wife.
vat-avi hi - daughter of my father

The Torah sometimes used the terms "son" and "daughter" to mean grandson or granddaughter.  Sarah, whome tradition identifies with Iskah, daughter of Charan (Rashi on 11:29), was in fact the granddaughter of Terach and Avraham's niece.

21:1 Va'HASHEM pakad et-Sarah ka'asher amar vaya'as HASHEM le-Sarah ka'asher diber
HASHEM remembered Sarah as He had said, and HASHEM did for Sarah as He had spoken.
2 Vatahar vateled Sarah le-Avraham ben lizkunav lamo'ed asher-diber oto Elokim
She conceived and Sarah gave birth to Avraham's son in his old age, at the designated time that G-d had declared.
3 Vayikra Avraham et-shem-beno hanolad-lo asher-yaldah-lo Sarah Yitzchak
Avraham named his son that was born to him, to which Sarah had borne to him, Yitzchak.

The Talmud emphasizes in several passages that Sarah's prayer was granted on the day of Rosh HaShanah (Berachot 29b).  On that day, explains Rashi, G-d remembers sterile wives, and fulfilling their prayers, renders them fertile, as was the case also with Rachel and with Channah, the mother of the prophet Shmuel, and according to some authorities, Rivkah).  Rosh HaShanah is the time when זִכְרוֹנוֹת (zikronot), the remembrances of our merits, rise up before G-d and when great providential decisions are made concerning individcual and national destinies, as the Mussaf prayer of Rosh HaShanah describes.  Consequently, this chapter was chosen for the Torah reading on the first day of Rosh HaShanah.

This section tells us about the birth of Yitzchak.

Chronology:

  • 15 Nissan, 2046 (March 29, 1715 b.c.e.) - First day of Pesach the angels informed Avraham that Yitzchak would be born.
  • Second day of Pesach, Sedom was destroyed.  That night Lot stayed in the cave.  Because of what Lot did with his daughters, Avraham left Chevron and settled in the land of the Plishtim.
  • Six months passed; during this time Sarah was taken to Avimelech's harem, where she remained a few days until he had the dream and released her.  Avraham then prayed for him and he was healed.
  • 1 Tishrei, 2047 (September 8, 1715 b.c.e.) - First day of Rosh HaShanah it was then decreed in heaven that Sarah should become pregnant with a son.  This was six months after the angels had told her.
  • 15 Nissan, 2048 (April 6, 1713 b.c.e.) - First of Pesach Yitzchak was born, at the time that Avraham was 100 years old, and Sarah was 90. (Tanchuma; Sifetei Kohen)

When the angel Micha'el announced that Avraham would have a son, he made a mark on the wall and said that when the shadow returns to this mark, Sarah would have a son.  The Torah now tells us that this promise was fulfilled.  At the very hour promised by the angel, Yitzchak was born.

When the 8 days had passed, Avraham circumcised Yitzchak as G-d had commanded him (Bereishit 17:12).  Yitzchak was the first person ever to be circumcised at the age of 8 days.

Avraham was so happy that he gave his son the name יִצְחָק (Yitzchak) from the root צחק (tzachak) which means "laugh."  This was a sign of his great joy.

Each letter in Yitzchak's name has significance:

  • י (yod) = 10; the Yod stands for the Ten Commandments.  This child would be the ancestor of the nation who would receive these Ten Commandments.
  • צ (tzadi) = 90; The Tzadi stands for Sarah's 90 years when he was born. 
  • ח (chet) = 8; The Chet stands for the 8 days after which he was circumcised.
  • ק (kof) = 100; the Kof stands for Avraham's being 100 years old when Yitzchak was born.

Since Yitzchak was such a precious child, the world gained six benefits from his birth:
  1. Every sterile woman alive at the time conceived because of Sarah's merit.  The Torah thus says, "G-d considered (et) Sarah" (21:1)  The untranslated preposition אֶת (et), according tradition always adds something to the predicate noun, and in this case it adds all the other barren women in the world at that time.  They too were "considered" by G-d.
  2. G-d's greatness was publicized.  The world saw that He had the power to overrule the very laws of nature.  Had the miracle occurred to Sarah alone, people would not have been so impressed.  But when all the sterile women in the world gave birth, everyone knew that G-d had performed a great miracle.  This was the result of Avraham's merit, so that his saintliness would be publicized.
  3. Many  people who were deaf and blind began to hear and see on the day Yitzchak was born. (Bereishit Rabbah)
  4. Many people began to believe in G-d. Many of these people were spiritually sick from delving into all sorts of philosophy   They were now healed in spirit.  They believed in Avraham's superior qualities and were willing to take his advise.
  5. The world became bright.  On the day Yitzchak was born the world became lighter than it was before.
  6. The infants who drank Sarah's milk received a great benefit.  Mothers came to see the miracle; and they saw with their own eyes that it was true.  The children who nursed Sarah's milk became as good as she was.  The milk itself had the power to put faith into their hearts.

21:22 Vayehi ba'et hahi vayomer Avimelech uFichol sar-tzeva'o el-Avraham lemor Elokim imecha bechol asher-atah oseh
It was at this time, Avimelech and Pichol, his general spoke to Avraham, saying, "G-d is with you in all that you do. 
Here the Torah teaches us that if a person goes in the right path, even his enemies will make peace with him. G-d gives them a spirit of peace and brotherhood, so that he need not be concerned with them.

This was true of Avraham. Avimelech hated Avraham very much for causing him so much toment by claiming that sarah was his sister.  But seeing that he was saved from four power kings, left unharmed when Sedom and 'Amorah were destroyed, and able to have a son at the age 100, his feelings toward Avraham began to change.  Seeing Avraham's great success, Avimelech became very fond of him. (Rashi)

21:23 Ve'atah hishave'ah li be'Elokim henah im-tishkor li ulenini ulenechdi kachesed asher-asiti imcha ta'aseh imadi ve'im ha'aretz asher-gartah bah
Now, swear to me here, by G-d, that you will not deal falsely with me, with my son, or my grandson. The kindness that I have done to you, do to me and to the land in which you lived for a while."
Avimelech said, "I did you a favor, allowing you to live in my land.  Another man would have driven you from his land for what you did to me.  I did just the opposite, telling you to settle wherever you wished.  Now I want you to return the favor, and promise me with an oath that you will not harm me, my children or my grandchildren.  Promise that you will not drive any of them from the land, and that you will not take any food that grows in their land." (Bachya)

21:24 Vayomer Avraham anochi ishave'a
Avraham said, "I will swear."
Instead of the more common אֲנִי (ani) for "I," Avraham used the rarer אָנֹכִי (anochi).  He said, "I will swear in G-d's Name.  I will swear by He who will someday say, 'I (Anochi) am HaShem your G-d' (Shemot 20:2)

Actually, Avraham did not settle in the land belonging to Avimelech.  Still, it was considered a great favor that Avimelch had given Avraham permission to live wherever he wanted.  Avraham therefore agreed to do as he requested. (Yafeh Toar, p. 319)

21:27 Vayikach Avraham tzon uvakar vayiten la-Avimelech vayikhretu shneyhem brit
Avraham took sheep and cattle and gave them to Avimelech. The two of them made a covenant.
28 Vayatzev Avraham et-sheva kivsot hatzon levadehen
Avraham set seven ewes apart by themselves.
29 Vayomer Avimelech el-Avraham mah henah sheva kevasot ha'eleh asher hitzavta levadanah
Avimelech said to Avraham, "What is the reason for these seven ewes that you have set apart?"
30 Vayomer ki et-sheva kevasot tikach miyadi ba'avur tihyeh li le'edah ki chafarti et-habe'er hazot
He [Avraham] said, "Take these seven ewes from my hand so that it will be proof for me, that I dug this well."
They made a treaty like two brothers.  When Avraham stood the 7 ewes by themselves to the side, Avimelech asked him what it meant.  Avraham replied, "The sheep proved that the well is mine.  I want these ewes to set aside to remind you to order your men not to fight with my shepherds, since the well is mine."

As was seen in 15:10, the accepted custom of making a treaty was to take one or more animals and divide them in half.  Avraham was afraid that Avimelech would raise a monument, and divide an animal in half intending it as an idolatrous offering.  He himself therefore put aside 7 ewes as a symbol of the treaty, avoiding such action on Avimelech's part.

21:31 Al-ken kara lamakom hahu Be'er-sheva ki sham nishbe'u shneyhem
Therefore he called that place Beer-sheva, since the two had made an oath there.
32 Vayichretu verit biVe'er-sheva vayakom Avimelech uFichol sar-tzeva'o vayashuvu el-eretz Pelishtim
They made a covenant in Be'er-sheva. Avimelech, and Pichol, his general, then rose and returned to the land of the Pelishtim.
 בְּאֵר שֶׁבַע (Be'er-sheva) means "Well of Seven," alluding to the 7 ewes.  I can also be interpreted to mean, "Well of the Oath," since שֶׁבַע (Sheva) has the same root as שבע (shava) meaning "swear."  It was there that Avraham and Avimelech swore that they would keep their word.

Avraham paid a high price for making a treaty with Avimelech and the Pelishtim.  An oath would have been sufficient; there was no need for a formal treaty, which is a sign of love and brotherhood.  Furthermore, Avraham should have asked permission from G-d before making a treaty or covenant.  He should not have taken it upon himself and his descendants not to touch Avimelech's lands without first asking G-d.

Furthermore, because the 7 ewes that Avraham gave Avimelech, thePelishtim were able to kill 7 tzaddikim: Shimshon (Shoftim 16:30), Chofni and Pinchas (Eli's son) (1Shmuel 4:11), and Shaul and his three sons (1Shmuel 31:2-4).  G-d is exacting with tzaddikim, as little as a hairsbreadth.
21:33 Vayita eshel biVe'er-sheva vayikra-sham beshem HASHEM Kel Olam
Avraham planted an eshel [tree] in Be'er-sheva, and there he proclaimed the Name HASHEM, G-d of the universe.
34 Vayagar Avraham be'eretz Pelishtim yamim rabim
Avraham lived in the land of the Pelishtim for many days.

The Talmud teaches that the eshel tree that Avraham planted was set up expressedly for hospitality for travelers. It served as a free hostel where people could eat, rest, and refresh themselves along the way. (Sotah 10a)

22:1 Vayehi achar hadevarim ha'eleh veha'Elokim nisa et-Avraham vayomer elav Avraham vayomer hineni
After these events, G-d tested Avraham and said to him, "Avraham! And he [Avraham] said, "Here I am."
2 Vayomer kach-na et-bincha et-yechidecha asher-ahavta et-Yitzchak velech-lecha el-eretz haMoriyah veha'alehu sham le'olah al achad heharim asher omar eleicha
He said, "Please take your son, your only one, who you love - Yitzchak - and go to the land of Moriyah. Sacrifice him as a burnt-offering on one of the mountains which I will designate to you."
This chapter is called "the Akeidah" which literally means "the binding" - the binding of Yitzchak as a sacrifice to G-d.  Because the Akeidah is so important, it was placed in the introduction to the Shacharit (morning) service, where it is read daily. (Orach Chayim 1)  This section is also read from the Torah in the synagogue on Rosh HaShanah.  This is a day of judgment; it is good to recall the Akeidah, which also took place on Rosh HaShanah.  All the merit of the Jewish people stems from this act. (Zohar, VaYikra, p.18)

Whenever there is a time of trouble, we recite this chapter.  We pray that G-d will have mercy on us and help us through the merit of the Akeidah.

22:10 Vayishlach Avraham et-yado vayikach et-hama'achelet lishchot et-beno
Avraham extended his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son.
When Avhrama was about to slaughter Yitzchak, the Torah states, "He put forth his hand, and took the slaughter knife (ma'achelet)."  The slaughter knife is called a מַאֲכֶלֶת (ma'achelet) from the root אכל (achal) meaning "eat," and it literally means "the food maker."  Until this very day we feed upon the merit of this knife, and enjoy the good of this world. (Bereishit Rabbah, p. 335)  All agree that the merit of the Akeidah has no end.  Whenever we have troubles and pray that G-d recall the Akeidah, He has mercy on us.  When reading this chapter, one should be brought tears, contemplating that he himself is ready to suffer martyrdom rather than disobey G-d.  This is very helpful in atoning for sin.  This is especially true when we pray to G-d that He give us strength to overcome the yetzer ra (evil inclination).

The Story of the Akeidah

After Avraham had lived in Pelishtim territory for 26 years, he settled in Chevron. (Bereishit Rabbah). On 27 Elul, 2084 (September 5, 1677 b.c.e.), when Avraham was 137 years old and Yitzchak was 37, G-d gave Avraham this command, " Take your son, your only one, whom you love - Yitzchak - and go away to the land of Moriyah.  Bring him jup as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will designate to you."

G-d told Avraham, "Take your son."
"I have two sons," replied Avraham. "Which should I take?"
"Your only one."
"But they are both only sons.  Each one is an only son to his mother."
'"The one whom you love."
"Are there boundaries in a man's heart?  A man loves all his children alike.  How can I differentiate between them?"
"Take Yitzchak! Go away to the land of Moriyah.  Bring him up as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will designate to you."
"Master of the universe, how can a sacrifice be offered without a kohen-priest?"
"You yourself will be the kohen-priest.  When Noach's son Shem went forth to greet you after you had defeated the four kings, he blessed you first, and only then did he bless Me.  You reprimanded him, telling him that it is not fitting to praise a slave before his Master.  On that day, I took the high priesthood from him and gave it to you." (Yafeh Toar, p. 328)
The obvious question arises as to why G-d did not simply tell Avraham, "Take Yitzchak," and immediately specify where.  Why was the entire dialogue necessary?  As a sign of His love, G-d does not reveal His intentions to His tzaddikim immediately.  He informs them with hints and allegories, so that they will build up a desire to do His will.  Before they know what to do, they must ask and probe.  As a result, they build up  merit for every word and for every step they take.  The Talmud refers to this as "reward for steps." (Bava Metzia 107a; Sotah 22a)


The Ten Tests

G-d had tested Avraham many times.  If one carefully reviews all that occurred since the end of Parashat Noach, he will find a total of ten tests.(Avot 5:3)

  1. The terrifying experience in Ur Kasdim, when Nimrod cast Avraham in the fiery furnance (Noach, Chapter 18).
  2. When G-d commanded Avraham to leave his parents and his family. (Lech Lecha, Chapter 1)
  3. The great famine in the land of Kenaan.  Avraham did not want to return to his father and violate G-d's commandment, so he went Egypt. (Lech Lecha, Chapter 2)
  4. When Avraham came to Egypt, Pharaoh seized Sarah and had her brought to his harem. (Lech Lecha, Chapter 2)
  5. The four kings came to kill him.  When Lot was taken captive together with the other citizens of Sedom and 'Amorah, Avraham had to wage war against four large armies. (Lech Lecha, Chapter 3)
  6. At the B'rit bein HaBetarim (Pact between Halves), G-d showed Avraham every exile that his descendants would suffer as well as the punishments of purgatory, asking him to choose one of the two. (Lech Lecha, Chapter 4)
  7. G-d commandmed Avhrama to circumcise himself when he was 99 years old.  This was a very painful operation, especially since he was so old and still wished to have a son. (Lech Lecha, Chapter 6)
  8. When Avraham was in the land of the Pelishtim, Avimelech had Sarah brought to his harem by force (VaYera, Chapter 2)
  9. When Yitzchak grew up, Srah saw Yishma'el using him as a target to practice archery.  She told Avraham to write out a will leaving everything he owned and everything that G-d had promised him to Yitzchak, so that Yishma'el would not share in the inheritance at all.  G-d then told Avraham to drive Hagar and Yishma'el away from his house. Of all the troubles that Avraham suffered,none was worse than driving away his firstborn son. (VaYera, Chapter 3)
  10. The tenth test was the Akeidah.  After all that had happened, Avraham finally had a beautiful son when he was 100 years old.  Now G-d was telling him to bring the child as a sacrifice.
Paralleling these ten tests, G-d gave us the Ten days of Teshuvah (Repentance) between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur.  These are very important days; this is a time when prayer and repentence are particularly acceptable.  These days parallel Avraham's ten tests, thorugh which G-d chose Avraham and gave us all the advantages we enjoy as Jews. (Rokeach 206)  Avraham never questioned G-d's judgment; he did all that G-d desired with great love.

These ten tests parallel the Ten Sayings with which the world was created.  This shows that the world was created for the sake of Avraham.

There were ten generations from Adam to Noach.  G-d held back His wrath during this period, giving mankind a chance to change its ways.  Humanity remained wicked; in the end, all but Noach were wiped out by the Great Flood. (Avot 5:2)  Noach's merit was not enough to save others, so only he and his family escaped the flood.  This was not true of Avraham.  Although the ten generations form Noach to Avraham were wicked, Avraham was able to lecture to them and get them to change their ways.  He therefore caused G-d to spare the world, since He does not want the wicked to die, but to repent.(Yechezkel 18:32; 33:11)

Paralleling Avraham's ten tests, G-d performed ten miracles for Yisrael in Egypt and another ten at the Reed Sea.  He also gave us the Ten Commandments. When Yisrael sinned by making the Golden Calf and the first Tablets containing the Ten Commandments were broken, the merit of Avraham's tests caused G-d to have mercy on us. (Rashi, Avot 5:3; Nachalat Avot)

22:14 Vayikra Avraham shem-hamakom hahu HASHEM Yir'eh asher ye'amer hayom behar HASHEM yera'eh
Avraham called the name of that place, "HASHEM will see"; as it is said [to] this day, "On HASHEM'S mountain, He will be seen."
Avraham named the mountain "HaShem Will See."  It was as if to say "What has been done today will be known forever.  G-d will see this mountain and have mercy on my children."

Noach's son Shem was king of this place, and he called it Shalem.  (Shem is identical with Malki-tzedek), and the Torah calls him "Malki-tzedek, king of Shalem" (14:28).  The Hebrew word שָׁלֵם (shalem) means "perfect; since Shem was born circumcised, he was perfect in body.  He therefore named his city Shalem.

Avraham gave the place another name, "yirah," for the above mentioned reasons.

G-d said, "Since this city was given two different names by two tzaddik, both must be used.  If I call it Shalem, Avraham will have complaints.  If I call it Yeru, Shem will feel slighted.  Both of them feel that they had a right to name it and since they are both perfect tzaddikm, I want to please them both."  G-d therefore ordered that this place be called Yeru-Shalem (יְרוּשָׁלַםִ - Yerushalayim), the name it bears to this very day. (Bereishit Rabbah)

17 Ki-varech avarechecha veharbah arbeh et-zar'acha kechochevey hashamayim vehachol asher al-sfat hayam veyirash zar'acha et sha'ar oyvav
I will greatly bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars of the sky and like the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will inherit the gate of their enemies.
varech avarechecha - I will greatly bless you 

In saying, "I will greatly bless you," G-d's actual words were barech a-barech'cha, literally "bless, I will bless you."  This implied a double blessing, one for Avraham, and one for his descendants. (Bereishit Rabbah; Rashi)

In the Selichot service, we pray:  "May He who answered Avraham on Mount Moriah also answer us."  We are asking G-d answer us just as He answered Avraham when he prayed for his descendants after the Akeidah and swore to give him many benefits.  We pray that G-d should answer us in a full a manner whenever we pray to Him.

When the Torah says, "On HaShem's mountain, He will be seen," it aludes to the two times that the Holy Temple would be built there.  It is therefore called "HaShem's mountain."  Although they have been destroyed, He will "be see."  The Holy Temple will be rebuilt a third time and will remain there forever.

Every part of the ram that Avraham sacrificed was to serve a divine purpose.  Its ashes remained and formed the foundation of the Great Altar that was in the Holy Temple built by King Shlomo.  Its ten sinews were made into the ten strings of King David's harp.  Its skin became Eliyahu's belt.  Its two horns were made into trumpets.  The left horn was the trumpet that sounded at Mount Sinai when the Torah was given.  The right horn, the larger of the two, was put aside to be sounded when the time comes for the final redemption.  Every day in the Amidah we say, "Sound the great horn for our freedom."

There are several basic Torah principles that may be derived from studying the Akeidah:

  • It teaches us that someone who loves HaShem must be prepared to give up for His sake whatever is most precious to him, even his own life or the lives of his children.
  • Avraham's willingness to sacrifice Yitzchak on the basis of HaShem's word alone demonstrates that a prophet is clearly cognizant of the truth of the prophecy he receives.
  • It shows that our forefathers presupposed the existence of another world beyond this one.  If not for Avraham's belief in Olam HaBah (The World to Come), he certainly would not have agreed to sacrifice his only son and continue living a life without a future.  He was ready to listen to HaShem's commandment knowing that for his sacrifice in this world, HaShem would repay him well in the Olam HaBah.



Chronology of Sefer Bereishit - Parashat VaYera


Year 2047
Angels visit Avraham
Sedom destroyed
Lot sleeps with daughters

Year 2048
Avraham moves to Gerar
Yitzchak born
Ammon and Moav born

Year 2049
Serug dies

Year 2050
Yitzchak weaned

Year 2051
[according to some, Yishmael driven away]

Year 2061
Avraham makes a feast for Yitzchak's Bar Mitzvah [According to some, Yishmael driven away]

Year 2073
[According to some, Rivkah born]

Year 2083
Terach dies

Year 2085
The Akedah
Yitzchak enters Shem's academy
Rivkah born

--------------------------
MeAm Lo'ez; Bachya; Rashi

Parashat Lech Lecha

Friday, October 26, 2012

Parashat Lech Lecha
Bereishit 12:1 - 17:27


Parsha Summary

Avram journeys to Kenaan
Pharaoh takes Sarai
Avram battles the kings
The Covenant with G-d
The birth of Yishmael
Avram's & Sarai's name change
Circumcision


12:1 Vayomer HASHEM el-Avram LECH LECHA me'artzecha umimoladetecha umibeit avicha el-ha'aretz asher ar'eka
HASHEM said to Avram, "Go from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father's house, [and go] to the land that I will show you.
When Avram was in Charan, G-d told him to leave his father's house, and to abandon his city.  From then on, he was to head twoard the land G-d would later indicate to him.

G-d commanded Avram to exert much effort, to travel and to stay in strange cities, to leave the comfort of his home.  There were four reasons for this:


  1. Until then, Avram had suffered greatly at the hands of the people of his city.  There were many wicked people who insulted him.  They would associate themselves with him in order to harm him because he admonished them and explained that the idols they worshiped were vain and useless.  The people said Avram was a powerful magician; he escaped unharmed from the fiery furnace, by his magic, not because of his righteousness. G-d told him to leave this place so that he would not suffer any more.
  2. Avram's father dealt in idols, and worshiped them religiously, as we saw in Parashat Noach.  It was unseemly for Avram to live in the same city as his father.  G-d, however, did not want the people to speak against Avram, which they would have done and said he was abandoning his father if he had left during his father's lifetime. The Torah therefore states that Avram left his homeland after "Terach died in Charan" (Bereshit 11:32).  This, however, does not mean that Terach died before Avram left Charan.  Terach actually lived 205 years, Avram was 135 years old when his father died. When Avram left his father's house he was only 75 years old.  Thus, Terach lived for over sixty years after Avram left.  When Terach died, Yitzchak was already 35 years old.  The Scripture wishes to teach us that Terach was wicked, and was therefore considered as if he were dead. (Bereishit Rabbah)  All the wicked are considered dead even while they live.  The righteous, on the hand, are considered alive, even after they die.  The wicked are concerned only with their bodily pleasures, not with their souls. Therefore, even during their lifetimes they are considered dead.  A body without a soul cannot be said to be "alive."  Since Terach was wicked, Avram was commanded to leave him.  He no longer had an obligation to honor his father or to help him.
  3. Avram had publicized G-d's existance in the world. Without Avram, people would not even have known that there is a G-d in heaven.  G-d wanted the whole world to know of Avram's greatness. Until now, he was like perfume sealed in a small vial, laying in a cemetery.  No one is aware of its beautiful fragrance, both because the vial is sealed, and because it is in an unsavory place.  Avram was like a precious stone whose value is not recognized.  He lived in the unsavory environment of Charan, whose populace was very wicked.  G-d wanted him to travel about in the world to publicize his good name.
  4. Avram and Sarai were both sterile, and it was only in the Land of Yisrael that they would have the merit to have a child miraculously.(Rashi)  Also, changing one's location is one of the four things that can change a person's destiny. (Mizrachi; Zohar - Pinchas) 

In Hebrew, the expression for "go from" is לֶךְ לְךָ (lech lecha).  The numerical value of this expression is 100.  This is an allusion that Avram would have a son when he became one hundred years old.  (Zohar 1:49)

Avram made two journeys.  First, he left Bavel (Babylon) with his father and family to go to Charan.  After three years, G-d told him to leave his land, his birthplace and his father's house, and go to the place that He would show him.  While Avram was wandering from place to place, a great war broke out among several kings, as we shall see in Chapter 3.  At the same time, he made the pact between the divided animals (Bein HaBetarim) in Chapter 4.  

Avram's second journey took place when he was 70 years old.  G-d told him to return to Charan to visit his father and the rest of his family.  Miraculously, space was compressed; he was able to make the journey in an extremely short time.  Avram then remained in Charan for 5 years.

When Avram was 75 years old, G-d revealed Himself to him, and told him to abandon his father, his land, and his birthplace. He was instructed to bless them, since he would never see them again. Avram did so. The Torah thus says, "Avram was 75 years old when he left Charan" (12:4).  This was his second journey [to the Holy Land].

Some say that when Terach saw that Avram was saved from the fiery furnance in Ur Kasdim, he changed his ways and began to worship G-d. (Zohar - Lech Lecha; VaYera).  This is alluded to in the verse, "Terach took his son Avram, his grandson Lot (son of Charan), and his daughter-in-law Sarai, and with them he left Ur Kasdim, heading toward the land of Kenaan. They came to Charan and settled there" (Bereishit 11:31)  It would be redundant for the Torah to say that he left Ur Kasdim "with them," since [we already know that they were traveling together as the verse begins], "Terach took his son Avram..."  The additional phrase teaches us that although Terach and Lt had been wicked, they were drawn after Avram and Sarai, and they separated themselves from evildoers.

This teaches another lesson.  When a person makes an effort to change his ways and improve himself, he is given help from on high.  Here we see that Avram left Ur Kasdim in order to go to the land of Kenaan, that is, to the Holy Land. It was then that G-d told him to leave, and gave him a blessing.

3 Va'avarechah mevarachecha umekalelecha a'or venivrechu vecha kol mishpechot ha'adamah
I will bless those who bless you, and he who curses you, I will curse; and through you, will be blessed all the families of the earth.
"I will bless those who bless you, and he who curses you I will curse," underlines that only G-d Himself is the source of both blessings and curses.  The only power in the universe which is able to influence events in our lives in either direction is the Creator Himself Who has created the other forces to act as His agents.  This is what the prophet meant when he said, "not like this is the portion of Yaakov, for it is He who formed all things" (Yirmeyahu 10:16).  He meant that both good and evil emanate only from Him.  This is also why Yeshayahu 45:7 said, "I Hashem do all these things."

As Avram leaves his home to begin a new life, G-d blesses him with seven different benedictions.  So too, at the threshold of their new lives, as they leave their parents' home, newlyweds receive a sevenfold benediction, the Sheva Berachot.  The fourth benediction refers to the perpetual renewal of the human being in the divine form.  In the last three benedictions, a prayer is uttered that G-d may comfort Tziyon, cause happiness to the young couple, and bring about complete exultation in restored Judea and Jerusalem.


The blessings are:
  • Blessed are You, HaShem our G-d, King of the Universe, Creator of the fruit of the vine.
  • Blessed are You, HaShem, our G-d, King of the universe, Who has created everything for your glory.
  • Blessed are You, HaShem, our G-d, King of the universe, Creator of Human Beings.
  • Blessed are You, HaShem, our G-d, King of the universe, Who has fashioned human beings in your image, according to your likeness and has fashioned from it a lasting mold. Blessed are You HaShem, Creator of Human Beings.
  • Bring intense joy and exultation to the barren one (Yerushalayim) through the ingathering of her children a midst her in gladness. Blessed are You, HaShem, Who gladdens Tziyon through her children.
  • Gladden the beloved companions as You gladdened Your creatures in the garden of Eden. Blessed are You, HaShem, Who gladdens groom and bride.
  • Blessed are You, HaShem, our G-d, King of the universe, Who created joy and gladness, groom and bride, mirth, glad song, pleasure, delight, love, brotherhood, peace, and companionship. HaShem, our G-d, let there soon be heard in the cities of Yehudah and the streets of Yerushalayim the sound of joy and the sound of gladness, the voice of the groom and the voice of the bride, the sound of the grooms' jubilance from their canopies and of the youths from their song-filled feasts. Blessed are You Who causes the groom to rejoice with his bride.

The souls of the righteous are fashioned at the foot of the heavenly throne to go and inspire the human bodies and to guide them along the right path.  When G-d sends thse souls from the holy spheres down to the lower regions, He blesses them with a sevenfold benediction just as He blessed Avram when he went into the impurity of Kenaan.  The soul has the same function that the body of Avram had in a pagan land.  It is also אָב־רָם (av-ram), the "supreme father" of the body.  Thus G-d says to the soul, "Go away from your land, from the neighborhood of your birth, and from your Father's home, to the body I shall show you..."  Avram went as G-d had told him.  But Lot, his nephew, doggedly stayed with him.  So too, the evil inclination slips into the body just as the soul arrives.  The argument which will take place between Avram and Lot reflects that inner conflict in the human body between the good and the evil inclinations until they come to a parting of the ways, Lot choosing places of pleasure and debauchery, Avram choosing that difficult land where one seeks and finds G-d (Zohar Kodesh).


venivrechu vecha - and through you, will be blessed

Sod

A Kabbalistic approach sees in the words venivrechu vecha a message that the blessing will filter down from above, seeing that Avraham represents the highest emanation - so that he will be the first one to receive it from G-d - and he will channel it through the lower emanations.  All the blessings the Gentile nations receive will come to them only via Avraham.  This is also why David said, "praise Him, all you peoples,... for great is His steadfast love for us and His faithfulness endures forever" (Tehillim 117:1-2)  The structure of these two verses indicates that the Jewish people and their relationship to G-d are the only reason that G-d suffers the existence of the other nations at all.


Avraham's Blessings

Because Avraham was so righteous, he deserved to be blessed; therefore G-d gave him sixteen blessings:

  1. The first blessing G-d gave Avraham was, "I will make you into a great nation."  Understanding this to mean that his family line would be large, Avraham was not satisfied.  He said, "Noach fathered seventy nations.  How will I be different from ?"  G-d replied, "You will father a great nation - the people Yisrael."  The whole world descended from Noach, since only he and his wife and children survived the flood; and they repopulated the world (they were then divided into many nations).  The people Yisrael, on the other hand, would be a single nation, and they all would be considered the descendants of Avraham. (Bereishit Rabbah 39)
  2. Avraham was born without fully developed reproductive organs.  G-d promised him that he would be regerated to be able to have children   This was G-d's intent when He said, "I will make you into a great nation."
  3. A nomadic existence usually results in three things: (i) It prevents a couple from having children.  (ii) One's expenses when traveling are much greater than while at home.  His wealth is thus diminished.  When a person moves from place  to place, many of his possessions are lost, and unforeseen expenses come up.  Uprooting oneself from city to city can result in many dangers, even in loss of life, because of the hardships of travel as well as changes of climate. (iii) A person's reputation is diminished, especially when eh travels through foreign lands where he is not known.  Also, it is difficult to dress well while traveling; and one's good qualities are not recognized.  G-d promised Avraham that although he would wander through distant places, none of the above problems would occur.  
  4. The fourth blessing was that Avraham's reputation would constantly grow   In many ways, he was like a king of the entire civilized world.  He possessed great genius; all the kings of the east and west would come to seek his advice.  Avraham was so great that he even minted a coin which was universally accepted as negotiable tender.  It was similar to the coins struck by kings, who issue coins containing their name.  Only four people ever struck coins that were universally accepted  Avraham, Yehoshua, King David, and Mordekai. (Bereishit Rabbah). Avraham's coins had an old man and woman on one side, and a young man and woman on the other.  (Tosefot Bava Kama 96)  The old man and woman were Avraham and Sarah, while the young couple was Yitzchak and Rivka.  Yehoshua's coin had a bull on one side, and a giant aurochs (r'em - the R'em is also mentioned in BaMidbar 23:22, 24:8, Yeshayahu 34:7, Tehillim 22:22, 29:6, 92:11, Iyov 39:10.  Some identify this creature with the giant unicorn or rhinoceros) on the other.  He came from the tribe of Yosef, which was very powerful, like these two mighty creatures.  Moshe had thus said in his blessing to Yosef, "He has the majesty of a firstborn bull; his horns are the horns of the aurochs" (Devarim 33:17). On Kind David's coin, one face had a crook and pouch, the tools of the shepherd.  The other face had a picture of a tower, representing the lofty fortress that Kind David built.  This alluded to the miracle that a shepherd boy such as he had risen to become king.  Although David was king when he minted those coins, he did not hide his humble beginnings.   Mordekai's coin contained a picture of sackcloth and ashes on one side, and a gold crown on the other.  This alluded to the fact that he had begun in such anguish that he was covered with sackcloth and ashes (when Haman issued the decree to kill all Jews).  In the end, however, he became viceroy to King Achashverosh.  Since Avhraham, Yehoshua and Mordekai were commoners, it can be considered unusual that they struck their own coins.  But David was a king; what was so unusual about his minting a coin?  The unusual aspect of King David's coins was that they were accepted even in other countries.  Coins issued in one land are generally not accepted elsewhere.
  5. The first blessing of the Amidah (Shemoneh Esrei - the "Standing Prayer" which consists of eighteen blessings) would be ordained to honor Avraham, his son, and his grandson.  The Amidah therefore begins:  "Blessed are You, Ad-nai, our G-d and G-d of our fathers; G-d of Avraham, G-d of Yitzchak, and G-d of Yaakov..."  This blessing then concludes with the words, "Blessed are You Ad-nai, Sheild of Avraham."  The second blessing in the Amidah speaks of G-d's power in resurrecting the dead.  This is a great honor for Avrham: the Amidah begins with his praise; only then does it speak of G-d's greatness.  The first blessing has another advantage.  One must bow twice when reciting it, once at the beginning of the blessing, and a second time when one says, " Blessed are You Ad-nai, Sheild of Avraham."
  6. At first, Avraham only had complete control of 243 (of the 248) parts of his body.  There were five parts over which he had no control.  One cannot control his eyes and ears and avoid sin, since the eye can see without one willing it, and the ear can inadvertently hear something.  When Avraham became circumcised, he gained full control of these organs as well.  He did not hear or see anything unless he wanted to.  No other person ever achieved this.  Avraham was perfect in all 248 organs.  The numerical value of Avraham (אַבְרָהָם) is 248.
  7. G-d granted Avraham a great benefit in adding the Hebrew letter ה (heh) to his name.  When he was born, he was named Avram (אַבְרָם) .  This was the name he had until he was 99 years old.  After that, his name was changed to Avraham.  The addition of the letter heh was particularly significant, since heh is the one letter (repeated) in the Tetragrammaton.
  8. Avraham had great success in his business affairs.  Even other people who had dealings with him were blessed, whether they bought from him or sold to him.  Even before a deal was completed, as soon as a person began to speak to Avraham about a business transaction, the blessing would take effect.
  9. All sick people in Avraham's time were cured.  This was certainly true when Avraham visited a sick person and prayed for him; but even when Avraham passed by in the street and a sick person looked at him through the window, he would be healed, although Avraham was not aware of him.  One may ask the question, since Sarah was sterile and Avraham certainly prayed for her, why was she not cured?  The prayers of the righteous only help to bring about miracles for others, not for themselves.  This is similar to the case of an important person who is in prison.  He cannot free himself; he must depend upon others to work to set him free.  The same is true of prayer; the saint can help others through his prayers, but not himself. (Yafeh Toar p. 210)
  10. G-d told Avraham, "Until now, all blessings were in My hand. I would bless whomever I pleased, as I blessed Adam and Noach.  But from now on, all blessings are given to you, and you will be able to bless whomever your please.  I will agree to both your blessings and your maledictions.  This last item was a great honor to Avraham.  If a person violates the Torah's commandments and scoffs at the words of the sages, he is not cursed by G-d, but by an angel.  It is thus written, "Those who despise Me shall be cursed" (1Shmuel 2:30).  G-d does not say, "I will curse them," but "[they] shall be cursed."  The cruse is automatic; it is beneath G-d's dignity to curse the wicked.  In the case of Avraham, however, G-d had said, "He who curses you, I will curse."  If a person went against Avraham, G-d Himself would curse him, because Avraham's honor was very precious to G-d.
  11. G-d blessed Avraham with success.  He would have children, property, a good old age, and would inherit the (Holy) Land.  He would be blessed with tranquility, and would have an extraordinary number of servants.  He would have success in whatever he did.
  12. Rain and dew come because of Avraham's merit.  Other nations are worthy of good only so Yisrael should be able to derive benefit from them.
  13. When Avraham came to the land of Kenaan, G-d promised him, "To your offspring I will give this land" (12:7).  This meant that Avraham's descendants would own all the land in question.  This was fulfilled after the Exodus from Egypt, when Yisrael conquered all the cities of Kenaan, as discussed in Sefer Yehoshua.
  14. G-d promised that there would be three Patriarchs:  Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov; and four Matriarchs: Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel and Leah.  Other than these, we do not refer to any individuals as "Patriarchs" (or "Matriarchs").  Avraham was so precious in G-d's eyes, that He decreed that none other than the above mentioned three should be given the title Patriarch.  The three Patriarchs were very important (in G-d's scheme,) and are therefore often referred to as the Avot Olam (fathers of the world).
  15. Avraham was called "G-d's friend."' G-d thus called him, "Avraham, My friend" (Yeshayahu 41:8).
  16. Avraham is considered G-d's partner.  G-d wanted to create the world to make His greatness known in it.  Since it was Avraham who publicized G-d's greatness in the world, G-d honored him greatly and called him His partner in creation. (Bereishit Rabbah 41; Yafeh Toar 259)

5 Vayikach Avram et-Sarai ishto ve'et-Lot ben-achiv ve'et-kol-rechusham asher rachashu ve'et-hanefesh asher-asu veCharan vayetze'u lalechet artzah Kena'an vayavo'u artzah Kena'an
Avram took his wife Sarai, Lot, his brother's son, all their possessions they had acquired, and the souls that they had made in Charan, and they set out to go to the land of Kenaan. They came to the land of Kenaan.
ve'et-hanefesh asher-asu veCharanand the souls that they had made in Charan

With Avram were also a large number of people who had begun to believe in G-d.  As we saw in the Parashat Noach, Avram was very good at convincing people to believe in G-d. When he was 52 years old, he began spreading his doctrine in the world.  Sarai spoke to the women, bringing them to true belief.  In this manner, the two of them proselytized many people.


7 Vayera HASHEM el-Avram vayomer lezar'acha eten et-ha'aretz hazot vayiven sham mizbe'ach l'HASHEM hanir'eh elav
HASHEM appeared to Avram and said: "To your descendants I will give this land." There he built an altar to HASHEM Who had appeared to him.

When Avram entered the land of Kenaan, he built an altar to G-d.  He thanked G-d for His promise that Avram would inherit the land, and that he would have "offspring."  Avram worshiped G-d with his whole being.  After desiring for so long to "contemplate" the Almighty, Avram is carried away with thankfulness and humility before G-d "Who appeared to Him."  He builds his first altar with these feelings, although thoughts of "his descendants and the possession of this land which had just been announced " (Rashi) remain on his mind.

9 Vayisa Avram haloch venasoa hanegbah
Avram journeyed, traveling steadily southward.
Avram then began to migrate toward the south of the Holy Land, heading in the direction of Yerushalayim and Mount Moriyah, destined to be his inheritance.  Wherever he went, he remained for about a month and then went to another city.  He continued until he came to Yerushalayim. (Rashi)

Although Avram was a prophet, he did not experience G-d or see a vision of Him until he came to the Holy Land.  When G-d spoke to him, it was nothing more than a kind of divine inspiration (Rauch HaKodesh).  But when Avram entered the Holy Land and built an altar, G-d appeared to him, and he was able to see a clear vision of the Divine.  It is therefore written, "There he built an altar to HaShem who had appeared to him" (12:7) Avram derived much inner security from this experience.  He then loudly proclaimed the existence of G-d so that all would hear.  The Torah thus concludes, "He called in G-d's Name" (12:8).

10 Vayehi ra'av ba'aretz vayered Avram Mitzrayim lagur sham ki-chaved hara'av ba'aretz.There was a famine in the land. Avram went down to Egypt to live there temporarily, for the famine was severe in the land.
While Avram was in the land of Kenaan, there was a very severe famine in this area; so Avram was forced to leave the Holy Land and move to Egypt.  It is normally forbidden to leave the Holy Land and live somewhere.  But famine is among the very worst of calamities.  If Avram had been able to buy food, even though it was expensive, Avram would not have left merely to save money; he was too perfect for that.  But food had become totally unavailable, so he had no choice.

11 Vayehi ka'asher hikriv lavo Mitzrayimah vayomer el-Sarai ishto hineh-na yadati ki ishah yefat-mar'eh at
As he came near and was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, "Behold, I now realize that you are a woman of beautiful appearance.
12 Vehayah ki-yir'u otach haMitzrim ve'amru ishto zot vehargu oti ve'otach yechayu
It will happen when the Egyptians see you that they will say, 'This is his wife.' They will kill me and let you live.
13 Imri-na achoti at lema'an yitav-li va'avurech vechaytah nafshi biglalech.  Please say [therefore] that you are my sister, so that it will go well with me for your sake, and my life will be spared because of you."
In Egypt, people were not used to seeing beautiful women.  Avrama was therefore afraid that they would kill him in order to take his wife.  He knjew that they were not godfearing  and would not hesitate to commit such an atrocity.  Avram asked Sarai to begin calling him "brother" as soon as they set out on their journey.  She would then become accustomed to addressing him in this way, and would not accidentally make a mistake.  The Torah therefore says that he told her, "Please say that you are my sister."  From that time on, she should begin addressing him as "brother."

Murder was against the law in Egypt.  But Avram was concerned, since it was also against the law to take another man's wife.  If they killed him, they would be done with him once and for all; while if they took his wife, they would be in constant violation of the law.

14 Vayehi kevo Avram Mitzrayimah vayir'u haMitzrim et-ha'ishah ki-yafah hi me'od
And it was when Avram was entering Egypt, that the Egyptians beheld the woman, because she was very beautiful.
15 Vayir'u otah sarei Far'oh vayehalelu otah el-Par'oh vatukach ha'ishah beit Par'oh
Pharaoh's officials saw her and praised her to Pharaoh. The woman was taken to Pharaoh's house.
When they came to Egypt, and had to pass through customs, the agents wasked about the contents of the chest.  It was heavy, and obviously full.  Rather than allow them to open the chest, Avram declared that he would pay any duty they requested.  Seeing that Avram was ready to pay anything rather than open the chest, the customs inspector became suspicious.  They forcibly opened the chest, and discovered an extraordinarily beautiful woman inside.  She was so beautiful that her face seemed to glow in the twilight.

The customs inspectors began to fight over her, each one promising Avram huge amounts of money if she were given to him.  The Torah then says, "The woman was taken to Pharaoh's house."  All the officials argued about who would get her.  When they could not come to any agreement, they all said, "She is so beautiful that she should be brought to Pharaoh, king of Egypt.  No commoner can be worthy of her.

Sarai was brought to Pharaoh's palace on the first night of Pesach.  He was so happy that he gave many gifts to the officials who had told him about her.  Avram was also given many gifts.  Avram was the beloved of G-d - he could have received this and more in an honorable fashion, not as the result of such shameful experience.

G-d had actually arranged this.  What happened to the Patriarchs is an allusion to what will happen to their descendants.  Avram came to Egypt and suffered there very much, but in the end, he went out with great wealth.  The same thing happened to his children. They were also in Egypt and suffered very much because they were enslaved; but in the end, they also went out with great wealth.

This also teaches us that a man should always strive to honor his wife, since blessing comes to a home only because of the woman of the house.  Rava thus advised the men of the city Mechuza, "Honor your wives and you will become wealthy."  Rabbi Chelbo derived it from this verse, which can also be read, "It went well with Avram because of her." (12:16)

It is important to tell this to the ignorant who often curse and insult their wives.  This is a serious sin.  Besides the fact that it is wrong, it is also spiritually dangerous.  When there is no peace between husband and wife, the Divine Presence leaves them.

When Sarai was take to Pharaoh's palace, she considered herself to be in great spiritual danger.  The entire night of Pesach, she wept and prayed. Avram also prayed in the manner that he knew.  The angel Gavri'el then came and told her in the Name of G-d not to be afraid at all; He would protect her from Pharaoh.  The angel remained with her all night, assuring her that she was under his protection.  He would punish Pharaoh until he submitted.

18 Vayikra Far'oh le-Avram vayomer ma-zot asita li lamah lo-higadeta li ki ishtecha hi
Pharaoh summoned Avram and said, "What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she is your wife?
19 Lamah amarta achoti hi va'ekach otah li le'ishah ve'atah hineh ishtecha kach valech
Why did you say, 'She is my sister,' so that I would take her as my wife? Now here is your wife; take [her] and go."
Pharaoh continued berating Avram:  "It was your statement that chased all my troubles.  Since you said that Sarai was your sister, I decided to take her as a wife so as to have children just like you.  We have a tradition that most children are like their mother's brother."

Pharaoh then said, "Let bygones be bygones. Just take your wife and leave, the sooner the better.  I'm not saying this because I am angry at you for tricking me.   I'm merely giving you good advice.  You know as well as I do that Egyptians are immoral. I don't want you to stay in Egypt lest something bad happen. (Rashi)

20 Vayetzav alav Par'oh anashim vayeshalechu oto ve'et-ishto ve'et-kol-asher-lo
Pharaoh assigned men to him and they escorted him and his wife and all that was his.
Pharaoh had given Avram many gifts on Erev Pesach when he had taken Sarai.  He now gave him many more gifts along with a great deal of money so that Avram would forgive him.  The Torah later says, "Avram was very wealthy in livestock, silver and gold." (13:2)

If one things about this, he will see that a great miracle happened to Avram.  Pharaoh did not take back all the presents he gave Avram when he thought that Sarai was his sister.  He would have had a good excuse, he had given him the gifts erroneously, thinking that Sarai his sister.  No one voiced such an argument.  It therefore appears that a great miracle occurred; G-d closed their eyes to the fact that Avram was leaving with all the gifts. (RaMBaN; Zohar p. 83)

G-d had done all this in order to enhance Avram's reputation.  It was known that the Egyptians were great sorcerers, and no one had the power to overcome them.  Avram, however, was able to leave Egypt with great wealth.

13:1 Vaya'al Avram miMitzrayim hu ve'ishto vechol-asher-lo veLot imo haNegbah
Avram went up from Egypt; he, his wife, and all that was his, together with Lot into the south.
2 Ve'Avram kaved me'od bamikneh bakesef uvazahav
Avram was very wealthy in livestock, silver and gold.
3 Vayelech lemasa'av miNegev ve'ad-Beit-el ad-hamakom asher-hayah sham aholoh batchilah bein Beit-el uvein ha'Ai
He proceeded on his journeys from the south to Beit-el, until the place where he originally had his tent, between Beit-el and 'Ai.
4 El-mekom hamizbe'ach asher-asah sham barishonah vayikra sham Avram beshem HASHEM
To the site of the altar which he made there at first; and there Avram called in the Name of HASHEM.
The Negev is in the south of the Holy Land.  Since Egypt is to the southwest of the Land of Yisrael, as soon as Avram crossed the border, he was the Negev.

The Torah states that "He proceeded on his journeys."  This indicates that when he returned to the Holy Land from Egypt, he stopped in the same inns that he had stopped in when he went to Egypt.  He did this in order to repay his debts.  During the time of famine, when Avram was in financial difficulty, he borrowed money from a number of people. Now that G-d had given him wealth, he wanted to repay his debts.  Avram would never cheat another person.

14 Va'HASHEM amar el-Avram acharei hipared-Lot me'imo sa na eynecha ure'eh min-hamakom asher-atah sham tzafonah vanegbah vakedmah vayamah
HASHEM said to Avram after Lot had parted from him: "Raise your eyes and look out from the place where you are: northward, southward, eastward and westward.
15 Ki et-kol-ha'aretz asher-atah ro'eh lecha etenenah ulezar'acha ad-olam
For all the land that you see I give to you and to your descendants forever.
16 Vesamti et-zar'acha ka'afar ha'aretz asher im-yuchal ish limenot et-afar ha'aretz gam-zar'acha yimaneh
I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if one can count the dust of the earth, then your descendants too will be countable.
17 Kum hithalech ba'aretz le'orkah ulerochbah ki lecha etenenah
Rise, walk the land through its length and breadth, for to you I will give it.
18 Vaye'ehal Avram vayavo vayeshev be'Elonei Mamre asher beChevron vayiven-sham mizbeach l'HASHEM
Avram set up his tent, and he came and settled in the Plains of Mamre which are in Chevron, and he built there an altar to HASHEM.
G-d told Avram to "walk the land," and when Avram did this, he took possession of the land by pacing it out  .  From that time on, the land of Kenaan belonged to Avram.  Yisrael then was able to take possession of the land as an inheritance from Avram.  NO one could argue that they had illegally taken the land by force.  Avrama took leagal possession of the land at G-d's word, and Yisrael inherited it from him legally.  It is therefore rightfully theirs.

After G-d had shown Avram all this, and he had paced out all the land of Kenaan, he set up his household in Chevron, in the house of a good man whose name was Mamre.  Here he built an altar to G-d for his escape unharmed from Pharaoh;  and because G-d had informed him that he would have children and that all the land would be his.

 14:1 Vayehi bimei Amrafel melech-Shin'ar Ari'och melech Ellasar Kedorla'omer melech Elam veTid'al melech Goyim
This happened in the days of Amrafel, king of Shinar; Arioch, king of Ellasar, Kedorlaomer, king of 'Elam, and Tidal, king of Goyim.
2 Asu milchamah et-Bera melech Sedom ve'et-Birsha melech Amorah Shin'av melech Admah veShem'ever melech Tzvoyim umelech Bela hi-Tzo'ar
They waged war against Bera, king of Sedom, Birsha, king of 'Amorah, Shin'av, king of Admah, Shem'ever, king of Tzevoyim, and the king of Bela, which is Tzo'ar.

The Torah tells us about he calamity that struck Lot because he associated with the people of Sedom.  It also tells about Avram's strength, that he had the power to wage war against many kings and emerge victorious.  This was the world's first war.  Amrafel is usually identified as Nimrod.  Shinar is identical with Bavel (Babylon) as we have seen, Nimrod was king of Bavel (Bereishit 10:10)

Chedorlaomer was one of the leaders in Nimrod's kingdom.  When the people of Bavel were dispersed all over the world after building the Tower of Bavel, he set up a kingdom in Elam, rebelling against Nimrod.  He was successful in his rebellion; he also conquered five other kingdoms, namely those of Bera king of Sedom, Birsha king of 'Amorah, Shinav king of Admah, Shem'ever king of Tzevoyim, and the king of Bela, which is identified as Tzo'ar.

3 Kol-eleh chaveru el-Emek haSiddim hu Yam haMelach
All these joined together at the valley of Siddim, which is [now] the Salt Sea.
4 Shtem-esreh shanah avdu et-Kedorla'omer ushlosh-esreh shanah maradu
[For] twelve years they had served Kedorla'omer, and in the thirteen year they rebelled.

These five kings were subjugated to Chedorlaomer and piad tribute to him each year.  For twelve years they remained subject to him; they they began to rebel against him and refused to honor him.

When Avram had been in the land of Kenaan ten years, a war broke out between Nimrod king of Bavel and Chedorlaomer.  When Nimrod heard that these five kings had rebelled against Chedorlaomer, he decided to wage war against him and bring him back under his rule.  Nimrod allied himself with two other kings:  Arioch king of Ellasar and Tidal king of Goyim.

Goyim is the name of a place on the Roman peninsula.  The thre above mentioned kings had brought together representatives from all seventy nations that existed at the time.  They elected Tidal to be king over them all. A new empire was thus created, and they called it גוֹיִם (Goyim), which literally means "nations."  It is not the name of a city, but of an empire consisting of many nations.

7 Vayashuvu vayavo'u el-En-mishpat hi Kadesh vayaku et-kol-sedeh ha'Amaleki vegam et-ha'Emori hayoshev beChatzetzon-tamar
They turned back and came to Ein Mishpat - now Kadesh - and they struck all the territory of Amalek, as well as the Emori who lived in Chatzetzon-tamar.
The name עֵין מִשְׁפָּט (Ein Mishpat) literally means "The Fountain of Judgment."  There are three reasons why it is given this name.

  1. In the Ultimate Future, Moshe and Aharon will be judged in this place for striking the stone so that it would yield water (Bamidbar 20:12). (Targum Yonatan; Rashi)
  2. This will the ultimate place of judgment. Everyone will be brought here and will receive the punishment that he deserves. (Targum)
  3. Ein Mishpat refers to Avram.  Nimrod (Amrafel) was coming with Chedorlaomer to wage war against the five kings of the Sedom axis.  He wanted to kill two birds with one stone, so he headed in the direction of the Amori where Avram lived, hoping to kill Avram and be done with him once and for all.  In killing Avram, Nimrod wanted to blind the Eye of the universe.  The Hebrew word עַיִן (eyin) means both "fountain" and "eye."  This verse can therefore be read, "They came to the Eye of Judgment."  The phrase that we have translated "now Kadesh," is הִוא קָדֵשׁ (hi Kadesh) which can also be translated "she is holy."  Although this phrase is read as hi Kadesh, in the Torah, it is written as הוּא קָדֵשׁ (hu Kadesh), which literally means "he is holy." The reference is to Avram, who was holy because he sanctified G-d's Name and was ready to suffer martyrdom rather than worship idols.  Nimrod came to these places to wage war against Avram.

18 UMalki-tzedek melech Shalem hotzi lechem vayayin vehu kohen le-El Elyon
Malki-tzedek, king of Shalem, brought out bread and wine. He was Kohen of the Most High Almighty.
19 Vayevarechehu vayomar baruch Avram le-El Elyon Koneh shamayim va'aretz
He blessed him and said: "Blessed be Avraham to the Most High, Almighty Possessor of heaven and earth.
20 Uvaruch El Elyon asher-migen tzareicha beyadecha vayiten-lo ma'aser mikol
And blessed by the Most High Almighty Who has delivered your enemies into your hand." [Avram] gave him a tenth of everything.
Malki-tzedek is none other than Shem, son of Noach.   שָׁלֵם (Shalem) is Yerushalayim, which was already an important place of worship; it is written, "In Shalem was set His tabernacle, His dwelling place in Tziyon (Tehillim 76:3).  When the city became large enough to require a govenment, Shem was crowned king and given the title of Malchi-tzedek.  This title actually means "king of Tzedek.," צֶדֶק meaning "righteousness."  Later we find another king of Yerushalayim whose name was Adoni-tzedek, literally "lord of Tzedek: (Yehoshua 10:1).  Tzedek was a name frequently given to Yerushalayim, since it was a place where righteousness was taught.

When Avram plassed by Yerushalayim on his way home, Malki-tzedek (Shem) came out to greet him and prepared a feast of bread and wine.  At that time it was the custom for soldiers returning exhausted from war to eat such a meal. (Rashi).

Shem greeted Avram in a friendly manner even though Avram had killed many of Shem's descendants.  Since they were wicked, he did not hold this against Avram. Since Shem served as Kohen Gadol (High Priest), Avram gave him a tithe of all he had won.

The Torah states that Avram "gave him a tenth of everything."  In th emerit of this "everything" all three Patriarchs were supported.  With regard to Avraham it is written, "G-d blessed Avram with everything (Bereishit 24:1).  Yitzchak said, "I have eaten from everything" (Bereishit 27:33).  Yaakov, too, said, "G-d has been gracious to me, for I have everything." (Bereishit 33:11).  It is with reference to these verses that we say in the Birkat HaMazon (Grace After Meals):

...as our fathers Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov were blessed, "with everything." "from everything," "everything."

These verses all allude to the fact that these blessings were derived from Avram's merit in taking the initiative and giving a tithe to Shem, as the verse says, "he gave him a tenth of everything."  As a result, Avram was worthy to have success in whatever he did.  This teaches how important it is to be careful to tithe.  It brings great merit.

15:1 Achar hadevarim ha'eleh hayah dvar-HASHEM el-Avram bamachazeh lemor al-tira Avram anochi magen lach scharecha harbeh me'od
After these events, the word of HaShem came to Avram in a vision, saying: "Fear not Avram, I am your shield, your reward is very great."
Until this time, Avram only experienced prophecy in a dream at night.  From this time on, the Divine Presence also spoke to him by day.  Avram was apprehensive because of the change.

There are ten words used to designate prophecy:

  1.  חָזוֹן - chazon (vision)
  2. דִבּוּר - dibbur (speech)
  3. אֳמִירָה - amirah (saying)
  4. הַטָפָה - hatafah (influx)
  5. נְבוּאָה - nevuah (prophecy)
  6. צִיווּי - tzivui  (command)
  7. מָשָׂא - masa  (burden)
  8. מָשָׁל - mashal  (parable)
  9. מְלִיצָה - melitzah (metaphor)
  10. חִידָה - chidah (allegory)

These terms relate to ten different mystical levels experienced by the prophets.  The highest of these levels is Vision, and then comes Speech.  When the Torah states, " the word (speech) of HaShem came to Avram in a vision," it indicates that his experience included the two highest levels of prophecy.  Vision and Speech.  The experience was so overwhelming that Avram was terrified; G-d therefore told him, "Fear not Avram."

2 Vayomer Avram adonai HASHEM mah-titen-li ve'anochi holech ariri uven-meshek beiti hu Dammesek Eli'ezer
Avram said: "My Master, G-d, what will You give me since I continue to be childless, and the manager of my household is Eliezer of Damascus?"
3 Vayomer Avram hen li lo natatah zara vehineh ven-beiti yoresh oti
And Avram said: "Behold, You have not given me children, and thus one of my household will be my heir.
4 Vehineh dvar HASHEM elav lemor lo yirashecha zeh ki-im asher yetze mime'echa hu yirashecha
Suddenly the word of Hashem came to him, saying: "That one will not be your heir; only he that will come from within your body will be your heir."
5 Vayotze oto hachutzah vayomer habet-na hashamaymah usfor hakochavim im-tuchal lispor otam vayomer lo koh yihyeh zar'echa
He [then] took him outside and said: "Look towards the heavens and count the stars if you are able to count them." He then said to him: "So [nummerous] will your descendants be."

Avram was a great astrologer.  He felt very bad because all signs indicated that he would never have any children.  He felt that Lot, "one of my household," would inherit all his possessions.  G-d sent three angels, one after the other, to assure him that Lot would not be his heir.  Then G-d Himself spoke to Avram and "took him outside."  G-d said "Get out of your astrology.  There is no astrological power over Yisrael."  G-d told Avram, "Your star is Jupiter, whose influence is to the west, bringing coldness, preventing you from having children.  You should not engage in astrology; leave it to the heathens who believe that nothing can overcome the influence of the stars.  One who fears Me need not pay attention to these things.  I am telling you that I will reverse your star, so you will be able to have children.  Don't worry.  The stars say that Avram and Sarai cannot have children.  I will change your names.  You will no longer be Avram but Avraham, while Sarai's name will become Sarah.

Avram was certain then that he would have children, because he believed in G-d's message.

25 VeYishma'el beno ben-shlosh esreh shanah behimolo et-besar orlato
And his son Yishmael was thirteen years old when he circumcised the flesh of his foreskin.
26 Be'etzem hayom hazeh nimol Avraham veYishma'el beno
On that very day Avraham and his son Yishmael were circumcised.
27 Vechol-anshei veyto yelid bayit umiknat-kesef me'et ben-nechar nimolo ito
All the men of his household, those born in his household, and bought with money from a stranger, were circumcised with him.
Yishmael was then thirteen years old. At that time, Avraham also circumcised the 318 men who had been born in his household, as well as the slaves he had bought for cash.  There was also a huge number of men who had come to Avraham to learn about G-d; all of them were circumcised.  Avraham did this so that no one in his house remained uncircumcised, defiling his possessions.

This teaches that it is not enough for a person to study Torah himself.  He must teach the members of his household all the laws that they need to know.  It is also good to teach one's friends and show them what must not be done.


Chronology of Sefer Bereishit - Parashat Lech Lecha

Year 2023
Avraham's second journey to Kenaan
Rekion becomes king of Egypt
Avraham goes to Egypt
Avraham and Lot part company
G-d begins warning Sedom

Year 2026
Reu dies

Year 2033
Avraham marries Hagar

Year 2034
Yishmael born

Year 2047
G-d changes Avram's name to Avraham
Avraham circumcised. [Some say this happened on Yom Kippur, 2048]


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MeAm Lo'ez; Bachya; Rashi



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