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Parashat Vayera


Avraham stood before Hashem, pleading on behalf of the inhabitants of Sedom, begging Him to forgive them. Perhaps there are fifty ssadikim, and on their account five full cities should be spared. Perhaps there are forty righteous men who can save four of the cities. Maybe there are ten, and one city may survive. But, as we know, there were not even ten, and the decree was finalized.

Even there had been ten, so what? Why would the entire region be spared on their account? The Torah itself testifies to the severity in quality and quantity of Sedom's and Amorah's iniquity. They were exceptionally cruel people, undeserving of the right to live. Why did Hashem agree with Avraham in theory, that were there to have been ten ssadikim a city of sinners would escape its rightful punishment?

The answer lies in one seemingly innocuous phrase included by Avraham in his plea. "Perhaps there are fifty ssadikim in the middle of the city - would you destroy and not have compassion for the region, on account of the fifty ssadikim which are in its midst?" The Ibn Ezra zs"l explains, "'In the midst of the city' - that they are G-d-fearing in public, as we find, 'Wander through the outskirts of Jerusalem and see, know and ask in its streets, will you find a man, is there anyone doing justice, seeking truth - and I will forgive it' (Yirmiyahu 5:1)." In other words, the existence of a ssadik, even ten ssadikim, does not necessarily guarantee the sparing of the city, it is not itself a reason to forgive the many sins, unless those righteous individuals are found, "in the midst of the city," involved in what transpires in the city, teaching Torah, publishing works of Torah, organizing Torah activities and programs for both young and old, working towards the benefit of the public.

Only then can we expect forgiveness, as the light outshines the darkness, and we can feel confident that the city will return to proper observance.


Avraham was the father of the nation. Hazal say that "a father inherits to his son." Indeed, Avraham implanted within us his characteristics. What are they? Two principle traits have been instilled within us forever. The first is faith, as all Jews are believers the children of believers, the children of Avraham, about whom it is written, "And he believed in Hashem." Hazal note that this term is written in the "hifil" verb form, indicating that he implanted this belief within his progeny. The second defining characteristic imbued within each and every one of us is that of generosity, that all Jews perform acts of kindness and benevolence. Our parashah states about Avraham, "For he will instruct his children and household after him, and they will observe the path of Hashem to do kindness and justice" (see Yebamot 79a). One who is not merciful or benevolent cannot be considered from the progeny of Avraham. In fact, King David employed this principle when he decidedly removed the "Givonim" from the nation once they revealed their cruelty, as codified by the Rambam.

When it was whispered in the ear of Rav Kaduri shlit"a that portions of the nation have forgotten what it means to be a Jew, a great uproar ensued. However, if "Jew" means benevolence, then we have at least one way of determining one's Jewish identity. A recent study revealed that ninety percent of the religious Jews in Israel donate regularly to charitable organizations. Among other denominations the number has been tumbling steadily. There are so many charity funds run in Israel, so many of them under religious auspices. Is this a coincidence, that these societies were founded and are run and managed by religious people, serving the religious and non-religious alike? There are hundred of funds which lend hundreds of thousands of shekalim each month without interest. Do these organizations have counterparts in the non-religious community?

The "yellow pages" in Benei Berak, for example, contains twenty-six pages devoted to various "gemahim," charitable institutions. Each page features dozens of entries. It contains organizations to lend bridal gowns, decorative head-coverings for brides, provide make-up for brides, supply a special car with balloons for the newlywed couple, wedding flowers, ties for the groom (it would be a shame to purchase a white tie for just one evening), glass candle-holders to be held under the hupah, to assist in defraying the costs of weddings, including bands. We now move from the wedding to "sheva berachot": There is a gemah for utensils, cups and bowls, silverware, hot-plates, large cooking-pots, everything you could ask for.

There is a gemah to provide cookbooks, and, of course, one that provides folding tables and chairs, another for napkins and tablecloths, in all colors. And how can an affair take place without photographs? So, naturally, there are gemahim for cameras, lighting, and projectors. Oh - it may be hot. Therefore, there is a gemah to provide fans. For the end of the affair, another gemah takes care of the birkonim. In case some of the guests need to sleep over as the affair ends late, a gemah provides folding beds and extra blankets.

A baby is born - Mazel Tov!! - a gemah will provide necessary assistance to the parents, either in the form of food for the house, or people to take care of the household laundry. Forty-three listings appear to assist in the preparations for the berit milah, including providing the traditional chair for Eliyahu. Another gemah provides the parents with a beautiful silver plate for the pidyon haben. And, Heaven forbid, for times of crisis and tragedy, there are gemahim to visit patients, to transport them, to spend time with them on Shabbat, and to bring them food. There appear forty-eight listings of gemahim who provide various medical supplies, and thirty-three gemahim who deal with lending out much-needed medication.

Other gemahim help during other crises. One such gemah supplies gas-heat for the home when the gas runs out. Another provides glasses for those whose glasses have broke. Another gives out pacifiers for children. In return, you just have to buy a new one and give it to the organization. There exists gemahim for ladders and other household equipment, writing utensils, kitchen accessories, stamps, phone cards, Shabbat-clocks, haircutting, cribs, baby-carriages, tape-measures, toys - anything one can imagine! This is what one can find in just one city in Israel, one of several dozen. Does there exist such activities programs in other cities, programs which boggle the mind and exceed imagination? There is a central gemah, which keeps people informed on which gemahim are available. Is it a mere coincidence that all this is run by religious Jews?


Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yosef shlit"a

Arranged by Rav Mosheh Yosef shlit"a

The Berachah for Cake Containing a Mixture of Grain and Other Ingredients

In general, when eating a dish containing various items, the item which constitutes the majority of the dish determines the blessing to be recited for this dish. The other food-types in the dish, which make up the minority, may be eaten after the recitation of this blessing, which was determined by the majority item. However, if the mixture contains flour from the five grains (wheat, barley, oats, rye, and spelt), then, due to the particular significance of these grains, the berachah will be "mezonot," regardless of the proportion the grain represents with reference to the rest of the dish. However, this provision applies only if the grain had been included in the dish to add taste. But if it was introduced only to add substance, to hold together the batter, such as flour placed in soup to make it thick, then the blessing for the soup is "shehakol." This entire discussion relates to the berachah before eating the item. However, with regard to the "berachah aharonah," recited after eating the food-item, the Shulhan Aruch (208:9) draws the following distinction: If one ate enough of the dish so that he consumed a "kezayit" of grain within the time period of "kedei achilat peras," then he recites "al hamihyah." However, if he ate the dish slowly, that he never consumed a kezayit within this time frame, then he cannot recite al hamihyah. Next week we will discuss at greater length the laws applying to this case.

There is a dispute among the authorities as to the definition of "kedei achilat peras." Rashi understands this to mean that one must eat a kezayit in the period of time normally needed to consume the quantity of four eggs. The Rambam, however, holds that it means eating a kezayit in the time duration normally required to eat only three eggs. The Shulhan Aruch (612:4) cites both opinions in the name of the anonymous "yesh omrim," and we generally assume that in such a situation he means to rule like the second of the cited views, which in the case is that of the Rambam. Therefore, in order to recite al hamihyah one must eat enough of the mixture that a kezayit of grain was eaten within the time necessary to eat a quantity of three eggs. This time period has been defined in different ways by different authorities, but Rav Ovadia Yosef shlit"a rules that it is seven and a half minutes.

In summary, cake made from potato starch mixed with flour, and the regular flour has been added for taste, requires a mezonot before eating and an al hamihyah afterward, assuming a kezayit of flour was eaten within the period of "kedei achilat peras," seven and a half minutes.


Rabbi Salmaan Mussaafi zs"l

Each night, Rabbi Salmaan Mussaafi zs"l would rise to recite "tikkun hassot" to mourn for the exile of the shechinah and pray for the redemption. Afterward he would involve himself diligently in the secrets of the Torah until morning, at which point he would attend services.

One morning he awoke as usual, not knowing that the Jewish underground had carried out a certain action the night before which led the British to order martial law. He was caught by the police and thrown into prison in "Shanlar." Around him he saw approximately three hundred Jews. Some were in prison for violating the curfew, others were suspected of involvement with the underground. They all sat there idly, awaiting the outcome of the investigations.

The rabbi though to himself, what a waste! What good does this do? What a great opportunity! He began speaking before them words of encouragement, and they all disrupted their idleness to hear his words. His words, which left his heart, penetrated theirs. As he began reciting "tikun hassot," they repeated after him verse by verse. They all cried bitterly for redemption, they declared together with him, "Hashem is the G-d!" and they recited the "shema."

The British guards heard and assembled. They saw how the prison cell had become a giant synagogue, the inmates pouring their hearts out in prayer. The guards thought to themselves, these people are not terrorists! They freed their prisoners.

The rabbi completed his prayer and returned home. His wife had been very concerned as the hour was late. She knew the curfew was in force, and she was afraid her husband was caught and possibly punished with an extended prison sentence.

He told her, "Yes, they caught me, but not to throw me into prison, but to allow me to free other Jews." He proceeded to tell her the entire episode. He concluded by saying, "The spiritual and the physical are intertwined. Once I freed the religious spark within them, their freedom from prison came naturally. The same applies to the nation as a whole - once the spirituality is redeemed, the physical redemption can then unfold."


"And Hashem remembered Sarah"

Rabbi Shelomoh Amslem zs"l of Midlat, Morocco, asks, why is Hashem referred to in this verse by the name, Y-H-V-H, but regarding Rachel the Torah writes, "Elokim remembered Rachel and opened her womb"? He answers that the name "Hashem" (that appears in our pasuk) represents Hashem's quality of creating from nothing, bringing about deviations in the natural world. "Elokim," however, refers to Hashem as the G-d of nature, ("Elokim" has the same numerical value as "hateva," nature). Therefore, since the pregnancy of Sarah occurred in her old age and was thus a supernatural occurrence, the name Y-H-V-H is employed. Regarding Rahel's pregnancy, however, which was a natural occurrence, the name "Elokim" is used.

"And Hashem remembered Sarah"

Rabbi Shalom Abuhassera zs"l notes the apparent redundancy in this pasuk. First it says, "Hashem remembered Sarah as He had said," and then it continues, "Hashem did for Sarah that which He spoke."

He explains based on a redundancy in a different pasuk (in Parashat Noah) - "Sarah was barren, she did not have children." Hazal there explain that no only was Sarah barren, but her body was not at all capable of bearing a child. Therefore, she required a double "remembrance," one for the standard assistance Hashem offers barren women, and another for a fundamental change in her physical makeup, to be returned to her youth.

"And Hashem remembered Sarah"

Rashi, commenting on an earlier pasuk in our parashah (referring to the destruction of Sedom), writes that whenever the term "VeHashem" ("and Hashem") is used, it refers to Hashem and His court. Here, too, regarding the pregnancy of Sarah, the phrase is used. But what a vast difference between the two situations! Regarding Sedom, the Attribute of Mercy had to concede to the Attribute of Justice, and regarding Sarah the Attribute of Justice gave in to the Attribute of Mercy to offer salvation to Sarah and allow her to build the nation. The Hid"a writes that this is what Hazal meant when they said that the wicked convert the Attribute of Mercy to the Attribute of Justice, and the righteous convert the Attribute of Justice into mercy.


The Dove

Two weeks ago we read about the dove sent by Noah to verify that the land had dried after the flood.

We have identified no fewer than three hundred different species of dove scattered throughout the world, except near the Poles.

All these doves share certain common characteristics, and their main source of food is seeds and fruit. Many birds migrate as the winter or summer months arrive, heading toward the region where they had lived in the previous season.

The dove, however, features a very strong attachment to its place of residence. It is capable of flying vast distances in order to return to the nest it had built. This specific characteristic enables one species of dove to serve as mail-doves.

A letter affixed to this bird's feet will reach across miles and miles to its precise destination. This dove is trained to fly as fast as seventy kph, an very high speed considering the fact that the general range of flying for birds is between fifteen and ninety five kph.

The Nation of Israel is always compared to a dove for its defining characteristics of uprightness, trustworthiness, and humility. Just as a dove returns from great distances to its home, so do Am Yisrael return to their Father in Heaven.


The Severed Hand (3)

The victimized youth stood by the city square and cried as the soldier who had robbed him made his way further and further holding in his hand the loaves of bread as well as the boy's hope to feed his ill father. As he was crying, he felt a hand on his shoulder and heard a voice asking, "What is the matter, child, why are you crying?"

The boy raised his tearful eyes to the speaker. It was a young person, tall with dark eyes. The boy answered, "My father is old and sick, dying, and has not eaten in three days. I worked so hard for two loaves of bread, only to have them stolen by the soldier." To his amazement, the stranger pulled out a giant wallet and said, "Hurry - go bring life to your father with this money. Tomorrow come to the palace and return to me the empty wallet."

Eli had no idea who this man was, nor did he have any way of finding out. The one thing he knew was that his father's life was saved. He emotionally kissed the outstretched hand of the stranger, took the wallet, and left. He hurried to his house, and as soon as the door opened, he was seized with terror. His father was lying unconscious on the floor right near the door. The father, seeing that his son had left, collected his last strength and got out of bed. He crawled to the door but fainted along the way. The boy immediately took hold of his father and led him to his bed, and then left to buy food. He went to the doctor and showed him the golden rings on his hand so that he come treat his father. He paid the doctor for his services as well as the medication. He purchased plenty of food and still had many gold pieces left. He placed them in his drawer and left for the palace. The shouting of the soldier guarding the palace stopped him in his tracks. "Stop, poor boy!! Leave, now!"

The boy took out the golden wallet from his pocket. "Excuse me, sir, would you know to whom this belongs? I was instructed to return it here."

The soldier shuddered for an instant and let the boy through. A uniformed butler came and led the boy into the palace. Suddenly, the boy found himself standing before the Sultan Abdul Magid.


This Has All Happened Before

So what's going to be? Who does not ask this question? For most, this question is accompanied by a heavy sigh. What's going to be with six million Jews, surrounded by a hundred million enemy Arabs. What's going to be with a tiny country whose land is getting smaller, in whose direction hundreds of long-range missiles are aimed, surrounded by nations with weapons of mass destruction, armed with chemical, biological, and -in a few years- atomic capabilities. What's going to be with the internal strife which sees no end, jealousy and hatred on religious grounds, producing conflicting parties. What's going to be?

What's going to be with the Jewish values? What's going to be with the mass intermarriage which severs large portions from our people, the seventy-percent assimilation rate outside of Israel? What's going to be with the one million Jewish children in Israel who never learn to recite "shema," the Ten Commandments, or the thirteen principles of faith? They are detached from their heritage completely. Are we becoming two distinct nations?

What's going to be with the economy? What's going to be with all the personal crises, with the burden of problems each individual carries on his shoulders? What will be in the end with all those small debts, illnesses, and disappointments? Problems with the family, difficulties in the office, each one bears his own share of these problems, with no end in sight, no light to be seen at the end of the tunnel of darkness!

The consolation, the answer to these difficult questions, is found in our parashah: do not despair, do not lose hope, for the nation was built after all hope was gone. The nation was born when Avraham was one hundred years old, and his wife, Sarah was already ninety. It seems so far-fetched, that people laughed at Sarah. The child's name is "Yis'hak," laughter, for it was Sarah who had the last laugh, and her descendants, the Jewish people, will have the last laugh when all is said and done. "When Hashem returns the exile of Zion it will be like a dream; then will our mouths be filled with laughter and out tongues filled with glee!" This is a nation which survives against all odds, against all predictions for our demise, surmounting all obstacles. We will certainly overcome the obstacles facing us presently, which will ultimately lead to our full redemption, may it unfold speedily and in our days!

excerpts from
Sing You Righteous...
by: Rabbi Avigdor Miller shlit"a

Rehearsal for afterlife II

Aaron: Thus the three repasts of Sabbat are three opportunities for reflection.

Mr. Goodfriend: Another similarity of Shabbat to the Afterlife is the freedom from material entanglement. The most serious obstacle to the Awareness of the true issues of life is the preoccupation with worldly matters. "Limit business, and engage in Torah" (Avot 4:10). In this, Shabbat serves as the model for all one's days Shabbat is therefore 1) the national day of Torah-study, 2) the time to contemplate Creation ex Nihilo, 3) the opportunity to study the wisdom of plan and purpose in all things ("You made me happy with Your deeds; I sing at the work of Your hands"), 4) the opportunity to recognize the kindliness in all things and to rejoice in them, 5) and the time to consider one's debt and gratitude to the Creator and to urge oneself toward more accomplishment in his service.

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