Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 17   No. 4

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmas
Aryeh Leib ben Menachem Mendel z"l
t.n.tz.v.h.

Parshas Vayeira

The Kamatz vs. the Patach
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

"And he said, 'My masters please do not pass by your servant' " (18:3).

This is how Rashi initially interprets the Pasuk (which uses the word that is synonymous with the four letter Name of G-d, as we pronounce it (though it is spelt 'Alef' 'Daled' 'Nun' 'Yud'). And he adds that "My masters" (which is plural) refers to all three angels, even though the fact that Avraham continued to speak in the singular indicates that he was addressing only their leader (Micha'el).

Alternatively, Rashi continues, he (Avraham) was addressing the Shechinah, who had come to visit him after his B'ris Milah, and whom he was now asking to wait until he had finished tending to his guests.

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R. Bachye, following in the footsteps of the Ramban (as he often does) adopts Rashi's latter interpretation of the word 'Adnus', because, he points out, it is punctuated with a 'Kamatz' and not with a 'Patach'. Yet he explains the Pasuk like Rashi's first explanation, in that Avraham was addressing Micha'el, whom he called by G-d's Name. And he explains that it is common to call an emissary by the name of the One whom he represents - which explains why the Torah sometimes refers to both angels and judges as "Elohim", and even as "Hashem"..

And the reason that Avraham addressed specifically Micha'el, he says, is because he represented the Midah of Chesed, which was of course Avraham's own special Midah; and he adds that this is also why the first thing that Avraham offered his guests was "water", and the last, "butter and milk", all of which have connotations of Chesed; wine on the other hand, is not mentioned at all, because wine has connotations of Din.

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Before revealing a fascinating reason as to why Hashem's Name of Adnus is vowelled with a 'Kamatz' rather than with a 'Patach', Rabeinu Bachye discusses the seven vowels - 'Kamatz', 'Patach', 'Tzeirei', 'Segol', 'Cholam', 'Shuruk', 'Chirik' (interestingly, he includes neither the 'Sh'va' nor the 'Kubutz' [see foot-note]). The vowels, he points out, are the basis on which Torah is built and established (reminiscent of the famous saying that 'the letters of the 'Alef' 'Beis' are the body, and the vowels, the Neshamah [the Soul]'). And he goes on to equate the seven letters with the seven 'Kolos' (Voices) cited by David ha'Melech in the 'Mizmor of Torah' (29 - "Hovu la'Hashem B'nei Eilim"), as the Medrash explains, and with the Pasuk in Mishlei "He carved its pillars, seven" (the very Pasuk on which Rebbi [in Shabbos 116a] bases his opinion that the Torah comprises seven Sefarim [and not just five]).

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The difference between a 'Kamatz' and a 'Patach' is a dot (which he equates with a 'Chirik'), he points out, and that dot represents the centre of existence (where the Beis-Hamikdash below stands exactly opposite the Beis-Hamikdash above, which he refers to as 'Heichal ha'Kodesh [the Holy Sanctuary]). The foot-note also cites the author's explanation in Beshalach, where, in connection with the Pasuk at the end of the Shirah (15:17) that hints at the two Batei-Mikdash (see Rashi there) refers to the ten Sefiros - and in fact, the letter 'Yud' too, is sometimes referred to as a dot.

And the same dot, says R. Bachye, serves seven purposes

When on top of a letter, it is a 'Cholam'; 2. When in the middle of a letter, it is a 'Shuruk'; 3. It transforms a 'Patach' into a 'Kamatz; 4. a 'Chirik' into a 'Tzeirei'; 5. a 'Tzeirei' into a 'Segol'; 6. a 'Sh'va' into a 'Kubutz'; and 7. When on its own, it serves as a 'Chirik'.

And the very same dot, he points out, has the power to affect the actual letters themselves - it changes a 'Hey' into a 'Ches', a 'Vav' into a 'Zayin', a 'Chaf' into a 'Beis', a 'Nun' into a 'Gimel' and a 'Reish into a 'Daled'.

And he goes on to discuss the superior status of the 'Kamatz' over the 'Patach'. Take for example, the word 'Oron', an ark, as it is commonly translated. Yet if one exchanges the 'Komatz' for a 'Patach' - for example, 'Aron (ha'B'ris)', it becomes construct, changing its meaning to 'the ark of (the Covenant)' . So we see that the 'Kamatz' symbolizes independence, totality, whilst the 'Patach' signifies dependence on whatever follows it, which at the same time confines the meaning of the word. And this also explains why the word which is vowelled with an 'Esnachta' or a 'Sof Pasuk' (signifying total independence, seeing as it is not followed by anything) is generally punctuated with a 'Kamatz', whereas the same word in the middle of a Pasuk, is punctuated with a 'Patach'. An example of this is the word 'Mal'och', an angel, which becomes 'Mal'ach', when it is connected to another word (such as 'ha'B'ris'). And it is because G-d is not in any way dependent upon any of His Creations (even though they are all dependent upon Him), but is completely self-generating, that His four-letter Name is always punctuated with a 'Kamatz', never with a Patach.

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This does not mean that whenever 'Adnus' is punctuated with a 'Kamatz' it is Kodesh, says R. Bachye. Indeed, in this very Parshah, we find it punctuated with a 'Kamatz', yet it is Chol (mundane) when Lot addressed the angels who came to visit him in S'dom (see later 19:18, though Rashi there disagrees with the author). This is due, he explains, to the fact that the word appears at the end of the Pasuk, where, as we just explained, a 'Patach' generally changes to a 'Kamatz'.

*

Yes, says the author, the difference between the two vowels is as deep as the difference between light and darkness and between Kodesh and Chol!

(Cont.)

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Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

The Three Angels

"And he raised his eyes and behold there were three men standing beside him" (18:2). The three men, says R. Bachye, were none other than the three arch-angels, Micha'el, Refa'el and Gavri'el. Micha'el came to present Sarah with the good news that she would soon give birth to a son, and then to save Lot (missions of Chesed and Rachamim, respectively), Refa'el to cure Avraham and Gavriel to overturn S'dom.

To answer the question that one angel cannot perform two missions, the author explains that that is confined to performing two contradictory missions (e.g. one of Chesed and one of Din), but that if one entails Chesed and other, Rachamim, there is no problem. Consequently, for the Angel Micha'el to inform Sarah, who was (currently) unable to have children that she was about to give birth and then to save Lot (who was unworthy of being saved,) was perfectly acceptable.

In that case, asks the author, why did Refa'el descend at all? Why could Micha'el not then also cure Avraham, seeing as that too was an act of Chesed, just like saving Lot from S'dom?

No, he answers, that would entail encroaching upon the domain of Refa'el, who was granted the exclusive rights to heal the sick!

(In volume 15, we cited R. Bachye's explanation, and that of Rashi, who explains that it was Refa'el who, after curing Avraham, went on to save Lot [something that was feasible, seeing as both were acts of mercy]).

Rashi's explanation is borne out by the fact that in the Amidah (in the B'rachah of 'Refa'einu') we say "Heal us Hashem and we will be healed; Save us, and we shall be saved!' - implying that healing and salvation fall under the same category.

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Avraham's Hachnasas Orchim

"And he said (to Sarah) 'Hurry, take three Se'ah of flour, knead it and bake cakes' " (18:6).

Bearing in mind a. that the Torah generally counts its words, and b. that three Se'ah is equal to one Eifah, one wonders, comments R. Bachye, as to why the Torah refers to 'three Se'ah' and not just 'Eifah'?

Perhaps, he suggests, Avraham divided the flour into three equal portions (each consisting of one Se'ah), to avoid creating feelings of jealousy among his guests, should one receive a larger portion than the other. Moreover, by serving them individually, Avraham demonstrated that he held them all in equal esteem. And every additional effort that he made on their behalf would drive home the fact, both to the guests and to the local residents, the lengths to which he went to look after his guests and to treat them in a dignified manner. Presumably, what the author means is that on the one hand, this would increase the satisfaction of his guests, whilst on the other, it would encourage the locals to take their cue from him and to improve their standard of Hachnasas Orchim accordingly.

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Moreover, says R. Bachye, whereas an Eifah implies exactly an Eifah, no more, no less, three Se'ah has connotations of something extra, more than just an Eifah, hinting at Avraham's characteristic generosity. When Avraham gave, he gave liberally.

And by the same token, says R. Bachye, the next Pasuk informs us how Avraham, despite the three hundred and eighteen members of his household, chose to go himself and prepare the bulls for his esteemed guests, and how, despite his age and the fact that he had not yet recovered from the B'ris Milah, he did not just go, he ran, to prepare them. That was Avraham Avinu!

*

Why Sarah Erred

"And Sarah denied (it) saying 'I did not laugh' " (18:15).

How is it possible, asks R. Bachye, that the Tzadekes Sarah, who was not only a prophetess, but who was, according to Chazal, superior to Avraham in prophecy (see Rashi later in the Parshah - 21:12), should refuse to believe the words of an angel? Did she not know that an angel is an emissary of G-d, who does not lie?

And then, on top of that, she has the gall to lie, to deny that she laughed, when the angel said that she did?

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The answer, says R. Bachye, lies in the fact that whereas Avraham, in his wisdom, realized that his guests were angels, Sarah (who may well have been Avraham's superior in prophecy, but no-one said anything about her being his superior in Chochmah!) did not.

And once she believed them to be ordinary men, it is not surprising that she disbelieved their 'absurd' prediction, since she was naturally barren, and having children was simply not possible. So she reacted by laughing at them. Her subsequent denial was another story. That was due to her fear of Avraham, who, she realized, had clearly accepted the guests' prediction, and who would therefore not condone her laughter. So, thinking that Avraham thought that she had laughed only because he had discerned the signs of laughter on her face, she dismissed that 'with a wave' of the hand'. And it was only after she was convinced that Avraham knew with certainty that she laughed, that she relented and conceded that she had.

*

The Mitzvah of Accompanying
and its Reward

And Avraham went with them to send them off And G-d said to Avraham " (18:16).

The Torah's wording connecting the two Pesukim suggests that it was on the merit of Avraham's having accompanied his guests that he merited a Divine revelation, comments R. Bachye.

The details of the Mitzvah are spelled out in the Gemara in Sotah (46b) 'A Chaver to a Chaver - until the edge of the town; A Rav to a Talmid - Up to T'chum Shabbos (two thouand Amos [one k.m.]) from the outskirts of the town; A Talmid to a Rav - up to three Parso'os (twelve Mil) and a regular person to a guest - one Mil.

* * *

HIGHLIGHTS FROM ...
... TARGUM YONASAN

' the word of G-d sent down rain of mercy upon S'dom and Amorah, assuming that they would do Teshuvah, but they did not - because, they said, "our evil deeds are not revealed to G-d". So sulphur and fire descended upon them from before the word of G-d from the Heaven' (19:24).

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'And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian whom she bore to Avraham 'worshipping' idols, whilst (putting on a pretence of) bowing down to G-d' (21:9).

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'And she said to Avraham "send this maidservant away together with her son, because it is impossible for the son of this maidservant to inherit together with my son, since he will wage war with Yitzchak' (21:10).

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'And He said "Take your son and go to the land of worship and offer him up there on one of the mountains ' (22:2).

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'And Avraham arose early in the morning, and he prepared his donkey and he cut wood from olive and fig trees that are fitting to be used for burnt-offerings ' (22:3).

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... THE BA'AL HA'TURIM

"Will You kill the nation, also the Tzadik?" (20:4).

See Rashi.

The Ba'al ha'Turim, interpreting the word 'Goy' (the nation) with reference to Avimelech himself, explains that if G-d intends to kill him, then He must also kill Avraham the Tzadik, who was responsible for his (Avimelech's) sin.

*

"And he will pray (veyispalel) on your behalf and you will live" (20:7).

The word "veyispalel" appears in another two places - in Yeshayah (44:17) "And he will bow down and pray to him" and in Tehilim (72:15) "and he will pray on his behalf continually".

This teaches us, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, that Avimelech was obligated to beseech Avraham to forgive him, and not just this once, but on an ongoing basis.

*

" And to Sarah (u'le'Sarah) he said, 'Behold I have given money to your brother; may it be for you as a cover over the eyes ' " (20:16).

The word "u'le'Sarah" also appears earlier in the Parshah "u'le'Sarah Bein" (and Sarah will have a son). This is a hint, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, that the son to whom Sarah will give birth will become virtually blind (as the Torah writes in Parshas Toldos "And it was when Yitzchak became old, that his eyes became dim ").

* * *

THE MITZVOS AND THEIR MEANING
(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Please bear in mind that the rulings in this article reflect the opinion of the Seifer ha'Chinuch and are not necessarily Halachah.

Mitzvah 426:
Not to Grace or to Have Mercy on Gentiles (cont.)

A reason for the Mitzvah A person's actions always begin with fixing one's thoughts and speaking about the deeds that one has in mind to perform. And it is only then that one begins transforming those thoughts and words into actions.

Consequently, by refraining from both thoughts and speech that find benefit and grace in idolaters, one automatically refrains from joining them and seeking their friendship and most importantly, from learning from their evil deeds. Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah The Gemara in Avodah-Zarah (64b) rules that one is not permitted to give them a 'free' (for no reason) gift; this pertains specifically to a gentile who worships idols. It does not pertain to one who has undertaken not to do so, even if he retains his non-Jewish identity, by eating shekatzim and remasim (vermin) and does other things that for us are considered sinful. A person who has rejected idolatry and who keeps the seven No'ahide laws bears the title 'Ger Toshav' . One is permitted to sustain him and to give him free gifts The Gemara says in Erchin (29a) that the Din of Ger Toshav only applies when the Yovel applies (but not nowadays) Furthermore, the Gemara says in Gitin (41a) that one is permitted to sustain poor gentiles together with our own poor on account of 'Darkei Sholom' All other details of this Mitzvah are discussed in Maseches Avodah-Zarah (and in Yoreh-De'ah, Si'man 151).

This Mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times to both men and women. Someone who contravenes it and sings the praises of gentiles and their good deeds, has transgressed it, unless it leads to the praises of our own people. It is not however, subject to Malkos, since it does not involve an act, though one's punishment (at the Hand of G-d) will be great, since it causes much harm which cannot be rectified, since this kind of talk can make a deep impression on the listener, and result in a lot of harm. Anybody with common sense understands this.

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