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Vol. 20 No. 4
HaRabbanit Esther (Eva) Wilschanski a"h
"And it was when Avram was ninety-nine, that Hashem appeared to Avram and said to him 'Go before Me and be Tamim' " (17:1).
According to the Beis Halevi's definition of 'temimus' (as we discussed last week in the first part of this article) the correct translation of the word is perhaps 'unqualified faith in G-d'. In practical terms, it means 'total submission to His will' (as we will explain later).
The first time Yisrael displayed this national trait was when they left Egypt, three million people with no proper provisions, and followed G-d into the barren Sinai desert, without complaint, no questions asked. Indeed, it was this act of faith about which G-d exclaimed in admiration "I remember the kindness of your youth (the love of your nuptials) when you followed Me into the wilderness, into a land that cannot be sown" (Yirmiyah 2:2).
And this was closely followed at Har Sinai, when they declared "Na'aseh ve'Nishma", accepting a Torah which would govern their every action, word and thought, without even asking what was written in it, without displaying the least interest in what accepting the Torah entailed. Here too, so stunning was that statement that it amazed even the angels, who could not understand how mere mortals attained such a level of faith.
Yes, our ancestors at Sinai accepted the Torah, irrespective of what it contained, simply because G-d wrote it. They understood, that if G-d wrote it, it must be good, and if G-d wrote it, it must be possible to keep. And if it clashed with their lifestyle, well, they would have to adjust their lifestyle to conform to Divine instruction. That is 'temimus'!
In deep contrast, when the Torah was offered to the nations of the world, they first asked what is written in it. Then, when they discovered that it didn't suit their temperament, they declined to accept it. Clearly, 'temimus' was not part of their lexicon.
The Gemara in Shabbos (88a) relates how the famous Amora Rava was once so engrossed in his learning that he did not notice that he was sitting on his finger, which was oozing blood. A Tzedoki who saw this exclaimed 'You are a hasty nation, which placed their mouths before their ears (by announcing 'Na'aseh ve'Nishma') prior to hearing what is written in the Torah!' 'And what's more', he added, 'you haven't changed! Why did you not first check whether you were able to accept the Torah?" And if not, you should have declined to accept it!'
To which Rava replied that it is in connection with us, who possess ample 'Temimus', that the Pasuk writes in Mishlei (11:3) "The 'Temimus' of those who are straight guides them", whereas about libelous people like you it writes " … the crookedness of those who are treacherous casts them down!"
It is due to that 'Temimus' that we are able to reach the highest levels of knowledge and perfection in our personal lives; and it is due to that tenacious 'Temimus' that we as a nation, have survived, and are assured to continue surviving, outliving all our oppressors throughout the generations. Because by connecting with G-d through Torah, we are connecting with the source of eternal life.
Finally, the well-known Gemara in Avodah_Zarah relates how, in time to come, following a short dialogue with the gentile nations, G-d will offer them the Mitzvah of Succah, which they will promptly accept. However, after they build Succos on their rooftops, He will take out the sun 'from its bag', so that it will become unbearably hot, at which point the gentiles will leave the Succah, kicking it in disgust as they exit it. On the other hand, when we leave the Succah due to rain, we are sad. We are sad, the Mishnah explains in Succah, at the end of the second Perek, because G-d has rejected our Avodah, but we are not angry. We are sad, because we attribute G-d's rejection to our own unworthiness, but we do not harbor any doubts about G-d's motives or His righteousness.
To put it plain and simple: whereas the nations of the world expect G-d to submit to their will (and display anger when He doesn't), we submit to His will, blaming only ourselves when we fail to achieve what He expects of us - and that is what 'Temimus' is all about!
It seems to me that the source of the Beis Halevi's interpretation of 'Temimus' lies in the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos (2:4), which states "Make your will His will, in order that He will make His will your will. Negate your will before His will, in order that He negates the will of others before your will'. It is from the word 'will' (as opposed to 'deeds') that we can learn the true meaning of 'Temimus'!
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It Took Place on Pesach, or was it Succos?
"At the fixed time (la'mo'ed) I will return to you and Sarah will have a son" (18:14).
The Gemara in Rosh Hashanah (11a) maintains that Yitzchak was born on Pesach. This is supported by the fact that the Gematriyah of "la'mo'ed" is equivalent to that of 'ba'Pesach'.
Rashi (in chapter 19, Pasuk 3) too specifically states that the episode of Lot in S'dom, which occurred immediately after the current one, took place on Pesach. And this concurs with the opinion of the Seider Olam and the Mechilta, which say that on the fifteenth of Nisan G-d spoke with Avraham, the angels came to inform Sarah that she was about to become pregnant, Yitzchak was born. According to this explanation, the cakes that Avraham instructed to bake were Matzos (see also the Rashi that we just quoted). It also transpires, says the Da'as Zekeinum, that "this time next year" was said with reference to Pesach (twelve months), as implied by the Torah itself in the previous Parshah (17:21).
However, the author points out, this clashes with the Gemara in Rosh Hashanah (11a). According to the Gemara there, although Yitzchak was born on Pesach, this Parshah took place on Succos. Accordingly, the angel was informing Sarah that he would return, not this time next year, but rather - on the next Yom-Tov.
According to the Pirkei de'Rebbi Eliezer, Avraham Avinu was circumcised on Yom Kipur. In that case, the angels arrived on the thirteenth of Tishrei (two days before Succos),
The problem with this, the Da'as Zekeinim points out, lies in the words " … at this tims next year", whereas, according to the current opinion, seeing as Succos precedes Pesach, Yitzchak's birth will have occurred in the same year?
To answer the question, the author establishes the author of this opinion as Rebbi Yehoshua, who holds that the world was created in Nisan, in which case Nisan is indeed the next year,
It does seem strange however, to establish a Pirkei de'Rebbi Eliezer (the very Tana who argues with Rebbi Yehoshua and who holds that the world was created in Tishri) like Rebbi Yehoshua.
A Little Thought for a Little Boy
"And Avraham circumcised his son at eight days … " (21:4).
The Da'as Zekeinim cites a Minhag to announce 'Baruch ha'Bo!' when the baby enters the room. And he explains that this is because the Gematriyah of 'ha'bo' is eight, adding that it is as if one was saying 'Blessed be the one who is circumcised on the eighth day!'
In that case, one ought to say it exclusively by a B'ris that takes place on the eighth day.
"When the water in the flask was finished, she cast the boy under one of the bushes" (21:15).
Rashi explains that Yishmael was sick (See Targum Yonasan) and that it is the way of sick people to drink a lot of water.
The Da'as Zekeinim queries Rashi from the Gemara in Bava Metzi'a (87a) which states that until Ya'akov Avinu, nobody ever contracted an internal illness?
And he answers that the Gemara is talking about a natural illness, whereas Yishmael became sick due the Ayin ha'Ra which Sarah placed on him.
If that is the case, it is safe to assume that Yishmael was already sick when Avraham banished him from the house. And that in turn, will explain why he placed him on his mother's shoulders. Otherwise, there seems to be no reason why the fifteen-year-old Yishmael could not walk on his own two feet (See Or ha'Chayim).
The Ram's Horns
" … and behold a ram, behind him, stuck by its horns in the thicket" (22:13)
Quoting a P'sikta, the Da'as Zekeinim explains that G-d said to Avraham 'See how, when your children after you will become caught up in sin, they will take the rams' horns and blow them before Me. When they do that, I for My part, will remember for them the binding of Yitzchak and render them meritorious in judgement! Indeed, just as the Shofar works by taking in the breath at one end and letting it out at the other, so too, will I listen to all the accusations leveled at them with one ear and let it out of the other'.
That is why Moshe told Yisrael 'The Shofar is your defense counsel! Blow the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah, in order that Hashem will remember the Akeidas Yitzchak and merit you in jusdgement.'
Where was Yitzchak?
" … Avraham returned to his 'servants' and they arose and went together to Be'er Sheva … " (22:19),
Where was Yitzchak, asks the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos?
He answers that Avraham sent him away at night to avoid an ayin ha'ra. And so we find with Chananyah, Misha'el and Azaryah - whose names are not mentioned from the time they miraculously emerged alive from the furnace into which King Nevuchadnetzar had them thrown, and who died, the Gemara in Sanhedrin explains, because of an Ayin ha'ra. Others there maintain that they changed their location of residence, and went to study Torah under Yehoshua Kohen Gadol. This answer has the support of the Pasuk in Zecharyah, "Listen now, Yehoshua Kohen Gadol and your colleagues who sit before you, since they are men of miracles!"
Utz & Kemuel
"Utz, his (Avraham's brother, Nochor) firstborn, and Kemu'el the father of Aram " (22:21).
The Da'as Zekeinim citing a Medrash, which states that Utz was Iyov, as the Pasuk writes (in Iyov) "There was a man who lived in the Land of Utz and his name was Iyov". Whereas Kemu'el is none other than Bil'am, who was called by that name because 'he arose against the nation of Hashem (Kam be'umoso shel Keil)'.
Interestingly, these two brothers, faced off against each other, on more than one occasion, when they joined Yisro to convene a Beis-Din together with Yisro sat together in the time of Par'oh.
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