by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

Back to this week's Parsha | Previous Issues


Ch. 12, v. 1: "Lech l'cho ...... el ho'oretz asher a'reko" - Rashi says that through Hashem's not telling Avrom the destination, Avrom received a reward for every step he took on his journey to Eretz Canaan. If he had known the destination, why would that negate the reward for each step he took?

Rabbi Boruch Ber Liebowitz, Rosh Yeshivas Kamenitz, answers that if Hashem mentioned the destination, then the command would be to go to the destination. The steps involved in walking there would only be a "hech'sher mitzvoh," Only because no destination was given, did Avrom receive reward for each step.

It would seem that this concept is contingent upon the opinion of Rashi, Rabbeinu Yonah, and the Rambam regarding the test of "lech l'cho." The Ramban on verse 10, "Va'y'hi ro'ov bo'oretz" says that Avrom did not fully pass this test because he pur Soroh in great jeopardy and he also should have had greater trust in Hashem that He would supply Avrom with sustenance in the land of Canaan, since Avrom saw the importance of living in Eretz Canaan, that being the land which Hashem eventually showed him was his destination.

Rashi, Rabbeinu Yonah, and the Rambam in his Pirush Hamishnayos on Pirkei Ovos 5:3 says that Avrom's test of "lech l'cho" was one of GOING INTO EXILE from his home and community. Perhaps a very key concept lies in these words.

Our verse says both "lech l'cho and "el ho'oretz asher ar'eko." Perhaps the Ramban felt that a stress should be placed both on the leaving and the going to the as of yet undisclosed destination. After all, both points are mentioned in the command. He therefore points out that leaving the destined land is a lack of full faith on Avrom's part.

Rashi, Rabbeinu Yonah, and the Rambam by only mentioning the concept of GOLUS as the test seem to understand the test as only one of leaving familiar surroundings. The destination not being pointed out at the outset indicates that it is only incidental to the test. After all, Avrom eventually does have to come to a destination, but that is not part of the test. They would therefore likewise not say that Avrom fell short in even the slightest measure by his going to Egypt in pursuit of sustenance when he received the test of the hunger.

There is a fine difference in the wording of the list of the ten tests of Avrohom between the Pirkei d'Rebbi Eliezer chapter 26 and Pirkei Ovos 5:3 as compared to Ovos d'Rebbi Noson 33:2. In Pirkei d'Rebbi Eliezer and Pirkei Ovos it says that Avrohom Ovinu was tested ten times "V'OMAD b'kulon," - he WITHSTOOD them all. In Ovos d'Rebbi Noson it says "v'nimtzo SHOLEIM b'kulon," - he was found COMPLETE in all of them. The Ramban's saying that Avrom fell short at the test of hunger obviously does not mean that he failed. He PASSED all ten tests, as stated in many sources. However, the word "V'OMAD" which could mean that he passed flawlessly, also allows for room to say that he passed, albeit he did not receive a mark of 100%. The wording in Ovos d'Rebbi Noson, "SHOLEIM" clearly indicates completeness, passing the test fully. This might be what indicated to Rashi, Rabbeinu Yonah, and the Rambam that the test was only the departure, as he would agree with the Ramban that if there was a stress on the destination, Avrom's leaving to Egypt during the famine would be a shortcoming. More likely, the words of Pirkei d'rrRebbi Eliezer are the concluding factor in their opinion. It says that the fourth test was a famine which took place in the land of Canaan only, to test him and to cause him to descend to Egypt. It seems that Avrohom had a great attachment to Eretz Yisroel and the test was to leave for sustenance and to not complain.

In any case, it seems that the vort of Rabbi Boruch Ber Liebowitz on the Rashi only applies according to the Rambam, as according to the Ramban reaching the destination was an integral component of this test.

Ch. 12, v. 2: "V'e'es'cho l'goy godol" - Meseches Sofrim (21:9) says that the great man among the giants is Avrohom, whose eating and drinking outweighed that of 74 men. This surely needs clarification.

The GR"A explains that the "eating and drinking" refers to spiritual comprehension, as we find in Shmos 24:9, "Moshe, Aharon, Nodov, Avihu, and seventy elders of the nation of Yisroel ascended, ...... and they gazed upon the Spirit of Hashem, and they ATE AND DRANK." We find that 74 men ascended the mountain as listed in this verse. The Meseches Sofrim tells us that Avrohom's eating and drinking, spiritual comprehension, was greater than that of all thoe 74 people combined.

The Imrei Emes explained that this refers to the 74 people mentioned after Noach in the Torah, until Avrom is mentioned. All the people in between did not accomplish their potential, and only through the great patience of Hashem was the world able to continue its existence, until Avrohom came along, and received the reward of all these people, as stated in Pirkei Ovos 5:3. His receiving the reward of these 74 people is the meaning of Avrohom's eating and drinking outweighing that of 74 men.

Ch. 13, v. 7,8: "Va'y'hi RIV, al noh t'hi M'RIVOH" - Why does verse 7 use the term RIV, the male form for an argument, and verse 8 use the term M'RIVOH, the female form for an argument? The ShaLoH Hakodosh answers that the male form indicates a small fight, just as a male does not give birth.

Verse 7 says that there was only a limited argument between Avrom's and Lote's shepherds. In verse 8 Avrom tells Lote, "Let there not develop a large disagreement, M'RIVOH, in the female form, as a female gives birth and the family grows, between us. Let us nip it in the bud while it is still only a RIV.

13:11 "Va'yisa Lote mi'kedem" - Rashi says that Lote had forsaken "Kadmono shel olom," - the primary one of the world. This is commonly understood to mean that by leaving Avrom who was so imbued with sanctity and Hashem's presence, Lote not only left Avrom, but also Hashem. However, the Chidushei haRI"M says that this simply refers to Avrom himself, the FIRST Jewish person in the world.

Ch.14, v. 13: "Vayovo hapolit va'ya'geid l'Avrom HO'IVRI" - Rashi says that Avrom was called an IVRI, which comes from the root word EIVER, a side.

Avrom, who recognized that there was Hashem Who created the world and to Whom we are responsible, was on one side, while those who denied the existence of Hashem stood on the other side. Since Avrohom is mentioned in the Torah so many times, why is it that in this verse, and this verse only, is he given the appellation IVRI?

Rashi tells us (M.R. 42:8) that Og came to tell Avrom that his nephew Lote was captured. He expected Avrom to enter the war and hopefully be killed. This would free up Soroh to become Og's wife. An obvious question arises. Why should Og think that Avrom would risk his life to enter a war in which four powerful kings' forces overpowered those of five kings' forces? Since this action is fraught with the danger of losing his own life, why should Avrom with a pitifully small force enter the fray? However, since Avrom had the character trait of IVRI, that he was willing to oppose the whole world, Og felt that this would carry through as well in Avrom's readiness to oppose overwhelming forces in an attempt to retrieve his nephew. (The Holy Admor of Satmar zt"l)

Ch. 14, v. 18: "U'Malki Tzedek melech Sholeim" - The story of the war of kings is recounted in this chapter, beginning with 14:1 up to this verse. The story continues again from verse 21 until its end in verse 24. Why is the meeting with Malki Tzedek interposed here?

1) Avrom said that he would not accept the spoils of war, not even a thread or a shoe lace, except to cover the expenses of his youths and the men who accompanied him, Onair, Eshkol , and Mamrei (v. 23,24). How then would Avrom survive? The verse therefore tells us that he received food from Malki Tzedek. (Rashbam and Chizkuni)

2) Only after the king of Sdom saw that Avrom was generous by giving Malki Tzedek a tenth of his spoils, did the king of Sdom have the audacity to ask for the live spoils. (Tzrore Hamore)

3) The Torah wanted to contrast the kindness of Malki Tzedek with the evil character of the king of Sdom. Malki Tzedek derived no benefit from Avrom, and yet he greeted him with a priestly blessing, food, and dring. The king of Sdom, by contrast, benefitted from Avrom who saved his life in this war, and in spite of this, not only didn't greet Avrom with a befitting extravagant gift of appreciation, but rather asked for the major part of the spoils that Avrom captured, all live spoils, people and animals. (Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh)

4) Had the king of Sdom not seen that Avrom gave Malki Tzedek a tenth of the spoils of inanimate objects, which indicates that Avrom considered them his own by virtue of the ruling that a person may only tithe that which is his, he would have had the chutzpoh of chutzpos to ask for all the spoils, even the inanimate objects. (Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh)

5) In a complimentary vein - Since Avrohom fulfilled the dictates of the Torah and even of Rabbinical decrees before they were enacted (M.R. 95:3 and gemara Yoma 28b), he would not have eaten bread baked by the household of the king of Sdom, as the Rabbis prohibited eating "pas aku"m." Similarly, he would also not drink the wine of the king of Sdom because of the Rabbinical decree against "stam yeinom." The king of Sdom, therefore had Malki Tzedek, a righteous priest whose food would not present these restrictions to Avrom, present these particular items to him. (Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh)

6) In verse 22 we find Avrom vowing with the expression "Keil Elyone." By relating the meeting with Malki Tzedek, the Torah informs us that he learned this expression from Malki Tzedek (v. 20). (Haa'meik Dovor)

Ch. 14, v. 18: "Lechem vo'yoyin" - Rashi says (M.R. 43:6) that by offering Avrom bread and wine, Malki Tzedek alluded to the flour-offerings and wine libations that Avrom's descendants would sacrifice to Hashem there (in Jerusalem). Since there are numerous other items offered as sacrifices, why did he spacifically allude to these items only?

Rabbi Yitzchok Zev Soloveitchik, the Brisker Rov, answers that the gemara M'nochos 73b says that Rabbi Akiva is of the opinion that a non-Jew may not offer flour-offerings or libations on their own. They may only do so when in conjunction with a slaughtered offering. As weel there is an opinion in the gemara Z'vochim 111a that no libations were offered on a private altar and on 113a the mishneh says in the name of Rabbi Yehudoh that there were no flour offerings on an altar until the Beis Hamikdosh was built in Jerusalem.

We now understand why specifically these two items were highlighted. They are the two items which only the bnei Yisroel could offer as a sacrifice on its own and only in Jerusalem, the city ib which Malki Tzedek was the high-priest. This is the intention of Rashi when he says "al ham'nochos v'al hansochim she'yakrivu SHOM," specifically in Jerusalem, "BONOV," specifically Avrom's descendants.

Ch. 14, v. 18,19: "U'Malki Tzedek melech Sholeim hotzi lechem vo'yoyin v'hu Chohein l'Keil Elyon. Va'y'vor'chei'hu" - Why does the verse start by describing Malki Tzedek as a king, then go on to say that he gave Avrom bread and wine, then go back to describing Malki Tzedek again as a Kohein, then back again to what he did, thaat he blessed Avrom? Why the back and forth, and not giving us a continuous list of descriptions of who Malki Tzedek was, and then of what he did?

The K'hilos Yitzchok answers with a parable.

A man once came to the Rav of a community and poured out his heart. He recounted all his financial difficulties, and ended by saying that he had a daughter who was engaged to be married, but the marriage would not come to fruition if he would not supply a large sum of money, well beyond his reach.

The Rav, who was listening patiently, responded with a simple, "And what is it that you would like of me?" The man replied that he would greatly appreciate a large donation to help him out of his financial plight. The Rav responded that it is well-known that he receives a very meager wage and is not in a position to help financially. He said that numerous people had come to him for a blessing in the past, but none for financial aid. He suggested that the supplicant go to the community's wealthy donour.

The man took his advice and when allowed into the home of the wealthy man, recounted his situation. The wealthy man also asked, "What would you like of me?" The man now responded, "Could you kindly give me a blessing?" Obviously, a person can only give of what he has.

Our verse therefore starts off by telling us that Malki Tzedek offered good food to Avrom. He was in a position to do this because he was a king and had great resources. As well he was a priest and therefore was in a position to give Avrom a blessing as well. (K'hilas Yitzchok)

Back to this week's Parsha | Previous Issues

This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.

For information on subscriptions, archives, and
other Shema Yisrael Classes,
send mail to
Jerusalem, Israel