Pop Quiz: Who was the king of Gerar?
by Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
We are all familiar with the story of the three angels appearing to Abraham, and how he ran about doing kindness for them in order to show them hospitality. We also see in this same perashah that Lot received angels graciously and exerted himself on their behalf. There is, however, a major difference in how they are referred to in the Torah. When the angels came to Abraham, they are called "anashim" - people - and indeed, the Midrash says they looked like Arab peasants. When they came to Lot, they are called "malachim" - angels - because they looked like what they were. This is not coincidental, but rather to teach us an important lesson about the different types of hesed done by Abraham and Lot. Lot went out of his way to entertain his guests because they looked like angels. Had they appeared as regular people, and for sure as peasants, they would not have gotten such treatment. Abraham was on a higher level and even when he saw peasants, he went all out to take care of them. We, who are descendants of Abraham, must emulate our forefather and do kindness to everyone, not only the important people who need favors but even (and especially) the regular folks. That shows our hesed to be genuine and part of our inner self. Shabbat Shalom.
"And [Abraham] saw them and he ran to greet them." (Beresheet 18:2)
Our perashah makes a point to discuss at length the way Abraham Abinu treated his guests. This indicates to us that it must be very important for one to go out of his way for the comfort of his guests. If Abraham ran, so we must run too. We must run for our guests just as we run for other misvot, like running to shul.
The Hafess Hayim, in his work, Sha'ar Hatziyun (639:6) on the Mishnah Berurah comments on the halachah of waiting for the rain to stop in order to sit in the succah. Some people, he says, like to wait in order to fulfill the misvah of succah, but if you have guests who are poor, it's different. They probably didn't eat that much all day and it would be a sin to keep them waiting. Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch writes that the Hafess Hayim used to rush home on Friday night to begin the meal if he had guests who were poor. He wouldn't wait to recite the "Shalom Alechem" before the kiddush. He would go right into the kiddush and he would say, "The angels could wait a while so the hungry guest can eat, but the guest cannot wait while we say Shalom Alechem for the angels." A great lesson, people are more important than angels. Think about it. Shabbat Shalom.
ALL THE NEWS THAT'S FIT TO PRINT
"Hashem caused sulfur and fire to rain on Sedom and Amorah from Hashem, out of heaven." (Beresheet 19:24)
Try to imagine for yourself how the newspapers in the times of Sedom and Amorah would have reported the destruction of those two cities. We can be sure that the articles would bear no similarity whatsoever to the way the story is told to us in the Torah. The papers' accounts of the event would be twisted and distorted. Firstly, the destruction would be depicted as a "freak of nature", or possibly caused by an explosion from an unknown source. The government would appoint committees to investigate the matter in order to determine the cause of the tragedy. The possibility of terrorist groups being involved would be a major topic. Talk shows would discuss possible ways to prevent a calamity like this from happening again. However, it is unlikely that anyone would suggest that the destruction of the two cities was caused by their sins and immorality.
If we were to see articles like this, we would find them to be utterly ridiculous. However, if we stop and think for a moment, we will realize that if such a thing were to happen in our time, we would probably agree with most of the analyses and reports by the media. We would anxiously await new results of the studies and investigations. There is little chance that we would consider the possibility that the tragedy occurred as a punishment for sins.
The main reason that such reports in regards to Sedom would sound so strange to us is that from our early childhood days, we have been taught the story of Sedom, and how Abraham prayed for their salvation. We have heard many times the story of the two angels who saved Lot and his family right before the destruction began.
From this case, we must learn how to view all events, large and small, in the proper perspective. We must always try to see the Hand of Hashem in everything that befalls us and those around us. The Ramban says that a person does not have a portion in the Torah of Moshe until he believes that every occurrence and event, both on an individual and on a communal level, is a miracle from Hashem, and that nothing occurs simply by nature. Rather, if a person fulfills the commandments of Hashem, he will be rewarded, and if he does not, he will be punished. Everything is by decree of Hashem. (Lekah Tob)
Answer to pop quiz: Abimelech
FOR YOUR PROTECTION
"If I will find in Sedom fifty righteous in the midst of the city, I will forgive the whole district for their sake." (Beresheet 18:26)
The Talmud comments that those who say, "What do we benefit from the Rabbis, they study only for themselves," are considered non-believers (Sanhedrin 99b). One of the sources mentioned is the above pasuk where it is implied that Hashem was willing to spare the city of Sedom because of a few righteous people that lived there. Imagine! Had there been righteous people in Sedom the city would have been spared, and life would have continued as normal. No one would have realized that they had been destined to die, but they were spared only due to the merits of a few righteous people. Similarly, today, we do not appreciate how many decrees have been eliminated due to the merits of the various saddikim of every generation. It is therefore incumbent upon us to constantly remember the contributions of those who devote their lives to the study of Torah. The very presence of saddikim in a community is to be considered a very special asset to that community and must always be appreciated. (Peninim on the Torah)
HERE I AM
"Here I am, my son." (Beresheet 22:7)
In this week's perashah we read about the testing of Abraham to bind his son and prepare him as an offering to Hashem.
Many have wondered, "What constitutes the greatness of Abraham? Throughout history, Jews were not just tested but literally martyred for the sake of Hashem.
There is no doubt that anyone would comply if Hashem would speak to him personally and ask him to do what He asked of Abraham. Undoubtedly, the person would prepare himself accordingly for the fulfillment of this momentous task. For weeks he would seclude himself to sanctify and elevate himself, and needless to say, he would not be interrupted by anyone during this period.
Let us now take a look at Abraham's conduct. After years of childlessness, Abraham's unequivocal reply to the challenging divine test was "Hineni - Here I am" - I am ready, As father and son ascend the mountain we read, "And Yitzhak spoke to Abraham his father and said, 'My father'; and [Abraham] said, 'Here I am, my son.'"
We can well imagine how engrossed Abraham was in his thoughts and meditations and how unwilling he was to be interrupted. Nevertheless, when his son called him, he abandoned his lofty activities and responded immediately, "Hineni beni - Here I am, my son." The devoted first Jewish father and teacher realized that his child was his first priority and deserved preference over all other matters, even the loftiest.
In today's times parents are preoccupied and often don't have time for their children. The child may be trying to get his parent's attention and the parent, who is relaxing or pursuing his usual pastimes, repels the child and tells him, "Don't bother me now."
Throughout history many Jews have indeed died al kidush Hashem - sanctifying G-d's name. When the time came for them to perform a magnanimous act for the sake of Hashem they complied valiantly, but unfortunately not many have had time and patience for their children. Abraham passed his test with flying colors.
Reading this story is a reminder that our challenge is always to be attuned to the call of our children and to respond immediately, "Here I am, my son." (Vedibarta Bam)
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