OCTOBER 26-27, 2007 15 HESHVAN 5768
"Sarah conceived and bore a son unto Abraham in his old age." (Beresheet 21:2)
What's going to be? This is a question everyone asks. What's going to be the fate of the six million Jews living in Israel today, who are surrounded by one hundred million Arabs who are full of hate towards us? Israel is a small country that has thousands of missiles aimed at it, ready to be launched at any moment. These missiles are armed with special warheads to destroy large numbers of people. Some have chemical warheads, some have biological warheads, and soon nuclear warheads. These will be in the hands of states and terrorists anxious to use them. What will be with the deep hatred, compounded by their religion, that they feel towards us?
What will be with the Jewish people confronted with an assimilation rate approaching 70%? What will be with the more than one million children in Israel who are not learning to read the Shema, who don't know what the Ten Commandments are, and who don't know the 13 principles of our faith?
What will be with the economy of Israel, the personal problems of the people, the vast amount of people with terrible illnesses? Family discord, workplace difficulties, the list goes on and on. We don't see solutions coming, no light at the end of the tunnel!
My fellow Jews, do not give up. Lift your head, do not despair. The answer to all the problems is in this week's perashah. The Sefer Maayan Hashavuah explains that the Jewish nation was born after all hope was lost. A nation born at a time when Abraham was one hundred years old, and Sarah was ninety years old. It was so far fetched that it caused Sarah to laugh. They were told to name him Yitzhak because he who laughs last laughs best, and the Jewish people will have the last laugh. In Tehillim it says: "When Hashem will return the captivity of Zion, we will be like dreamers. Then our mouths will be filled with laughter and our tongues with glad song." (126:1-2)
This is the nation that is surrounded, whose survival is against all odds. A nation that has endured every form of suffering, and overcame every obstacle in the past will overcome today's obstacles, the last ones before we cross the finish line that will bring the final redemption, Amen. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
Whenever we study the story of Abraham and his beautiful deeds, we can't help but be amazed at the contrast between him and his nephew, Lot. Although Lot was his faithful student at the outset, as time went on he went his own way and ultimately landed in Sedom. We see a contrast between Sarah and Lot's wife in this perashah. Lot's wife, on the way escaping from the burning fires of Sedom, turned around to see what was happening behind her. She turned into a pillar of salt. Rashi tells us that she was stingy with her guests and wouldn't even give them salt for their food, so she was punished with becoming a pillar of salt. We see how much the influence of Sedom affected her. She, who saw her husband's uncle exhibit phenomenal hospitality, learned from her evil neighbors and became selfish and stingy.
In contrast to her, Sarah was very sensitive not to learn from evil influences. When she saw Yishmael behaving negatively, she told Abraham to send him away, because she didn't want Yitzhak to learn from Yishmael. We see the outcome of Sarah's wisdom, that Yitzhak became a sadik and Yishmael became the head of the Arabs! We must be so vigilant not to let evil influences penetrate our home and families! Not only must we be aware of our children's friends and check them out carefully, we must also combat the influence of the media in our homes. We must monitor what TV (if any) is allowed in the house, and be especially vigilant with videos and Internet. We are the ones carrying on the legacy of Abraham and Sarah, and we must take our mission very seriously! Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"And Hashem appeared to [Abraham] at Elonei Mamre" (Beresheet 18:1)
Rashi cites the Midrash that Hashem appeared to Abraham on the territory of Mamre because Mamre gave Abraham the advice to perform the circumcision. Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz stated that from here we see the great merit of giving people good advice. Abraham would have listened to Hashem's command to be circumcised. But others advised Abraham not to circumcise himself. When Mamre heard about the matter, however, he advised Abraham to do it and for this he was greatly rewarded.
In reference to seeking the advice of others the Mishnah in Pirkei Abot (2:7) states that when one asks advice from others one gains more understanding. In his commentary on this Mishnah, Rabbi Hayim of Volozhin cites a popular saying, "Ask others for advice. Then do what your own intellect tells you." The question arises: If in the end you will do what you yourself think is appropriate, why do you need to consult others?
The answer, said Rav Hayim of Volozhin, is that each person has a better inside knowledge of himself than any outsider could possibly have. But every person has some knowledge and understanding that you are missing. Therefore, before making any major decisions, consult as many people as you can to take in ideas and information that you might not have known or thought of. After interviewing various people, you are responsible for making your decision because only you have the inner knowledge of yourself that is necessary to make the final decision. (Growth through Torah)
"And Yitzhak said to Abraham, his father, 'Father…where is the lamb for the sacrifice?'" (Beresheet 22:7)
Abraham Abinu reached the pinnacle of service of Hashem during Akedat Yitzhak. He was asked to act upon his boundless love for Hashem by demonstrating his willingness to offer his beloved son Yitzhak as a sacrifice. The enthusiasm, zeal and love which Abraham demonstrated throughout this endeavor continue to serve as an eternal merit for his children until this day. The Midrash portrays Yitzhak as a partner equal to his father throughout this major trial fully aware of what was transpiring.
The Midrash relates that the Satan cleverly attempted to lure the pair into failure in their mission. After failing to dissuade Abraham, he turned to Yitzhak hoping to deter him from continuing towards the successful achievement of his goal. In an attempt to dissuade Yitzhak, he presented many convincing arguments, all in vain. The Satan then daringly asserted that following Yitzhak's death all of his prized possessions would revert to Yishmael, his half-brother. Surprisingly, this argument caused Yitzhak to hesitate momentarily. Although he continued to walk with his father, he haltingly questioned him concerning the location of the sacrificial lamb.
Rav A.H. Lebowitz cites this Midrash with great emphasis. From the vast storehouse of the Satan's arsenal, the only weapon capable of piercing Yitzhak's defenses to bring about a hesitancy in his alacrity to serve Hashem was a small dose of kinah, jealousy. Yitzhak stood prepared to offer himself as an "olah temimah" - perfect sacrifice to Hashem. The thought of Yishmael usurping his inheritance, however, allowed a small vestige of jealousy to awaken within him. Even the delicate, selfless Yitzhak was momentarily stirred, ever so slightly, by the evil passion of jealousy.
There is but one way to effectively resist the powerful force of jealousy. It is through total dedication to Hashem. By establishing a binding allegiance to Him, one can overcome the constraints of jealousy. When one exercises his bitahon, faith in Hashem, he never feels threatened by any situation or deprived of any material possession. His faith in Hashem enables him to wholeheartedly believe that Hashem will take care of him in every respect.
True bitahon must be unchangeable. The Hazon Ish states that the storekeeper who proclaims his devout trust in Hashem when things are going well, only to complain when a competitor opens a business down the block, does not have complete bitahon. Faith in Hashem which is sincere sustains one through the bad times as well as the good times. When inundated with life's trials and tribulations, one must reach out to his storehouse of faith, to confront and quell pangs of doubt and jealousy. One who trusts in Hashem will, in turn, triumph in His salvation. (Peninim on the Torah)
A quick tip to boost the power of your prayer. Hazal tell us (Masechet Baba Kama Daf 92A) that Hashem loves the tefilot of one Jew for another so much that anyone who prays on behalf of a fellow Jew with similar needs will have his prayer answered first. A special service has now begun to provide people with names of others who find themselves in a similar predicament. You can call with complete anonymity and get the name of someone to pray for and give the name of someone that needs our prayers. The name of the service is Kol Hamitpalel. Categories include: Marriage; Income; Health; To have children etc.
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