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by Daneal Weiner
From the Orchards of Jerusalem
Welcome to Orchards where the Devrai Torah comes sweet and juicy. I'm sure that has something to do with why the Gemorah calls a Talmid Chacham a `tree of the field.' It just occurs to me that this opening might be labeled as self aggrandizing. Let me assure you I am but a pit. I just make sure to surround myself with the sweetest of fruits from the finest trees in the field. Speaking of trees, you wood prefir we ceder parsha now? Oak a byme.
via a forest of meforshim and the evergreen eyes of Rav Moshe Wolfson, Shlit'a. But first, postviews from last weeks parsha. Would I go back if it wasn't worth it? The Malbim asked, why does the Torah spend soooo much time on the lineages and then it blurts out this incredible story of the dispersion in 9 lines and then it goes immediately back to the "These are the descendants of Shem..."? Where are the priorities?
The flood was in the year 1656 b.c.E. (before creating Eve-The clock started when Adam was created. I don't mean time. That was on day one. Our calender began with Adam. Tell you what. We'll call it S.C., Since Creation). Noach lived 350 years after the flood. We're up to 2006 s.c. Avraham Aveinu was 58 when Noach died. At 100 Avraham had Yitschak. (2048 s.c.) G-d said that Avraham Aveinu's descendants will be strangers in a strange land for 400 years. B'Y was in Egypt 210 years ending 2448 s.c. Due to G-d's chesed, He started the 400 year counting from the birth of Yitschak. This means that there was only 792 years between the flood and the exodos, exidus, eggsidus, the big get-up-and-go.
Now picture this. Moshe Rabbeinu walks into the great throne room of Pharaoh, the ruler of the greatest power on earth. Egpyt has astronomers, astrologers, magicians, sorcerers...they could do things then that baffle todays modern, intellectual, scientific, 21st century man. Moshe is telling Pharaoh who G-d is, "Less than 800 years ago G-d wiped out all mankind but for 4 couples. It was G-d's will."
(3...2...1...)"HA HA HA HA! WHOOO HOO HA HA! 4 couples on earth! AAAH HA HA HA. That's great Moshe. Have you got another?"
"Yes. 452 years and a day ago there was one nation and one language on earth. 452 years ago there were 70 nations and 70 languages on earth. That was G-d's will."
"HAAAA HA HA! YOU DID IT AGAIN, MO! HA HA HA HA!"
Then Moshe Rabbeinu begins to list ALL of the descendants of Noach through all the ages leading up to the laughing hyena sitting in front of him who has finally shut up. The Malbim less dramatically puts it that the story of the dispersion is for the purpose of telling us what G-d did. 9 lines was enough. The reason for listing all the descendants is to bare testimony to the fact that no matter who tries to say or even `prove' otherwise, we know how old the world is and how it came about. And now for our feature presentation.
Even after being dispersed to the 4 corners, the world is still steeped in idolatry except for Avraham Aveinu. He is teaching monotheism. Whenever a `good thing' is going on, noone likes truth and responsilbilty to come and spoil the party. So Nimrod, the first ruler of the world tells Avraham to stop teaching or be thrown in a fiery furnace. At this point Avraham has only his own intellect and power of reasoning which tells him there is a G-d. Something Einstein, l'havdil elef havdalos, fought his whole life till the time of his death when he finally admitted it. Unfortunately, by then it was to late for him to ask someone what G-d wanted of him. But I digress.
Avraham Aveinu, committed to the truth, walks into Nimrod's fiery furnace rather than deny belief in his Creator. G-d figures he certainly deserves a miracle and saves him. THEN G-d speaks to Avraham Aveinu for the first time and says, "Its Me and you're My man!" (That's not in the Torah.) G-d speaks to him a second time and says (12:1) "Lech lecha...", "Go for yourself from your land, from your place of birth, from your father's house to the land I will show you."
This is strange. If I started walking, first I'd leave the house, then the town and then the land!? Why the reverse order? The Malbim says it's not a physical seperation but a spiritual one. First he has to give up the national customs. Not so bad. Then he has to give up the ways of his place of birth. A little tougher. Lastly he has to forget the teachings of his father's house. Hardest of all. Then again, maybe the list is hardest to easiest, in order to impress importance!
It's easy to leave the house. Everyone does it. If not before marriage certainly after. Moving to a new town is not so difficult either. Try to find a family all in one city. But leaving the country...? Now that's a tough one. I know what your thinking? Who wants international tickets prices and phone bills? Try this scenario on for size. A young idealological zionist fulfills the Jewish dream of moving to Israel! Builds a home in the Judean hills. Opens up a little shop selling `I love Israel' t-shirts. One day a customer leaves with out his change. Our boy in blue and white puts the money in an envelope and leaves it in the cash register for when the customer returns. The Israeli IRS come a knockin'. They open the cash drawer and take the receipts. The find an envelope with 11 sheckel not reflected in the receipts. They fine him 30,000 sheckel and close his store for two weeks. Imagine the outrage! Such injustice! He looks at the IRS men with disgust and says, "You can't do this to me! I'm an American citizen!!!" As he reaches into his back pocket and pulls out his American passport! Yes, leaving your land. Certainly the hardest of all. (Yes, I have my passport too. I'm not picking on anyone- just being extreme to express a point.)
Avraham Aveinu journeys and is told to stop in Canaan. (12:8) "And he [Avraham] built an Alter there and cried out in the Name of H'." The Targum Onkelos translates the verse as saying that AA prayed there. The Rambam writes that a more exact translation would behe `shouted out G-d's Name.' The Rambam says he wanted to publicize H's Name! He climbed the mountain, cupped both hands and shouted, "Haaaaaasssshhhheeeeeemmmmmmmm!" Something he certainly couldn't do at home since his parents frowned upon his becoming religious.
A famine shortly follows and Avraham Aveinu decides to take the family down to Sin City Egypt. Egypt has detectors at all the gates. Not metal detectors. Beauty-detectors. Sarah Imainu is undoubtedly dressed with the utmost modesty and still there is concern because Egypt WILL know how beautiful she is. Avraham Aveinu knows that the Egyptians are decent people and would never take a wife away from her husband. They would kill him first and then she would be available.
12:13> Avraham Aveinu says to Sarah, "Please say that you are my sister so that it will be good for me on account of you and I will live because of you." Rashi says on `good for me,' "They will give me presents." What??? Not only is it a wonder that Avraham Aveinu would be looking for hand outs but to prioritize his life after the gifts? You hear the question? Let's make it even bigger!
2 pages later is the 1st world war. The 4 kings attack and defeat the 5 kings and scoop up Avraham's nephew Lot with all the booty of Sodom. Avraham Aveinu takes 318 servants and runs to save Lot and DEFEATS the 4 kings! According to Roberts Rules of War, "the victor shall be entitled to all slaves and booty of the victee." The king of Sodom has the nerve to ask for his people back but plays nice guy and tells Avraham to keep the booty. Avraham gives it AAALLLLLLL back saying "Not from a thread to a shoe strap will I take from you. It should never be said that you made me rich. I depend on H'" The Gemorah Sotah says that because of these words H' promised Avraham Aveinu 2 mitsvot. The strings of tsitsit and the straps of the tfilin. The Medrish says that G-d rewarded him with the mitsva of Yiboom. (If a man dies childless, it is a mitsva for his brother to marry the widow and their child will re-establish a name for the deceased.) The bigger question now is how spoils that WERE legally Avraham Aveinu's he gave away because he depends only on H' but the Egyptians can make him rich?????
What happened when Avraham showed up in Canaan? A famine broke out! What did the Canaanites say to Avraham? "You monotheistic bum! We've been doing fine here for years and you show up and there is a famine! The gods are not happy with you teaching your dribble!" When AA came back from Egypt he said to them, "It was MY G-d who finally had enough of your idolatry and punished YOU! While you were here suffering for your sins, G-d was making me rich down in Egypt!" All this wealth was a testimony to G-d. Which was the case when AA plus 318 men defeated 4 national armies. No spoils were necessary. This also explains why AA said on the way to Egypt, "It will be good for me" before "and it will save my life, too." He was putting the honor off H' before his own.
Might as well touch upon a few things we...touched upon. Why were Avraaham Aveinu's rewards the tsitsis/tfilin straps and Yiboom?
To clarify the aforementioned mitsvot, the Zohar explains (and it also appears in the explanation of the Gro'h, Orach Chaim, hilchos Tfilin) that the talis is like a throne, prepared to have rest upon it the Shchinah, drawn down by the T'filin. Sounds like every morning we dress in the Temple. That was made from gold and silver! It's keddusha was off limits to the non-priest!
Measure for measure, when Avraham said to the King of Sodom, not a thread or a shoe strap, what he was saying was "I have exactly what I need. I have enough" And so in turn Hashem said, "I have what I need." And when He commanded the extensions of the talis to be made and the extensions of the tfilin to be made, strings and straps were enough.
What about Yiboom? Last year I learned Gemorah K'suvos. Giving the ring under the chupah is the real engagement and the chupah is the wedding. Days gone by, the engagement was up to 12 months long. At this point the bride halachically becomes an `Aishet Ish'. Although not married she is considered like a wife and is forbidden to any other man though she remains in her fathers house. If at the end of the 12 months they do not yet marry, she halachically leaves her fathers house and the groom is now obligated to feed her. (ie. Drop offs, reimburse the father, etc.)
Let's say the wedding is scheduled for 11 mo, 3 weeks, 6 days after the engagement and the bride gets a 48 hour flu. The wedding is postponed because of her. Who is responsible for her now, the Gemorah asks? The groom can argue, "Why should I feed you? It's your fault we're not married. Let your dad feed you." She can actually say to him, "YOU have the mitsva of children, not me. If I'm sick it's because YOU are not yet worthy of fulfilling the mitsva! I'll take a shwarma, a burrito, two dogs, a side of slaw, fries and a diet coke."
Now the Gemorah does not actually expect such conversations to take place. It is only trying to get down to the reality of the halacha. Is it the father's responsibility or the husband-to be's? (Husband's-to-be?) (Husband-to's-be?) Do I digress? Not this time. To die childless is a blemish on the father's neshama. He did not get to fulfill the mitsva of procreation. His name is cut off. Yiboom is a chance for reparation for the father! But we see in Dvarim how the marriages between certain relatives and their wives are forbidden? Measure for measure, just as Avraham put his honor aside, H' puts aside His honor aside and allows the a child of Avraham Aveinu to enter an otherwise forbidden relationship.
Was famine the only reason that Avraham Aveinu brought Sarah down to Egypt with him? Chazal say it was to lay the foundation for his descendants. In this Parsha we are seeing tremendous degrees of Ma'asim Avos simmon l'bonim - the actions of the fathers being a sign for the children. Not a sign as in what choice to make buta sign of what events were set in motion that WILL show themselves inlater generations. By Sarah Imanu being taken into the house of Pharaoh and withstanding unimaginable advances and offers, she laid a foundation that would protect the daughters and women of Israel over 200 years later and for 210 years of which 116 years was slaves, and only ONE incident occurred. A rape, not a permiscuous act. This Sarah did for the women. Yoseph, who fought off the advances of Potiphars wife set the foundation for the men. Rav Wolfson brings that what Sarah resisted in that one night was tantamount to the entire year of resistance by Yoseph. The merit of the exile from Egpyt is credited to the righteous women. Sorry Yoseph. (What a female chauvinistic religion!)
Now that the foundation has been set in Egypt, the next thing in the Parsha is for Lot to separate and go to Sodom where he will marry a woman and the two of them will begin the house of the Mashiach ben David. Bimhayrah b'yamainu!
Now it's time for us to lay a foundation for our descendants. Have an everlasting Shabbot Shalom.
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