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by Daneal Weiner
In addition to this posting I send the parsha out to a mailing list. Sometimes with that mailing I included a personal note. Last week I mentioned I had plans to fly overseas this week and so I was in 'travel mode' which meant a new post was highly unlikely. That's why G-d invented 'archives' and 're-editing'. I went to the good ol' Shema Yisrael archive, G-d bless them, and opened last years
and this was the opening line: Welcome to the Orchards. If this is your first time with us please read the emergency pamphlet located in the seat pocket in front of you.
Guess I did some traveling last year too.
As luck would further have it, I went back to the good ol' Shema Yisrael archive from 2 years ago and, sure 'nuf, it was the same dvar Torah! I had two choices. Re-edit the same vort a third time, which might really make it coherent, or, not plague the 1 or 2 of you who have been around that long with yet another re-editing and just give you a few short vorts, as time allows. I chose the latter. For those of you who love pages of print out, check out the good ol' Shema Yisrael archives. (I get no commissions for archive clicks.)
Here are some vortlach of Rav Moshe Wolfson's.
Avraham gives hospitality to three travelers. Not knowing they are angels the first thing he does is offer to wash the dust off their feet. Rashi says Avraham, thinking they are Arabs, knows it's possible they worship such dust and he doesn’t want to bring idolatry into his house. He first washes their feet and then he invites them to sit and eat. Rashi throws in at this time that Avraham’s nephew, Lot, was not so nit-picky about the idolatry because we see later on that Lot invites the angels in and then offers to wash their feet. So far so good.
Jump ahead to 19:2 where Lot does his inviting, "Spend the night and wash your feet," and Rashi now says Lot had good cause! He was living in Sodom where hospitality was a crime. If he was caught with guests with clean feet he may be accused of having housed them for a few days already. If their feet were still dirty it would be evident that they had only just arrived. This was certainly a situation Avraham did not have to deal with! Maybe Lot was just as concerned as Avraham about idolatry!? Lot just knows that rather than praying to idols one must choose death but for some Arabs to track a little dust into the house, what’s the big deal? Rashi, why did you portray Lot in a poor light before?
Because Hashem helps a person in the direction he wants to go! When Lot separated from Avraham, where did he go? To Sodom!!! Lot knew what Sodom was like and he knew, having been raised by Avraham, that housing guests was something he was going to do EVEN in Sodom. As noteworthy as that may be, the two Rashi's together tell the story as it is. Lot did not feel the need to distance himself from idolatry as Avraham did and, therefore, was willing to live in Sodom, even if it meant bringing idols into the house! According to your desires Hashem does provide! Which brings us right into our next vortlach…
22:3 Avraham woke up early vayachavosh es chamoro- and he saddled his donkey. Taking a look in Bamidbar 22:21 we see Bilaam waking up early vayachavosh es asono- and he saddled his she-donkey. So far so good. Avraham traveled by donkey. Bilaam rode a she-donkey. Now that we’re no longer in 6th grade, what else does it mean?
On a deeper level, the root of the Hebrew for donkey is shared with the word chomer which means materialism. Avraham rose early in the morning and saddled his materialism! The letters of chomer have the numeric equivalent of 248 which equals the number of bones in the body! Avraham's body, his physicality is what he harnessed and he directed it towards serving Hashem. Such is the way of a righteous individual or anyone heading in that direction.
The root for Bilaam's she-donkey, however, shares the root with itain- which means that which gives. This is an allusion to "that which gives" life! The nefesh- soul. The nefesh, unlike the ruach and neshama is the life force which motors the body. Bilaam, and those heading in his direction, harnesses their life force, their spirituality, and direct it towards physical cravings and desires. Fortunately, for such individuals…
The world stands on three traits, Chesed- kindness, Din- Judgement and Rachamim- Mercy. These three traits correspond to our three forefathers, Avraham Yitschal and Yaakov, respectively. Avraham come onto and is in the scene in Noach and Lech Lecha. That’s before we read of the birth of Yitschak in this week’s Vayairah. Yaakov lives alone, after the death of Yitschak, through all Vayaishev and Vayichi. The Torah teaches us about Yitschak now and for the next two weeks but, as implied, he is never alone. This week and next he is with Avraham and the following week he is with Yaakov.
The world can survive with only Chesed or only Rachamim. But it could not exist a minute with only Din. Since the Torah is the blueprint of the world we only fined Din when it is tempered with Chesed or with Rachamim. Never alone.
Israel is feeling the Din these days. And as bad as it is, we know it can be much, much worse. Thanks to the bias of the media, whenever I hear, "The death toll in the middle east is up to ... most of them Palestinians!" I always respond, "Thank you, G-d!" And with this, a final note...
Hot off the Burro Pawk press, the yahrtseit of our foremother, Rachel, just passed. She was buried in Beit Lechem specifically so she could pray alongside her children who were to be exiled south out of Jerusalem. There was always a Jewish presence in Jerusalem. How many could or did visit her on her yahrtseit over the centuries I don't know but certainly hundreds of Jews have been going there for decades now, to pray with her to Hashem that we be redeemed from this excruciatingly long and consuming exile.
With the situation as it is in Israel, the army was informed of the yahrtseit and the annual plans. They said they would do everything possible to protect the visitors from our enemies. Last minute the army said it was not possible to ensure adequate protection and the buses were cancelled. This past yahrtseit Rachel Imainu was alone.
As painful as it is, Rav Wolfson wants us to force a smile. A mother who prays for the well being of her children will pray that much harder when her children can't come for a visit. No doubt as much as Yosef Hatsaddik had been praying for our redemption, when his burial site was destroyed by Yishmael he must have prayed even harder. And now his prayers are joined by Rachel Imainu's who is looking to Hashem asking why her children are not able to visit her. An unacceptable situation! Now that Rachel Imainu is on the case, even more so, we can anticipate redemption very shortly. Certainly something to smile about. Bimhairah biyameinu! Kein yehe ratsone!
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