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OCTOBER 26-27, 2001 10 HESHVAN 5762

Don't forget to move your clocks back one hour this Saturday night.

Pop Quiz: How many years older than Yitzhak was Yishmael?

- Rabbi Reuven Semah

"And all the families of the earth shall bless themselves by you" (Beresheet 12:3)

Think for a minute: What is your favorite misvah? I believe that if a poll were taken, the most popular response would be, "I would like to be wealthy enough to give a tremendous amount of charity!" We would like to be able to help all the needy families, all the great institutions of Torah and hesed.

However, when reality sets in, we realize that we must carefully divide our charity dollar. We can't be as generous as we would like to be, and some people are struggling to the extent that they can only place a few coins in the kuppah. Is there a way to give a lot of charity without having any money? The book Orchot Saddikim says there is a way. It states that the greatest act of charity and kindness is to become a saddik. As a matter of fact, one saddik can feed the whole world. It is recorded in the Talmud that Hashem said that the entire world is eating because of the merit of Rabbi Haninah ben Dosa!

This same concept is seen regarding Abraham Abinu. As the verse above says, "All the families of the world will be blessed by you." The Torah's message is to be taken literally. The entire world was blessed, was fed, by Abraham. Not by Abraham's distribution of large amounts of money, which he also did, but by the mere fact of his greatness as a righteous person, he provided mankind with all their needs.

Of course we are obligated to do as much charity and hesed (hospitality to strangers, visiting the sick and consoling the mourners) as we can, but our greatest contribution is our righteousness. The road to righteousness is through Torah learning and studying the role models of our forefathers, sages and ancestors. Thank you for your donation and tizkeh lamisvot!

- Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

"And Abraham went on his sojourns" (Beresheet 13:3)

After Abraham went down to Egypt because of the famine, he came back to the land of Canaan. Rashi says that he stopped off at all the old lodging places in order to pay up his debts. While the simple meaning may be that Abraham had to borrow during the famine and now he could clear up those loans, there is a deeper meaning.

When people saw Abraham leaving Canaan because of the famine, they questioned him, "What happened to Hashem's promise to take care of you during your journey?" The faith in Hashem was weakened due to Abraham's struggling during these years. After Abraham was made wealthy in Pharaoh's palace, Abraham went back to the same people to show them, "Here is the fulfillment of Hashem's promise!" It sometimes takes time to see the Hand of G-d, and Abraham showed people that Hashem will not neglect anyone.

That is the "repayment of the debts" that is meant in this chapter. We should all take note of when things are not going the way they should, so that when they are straightened out, we should realize how Hashem works it out for us. Don't forget to "pay up those debts!" Shabbat Shalom.

- Rabbi David Maslaton

"And it occured that as he (Avraham) was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife,Sarai: See now, I have known that you are a woman of beautiful appearance". (Beresheet, 12:11)

The Midrash Tanchuma explains that until this point Abraham had never taken note of Sarah's beauty, owing to their tremendous level of modesty. Why now, upon entering Egypt, did Abraham notice her beauty?

Rav Mordechai Gifter explains through a parable. When there is an epidemic in a certain town, the very air of that town is contaminated. The closer one comes to the affected area, the greater the level of contamination, and the greater are one's chances of becoming affected by it. This is also true in spiritual terms: the very atmosphere of an impure place is negatively affected, as are the people who come close to or are immersed in that atmosphere.

Abraham's recognition of Sarah's beauty as they entered Egypt directly corrolated with the spiritual state of that land. The immoral behavior of the Egyptians had so deteriorated the spiritual atmosphere that it affected Abraham's standards of modesty, and he unwittingly took note of Sarah's beauty.

Similarly, when the time came for the tenth plague, Makat Bechorot, to be brought upon the Egyptians, Hashem said: "And I will pass through the land of Egypt on this night". Our Rabbis of the Passover Haggadah note: Hashem said "And I will pass through..." Hashem himself, and not an angel. Rabbi Sadok HaCohen questions: Why did Hashem not send one of the angels of destruction to bring death upon the Egyptian first-born? He replies that the land of Egypt was so spiritually contaminated that even an angel could not pass through without being affected! Thus, "I (Hashem), and not an angel". In our sadly degenerate climate, let us take care to protect ourselves and our children from the contamination that abundantly surrounds us. Let us frequent places of Torah, learning and Tefilah and allow that atmosphere to permeate our beings and influence our actions. May we find spirituality from within our homes, our "Mikdash Me'at" (a Jewish home is compared to a small sanctuary of G-d), to carry us through the outside world.


"Go away from your land" (Beresheet 12:1)

We may note the contrast between the Torah's introductory description of Noah and its initial description of Abraham. The Torah praises Noah, citing his righteous character and faultless behavior. The Torah does not present Abraham Abinu with a similarly positive orientation although he is acknowledged as a righteous and G-d-fearing man. The Maharal explains that Abraham is not described as one who possesses unique characteristics and noble qualities, so that one will not infer that these qualities are the basis for his distinction. Had this been the reality, Am Yisrael would be at risk to lose its special status if the people do not live up to his example. Consequently, the Torah presents Abraham simply as an individual, without lauding his virtue. This approach demonstrates that Abraham and his descendants were chosen by Hashem solely because it was His desire. This "arbitrary" choice will never be annulled. Am Yisrael's relationship with Hashem is founded upon Hashem's sacred love for them. The Maharal's explanation should serve as a lesson in the appropriate perspective by which one should view his fellow Jew. Just as Hashem loves all Jews, for they are zera Kodesh, sacred offspring, despite their mistakes, we are obligated to do the same. (Peninim on the Torah)


"Your wife Sarah will bear you a son and you shall call him Yitzhak" (Beresheet 17:19)

The name Yitzhak is because of the laughter. Why was the future tense (he will laugh) used for his name?

Abraham and Sarah had undertaken the difficult task of changing the course of the world by educating people about Torah and G-dliness. They had encountered great difficulties to the extent that Abraham was cast into the burning furnace by King Nimrod.

As Abraham and Sarah aged and remained childless, those who previously feared them began to laugh and rejoice. "Soon Abraham and Sarah will die," they thought to themselves, "and without a child to continue their work, they will be gone and forgotten, and so will the ideas and ideals they propagated." Abraham was concerned about this and prayed to Hashem for a child who would continue the work he had started. Hashem promised him, "Your wife will bear you a son. Name him Yitzhak because he will follow in your footsteps, and he will laugh at all those who think that the efforts of Abraham and Sarah will go to waste and be forgotten." (Vedibarta Bam)


This Week's Haftarah: Yeshayahu 40:27 - 41:16.

In the perashah, G-d explains the path of life that Abraham must take. G-d tells Abraham to leave everything behind and to follow G-d. Abraham has great confidence in G-d; that confidence enables him to defeat the neighboring kings in battle.

In the Haftarah, the prophet Yeshayahu consoles the people, who think that G-d has deserted them. The prophet explains that what makes the Jewish people successful is their confidence in G-d. As long as the people are confident of their relationship with G-d, they will overcome all obstacles.

(Tell it from the Torah)

Answer to Pop Quiz: Fourteen years.

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