Vayeira 5773 – Gilayon #772


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Parshat Vayera

And isaac

said to abraham his father, "father!"

And he said, "here i am, my son."

And he said, "here is

the fire and the wood

But where is the sheep for the offering?"

(Bereishit 22:7)

 

And they build

the shrines of Baal which are in the Valley of Ben-hinnom, where they offered

up their sons and daughters to Molechwhen I had

never commanded, or even thought [of commanding], that they should do such an

abominable thing. (Yirmiyahu 32:35}

"When I

had never commanded, or even though [of commanding]" – , "I had never

commanded" – this is in reference to Mesha, King of Moab, as is

written "And he took his firstborn son who was to have reigned after him,

and offered him up for an offering"; "and never spoke"–

this is in reference to Yiftach; "or even thought [of commanding]"

– this is in reference to Yitzchak son of Avraham.

 (Bavli,

Taanit 4a)

 

And he said

here is the fire and the wood, but where is the sheep

for the offering". And Avraham said: The Lord

will show us the sheep for the offering, my son." The ancients already

clarified why the akeida [the binding] is attributed to Avraham and not

to Yitzchak. It seems that the following interpretation may be offered.

Actually both Avraham and Yitzchak knew that the Holy One had no intention of slaughtering him. Avraham, whose defining

quality was that of loving kindness went secure in the

knowledge that both would return, as is written, "and we will worship and

we will return to you". Despite this, they went with the intent of

self-sacrifice as if actual slaughter was intended. And this is the meaning of "They

saw the place from afar" meaning: 'The place' hints that he

foresaw that Yaakov –of whom it is written "he came upon a certain place"

would descend from him, even so he distanced the thought because he

was going with full heart, as mentioned above. And that which Yitzchak said "Here

is the fire and the wood" this means to say that after your preparations

and your intent were done so perfectly as suits your nature, "Where is the

sheep for the offering?" – meaning, where is the sheep which should also

have been prepared?

(Rabbi Elimelech of

Lizhensk: Sefer Noam ElimelechParashat

Vayera).

 

 

On laughter

Moshe Meir

There are

questions which the Bible asks its readers, and they return with each reading.

The questions remain in their place, but the answers occasionally change. In

our parasha, Sarah reacts with laughter to the news – or the wish – that she

will give birth to a son:

12 And

Sarah laughed inwardly, saying, "After beign

shriveled, shall I have pleasure, and my husband is old?"

A fierce confrontation

develops between Sarah and the angel or God [depending on the various

exegeses]:

13 And

the Lord said to Abraham, "Why is it that Sarah laughed, saying, 'Shall I

really give birth, old as I am?' 14 Is anything beyond the Lord? In due

time I shall return to you, at thisvery season, and

Sarah shall have a son. And Sarah dissembled, saying, "I did not laugh,"

for she was afraid. And He said, "Yes, you did laugh".

The impression

received is that God, who uncovers our deepest secrets, discovered her laughter

and considered it flawed. But in the preceding chapter, Abraham reacts similarly,

and God does not criticize his laughter:

16 And

Abraham flung himself on his face and he laughed, saying to himself, "To a

hundred-year-old a child will be born, will ninety-year-old Sarah give birth?" 18 And Abraham said to God, "Would

that Ishmael might live in Your favor!" 19 And

God said, "Yet Sarah your wife is to bear you a son and you shall call his

name Isaac and I will establish My covenant with him as

an everlasting covenant, for his seed after him".

God could have

said to Abraham: "Why did you laugh?! Is anything beyond Me?! Abraham spoke his words inwardly, just as Sara laughed

inwardly, why the different reaction?

There are

commentators who drew a sharp contrast between Sarah's laughter and that of

Abraham. Abraham rejoiced, writes Rashi, whereas Sarah ridiculed. This

difference explains why the reaction to Abraham's laughter is positive, whereas

the reaction to Sarah is negative. Others explain that Abraham pointed out that

both he and Sarah both were too old to bear children; Sarah ridicules the

absurd suggestion, blaming Abraham's old age, not mentioning her own. This is

an ethical flaw which demands a different response.

I study the

passages, and discern a different picture. Abraham laughs and speaks inwardly.

Laughter is open, bursting forth, free. The words in his heart explain to

himself his laughter, giving meaning to the emotion. Sarah laughs inwardly

saying – her laughter is a hidden laughter, concealed, unaccompanied by words.

The narrator attaches words to her laughter and explains them. Reacting to her

laughter, God carries on two conversations. One, with Abraham, is a theological

discussion; "Why is Sarah laughing? Is anything beyond the Lord?"

Such a discussion could have also been held following Abraham's laughter, and

it indeed took place: Abraham said "Would that Ishmael might live in Your favor" and God answers "But Sarah your wife

will bear you a son". The content is identical, but here, at a certain distance, the discussion is more abstract and deals with God's

ability.

The conversation

with Sarah is different. Sarah – who, it seems, overheard the conversation with

Abraham – denies, out of fear, her laughter, and God says to her: "No, you

laughed." This is the conversation. How to understand it? One possibility

is to explain the talk with Sarah also against a theological background. Sara recoils

from God's question to Abraham – Is anything beyond . . . – and she says: "I

did not laugh, I do not think there is anything beyond

the Lord". She rejects any element of absurdity in late birth. God reacts

to this – You laughed and Abraham laughed, and it's really funny, but there is

nothing God cannot do, including things funny and absurd.

A second

possibility is to explain the conversation with Sarah on a human-existential

level. Sarah laughed inwardly, trying to hide the laughter because "it's

not nice." It's embarrassing to laugh at another's words, be it man, angel

or God. Now she attempts to continue covering up her laughter by denying that

she ever laughed. His reaction – "You laughed." This can be read in

an insulted and angry tone – you laughed and insulted me. But it can be read

with different music: "You laughed – and it's O.K. I like honest reactions

to my words, if they're funny, then people can laugh, if they're sad, people

can cry, and if they are infuriating, people can be angry. I loved Abraham's

reaction because he laughed at me aloud, and that is pleasant and delightful

and freeing. Sarah, get out of your tent, from the inner tent you constructed

in which you hide your feelings. Live yourself, react,

laugh, cry, speak. It's the best way – we can speak and we can be."

Moshe

Meir is an educator, facilitator for Bet Midrash

study groups. Holds a doctorate in Jewish philosophy.

His book "Shenayim Yachdav:- Pilosophia Datit-Chilonit"

["Two Together: Religious-Secular Philosophy] was published a few

months ago by Magnes Press.

 

 

"Now

God was seen by him"

This is intellectual perception,

in no way physical vision.

(Guide for the Perplexed, Book I, Chap. 4)

 

"He

lifted up his eyes and saw: here, three men…" – The responsibility

of protection and escort is more important than concern for physical needs and

reception of the Holy Presence

The reward

for escort is greater than everything and it is a law enacted

by our father Avraham and the way of hessed which practiced;

he would feed passers-by and give them drink, and accompany them. Greater is

the bringing in of passers-by than reception of the Shekhina, for it is written

"And he saw, here, three men" and his escorting them more

than he received them. Said our Sages: Whoever does not

escort is as one who sheds blood.

(RambamMishneh Torah, "Laws of Mourning"

14:2)

 

"Our

hands did not shed this blood"Did it really occur

to anyone that the elders of the Bet Din are murderers?! But [the meaning of

this is that] we did not see him, and we sent him off without food and without

escort. And the priests say "Atone for your people Israel."

(Rashi, Devarim 21:7, based on a

Midrash Halakha)

 

The Akeida of Yitzhak: The Humane View

"And

place him upon the altar": Avraham's eyes are fastened upon

Yitzhak's eyes, and Yitzhak's eyes upon the highest of Heavens, and

tears dropped from Avraham's eyes, his stature covered with tears. He said to

him: My son, since you have already begun to shed a fourth of your blood, your

creator will provide another offering in your stead. At that moment, his mouth

opened in sobbing and great moaning, and his eyes looked about for the Shechina and

he raised his voice and said, "I lift my eyes to the hills, from whence

will come my help? My help is from the Lord creator…" The

ministering angels stood in ranks in the firmament, saying one to the other:

See how the only one slaughters and the only one is slaughtered! They said: Who

will sing before You "This is my Lord – I

honor him"What will become of the vow "So will

be your seed"Immediately: "Do not stretch out

your hand against the lad."

(Yalkut Shimoni, Bereishit, Chap. 22:101)

 

The Thin Line between Idolatry

and Service of God

That

deep addiction to idolatry, which was, for primitive man, the

be-all and end-all, even to the point of triumph over parental

compassion, making cruelty towards sons and daughters a permanent feature

of worshipping the Moloch, is a misty consequence of the

recognition hidden in man's heart, that the divine is the dearest of all

matters, and everything beloved pleasant thing is nothing compared to

it.

(Igrot haR"iyah, R' Kook, Vol. II, p.

43)

 

If the

intention of this command had been that he slaughter his son and burn him up,

it would have said ve'ha'aleihu sham olah [and

offer him up their as a burnt offering] as Yiftah had spoken ve'ha'alitihu olah [and

I shall offer it up as a burnt offering(Judges 11:38), for it was his intention to slaughter whatever left the

entrance to his home… these [Yiftah and Mesha King

of Moav] are the only two instances of the expression offering up

a burnt offering that we find referring to human beings. In both cases

the verb alah [raise up] is connected with its object without

a prepositional prefix…in the case of animal sacrifices, we often find the

verb alah connected with the letter lamed appearing

as a prepositional prefix (e.g., habakar le'olah – cattle

for a burnt offering, etc.) This is because there is no mistaking the fact that

an animal is only brought up on the altar in order for it to be burned.

However, it is possible that a human being is brought up to a high place for

some other purpose, as we shall explain. Thus, the phrase ve'ha'aleihu sham le'olah may

be understood in two different ways:

The

first is that he actually slaughter his son

to make of him a burnt offering. The second, that he bring him

up the mountain for the sake of the burnt offering that Abraham will make

there. That is to say, Abraham will take his son Isaac with him so that he can

attend the sacrifice and learn how to perform offerings honoring God. That is

what the letter lamed is used for in connection with

sacrifices, as in and he sanctified Yishai and his sons and

called them to sacrifice [la'zevah(I Samuel 16:5)… so too here, the word le'olah –

for the sake of the burnt offering that you will make there in Isaac's presence

in order to teach him about how it is done.

The

blessed Lord did not command him to sacrifice his son, God forbid, since such a

sacrifice would be a great abomination in the Lord's eyes, for He is

compassionate and merciful and hates acts of cruelty, as the Torah

states: You shall not act thus toward the Lord your God, for they

performed for their gods every abhorrent act that the Lord detests; they even

offer up their sons and daughters in fire to their gods (Devarim 12:31), and as the prophet cried out: and they built high

places…to burn up their sons and their daughters in fire, which I

did not command and which did not enter my mind(Jeremiah 7:31). The Sage said: which I did not command –

to Abraham. However, in His wisdom He saw fit to hide the intention of the

command in ambiguous language in order to impose a great trial upon Abraham.

That is, since Abraham knew the Lord and His ways and loved the Lord fiercely,

and because of this he wanted to imitate Him in His ways of kindness,

forgivingness, and mercifulness, since he knew that these ways were beloved of

the Lord, but at the same time he despised the abominations of his father's

house, since they would attribute all kinds of wicked and cruel deeds to them,

and now he was suddenly commanded – as he understood it – to slaughter his son,

how could he not be shocked to hear this from the mouth of the merciful Father!

His heart would not allow him to perform such an act of cruelty, an act

contrary to nature and reason, without questioning the Lord's ways. However,

our father Abraham did not only love the Lord very much – he also greatly

feared the Lord. One who has fixed this quality in his heart will not set his

thoughts free to investigate with his mind and understanding things which are

mysteries to him. Rather, he drapes the veil of modesty upon his soul, and will

not think about them, even if they contradict his own judgment…These things are

deep and broad and this is not the place to deal with them at length. Rather,

just to say that the purpose of the trial was to actualize the fear of the Lord

that dwelled in his soul in its potentiality. Abraham, in his greatness, stood

this test and perfected that virtue, as Scripture testifies; Now I know that you are one who fears

the Lord.

(Rabbi Y. Sh. Reggio Bereishit 22, 2)

 

The way of

Avraham, which is the way of the Lord, is the "golden mean".

How should one regulate oneself with these temperaments

so that one is directed by them? One should do, change one and change one's

actions which one does according to the intermediate temperaments and always go

back over them, until such actions are easy for one to do and will not be

troublesome for one, and until such temperaments are fixed in one's soul. This

way is known as the way of the Lord, for the reasons that the Creator has been

called by them and that they are the intermediate characteristics which we are

obligated to adopt. This is what Abraham taught his sons, as it is

written, For I know him, that he will

command his children, et cetera. One who goes in this way will bring upon

himself good and blessings, as it is written, …that the Lord may

bring upon Abraham that which He has spoken of him.

(RaMBaMHilkhot Deot 1:7, Immanuel O'Levy

translation)

 

"Would

you kill a nation, though it be innocent?

If you

kill me, then you must kill Avraham the Tzaddik,

because he sinned and caused me to sin.

 (Baal HaTurim

19:4)

 

"The Judge of All the Earth – Will He Not

Do What Is Just?"

The use

of the chataf-patach beneath the

letter heh [hashofet = the judge] makes the sentence a rhetorical

question: Is it possible that one who is a judge, will

not provide true justice?!

(Rashi, ibid.)

 

If it

is a world that you desire, then

there can be no justice. If it is justice that you

desire, there can be no world. You want to hold the rope at both

ends, you want a world and you want justice. Unless

you are willing to concede a bit, the world will not be able to exist.

(Bereshit Rabba

49)

 

And she

became a pillar of salt" – Lot's Wife

or the Earth?

"Gazed

behind him" – Said Rabbi Yizhak: She sinned using salt; on the night that the messengers came to Lot, what did she do? She went to all her neighbors and

said to them: Give me salt, for we have guests. Her intention was that the townfolk should be aware of them, therefore "she

became a pillar of salt".

(Bereishit Rabba, Parasha

51)

 

"She [it] became

a pillar of salt" – Wrote the sage, Rabbi Avraham Ibn

Ezra: "It became" – the earth. Our

sages said: "She became"his wife.

(Rabbi Behaye, Bereishit

19:26)

 

"And

she became a pillar of salt" – She sinned using salt, as Rashi

explained. Therefore, when she disobeyed the messengers' command, she was

stricken along with Sodom.

Another explanation: "Now his wife gazed behind him and all the

earth became a pillar of salt" for [it is written] "By

brimstone and salt, is all its land burnt… like the overturning of Sodom and Amorah…"

(Hizkuni ibid.,

ibid.)

 

Our Rabbis taught: If one sees

the place of the crossing of the Reed Sea, or the fords of the Jordan, or the

fords of the streams of Arnon, or hail stones in the descent of Beth Horon, or

the stone which Og king of Bahsan wanted to throw at Israel, or the stone on

which Moshe sat when Joshua fought with AMalek, or [the pillar of salt of] Lot's

wife, or the wall of Jericho which sank into the ground, for all of these he

should give thanksgiving and praise to the Almighty.

(Berahot, 54a)

 

It is known that Lot's wife became a pillar of salt because she had been

stingy, even refusing to give salt to the guests. Our Sages gave this

explanation, and therefore the Tanna placed the event of Lot's wife who had

become a pillar of salt because of stinginess in juxtaposition to the stone on

which our teacher Moshe sat, for this represents generosity and thus triumphed

over the stinginess, and after that [the Mishna] mentioned the wall of Jericho

for it was chronologically the last.

(Benayahu ben

Yehoyada, Berachot 54a)

 

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