Three days ago, Avraham gave himself a Brit Millah and today, his pain is at its’ worst. He sends his servant Eliezer to round up some guests. His attempt proves fruitless since Hashem had made it boiling hot outside so that guests wouldn’t 'bother' Avraham. (heat is good for his healing. Wow, Hashem changes the weather on earth for the sake of one Tzaddik).LESSON:
If you want the job done right, do it yourself. Be selfish when it comes to Mitzvot. Do it yourself and get the reward).STORY:
When Rav Zalman Sorotzkin (Rav of Lukzk) was a guest of the Chofetz Chaim, he tried to stop the Chofetz Chaim from making his bed (feeling uncomfortable watching the Tzaddik of the generation do such a chore). “Rebbe, let me make my bed instead of you.” The next morning, the Chofetz Chaim said to him, “Let me put on T'fillin instead of you.”STORY:
Rav Levi Yitzchok from Berdichev (the Berdichever) would personally serve his guests. His father-in-law said, “For a few dollars, we could hire a servant to do the menial work.” The Berdichever replied, “And give away my Mitzvot to a non-Jew and pay him too!?”STORY:
The following story is a personal account of a simple Jew who passed away recently at the age of over 100 years old:
I was a young boy sent to learn in the distant Yeshiva of the great Torah sage, Rav Shimon Shkopp in Grodno. The ensuing journey was long and difficult. I traveled penniless, living by the grace of Jews who cared for me along the way. By the time the city of Grodno was within eyesight, I lacked any enthusiasm I may have previously felt towards learning in the great yeshiva. My only thoughts were of my home and family. The pieces of Gemorah I had prepared to recite at my entrance exam were forgotten. Once inside the city, I was directed to Rav Shkopp’s residence and knocked on his door. He answered the door to the sight of my ghostly appearance. With a warm smile he invited me in to his home whereupon he said, “I have two questions for you.”
I was about to burst into tears. I couldn’t remember my learning and lost all hope of getting accepted. At that point, all I cared about was getting home and feeling the warm embrace of my mother. Whatever he asked me I was sure I would not be able to answer. He continued, “Question one - when was the last time you slept in a warm bed and question two - when was the last time you had a home cooked meal?” Without my offering a response, he swiftly proceeded to don an apron and prepare a warm meal just for me. He tucked me in bed and said, “We’ll have time to talk Torah at a later date. Sleep well, you need it.” It was those two questions that kept me religious throughout the many hardships of my life.
Avraham musters up the strength to sit outside under the blazing sun in hope of finding wayfarers to bring in to his tent. In the interim, Hashem notifies the angels that He (along with them) will visit Avraham and relieve him of the agony he feels from not having guests. Hashem was also being Mevaker Choleh (visiting the sick) thereby teaching us one of the most important Mitzvot. Visiting a sick person is giving him life.STORY:
When Rabbi Akiva visited his sick student, he saw the room was in need of cleaning. He himself, scrubbed the floor. The student later testified that Rabbi Akiva’s visit had saved his life.STORY:
Rav Aryeh Levine (the Tzaddik of Yerushalayim) would ask the nurses, during his regular hospital visits, which patients didn’t get visitors. Those, he’d visit first. A wounded soldier asked him, “where do you know me from?” Rav Aryeh Levine replied, “At the foot of Har Sinai during Matan Torah.”STORY:
When a plague was infecting the members of his town, Rav Meisels went house to house visiting the townsmen. One rainy day, his boot got stuck in the mud. He pulled out his foot and continued his visits barefoot!LESSON:
Besides visiting the sick person and offering your assistance, Daven for the sick as well (Get a Tzaddik to Daven).STORY:
Someone asked Rav Boruch Ber to Daven for his sick wife. A decade later when they met again, Rav Boruch Ber asked how the man’s wife was feeling. The man learned that during the entire decade, Rav Boruch Ber had not stopped Davening for her.STORY:
There was a woman who was totally overcome by cancer. The doctors said there was no chance of recovery. Nevertheless, they decided to operate. A Tzaddik in New York (this happened in 1994) said he’d spend the day Davening for this woman, although he didn’t know her at all. When the doctors opened her up, they couldn’t find a single trace of the cancer in her body!
Okay, back to the Parsha. Hashem appears before Avraham and insists the Tzaddik remain seated. Those famous three angels appear before Avraham as three regular people. Avraham, all excited to perform the Mitzvah of Hachnasat Orchim- opening one’s home for visitors, begs Hashem not to leave while he takes care of his 'guests.'LESSON:
Hachnasat Orchim is even greater than greeting the Shechina- Divine Presence of Hashem. One cannot excuse himself from this Mitzvah even if he is going to take away time from learning the Torah of Hashem.LESSON:
Avraham enthusiastically runs toward his guests (not even feeling his excruciating pain) and begs them to stay overnight and accept his food.
Mitzvot should be done with excitement. This is one way our body is sanctified. When the score is tied, we use all our energy to get that tie- breaking point. That’s the energy we should put into our Mitzvot. When we act in an excited and quick way, our feelings are affected to the point of exhilaration. Any Mitzvah you run to do will be more exciting.
Avraham offers them bread, water to wash their feet and a place to sleep. fascinating side point: Q. Why did Avraham bring them water to wash their feet? A. Avraham was afraid that these “people” were Ovdei Avodah Zarah (idol worshipers) who worship the dust of their feet. If you’re wondering what kind of Avodah Zarah this is, remember that when one runs or walks, his feet get dusty. This worship is the worship of your actions and accomplishments. The amount of ground you’ve traveled, where you've gone. The truth is if you don’t realize it's Hashem giving you the ability to accomplish, you might be treading on dangerous ground. It’s this belief that is Avodah Zarah. In the merit of Sarah, the Shechina- Hashem's Presence rested above their tent. So, Avraham had to make sure that Avodah Zarah wouldn't enter.LESSON:
Even though Avraham intended a whole feast for the 'travelers,' he gave the impression that he was preparing a small snack.
A Tzaddik says a little but does a lot. Surprise people and do more than you’ve said. Actions speak louder than words. A great person makes it seem that anything he/she does for someone else, is no big deal.LESSON:
When you’re intending to offer a place to stay for night, let your guest know your intention. The meal will be enjoyed more with this peace of mind.
Avraham was so excited to do the Mitzvah he didn’t stop running until his guests were fully taken care of. fascinating side point: The angel Rafael - transformed himself into a healthy, fat ox, attracting Avraham’s attention. When Avraham fetched it, the ox fled all the way to Me'orat HaMachpeila (Avraham chased it and caught it there). When Avraham entered, he was greeted by the smell of Gan Eden. The cave was lit up by lots of burning candles and Avraham saw Adam and Chava resting peacefully. He made up his mind to buy the cave at any cost. Hashem did the Chessed of showing him his final resting place as a reward for his Chessed to his guests.LESSON:
He asked Sarah to put the cakes in the oven while he personally, ran to the flock with Yishmael to choose three oxen to prepare tongue for them.
Even though Avraham had many servants who could have done this for him, he wanted to do the Mitzvah himself.LESSON:
Of course, Avraham could also do this himself, but he has the obligation to educate his son in Mitzvot. Preaching isn’t enough. A child must learn by action. The angels made believe they were eating (all for the honor of this great Tzaddik) while Avraham stands and serves them.
fascinating side point: The angels asked Avraham, “Where is Sarah your wife?” He replied, “In the tent.” (They wanted to emphasize to Avraham how modest his wife was so he’d love her even more). Michoel said, “As a reward for this modesty, her descendants will serve as Kohanim Gedolim- high priests in the Mishkan & Bait HaMikdash- the holy Temple.LESSON:
Modesty (T'zniut) is the special virtue women are praised for. The glory of the Jewish girl is internal. We must realize the greatness of the women who are Yir’ei Shomayim - G-d fearing and raise G-d fearing children. This is true success, more than fancy titles and fame.
The angel Michoel made a mark on the wall and said, “At this time (when the sun hits this mark) Sarah will give birth.” Sarah hears the good news and laughs. The reality of her old age (and Avraham’s old age) and having a child is funny. After all, a woman who was never able to have children, suddenly will, at the age of 90! It’s a miracle like Techiyat HaMeitim (resurrection of the dead).
fascinating side point: That which is unexpected is a Tzechoke (funny). It’s funnier when a teacher trips than when a student trips. Moshiach will come when we don’t expect him. We think we’re too old to see the Geulah. So many years have gone by and Moshiach hasn’t come. We remember Yitzchok who was born after hope was lost. Moshiach will come even though the reality of such a thing happening to us seems so crazy. “Then our mouths will be filled with laughter.”
Michoel finishes his mission and leaves with Gavriel and Rafoel. They will continue to Sodom and Ammorah to destroy them and save Lot. They turn from the righteous Avraham and look towards the evil Sodom. Hashem says that the cry of the oppressed people in Sodom, is tremendous. He’ll look down to see if it’s real. Hashem involves Himself with the evil people of Sodom.LESSON:
Don’t think that because you’ve moved away from Hashem, Hashem moves away from you. Hashem is with us even when we rebel and go against Him. Hashem lowers Himself, as it were, to the depths of where the sinner is in order to raise him up. Hashem gives people a chance to do T’shuva.LESSON:
Tzaddikim lower themselves too, making themselves more accessible to ordinary people, to raise them up.STORY:
Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld (Rav of Yerushalayim) was seen talking nonsense to a simple unlearned Jew. His students asked why he spent so much time in idle chatter with this simple fool. He answered, “This Jew also needs someone to speak to.”LESSON:
Avraham Davens to Hashem to save any Tzaddikim in the cities.
A person shouldn’t stop Davening even at the last moment. At times we think, “It’s too late, there’s no hope.” Not true. Only after-the-fact, is it too late.STORY:
There was a terrible sinner named Elazer Ben Dordaya. He used all his effort and resources to travel and sin in the worst way. He had a moment of inspiration that brought him to stop his evil ways. He sat between two mountains and begged for forgiveness. When he felt all hope was lost, he lowered his head and cried out of regret for his sins. His soul left him and he was no longer in this world. A heavenly voice, Bat Kol, came down and proclaimed “Rabbi Elazer Ben Dordaya has a share in Olam HaBoh." This person acquired his share in Olam HaBoh in one moment.LESSON:
You never know when a person will do T’shuva. Keep on Davening for Jews (including yourself) to do T’shuva. When you Daven: "Hashivainu Avinu" etc.have in mind that we should all return wholeheartedly to Hashem.
Avraham bargains with Hashem to save the city on account of Tzaddikim who live there.LESSON:
Avraham gets Hashem down to ten people but stops there. He knew that if there weren't ten in the city, it couldn't be saved.
Appreciate a Tzaddik who lives in your city, you never know when his merit will save you.STORY:
During the Gulf War in Israel, Rav Chaim Kanievski (son of the famed “Steipler” Gaon) didn’t take the proper precautions recommended for the individual safety of the population (wearing a gas mask). When asked why, he responded, "B'nei Brak (where he lives) is safe because of the merit of Rav (Eliezer M.M.) Shach. His students said, “But Rebbi, Rav Shach wears his gas mask!” Rav Chaim Kanievski responded, “Rav Shach doesn’t think that Rav Shach’s merit will save B'nei Brak." (A scud missile landed in a garbage in B'nei Brak but neither exploded nor injured anyone). Wow!LESSON:
The angels reached Sodom in the evening, leaving enough time for Avraham to Daven for their salvation. Lot rose up to greet his guests, and secretly brought them back to his home for dinner. We see the Hachnasat Orchim of Avraham, rub off on his nephew Lot.
Living in the house with a Tzaddik (or any Torah observant family) has a positive affect on you. Place yourself amongst good, Torah observant people to learn from their behavior.STORY:
Rav Levi Yitzchok, the Tzaddik of Berdichev, dressed as a poor person and looked for a place to sleep at night. The rich person he asked refused to let this “beggar” stay at his house. Rav Levi Yitzchok found a poor Melamed (teacher) to his him instead. Years later when he returned to the city as a famous, great Tzaddik and needed a home to stay in, the rich man insisted the Tzaddik stay with him. Rav Levi Yitzchok said, “What was the difference between Avraham and Lot? After all, they both opened their homes to guests? The difference was that Avraham saw his guest as idol worshipers, yet he opened his home to them anyway. Lot saw his guests as angels. It’s no big deal to open your home to angels.” Rav Levi Yitzchok turned down the invitation of the wealthy man and honored the poor Melamed by staying with him instead.
The angels tell Lot they’ll sleep outside. They wanted the people of Sodom to see them and realize they’d come to destroy the city, thereby giving them a chance to do T’shuva.
Lot prepares a meal for the angels and much to his dismay, discovers there’s no salt. He asks his wife, Edit, to get some salt. She didn’t want the guests to come at all. (She hung a sheet to split the house in half refusing to allow guests to enter her side). Edit goes to the neighbors to borrow salt and informs them of the guests her husband has brought in. Now that the wicked Sodomites know Lot has opened his home to strangers, they go to Lot’s house to attack the guests. When the enraged Sodomites surround the house, the angels afflict them with blindness. The angels notify Lot’s family that they are about to destroy Sodom. Lot’s sons in law laugh at the news and they are destroyed with the rest of Sodom.LESSON:
Having a good sense of humor is fine. A good laugh is a healthy release but never make light of something serious (Never laugh at someone else).LESSON:
Having a good sense of humor is good. A good laugh is a healthy release but never make light of something serious (Never laugh at someone else). Lot and Edit, along with their daughters escape, while Hashem pours down sulfur and fire to destroy Sodom. Edit looks back at the city she was still attached to. She sees the Shechina (Divine Presence of Hashem) destroying Sodom and she is turned into a heap of salt.
fascinating side point: Hashem punishes Middah Kinneged Middah (measure for measure). Lot’s wife turned in her guests when she went to look for salt, she became a heap of salt.
People were seized with fear of Hashem at the destruction of Sodom. Travelers wouldn’t enter the demolished place, causing a severe weakening of Avraham’s “business” with his Orchim.
It’s time for Avraham to move his establishment. He chooses the land of Avimelech, King of Gerrar. Again, Sarah claims to be his sister and is taken to Avimelech. He’s impressed by her family and wants to make her his queen.
Avimelech falls into a deep sleep and dreams of an angel with a sword about to kill him. The angel tells Avimelech “Return Sarah since she’s married and Avraham who’s a Navi - prophet, will pray for you.” Avimelech felt terrible about the mix-up and returns Sarah with 100 gold pieces and a precious royal dress, worn by the queen. Avimelech apologizes and asks Avraham for a Bracha. He receives a Bracha to have children. (Avimelech’s wife had not been able to conceive until now).LESSON:
Avraham accepts his apology. This is a lesson for us. When someone asks for forgiveness, forgive him.
Not only was Avimelech’s wife able to have children, so was Avraham’s wife. On Rosh HaShanah it was decided that Sarah would be able to have a child. Seven months later, the first day of Pesach, Yitzchok is born. Mazel TovLESSON:
If you Daven for someone else, that which you Daven for will be given to you first. Good deal, eh?LESSON:
We read this part of the Torah on Rosh HaShanah to remind us how we have to trust in Hashem that nothing is impossible. Sarah was, 90 years old!STORY:
A sad and worried Jew came to visit the ‘Chazon Ish’ (Rav Yeshaya Karelitz) in B'nei Brak. When the man entered, the Chazon Ish was saying the “Asher Yotzar” Bracha. He pronounced each word slowly and clearly. The man couldn’t contain himself any longer and blurted out, “My child has polio and the doctors say there’s no hope.” The Chazon Ish emphasized the last words "The healer of all flesh and doer of wonders." The Chazon Ish turned to the man and said, “So, you hear that Hashem does wonders.” This is all the Chazon Ish said to the man. The child had a completely recovery. (Never, never give up hope).
fascinating side point: The day Yitzchok was born, barren women suddenly gave birth for their first time. The sick people were healed. The blind saw and the deaf heard. The sun shone brilliantly as it did on the seven days of creation.
Avraham makes a big feast for Yitzchok. There were people who wondered if Yitzchok was indeed the son of this old couple. Hashem performed a miracle and Yitzchok was a look-alike of his father. Also, Hashem made it that, not only was Sarah able to nurse Yitzchok, but all the babies that were brought to her. All the women wanted their child to be fed by this Tzaddeiket (righteous woman).
fascinating side point: Nations gathered to hear how this miracle happened. Avraham told them how he sanctified the name of Hashem when he was thrown into the furnace.
They crowned Avraham as their king and minted a coin with an old and young couple. This signified the rejuvenation (becoming younger) of these two great people.
For Yitzchok, growing up with Yishmael was no simple matter. Since Yishmael started serving Avodah Zarah (idol worship), Sarah tells Avraham that Yishmael has to be sent away so Yitzchok won't be “schlepped” along with him. Avraham, reluctant to make such a harsh move, is commanded by Hashem to listen to his wife since her prophesy is greater than his.LESSON:
fascinating side point: We often see the role of the Imahot (fore mothers- matriarchs) as the more accurate evaluators of people. Sarah saw that Yishmael was the evil one, whereas Avraham didn’t. Rivkah was able to see Eisov for what he was, (a Rasha) and Yaakov for what he was, (a Tzaddik). Off goes Yishmael and his mother, Hagar. Now Yitzchok can be given the opportunity to become great and exalted.
Remember, people are drawn after their surroundings. Great friends can help you become great.
Hashem commands Avraham; “Take your son, the one you love, Yitzchok, and bring him up as a Korban - sacrifice to Hashem.” pretty intense, huh?
fascinating side point: When Hashem said “The one you love,” all the love in the world was compacted into Avraham at that moment. This made the test even more difficult.
fascinating side point: At that time in history, people used to sacrifice their children to their Avodah Zarah idolatry . Avraham was known to speak out against this practice. Now he had to do the same act he fought against, for Hashem. What would everyone think? Furthermore, all that Hashem promised to Avraham was to transpire through his son, Yitzchok. Now Yitzchok would be dead! It didn’t make sense, but if this is what Avraham was commanded, this is what he would do.
Even after all this time (3 days), Avraham’s enthusiastic to perform the Mitzvah.LESSON:
fascinating side point: The word makom (Avraham saw the Makom from afar) is often used for Hashem. This means: Avraham saw Hashem from afar. He wasn’t given the feeling of closeness to Hashem. Nevertheless, even without this feeling, Avraham did his job.
There are times when we don’t feel the closeness of Hashem. This is a test to see how we will act even though we feel distant from spirituality. We have to do small things during these times (i.e. do a simple Chessed for someone, learn easier parts of Torah, say some T'hillim...).
Hashem reveals the altar where the Akeidah will take place, saying, “This is the altar that Adam, Kayin Hevel and Noah and his sons used. Someday, the Bait HaMikdash will stand here.”
Avraham, with all his love for his son, raises his hand with the knife in it. He is happy to follow Hashem, but cried out of pity for his beloved Yitzchok. His tears fall onto Yitzchok while Yitzchok’s tears pour onto the wood of the altar. As Avraham is about to thrust the knife into Yitzchok, an angel stops Avraham just in the neck nick of time. The angel tells Avraham, “Don’t lay your hand on the boy. Don’t do anything to him, for now I know you fear Hashem.”LESSON:
Don’t be upset if you start a Mitzvah but can’t complete it for reasons beyond your control. You get the reward anyway. fascinating side point: Where did this angel come from? When a person does a Mitzvah, an angel is created. This was the angel that Avraham created by his willingness to sacrifice his son. That’s why the angel said, “For now I know" I personally know since my existence is a result of your fear of Hashem.STORY:
Rav Chaim of Sanz (the Divrei Chaim) decided to travel very far to meet Rav Yisroel of Rizhin (the Rizhiner). When asked why he had to make such an effort to meet this Tzaddik when there were so many Talmidei Chachamim closer by, he explained with this question, “We have two mountains: the Torah was given on Har Sinai and Akeidat Yitzchok happened on Har HaMoriah. Why is there Kedusha connected to Har HaMoriah and not to the mountain upon which we received the Torah? He answered by saying, “Har HaMoriah remains Kadosh because that’s where a Jew stuck out his neck for Hashem.” Similarly, explained the Divrei Chaim, the holy ‘Rizhiner’ sticks out his neck every day for the Jewish people by Davening for them.LESSON:
We all could stick out our neck a little bit every day. Daven better, learn more, act nicer to other Jews.
The end of the saga is that Avraham finds a ram (which had been created on the 1st Friday of creation) to sacrifice instead of Yitzchok. Through the Mesirat Nefesh (self sacrifice) of Avraham & Yitzchok, we find role models that we’ve followed countless times through the generations. They are the holy Jews who have given their lives for Hashem.STORY:
In a city in Europe, there was a Bait HaK'varot (cemetery) which was destroyed. There were two burial plots which somehow remained. The Jews of the city were dumbfounded when they found out that one was the great Rav of the city, while the other was some unknown young Jew. It was understandable that the holy Rav had his grave spared, but who was this other person? After some investigation they uncovered the secret to this mystery. The body was that of a young man who was enlisted in the Russian army while he was a young boy. He was determined not to violate the Mitzvot of the Torah, despite the difficulty the army life presented him. One day, it was discovered that he was not eating the food given to the troops. One of his fellow soldiers informed the general that this boy must be a Jew and is refusing to eat the non- Kosher food. The general summoned the young Jewish soldier and commanded him to eat. The boy refused. The commander threatened him, but the Jewish soldier bravely turned away. The general grew angry at the commitment this Jew had to the Torah, and instructed the other soldiers to force feed him. The soldier remained adamant and did not swallow the Traif food. He soon choked and died. The Mesirat Nefesh he had to remain a Jew in front of those who wanted him to abandon it, earned him the honor of having his grave remain intact.GOOD SHABBOS!
© 1998 by R' Matis Friedman, H.A.F.T.R.
R' Matis Friedman's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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