Points to Ponder
And he was sitting at the opening of the Tent (18:1) – Rashi cites the fact that Avraham sought to rise and Hashem told him to sit and that HE would stand as a sign that in the future judges would sit in the debates of Dinei Torah. What is the connection between the sitting of Avraham and the sitting of the Dayanim? Rav Simcha Zissel Broide ztl. of Chevron Yeshiva suggested that in the same way that Avraham debated each and every action while in the presence of Hashem, Dayanim too, will debate and act the same way. Rav Simcha Zissel adds that we learn from here that one who contemplates the paths of Hashem will be Zocheh to Yeshuas Hashem.
And he lifted his eyes and saw three people standing over him and he got up and ran from the tent opening (18:2) – So here is Avraham, in the midst of a conversation with Hashem – no bigger a spiritual experience than that – and he gets up to go greet the Orchim. This is the source of the Gemara’s statement that Hachnasas Orchim is more important than greeting the Shechina. But how did Avraham know that? The Brisker Rav ztl. answers that greeting the Shechina is perhaps a spiritual experience but isn’t a Mitzva. Hachnasas ORchim IS a Mitzvah and pushes off all other “spiritual experiences” in that the ultimate spiritual experience is doing Mitzvos.
Avraham approached and he said are you going to destroy a Tzaddik with a Rasha? (18:23) – Is one obligated to daven for evil human beings? Rav Schachter Shlita pointed out that unless they are trying to destroy him, then he should daven for them – perhaps they will return to Derech Hashem. Even though the Sodomites ran a culture that was against the message of Hashem that Avraham tried to preach, Avraham still davened for them. We should do the same. We say Yitzamu Chaaim not Chotim.
And the 2 daughters of Lot became pregnant from their father (19:36) – How did the same action of Znus that showed a lack of care for Gilui Arayos in that it was revealed (the older called her son Moav proudly) lead to the seed of Moshiach? Rav Moshe Feinstein ztl. is reported to have said (see intro to Iggros Moshe volume 8) that the Bnos Lot insisted that they did not want to be accused of raising children through immaculate conception – hence they called the child Moav. Rav Goldvicht ztl. pointed out that this was precisely why the Midrash explains that the Midrashic evolution of the Davidic line is in Sodom. Hashem wanted the permanent Davidic line to represent the people with a Kupah shel Sheratzim around his neck in order to understand them and represent them.
Where he was (21:17) – Rashi comments that the Malachim wanted Hashem to destroy Yishmael now but Hashem told them that at present he was a Tzaddik and deserved to be saved. Rav Eliyahu Mizrahi famously asks why Yishmael was different than the Ben Sorer U’Moreh who is judged based upon his future? The Maharsha (Rosh Hashana 16b) explains that the Ben Sorer U’Moreh’s future is his own. Yishmael’s progeny are the ones who will destroy the Jews -- not he. The Sfas Emes answers that it could be that the evil planned in the future by the present Ben Sorer uMoreh can be stopped if he does not make it to the future while it is possible that Yishmael could already have impregnated a future offspring.
He lifted his eyes and saw the place from afar (22:4) – What was Avraham looking for? What did he see? The Ksav V’Hakabbala explains that he sought the right opportunity to fulfill the word of Hashem. On the 3rdday he saw a sign – it was a cloud on the mountain (suggests Rashi). Rav Chaim Sabato Shlita explains that the mountain symbolizes the physical while a cloud symbolizes the spiritual. On the third day, Avraham saw the 2 combine. That is why the mountain is called Makom – Har denotes the merely physical topography. Place denotes that the location is a rendezvous point with Hashem. At that point only those who could “See” the potential would be permitted to connect to it. Everyone else, got left with the donkey.
And I will increase your children like the sand and the stars (22:17) – Rav Moshe Feinstein ztl. notes that there are three distinct Berachos here: like the sand at the shore which withstands the roar of the sea – so too, a Jew faces adversity and overcomes it. The dust of the earth which refers to that which provides sustenance to the entire world and the stars which no matter how big the world gets, the stars are above it. In that regard, the Jew will be the same.
Haftorah: The wife of the Bnei HaNeviim – We read a very long Haftorah which seems to describe 2 disparate stories with Elisha. Why is it necessary to tell the first story of the miracle with the oil? Why is that part of the Haftorah. Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer Shlita suggested that the connection to the Parsha is quite apparent: If we examine things carefully, we notice that every nes (miracle) in Parshas Vayeira was totally unanticipated. Sarah disbelieved that she would give birth (18:12), Hagar moved far away from the mortally-ill Yishmael “for I cannot watch him die” (21:16), Avrohom was stunned that Yitzchak really did not need to be slaughtered (Rashi on 22:13, from Tanchuma). What is noteworthy is not the mere fact that the beneficiaries of these supernatural occurrences did not expect them; the humility of the people upon whom these miracles were bestowed, such that there was a total absence of their feeling entitled to special treatment, is what is important.
Following in Hashem’s ways means just that – that one does what Hashem wants and does not feel entitled to anything. Once Ovadia’s widow experienced the miracle of the increase in oil, one would expect that she would have immediately gone and sold the oil, understanding that its volume increased supernaturally for her benefit. Instead, what was her reaction? “And she told the man of God (about the oil increasing), and he said, ‘Go sell the oil and pay your debt, and you and your children will live off the remaining proceeds.’” Ovadia’s widow made no presumptions and had no expectations of entitlement; she only wanted to do what God directed and knew that she was in His hands.