• Dvar for Vayeira (Genesis 18:1-22:24)

    Parshat Vayeira records G-d’s greatest test of Avraham’s faith (22:1) by ordering him to sacrifice his only son to G-d.  Almost all the commentaries listing G-d’s ten trials list this one as the last. The first test was in Ur Kasdim, where Avraham stood up for his belief in G-d against other idols and was thrown into a furnace, where he was miraculously saved. The Lekach Tov wonders why the first test got an obscure one-line mention in the Torah (Genesis 15:7), when it seems as if that test would be more difficult, since G-d still hadn’t appeared to Avraham, and because he wasn’t actually commanded to risk life, yet he did. Why was the sacrificing of Yitzchok that much greater a test?

    Rav Lapian answers that Avraham believed in G-d, and wanted to teach the world. To that end, throwing himself into burning flames would show the world the conviction of his beliefs, and would ultimately help validate his belief in G-d. However, if Avraham were to sacrifice and kill his only son, what would his countless followers say of him then? They would surely give up any religion that required sacrificing their own children. Or at least that’s what Avraham could have been thinking when G-d told him to kill his son. Instead, Avraham didn’t make excuses, didn’t rationalize ignoring G-d’s commandment, and accepted his orders completely, despite risking the efforts of over fifty years of his life. That was the real test, and that’s also our test today: To stand up and do what’s right, despite what others may say or think. As Jews, we should not only avoid reasons to ignore our convictions, but we should also be proud enough to show them.

  • Dvar for Vayeira (Genesis 18:1-22:24)

    As Parshat Vayeira clearly demonstrates, one of Avraham’s most beautiful qualities was his kindness to others. This is demonstrated when his three guests came to visit: Almost everything was done with excitement, enthusiasm, and in excess, solely for the benefit of his guests. The only exception was that when Avraham offered the men water, he specified getting them “a little” water. Why did Avraham suddenly seem to get stingy?

    The Lekach Tov explains that this act shows Avraham’s sensitivity to others even more because water was the only item that Avraham didn’t have time to fetch himself. Avraham’s thinking was that if he was going to trouble his servants to get the water, he had no right to ask them to bring more water then is actually needed. It was Avraham’s sensitivity to his staff that compelled him to only offer a small quantity of water to his guests. We, too, need to be mindful of the needs of those around us, especially our family and friends, teachers and staff, and take no one for granted.

  • Dvar for Vayeira (Genesis 18:1-22:24)

    Parshat Vayeira records G-d’s greatest test of Avraham’s faith (22:1) by ordering him to sacrifice his only son to G-d.  Almost all the commentaries listing G-d’s ten trials list this one as the last. The first test was in Ur Kasdim, where Avraham stood up for his belief in G-d against other idols and was thrown into a furnace, where he was miraculously saved. The Lekach Tov wonders why the first test got an obscure one-line mention in the Torah (Genesis 15:7), when it seems as if that test would be harder, since G-d still hadn’t appeared to Avraham, and because he wasn’t actually commanded to risk life, yet he did. Why was the sacrificing of Yitzchok that much greater a test?

    Rav Lapian answers that Avraham believed in G-d, and wanted to teach the world. To that end, throwing himself into burning flames would have shown the world of his beliefs, and would ultimately help proclaim his belief in G-d. However, if Avraham were to sacrifice and kill his only son, what would his countless followers say of him then? They would surely give up any religion that required killing their own children. Or at least that’s what Avraham could have been thinking when G-d told him to kill his son. Instead, Avraham didn’t make excuses, didn’t rationalize ignoring G-d’s commandment, and accepted his orders completely, despite risking the efforts of over 50 years of his life. That was the real test, and that’s also our test today: To stand up and do what’s right, despite what others will say, or think. As Jews, we should not only avoid reasons to ignore our convictions, but we should also be proud enough to show them.

  • Daily Aliya for Chaye Sarah, Shlishi (3rd Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: The servant (Eliezer) set out for his master’s homeland and evening time found him beside the city well. He prayed for success in his mission, and asked for a heavenly sign to confirm his choice of a girl for Isaac. He would ask a maiden for a drink of water, and the one who would answer: “Certainly, and I’ll also give your camels to drink as well,” would be the proper choice for Isaac. Immediately a young lady approached and in response to the servant’s request for a drink, she offered to give his camels to drink too. Upon questioning her, he discovered that she was Avraham’s great-niece, Rivka.

    When Eliezer saw that Rivka offered to give the camels water, the Passuk says that he was “astonished at her”. Why was he so astonished? Was it her kindness? If anything, Eliezer knew all about kindness, having devoted himself so completely to fulfilling his master’s wishes that the story doesn’t even include his name! Maybe what was so astonishing about Rivka is that she was so kind despite her surroundings (living with Lavan), while Eliezer was kind because of his surroundings (living with Avraham). Either way, there are always new ways to be kind to others, as both people in this Aliya prove.

  • Daily Aliya for Vayeira, Shvii (7th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: G‑d commanded Avraham to take Isaac and offer him as a sacrifice on a mountain. Avraham took along Isaac and necessary provisions, and set out for the mountain. They arrived and Avraham built the altar and bound Isaac. As Avraham stretched out his hand to take the slaughtering knife, an angel ordered him to desist. Avraham offered a ram, which was caught in a nearby thicket, in lieu of his son. G‑d promised Avraham great blessings as a reward for passing this difficult test. After these events, Avraham was notified that his sister-in-law had given birth to children. One of these children, Betuel, was the father of Rebecca, Isaac’s future wife.

    G-d said: “Take your son, your only, whom you love…” It would have been easier for Avraham to carry out G-d’s command to sacrifice Yitzchak, if he (Avraham) could have somehow suppressed his feelings of love for his son. The “greatness” of this test of Avraham’s faith is that he was willing to sacrifice his son, his only one, his beloved (Chidushei HaRim).

  • Daily Aliya for Vayeira, Shishi (6th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: Avimelech approached Avraham and requested to enter into a treaty with him, whereby neither party will harm the other for three generations. Avraham agreed, but reprimanded Avimelech concerning a well of water which he had dug which was stolen by Avimelech’s subjects. Avraham set apart seven ewes, telling Avimelech to take them as a testimony that he, Avraham, dug the well. Avraham planted an orchard and established an inn in Beer Sheba and proclaimed the name of G‑d to all passersby.

    Avraham plants an “Eshel” in Be’er Sheva. In addition to being a type of tree, the word Eshel is an acronym of the Hebrew words for Food, Drink, and Lodgings (or Food, Sleeping, Escort) – the symbol of hospitality for all generations. With these trees, Avraham was literally and figuratively planting the seeds of Chesed for the future, and in our minds.

  • Dvar for Vayeira (Genesis 18:1-22:24)

    As Parshat Vayeira clearly demonstrates, one of Avraham’s most beautiful qualities was his kindness to others. This is demonstrated when his three guests came to visit: Almost everything was done with excitement, enthusiasm, and in excess, solely for the benefit of his guests. The only exception was that when Avraham offered the men water, he specified getting them “a little” water. Why did Avraham suddenly seem to get stingy?

    The Lekach Tov explains that this act shows Avraham’s sensitivity to others even MORE because water was the only item that Avraham didn’t have time to fetch himself. Avraham’s thinking was that if he was going to trouble his servants to get the water, he had no right to ask them to bring more water then is actually needed. It was Avraham’s sensitivity to his staff that compelled him to only offer a small quantity of water to his guests. We, too, need to be mindful of the needs of those around us, especially our family and friends, and take no one for granted.

  • Daily Aliya for Vayeira, Revii (4th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: G‑d rained fire and sulfur on Sodom, and then overturned the entire region. Lot’s wife looked back, and was transformed into a pillar of salt. Lot and his daughters took shelter in a cave. Assuming that the entire world was destroyed, Lot’s daughter’s intoxicated their father with wine, and seduced him – in order to repopulate the world. They each gave birth to a son – the antecedents of the Ammonite and Moabite nations. Avraham relocated to the Philistine city of Gerar. Avimelech, the king of the Philistines, took Sarah – who was presented as Avraham’s sister – to his palace. G‑d afflicted the members of Avimelech’s palace with a disease, and appeared to Avimelech in a dream warning him to return Sarah to her husband, Avraham. Avimelech obeyed, and also showered Avraham and Sarah with gifts, and he and his household were healed. Sarah conceived, and at the age of ninety gave birth to a son, who was named Isaac. Avraham circumcised Isaac when he was eight days old.

    Avraham’s having prayed on behalf of Avimelech for children is juxtaposed to Sarah conceiving. Our Sages teach us that selflessly praying for others can sometimes result in the same prayers being answered for yourself.

  • Daily Aliya for Vayeira, Chamishi (5th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: Isaac grew, and Sarah noticed that Ishmael, Isaac’s older half-brother, was a potentially negative influence on her young child. She demanded of Avraham to expel Ishmael, along with his mother Hagar, from the household. Despite Avraham’s initial misgivings, G‑d tells him: “Whatever Sarah tells you, listen to her voice!” Hagar and Ishmael wandered in the desert and eventually ran out of water. Ishmael was about to perish from thirst when an angel “opened Hagar’s eyes” and showed her a well of water. Ishmael grew up in the desert and became a skilled archer.

    The Gemara explains that although Ishmael was destined to do evil things to do the Jews, G-d saved him now because he was not yet evil, which by definition meant that he had the opportunity to stay righteous. That’s why the Passuk says “G-d has heard the lad’s voice in the place where he is.” Where he was THEN, not where he will be. This is one of the 13 Attributes of Mercy (the very first): Giving us a chance to do the right thing, where He knows we’ll take it or not.

  • Daily Aliya for Vayeira, Shlishi (3rd Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: The angels arrived in Sodom, and Lot invited them to his home to eat and rest. Word of Lot’s guests spread throughout the city – a city that abhorred all acts of kindness – and the incensed residents of Sodom surrounded Lot’ house, with intent to assault the guests. Lot refused the demands that he surrender his guests, and – as the Sodomites prepared to break down the door – the angels struck all those surrounding the house with blindness. The angels informed Lot of their mission, and encouraged him to flee. Lot, his wife, and two of his daughters were escorted out of the city to safety, and were warned not to look back as the city was being destroyed.

    The word “and he lingered” is read with the rare cantillation mark (trup), the shalshellet, which musically emphasizes the reluctance of Lot to believe and to leave. In contrast, the same word is used in describing the haste with which the Children of Israel left Egypt at G-d’s command, symbolized by the matzah which they hastily baked, rather than waiting for the dough to rise and produce a “proper ” bread, thus demonstrating their faith and confidence in G-d. Just another example of the many hidden pearls of lessons in the Torah.

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