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Forethoughts And AfterThoughts Archives
- Bereshis

B'reishis (Genesis 1-6)

1:1 In the beginning G-D created the heavens and the earth.

For quite a while, many believed that the world as we know it was always there. Today, thanks to the general acceptance of the Big Bang Theory, the bulk of mankind recognizes that indeed there was a beginning.

Time is one of the many things that G-D created and it's hard to describe what it is. We have a few clues from our Torah scholars and heritage.

This Torah reading always occurs right after the High Holidays and Succos. They are special times on our calendar.

We recite the following blessing when have a holiday: Blessed are You G-D, our G-D, who is King of the world, who kept us alive, and who kept us existing, and who brought us to this (special) time.

Now, we are familiar with bringing a person to a place. But do we understand bringing someone to a time?

One could say that this is just a figure of speech. However, from our literature this doesn't appear to be so.

The following is how I understand it.

Your car probably has a timing belt. It synchronizes engine parts so that valve work together with the piston to get you moving along the road. Using that as a clock, the engine parts have their own notion of time, which can be easily mapped to how we talk about time.

We could say that the engine parts operate within a special framework that has defined increments of time and that enables the parts to operate together to achieve a goal.

And for that matter, the computer you are using also has a clock of sorts inside that also synchronizes. The instructions within micro-processor executes in pre-determined numbers of clock cycles, by design of its human architects. The increments of time are very tiny, when compared to those of a timing belt. Like the timing belt, its framework enables the computer components to operate together to achieve goals.

The Creator has goals for mankind to achieve and the Jewish calendar is a time framework that He designed for us, individually and collectively.

We say that Creation occurred over 5,777 years ago. In another sense, it was started to G-D back then and it's His goal for mankind to be His partner to complete the job. The end state is for all of mankind to actualize G-D's sovereignty, to be in sync with the rest of the parts of the creation

We view our holidays as points on the calendar. They are not there to merely commemorate significant events that occurred thousands of years ago. Rather, they actively induce improvement. They function together and influence both us and our environment to bring us closer to where and what G-D wants us to be.

Our holidays even appear to be somewhat independent of the historical events that we associate them with. Specifically, they existed prior to the events that we remember them for. Our literature appears to say that this is why Avraham (Abraham) ate matzah on the fifteenth of the month of Nissan. And this is also why his son Yitzchak (Isaac) ate a lamb many years later on that same night, even though both Avraham and Yitzchak pre-dated the Exodus from Egypt by hundreds of years.

I see the design of our lives as an open and linear series of stages towards improvement. Our own genesis is exclusively focused on our 'Me.' Soon afterwards the 'We' kicks in and we slowly learn to manage life with other people, we balance the 'Me' with the 'We.' And as life progresses we begin to realize the existence of G-D, the 'He,' and our relationship with Him. As we age, we experience events that tell us that G-D orchestrated them, that He is with us, that He cares about us. And together with age, what we considered our 'Me' weakens and parts begin to fail. This further weakens the 'Me' and strengthens our personal connection with G-D, in preparation of the great encounter that occurs after life, when we move on to another stage of existence.

The calendar, in contrast, is a closed cyclical process with its own stages for improvement for us.

Both the calendar and life experience can help get us where we need to be.

We also have a cycle for Torah readings. We read portions each week, beginning with Genesis on the first Shabbos after Succos and completing the Torah on Simchas Torah. Our knowledge and appreciation of the Torah grows with every cycle.

We again warmly welcome the Torah reading of Beraishis.

May we all experience much growth and success this year.


The Evolution of Absurdity

The Medrash teaches that the following line was used to recruit workers to build the Tower of Bavel (Genesis 11): The heavens tilt every 1,656 years and this caused the great Noahide deluge. Mankind therefore needs to construct a huge tower to keep it propped up, thereby saving future generations from calamity.

These recruiters share common ground with the Evolutionists in that both were con-artists who fooled masses of people with absurdities.

The use of the random evolution to explain the origin of life by scientists and in the name of science is a discredit to science because it's nonsense.

Here's one way to see this.

Make a list of creatures and their unique attributes. Focus on attributes whose absence would make life very difficult for each creature.

Here are two examples:

  1. Spider-drool makes webs that help them catch flies.
  2. Anteaters have sticky tongues that help them catch ants.

If you do it right then your list will turn into a huge book.

In the world of random evolution, there were first spiders who didn't drool. With all the zillion spiders being hatched over a gazillion years, one happened to pop into the world with what appeared to be a drooling problem. However, it turned out that this spider grew quite fat and healthy because flies kept on getting struck in his goop. He had a lot of descendents who drooled while his siblings did not. Non-drooling spiders died out because all the flies were being eaten by ones who could spit out goo, supposedly by a sudden and severe. severe shortage of flies, which has yet to repeat itself (and which most of us yearn for).

Now make up such a story for the anteater and for the web-spinning spiders and for all of the creatures in your book.

Can't you see the absurdity?

Here's another death nail for the evolutionist: The absence of artifacts.

Suppose you and your friend are walking by a house. You see a flash of light and hear a loud boom, followed by smoke coming out of a window. You rush inside to see a room with overturned chairs and fragments of a table. The air smells acrid. Your friend says, "This was an explosion." You agree with his assessment.

You continue walking down the street and see the same by another house. This time, the room is completely in order. The flowers on the table show no signs of being ruffled. There is no smell of smoke. Your friend says, "This was another explosion." You disagree. You ask, "Why are the chairs set neatly around the table?" He responds that perhaps this how they landed after the explosion. After all, can anyone prove otherwise, that this is impossible? "But where is the smoke," you ask? He proposes that it all blew out the window and was replaced by fresh air just prior to our entry. "Prove otherwise, he exclaims."

Now, multiply this scenario by the number of items in your list.

This is what subscribers to the Theory of Evolution have to put up with, for each one of the accidents that they rely on have left little if any trace of artifacts.

Let's scrutinize this with probability theory.

You have one chance in about 175 times 10^6 to win the New Jersey State lottery. (This is 175 times ten with six zeros, or 1,000,000.) Assuming that winnings are independent events, a player has 175^2 times 10^12 to win twice in a row, 175^3 times 10^18 to be a three-time winner, and 175^4 times 10^24 for the fourth consecutive game, assuming that the FBI doesn't shut down the State of New Jersey's lottery by that time.

Now what's the probability for an accident on the scale of Mr. Spider occurring without artifacts and that all the non-droolers vanished? Let's give it the odds of the New Jersey lottery. Now simply raise the power of 10 by six times the number of items in your list Forget about the 175's. To give you a feeling of what type of number you are dealing with, writers on the Advanced Physics forum postulate that there are 10^130 electrons in observable universe.

I feel compelled to say that anybody who associates the 'theory' with the origin of life is either a crook or a fool. I see no charitable way to describe any organization of scholars that suggests this association has any validity.

The only shred of logic they hang their hats on is what Mr. Harold Gans calls "Sherlock Holms Logic." It goes like this: Suppose there are two explanations for a phenomenon. One is extremely improbable and the other is impossible. In such a case the extremely improbable wins because there is no alternative.

To apply this logic, scientists must first make a conscious decision to deny the existence of a Creator. This makes evolution acceptable to them because there is no alternative.

So evolutionists use denial to create a bubble where they can live and play in .This is like mom waking you up at 7 AM and telling you that it's time to get ready for school. You respond by denying the existence of school so you can now go back to sleep.

Speaking of Mr. Gans, allow me to recommend his fascinating lectures on science and Creation, which can be found on Aish.com.

Recently, activists chose to assume risk and promote the notion of the existence of a designer, a truth that we believe in. The courts said that this position was not science and that it connoted a faith.

Rather then trying to legitimize an alternate view, they should have simply attacked its teaching in of evolution in schools on the grounds that children shouldn't be involuntarily subjected to what clearly appears to be an absurdity that is based on having faith in the denial of a Designer.

Apparently, the Justices felt that the constitution limits the Government from doing things that impose the existence of a Designer on its citizens but it provides no limit from imposing the denial of a Creator.

Given the huge sums of taxpayer research dollars that these scientists bilk the Government to promote their rubbish, I suggest that it's economically justifiable to modify the constitution and cut them out, too.

The noise that the Church of Science generates seems to unnecessarily put some of us on the defensive, as if theology conflicts with reality.

It appears to me that three ingredients are needed to make a theological conflict.

One is a set of realities, like as stalactites that appear to have taken quite a bit more than 6000 years to form, or stars that are billions of light-years away, or bunch of bones that seem to be very old.

The second is a theological source, such as verses of the Torah.

The third ingredient is an interpretation of the verse(s).

Falsifiers make trouble by asserting assert interpretations that create conflict between the verse(s) and the realities.

We should not let ourselves get painted into a corner. We certainly need not credit them any degree of Torah scholarship or competence

I see absolutely no reason to let any interpretation that is not explicitly and clearly stated by our sages, be it of the oral or written Torah, to cause question or crisis.

Let those who create crisis prove that their interpretation is authentic.

For example, we are taught that the Torah is not a history book and there are many historical events that are not openly recorded.

Can anybody disprove a notion that events occurred between the first and second verses of the Torah? Could there not have existed a world, or perhaps worlds during which G-D provided creations the option of receiving the Torah, only to be obliterated upon their refusal? Could this obliteration not have been complete enough so as to leave traces of former existences to give those of a later and final world a test of faith?

A whole lot of dinosaur bones can fit into these worlds.

Again from Mr. Gans, while we know from the Torah that Adam was the first human with a soul, we have no reason to believe that he was indeed the first homo-sapiens. We have no reason to assert that there weren't people running around before his appearance, only they were animalistic and had no souls.

Consider the following verses in Genesis:

2:19 And G-D formed all of the beasts of the field and all of the birds of the sky from the ground. And He brought (them) to the Adam..,

2:20 And the Adam gave names to all of the animals, birds of the sky and to all of the beasts of the field. And Adam did not find a helper corresponding to him.

If Adam was seeking a wife then why was he looking in the zoo to find one? A possible answer is that Adam found plenty of pretty women in his world, only none of them had a soul.

Let's take a look at Chava (Eve). Did she need nine months to give birth to her first children? This is explicitly stated in the Oral Torah and the answer is no.

Can anybody prove that the pace of events and of even time itself during the six days of creation matched those of afterwards? Is this explicitly stated in the Oral Torah?

Thanks to Einstein, scientists now declare that time is relative. So, objects that approach the event-horizon of a black-hole appear as if they are slowing down even though they are not. And people who travel near the speed of light come back to find a world in their future, as if they went to sleep without knowing it. If they do it long enough, they'll come back to a world and visit a cemetery where their wives, children, and grandchildren are all interred.

So six days can be going on in one part of the universe while billions of years are going on somewhere else

We don't need to exert much energy to prove the truths of the Torah. Rather, the falsifiers need to prove the veracity of their interpretations.

And we need to change our attitude. We don't need answers to every question in order to live. One of the first principles one learns in Yeshiva is "fune a kasha shtarb mir nish," that nobody dies from asking and having questions. The only show-stoppers are those for which there is obvious and open proof to the contrary and for those who rely on an absurdity, such as those which we have been discussing all along.

As the timeline of history moves further away from Creation and Sinai we move further away from the events themselves. But this does not make us any weaker and by far to the contrary. As history marches on, the probability that there should exist a vibrant Jewish people approaches zero.

But we do exist, we still exist.

From Aish.com: "Over 300 years ago King Louis XIV of France asked Blaise Pascal, the great French philosopher, to give him proof of the supernatural. Pascal answered: 'Why, the Jews, your Majesty -- the Jews.'"

In the words of another enemy: "The greatest proof of the existence of a G-D is the existence of the Jewish people."

Just about any Jewish wedding album contains more proof that G-D exists, has been, and is actively managing the world than dozens of May 2006 editions of the Jewish Observer, which by the way does a very nice take on Random Evolution.

This alone deflates any cost associated with assuming responsibilities associated with accepting the fundamental principle of Judaism, that there was indeed a Being who designed and created the universe.

Given that G-D exists and that He is calling the shots through every bend of our impossible history, why does the average man on the street need to devote much energy on conjecturing the process He used to create the universe?

We need to move on. We need to focus our energies on meeting responsibilities and making achievements, not on defenses.


1:1 G-D created in the beginning the heaven and the earth.

Rabbi Eliezer said that the world was created in the Hebrew month of Tishrei, which occurs in the fall. He said that the planned time for the Jewish people's future redemption is also Tishrei.

Rabbi Yehoshua said that the world was created in the Hebrew month of Nisan, which occurs in the spring, and the planned time for the Jewish people's future redemption is also Nisan. (Talmud, Rosh Hashanah 10b-11a).

Rabbeinu Nissim (The R"an) says that both agree that the creation and future redemption periods must coincide. They just disagree on when creation occurred. (Droshos HaR"an, third lecture).

Determining the anniversary of creation has practical relevance in Jewish law.

We recite a special blessing every twenty-eight years to mark the realignment of the sun and the planets as they were when the solar system was installed.

Majority opinion follows Rabbi Yehoshua and we therefore make this blessing in Nisan. The last time we said it was on the Wednesday of April 8, 2009 and the next time for us will be Wednesday April 8, 2037, please G-D.

In his seventh lecture, the R"an explains the role of majority rule and the degree that the Torah empowers our sages to apply this rule to determine Torah practice. It is recommended reading.

In his third lecture, the R"an concludes that their determining the date of creation determines the planned period of the redemption, apparently regardless of when it was initially planned by Heaven. How about that!

Then again, it's just a plan. And since that we all have free will, things don't always occur according to plan.

So although Nisan is about six months away, I'd still keep some bags packed, for we continually anticipate the arrival of Moshiach (Maimonides' commentary on the Mishnah, 10th chapter of Sanhedrin.)


1:1 In the beginning, G-D created the heaven and the Earth.

Nouns in the English language are typically in the plural tense when they end with the letter s. Nouns in the Hebrew language are typically in the plural tense when they end with the letters yud and mem.

The Hebrew in the above verse for the word G-D is E - l - o - him and this word ends with the letters yud and mem.

The Talmud records that distorters used this to justify their departure into some form of polytheism.

Their logic is absurd because the laws of grammar are not absolute and have many exceptions. Grammar can therefore not be used to discount an openly stated principle in the Torah, which is that G-D is One (Deuteronomy 6:4).

However, we should be able to consider a lesson that can be derived from this grammar and how G-D relates to us, as long as it is consistent with that which is openly stated in the Torah.

The following came to mind.

A person can be both one and many. That is, a person is a single individual so he/she is one. A person interacts with many other people and the interactions can all be different because the people that he/she interact with are different. A person can thus become many people.

For example, a man can have a wife and seven children. He interacts as a husband with his wife, not as a father. Since his children are all different, he needs to tailor his behavior as a father in seven ways. So in one sense he has seven different behaviors as a father and is thus seven fathers. But he is really just one person (and dad is usually reminded of this each year when he gets one tie for his birthday and not eight and as he files a single tax form, not eight).

We find many references that the word E - l - o - him suggests a single entity that customizes his/its interaction according to differing recipients or individuals.

The Tanchuma in Numbers 18 references Yehoshua (Joshua) as a person who has the "spirit of E - l - o - him" because he was able to know how to deal with each and every person.

The Medrash in Exodus (5) notes that when G-D spoke to the Jewish people on Mount Sinai and said, "I am Hashem your G-D," that each and every person who stood there felt that G-D was speaking directly and individually at him. The grammar for this phrase is a follows: "I" (singular tense) - "am Hashem" - "your" (singular tense) "G-D" (plural).

So G-D is one but awareness of Him has the same number as there are people in the world.

Elsewhere in the literature, the word E - l - o - him suggests the Divine attribute of law and judgment. The Torah even uses this word to reference human judges in a courtroom (Exodus 22:8).

To me, this suggests that on our Days of Judgment, G-D will show understanding and take into account the unique opportunities and hurdles that each and every one of us had during our lifetime.


1:1 In the beginning, G-d created the heaven and the Earth.

Rashi introduces the Torah with the following fascinating commentary:

Rabbi Yitzchak said, "G-d needed only to begin the Torah with the verse, 'This month (of Nisan) shall be for you the head [i.e. first] of all months" (Exodus 12:2), for this was the very first commandment that the Jewish people were charged with. Why then did He open (the Torah) with 'In the beginning (G-d created the heaven and the Earth)?' This is because of the verse, "He informed His nation the power of his acts in order to give them the estate of nations (Psalms 111:6)." In case the nations of the world call the Jewish people thieves for conquering the lands of the seven nations (of Cannan), the Jewish people will (now be able to) respond that all of the Earth belongs to G-d. He created it and gave it to whoever was proper in His eyes. He intentionally gave (the land) to them and He intentionally took it from them and gave it to us.

Rashi in Tehilim (Psalms) 111:6 offers the following variation:

The Medrash Tanchuma says that (G-D) wrote the story of Creation for the Jewish people to let them know that the earth is His and it is in His power to make settle (in the land of Israel) whoever He wants and to uproot one people and make another people settle (there). This is so that the nations should not be able to tell the Jewish people that they were thieves for conquering the lands of the seven nations.

I pose the following question. Suppose person 'A' gave person 'B' a present. Then, suppose person 'A' wants person 'C' to have that gift.. What is his recourse? You will answer that he must ask person 'B' to give the present to 'C'. And if 'B' does not agree then both 'A' and 'C' are out of luck. Now, suppose the giver tells 'C' to grab the present from 'B'. Would you not call this an act of theft? Should 'C' listen to 'A', would he not be labeled a thief? Of course he would be a thief!

Now, Rashi in Genesis says that G-D gave the land to the seven Cannaanite nations. Rashi in Tehilim says that the nations will not be able to label the conquering Jewish people as thieves. Why? If G-D gave the seven nation the land then it fully belonged to them and not to G-D. Assuming that the seven nations did not want to give up their land, how could G-D ask the Jewish people to conquer it? How can the story of Creation be used as a defense for the Jewish people against the accusation of theft?

In truth, the best defense is that the source of every outcome, military and otherwise, is none other than G-D Himself who actively manages the affairs of Mankind. It was G-D who charged the Jewish people to conquer the land and it was G-D who made their campaign successful. As Rashi says, it was in "His power to make settle (in the land of Israel) whoever He wants and to uproot one people and make another people settle (there)."

If G-D would need to justify to humanity His right to decide where people lived then beginning the Torah with the story of Creation would be beneficial. However, I do not believe that G-D needs to justify anything. He is the King and His will is supreme.

So rather than focus on G-D's role as Creator, perhaps we should focus on His role as Manager.

The primary story in the Torah that illustrates G-D's role as a Manager is that of the Exodus. Given the importance of shielding the Jewish people from unjust criticism, I would think that a very good place to begin the Torah is right before the Exodus, where G-D gives the Jewish people their first commandment. The Torah could then flash back to the story of G-D's extraction of the Jewish people from their Egyptian exile to demonstrate His active management. However, this is precisely where Rabbi Yitzchak says that the Torah should not begin because this would not help the Jewish people in their defense.

How are we to understand Rashi?

The following came to mind.

Let's go back and analyze what happened between our Mr. A and B. 'A' initially owned an object, the gift. He obtained ownership by doing an act of acquisition, such as by picking up the object after paying for it. When 'B' became the new owner, he also made an act of acquisition, such as by taking it from 'A's hand. When A handed over the gift, he made B an owner in the same manner that he himself became an owner, as an acquirer. Since B was equally as capable as A to become an owner through acquisition, when A gave him the object it was a full transfer of ownership and 'A' no longer owned it. That is, the transfer of ownership of 'A' to 'B' undid the ownership of 'A'.

Now let's analyze what happened when G-D gave the land to the Canaanite nations.

G-D's ownership of the land came from His creating the land from nothing, not through any an act of acquisition. Prior to creation there was nothing to acquire and after creation it already G-D's. Since G-D was owner through creation, the only way another being could obtain ownership on the same level as G-D's would be through their own act of creation, which is impossible since the land was already created, not to mention the fact that there is no other being that can create something out of pure nothing.

So, while the Canaanite nations lived in the land, their ownership was at best relative to other humans, but not with respect to G-D. They could not undo G'D's ownership because they could not become an owner to the degree that G-D was able to, which is that of a Creator. Their ownership was relative, not absolute. Their ownership was dependent on G-D's will. As they were dependent on G-D's will, when their conduct disqualified them from living in the Holy Land, G-D exercised His right as absolute owner of the land to charge the Jewish people to drive them out.

The 'A' 'B' and 'C' analogy is no longer applicable because G-D, in His role as the giver 'A', never lost ownership of the article. So He was still able to give it to 'C', or to ask 'C' to take it from 'B'.

So we can now understand Rashi.

Now that G-D's role as Creator is openly documented in the Torah, we can see that His direction of conquest dissolved the Cannaanite's ownership. While G-D's role as manager enabled the Jewish people to succeed in their conquest, it was His role as Creator that legitimized the Jewish people's claim of ownership to the land.


1:1 In the beginning, G-d created the heaven and the Earth.

Rashi introduces the Torah with the following fascinating commentary:

Rabbi Yitzchak said, 'G-d had only a need to begin the Torah with the verse, 'This month shall be for you the head of all months (Exodus 12:2), for this was the very first commandment that the Jewish people were commanded. Why then did the Torah commence with 'In the beginning (G-d created the heaven and the Earth)?' This is because of the verse, 'He informed His nation the power of his acts in order to give them the estate of nations (Psalms 111:6).' That is, in case the nations of the world condemn the Jewish people and call them thieves for conquering the lands of the seven nations (of Cannan), the Jewish people will (now be able to) respond that all of the Earth belongs to G-d. He created it and gave (property) to whoever was proper in His eyes. He willfully gave (the land) to them and He willfully took it from them and gave it to us.

There are many aspects to this fascinating commentary. Let's focus on the question.

Apparently the message of the verse in Exodus is of such significance that it can dominate the account of how the entire world was created. How do we understand the need to begin the Torah with this verse?

The following came to mind.

Genesis is an account of how the physical world was created. Exodus is an account of the creation of the Jewish people, a nation that pledged its subservience to do the will of G-d, a nation that accepted upon itself the responsibility of keeping six-hundred-thirteen commandments, a nation that formally committed itself to spirituality.

We see the significance of spirituality over physicality from the very next Torah portion, Noach, when G-d destroys a civilization committed to physicality and corruption. Save for a boat-full of people, Mankind was destroyed together with its physical environment.

One cannot emphasize enough the significance of spirituality over physicality. Beginning the Torah with the formation of the Jewish nation would bring the point home even more.

Furthermore, the creation of the Jewish nation occurred only with G-d's subtle but powerful management of the highly complex and interdependent courses of human events, on global, communal, and individual levels. Given that G-d gives every person the ability to behave in a manner that is contrary to G-d's will, the formation of Nation of G-d appears to me to be far a more astonishing feat than the creation of the physical world, an existence that is completely subservient to G-d's will. It is therefore quite fitting to begin the Torah with the first commandment that the Jewish people were given, that of declaring the new month.

In and of itself, the physical world is meaningless to G-d. Without a humanity that chooses to follow His will and earn their eternal destiny, the physical world gives G-d no reason to commit to its existence.

The creation of the physical world was a temporal event. The creation of the Jewish nation some thirty-three centuries ago was an act of eternity.


1:1 In the beginning, G-D created the heaven and the earth.

1:2 And the earth was empty and void, and darkness was upon the deep, and a spirit of G-D hovered above the waters.

Scientist / Evolutionists claim that they have evidence against the Biblical version of the origin of life and the universe.

According to the Bible, they claim, the world is no more than a few thousands years old.

They provide mountains of evidence to the contrary.

Fossils and old bones indicate a much longer history for living beings. Stalactites and stalagmites take tens of thousands of years to form. The light of a star can take billions of years to reach us.

Don't let them fool you.

Their facts can be true but so can the Bible. Their disproof is based upon the way they want their listeners to understand the Bible. Their interpretation is based on ignorance and/or bias.

From a cursory reading, it is clear that its Author had no intentions of providing a comprehensive account of creation, the world, or of human civilization. Although the Bible contains history, it is clear that the Bible is not a history book. Rather, the Bible provides a selection of events, a very narrow cross-section of reality. It is for us to study the Bible within the guidelines of tradition to derive instruction on how to live.

The first verse states: "In the beginning, G-D created the heaven and the earth."

The second verse states: "And the earth was empty and void, and darkness was upon the deep, and a spirit of G-D hovered above the waters."

We have no proof that the events described in the second verse occurred within the same day or time-frame as the observation in the first verse. Between these two verses, it is quite possible that a huge time-span transpired, together with many attempts at establishing a civilization that would accept the Torah in the manner that we did.

It is remarkable that the Targum Yonosan Ben Uziel provides the following reading for 'empty and void:' Empty of people and void of any animal.' One can undestand this to suggest that lower forms of life, such as micro-organizisms, were present, as a carry-over from prior version(s) of one (or more) attempts to make a Torah-based people.

Of course, in no way does this imply that lower forms of life were always present. There was indeed an event of 'Creation' that G-D evoked, before which there was nothing but Him.

The Bible speaks about seven days for creation. We have no proof that the events of creation occurred at the same pace as those of today, especially for events that transpired before Adam.

Don't let the Evolutionists become your Bible teachers. Don't be afraid of their dinosaurs.


1:8 And G-D called the expanse "Heaven." And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

The verses for every other day of creation contain the word 'good' except for the second. The Medrash says that this is because G-D split the waters on the second day and the Torah did not want to associate goodness with separation and disunity.

The Medrash further says that the earthly waters cried to G-D over the disconnection with heaven. G-D offered an appeasement by declaring that the Jewish people will use the water in the Temple during the Succa holiday's libation ceremony. The seawaters were still not appeased because this would only occur annually. Thereupon, G-D declared an everlasting Covenant of Salt (Leviticus 2:13), requiring all temple offerings to be salted.

The Be'er Yosef observes that it would be two-thousand-forty-nine years from creation before there would be a Jewish people with a temple. Furthermore, the libations and Covenant of Salt were functional for only thirteen-hundred-ten years before the second temple was destroyed.

From this he notes the significance of having a role in G-D's commandments, for despite the long wait and temporal involvement, the earthly waters were appeased.

He then proposes that we use this understand the following teaching: "If one never saw the celebration of the libation then he never saw a celebration in his lifetime." (Succa 51a).

The libation ceremony reminded them of great significance of the commandments that we are privileged to have and perform. The joy during the libation was so intense that the celebrants barely slept during the entire seven-day holiday.


1:11 And G-D said, "Let the earth sprout vegetation … trees of fruit that produce fruit …"

1:12 And the earth brought forth … trees that produce fruit…

Rashi cites a Medrash that highlights the discrepancy between what G-D expected the earth to produce and what the earth actually produced.

The expression "trees of fruit that produce fruit" in verse eleven appears to have redundancy, for any that tree produces fruit is a tree of fruit. The Medrash explains that it was G-D's expectation for the wood of all trees to provide a taste of the fruit that grows on them.

Rashi closes by saying that the earth was punished for not meeting this expectation when Adam and Chava (Eve) were punished.

The Chamudei Tzvi commentary asks why Rashi linked the timing of the earth's punishment together with what was decreed upon Adam.

He explains as follows.

There are those who say that while the wood of fruit trees does not reflect the taste their fruit, the forbidden tree of knowledge was an exception and its wood did indeed reflect the taste of its fruit.

The Torah describes Chava's behavior as follows:

2:6 And the woman saw that the tree was good for eating … and she took of its fruit and ate …

It says that the tree was good, not just its fruit.

During her encounter with the tree of knowledge, the snake enticed her to just taste the wood, which she did.

Wood had never tasted so good. Not realizing that this was a novel exception, she reasoned that if it's wood was so luscious, how much more so was its fruit.

This enflamed the temptation and she succumbed.

As this was caused by the earth's decision, it was punished together with Adam and Chava.

There are numerous references in our literature that ascribe intelligence and capability to celestial bodies.

They may very well point to entities in a non-physical hierarchy of governance that were created and that are managed by G-D.


1:14 And G-D said, "Let there be luminaries in the firmament of the heaven to separate between the day and between the night. And they will be for signs and for holidays and for days and for years."

The Medrash (Mishlei 9:2) states that all of the Jewish holidays will eventually cease, with the exception of Purim. Rabbi Elazar says that there will always be a Yom Kippur.

This is very puzzling because the Torah's laws are the standard for reality. The Torah is everlasting and unchangeable.

We know that the Medrash was written to be not always taken literally and perhaps this is no exception.

I entertained the following notion on the possibility that it was indeed meant to be taken literally.

While the Torah itself is everlasting, there will be times when we will not be able to put the Torah's laws into practice, such as during the afterlife when are in a spiritual state and without a body.

But the above exception of Rabbi Elazar can be take to indicate that we are speaking about a time when we will still be held responsible for Torah practice, for what else would we need a Day of Atonement for?

Now, Yom Kippur occurs on the tenth day of the Jewish month of Tishrei. It can sometimes occur on a Shabbos.

We know that both Yom Kippur and Shabbos share the same set of forbidden manners of work. Normally, one who lights a fire on such a day would be held accountable for two transgressions. Rabbi Akiva states that there would be only one transgression (Chulin 102b).

The Talmud says that he was speaking about a particular Yom Kippur when the Jewish people were persecuted and forced to suspend Yom Kippur observance.

The Ritva commentary provides the following explanation.

The Jewish Supreme Court (Sanhedrin) was given the responsibility and authority to declare each month. The sages of that time decided that the Torah expected them to avoid a dangerous confrontation with the hostile government by simply not declaring that month to be Tishrei.

There was simply no formal Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, or Succos that year!

But to strengthen the people during this precarious period the sages charged the Jewish people to celebrate Yom Kippur on a Shabbos that was adjacent to the tenth of Tishrei. This is how it was possible to be only one transgression.

So the ogres of that government got their jollies by seeing the Jewish people not celebrate Yom Kippur on what would have been the tenth of Tishrei.

And G-D gave the Jewish people the wisdom and ability to work around the problem in a way that made this evil decree meaningless, thereby demonstrating that we are not controlled by time but that we can even control time. Our enemies faded into oblivion and we survived to talk about it (again).

With the exception of the above, the Jewish Supreme Court would sit in session every month to receive testimony from people who saw the new moon, a small crescent in the sky which heralded the new month.

This was practiced until after the destruction of the second temple. When our sages foresaw that we would no longer be able to have a Supreme Court they sat in session to declare every new month and holiday throughout the rest of Jewish history until the Messianic Era.

The Rambam teaches that our ability to keep all of the Torah laws will be restored during this great era (Kings 11a).

I take this to mean that we will again be on the look-out for the new moon each month and those who are fortunate to see it will have the privilege of testifying before the Sanhedrin who will sit in their great chamber on the Temple Mount. And the head of the court arise and proclaim, "The month is sanctified, the month is sanctified."

Now, the prophets left us with fragmentary glimpses of a great future. Yeshiah (Isaiah) states, "The moon will be ashamed and the sun will be embarrassed when G-D of Tzevados reigns on Mount Zion and Jerusalem. And there shall be honor towards its elders (24:23).

Many understand this to foretell of the End of Days when an immense light will radiate from Jerusalem. The luminance will be so intense that the light of the sun and moon will cease to have any effect.

But what's going to happen to the faint crescent that we need to see in order to establish the new moon?

Logic tells me that it won't be there anymore.

Maybe this is how the holidays will come to cease.

And if this all happens on Purim then maybe it will stay Purim forever.

Imagine that!

Who knows?


1:16 And G-D made the two great light sources. The big light source for the rule of the day and the small light source for the rule of the night (together with) the stars.

The Talmud provides the following fascinating discussion for this verse in Chulin 60b:

Rabbi Shimon son of Pazi asked the following question. Initially it states that there were two great light sources, which implies that they were equal. Then the verse goes to describe one as being larger than the other, which appears to be a contradiction.

The answer is that they were initially created with the same size.

Subsequently, the moon came before G-D and presented the following comment, "Is it possible for two kings to share one crown? G-D replied to the moon that it should (therefore) reduce itself. Thereupon the moon responded, "Should I be reduced because I presented before You a proper comment?" G-D replied, "Go and rule by day and by night." The moon responded, "Of what use is a torch (i.e. my small light) during daylight?" G-D replied, "Let the Jewish people use you to count their days and years." The moon responded, "It's impossible to not designate the seasons with it (i.e. the sun)." G-D replied, "Let the righteous be called by your name, such as David the little (one), Shmuel (Samuel) the little (one). G-D saw that the moon was still in distress and thereupon declared, "Bring a sacrifice for me as an atonement for my reducing the moon."

How can we understand this astonishing give and take? The following came to mind.

From birth, a human being is naturally self-centered. His lifetime struggle is the acceptance of a will that is other than his own, which is that of G-D Himself. Perhaps these are the two kings that the moon was referencing.

Perhaps this came to mind when the moon saw it shared the same role as the sun and that both were of equal size. The moon had no problem with sharing the role of providing a light source in harmony with the sun. However, this differed with Mankind's objective relationship with G-D which is that of submission to His will and domination. Perhaps the moon felt uncomfortable with being party to providing an alternate model, especially since Mankind is the central focus and purpose of Creation.

The moon was concerned with Mankind's disadvantage and with the awesome perils of Mankind's failure.

Thereupon, G-D decreed that the moon should reduce itself. From now on, the moon would not generate any light of its own and would instead merely reflect the light of the sun. Perhaps this represents the successful human being who has managed to constrain and nullify his own will with respect to that of G-D's. By only reflecting the light of the sun, the moon would thereby become a role model for the righteous, whose behavior reflects only the will of G-D.

The moon was not comfortable with reducing itself. Perhaps it was concerned that this role model was too subtle to be of significant benefit to Mankind. It wanted to be of more help to Mankind.

Thereupon G-D increased its role and declared that it should rule by day and by night. In contrast to the sun that always sets and becomes lost in the horizon by nightfall, the moon's absence by day will appear to be largely due to its being blocked by daylight, suggesting that it never really disappears. So too, the righteous are destined to live in two worlds, the world that we live in today and the world-to-come. In contrast, the wicked will survive only through one world, that of today.

The moon responded that the torch is of little benefit during daylight. This brings to mind that the greatness that is in store for the righteous in the world-to-come is not obvious to us today and is therefore of limited benefit to motivate a Mankind that struggles with the domination of its relatively transparent spirituality over its own visible physicality.

Thereupon, G-D said, "Let the Jewish people use you to count their days and years." Perhaps this is a reference to one of the roles that the Jewish people have, which is to provide a role-model for the rest Mankind.

Perhaps the link to the lunar calendar of the Jewish people represents a very visible way that G-D will communicate with Mankind, which is through the Jewish people and their history, which is affected by their compliance with the Torah, G-D's will that was commanded through Moshe (Moses) from Mount Sinai.

The moon responded, "It's impossible to not designate the seasons with it (i.e. the sun)."

The Jewish calendar is linked to both the lunar and the solar cycles, as we are commanded to make the season of Passover occur during the spring.

If the moon represented an approach for spiritual progress then the sun represented the reverse.

The Jewish people are human beings, not angels. While we have made much progress in spirituality, our ties to physicality have been a source for some failings and downfalls. This has limited the benefits that we were able to provide for the rest of Mankind, who have not fared any better.

G-D replied, "Let the righteous be called by your name, such as David the little (one), Shmuel (Samuel) the little (one).

While all of us are not perfect all of the time, we have chosen righteous people for role models reflecting an inner goal towards goodness and greatness. Also, the righteous among us can be of a more obvious benefit to the rest of Mankind.

G-D saw that the moon was still in distress and thereupon declared, "Bring a sacrifice for me as an atonement for my reducing the moon."

There comes a point at which we can no longer fathom the wisdom of G-D's plan for Mankind.


1:26 And G-D said, “Let us make man in our structure and likeness. And he shall rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the sky and animal life and the entire earth and over that which crawls upon the earth.”

To whom or what was G-D speaking to when He said, “Let us make man?”

Rashi says that G-D was speaking to His heavenly court. The Torah writes this to teach us courtesy and humility. No matter how capable and powerful one is, it is proper to include subordinates in a decision process.

Rabbi Moshe Bick of blessed memory notes that the Torah writes this only by the creation of man.

He also cites teachings of the Ari that these verses are not a simple narration. Rather, the letters and words of Creation are a source of existence and definition for all that was created.

Mankind’s supremacy is unique among all creations. This supremacy is both a gift and a source of great risk. If not controlled or if misapplied then it can cause self-destruction.

It was therefore crucial to associate humility and courtesy with the creation of mankind.


2:18 And Hashem-G-D said, "It is not good for man to be alone. I will make for him a helper against him."

The Torah describes Adam's wife as a helper against him. Rashi provides the following comment: "If he achieves then she will be a helper. If not then she will be against him in battle."

Some of us have heard of divorce-hell and others have unfortunately experienced it.

We know that Adam did not succeed and his wife caused his eventual death.

One could think that he would have been better off without her.

And this sounds like what he is saying in 3:12: And the Man said, "The Woman that You [G-D] gave (to be) with me, she gave me from the tree and I ate."

He appears to shift blame away from himself and implicates G-D.

Yet, despite the dire and painful consequences of his not achieving, the Torah portrayed him as an unmarried person who was living in a state that "is not good."

The Talmud even cites Adam as being ungrateful (Avodah Zara 5b).

It's easier to understand this if we don't blame spouses for our failures.

On another note, I recall seeing Adam being described as a great 'Chasid.' It was not recorded what he did in order to earn this title.

We do know that he remarried his wife after a separation of one-hundred-thirty years. I wonder if taking her back despite the catastrophe she caused had anything to do with it.


3:3 And of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden G-D said, "You shall not eat from it nor shall you touch it, lest you die."

3:4 And the snake said to the woman, "You will not die."

3:5 "For G-D knows that on the day you eat from it your eyes will open up and you will be like G-D, knowing good and bad."

Rashi provides the following commentary for 3:5:

"For G-D knows:" Every professional dislikes those who have the same profession. G-D ate from the tree and created the worlds.

"You will be like G-D:" Fashioners of worlds.

The beginning of Mankind's history as we know it begins with slander against G-D.

Mankind will soon generate falsifiers who misuse their gift of speech to con their fellows into adopting idolatry and alternate forms of worship.

The following verse provides insight into the period of history that many call, "The End of Days"

"Praise His nation, Oh nations (of the world) for He will avenge the blood of His servants, and He will return vengeance upon its oppressors, and He will atone (for) His people and land." (Deuteronomy 32:43)

Rashi provides the following commentary:

"Praise His nation, Oh nations (of the world):" The nations of the world will praise the Jewish people during this period. They will say, 'See the praise of this nation, for they cleaved to G-D throughout all of the travail that they went through and they did not forsake Him. They knew of His good and His praise.'

Rashi's final words suggest that in the end of days, not everyone will acknowledge the G-D is good to us. It seems to be saying that the test of Jewish history is to maintain our trust and relationship with G-D despite the climate of evil speech against G-D that we live in.

At times slander is redirected against us as representatives of G-D's will. Other times slander is used to cheat fellow Jews from their connection and relationship with G-D.


3:11 And He [G-D] said (to Adam), "Who told you that you are naked? Did you eat from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?"

3:12 And he [Adam] said (to G-D), "The woman that you gave to be with me, she gave from the tree and (so) I ate.

3:13 And G-D said to the woman, "What is this that you did?" And the woman said, "The snake deceived me and I ate."

3:16 "To the woman He said, "I will greatly increase your suffering and childbearing …"

3:17 And to Adam He said, "Because you listened to the voice of your wife …"

It is interesting to note that G-D asked Adam whether he ate from the tree, not why. Adam's reaction was to first explain why he ate from it, blaming his wife, and afterwards he said that he ate from the tree.

It is also interesting to note the difference between how G-D passed judgment on Adam and his wife.

G-D first told Adam why he is being punished and then G-D reads his sentence. Perhaps this was to tell Adam that he is responsible for his own fate, not his wife.

In contrast, G-D does not preface the woman's sentence with any blame towards her.

Perhaps this is a gentle reminder for how we are to speak to our wives.


4:3 And it was at the end of (a number of) days (that) Kayin (Cain) brought an offering to G-D (that was) from the produce of the ground.

4:4 And Hevel (Able), he also brought (an offering) from the firstlings of his flock and from their choicest. And G-D was pleased with Hevel and his offering.

4:5 And G-D was not pleased with Kayin and his offering. And Kayin became very upset and his countenance fell.

Apparently there was a qualitative difference between the offerings but it is not clear what it was.

And clearly, G-D's reaction was instructional. But what was the lesson we should be taking from it?

The Nesivos Shalom commentary suggests that the difference may lie in the way the offerings were described.

Kayin brought an offering from "the produce," not "his produce." In contrast, Hevel brought an offering from "his flock," not "the flock."

The specific sheep of Hevel's offering had significance to him. In contrast, while Kayin's overall offering may have been significant, he felt little connection to the individual items themselves.

Thus, Hevel's sheep came more from his self.

There may have been many virtues in Kayin's offering. They may have been expressions of his appreciation or gratitude.

Perhaps he missed the point or perhaps he was not ready at that point in his development to go more deeply into giving from his self.


3:6 And the woman perceived that the tree was good for eating and that it was a delight to the eyes and the tree was desirable as a means to wisdom …

The Mishna in Succos 45a continues a discussion of how the holiday of Succos was celebrated during the Temple era. It states that on the seventh day of Succos, adults grabbed the lulavs of children and ate their esrog fruits. Rashi writes that this was not theft. They made this a custom because of joy.

It is difficult to understand the reason of this custom.

Of all the holidays, Succos has the greatest intensity of joy. Who was joyous when the adults snatched away those lulavs and esrogs? It’s hard to say that it was the children. And if it was the adults then Rashi should have said that they did this out of joy, not because of joy (“Machmas” versus “Mitoch”).

The legal definition of ownership and the acts of acquisition are subtle concepts that are discussed elsewhere in the Talmud.

We have several layers of law. One is at the pure Torah level. Another is at the Rabbinic level, made by our sages to supplement or protect the primary Torah level.

On the level of Torah law, it appears there is a general assumption that minors do not have sufficient mental competence to make a transaction that has any legal significance. In practice, this does not mean that if a minor picks up an ownerless object then an adult can snatch it from him because the item is still ownerless. Rather, the minor’s ownership is protected and is enforced by Rabbinic ordinances that supplement the Torah-level coverage of acquisition.

Sanhedrin 69a references a verse in the Torah that discusses a minor who converted to Judaism and was robbed of an item that he owned. It clearly assumes that there is a Torah-level mechanism that gave him ownership, not a Rabbinic ordinance. Tosfos on 68b struggles to identify the mechanism of acquisition. One possibility is through inheritance from his adult Gentile father who had sufficient mental competence to acquire the item beforehand. Another possibility is through gifting by an adult.

Getting back to the Mishna in Succos 45a, it appears that the Rabbinic ordinances did not extend to the custom of snatching the lulavs and esrogs from the hands of children on the seventh day of Succos. It is very puzzling to understand how this custom found its way into the holiday of Succos and into Judaism. Don’t we love our kids?

The following came to mind during the first days of the holiday.

What makes a person happy? What makes joy? More important, what makes it endure?

In many common circles, happiness seems connected to having things.

Ask some people and they’ll say that they'd be happy if they had more money or a new car or a or a bottle of alcohol. Seen on a bumper sticker: “He who dies with the most toys wins.”

Has there ever been a civilization with so many people that have so much stuff? And yet, has there ever been a civilization with so many people, Jews and non-Jews alike, who are depressed despite the unprecedented affluence? How many people have we lost to suicide versus to the number of people we have lost to combat or crime or natural disaster?

We do love our children. But if showing love means stuffing them with candy and toys and amusements and fun and whatever they want and lulavs and esrogs then we’re not doing enough for them.

For if the only thing our kids know is that having things makes a person happy then it will only be the fortunate few that will have happy lives.

At best, having things only helps one get to happiness and true peace. But the way to achieve happiness and stay there is to realize, connect with, and appreciate who we are.

The Jewish people are G-D's children, and nobody can ever snatch that away. No matter what our detractors do to us, no matter how many things we have that they take away from us, we can and still rise above the losses and we can still experience intense joy.

The lulavs were snatched away "because" of joy, not "out of" joy. I submit that it was an opportunity to introduce to young children and work through with them the notion of a happiness that is not dependent upon having things. A happiness that can endure a lifetime no matter whatever which way the 'wheel of fortune' turns.

I'd like to add another benefit to the lulav snatching, having been blessed with a houseful of children and grand-children. The lulav resembles a sword and has a pointed tip. I imagine that grabbing the lulavs saved many an eye from potential trauma and surgery.

And the snatchers ate the esrog fruit too. I assume they did it right in front of the kid. Go try eating a raw esrog yourself and you'll realize that it's hard to imagine anything funnier.

Practice before you try this out. Start by eating a raw lemon and try to keep calm and straight face as you chew through the thin peel and down the tart juice nodules, spitting out peel and pits on the way. Now imagine a lemon that's almost all peel except for a small chamber inside that is stuffed with pits and juice nodules. That's the esrog that comes with a lulav. Now try it out on a real esrog without breaking any teeth.

And when it's all over, a secret of this fragrant fruit is revealed to the child as he stares a pile of peel and pits and realizes what was beneath its skin-deep visual splendor: Unlike succulent peaches, cherries, and the like, this fruit was not designed for pleasurable consumption. Rather, the esrog was designed for producing more esrogs.

How long does it take our children today to realize that we were put here to not merely consume and have pleasure, but also to produce? And how long does it take some parents to get there?

And perhaps this is what came to mind when the most gifted and beautiful of all women, also the first wife, beheld the fruit of the forbidden tree. For according to Rabbi Aba of Ako, that fruit was none other than the esrog (Medrash Raba 15:7).

… the tree was good for eating and that it was a delight to the eyes and the tree was desirable as a means to wisdom …

Marriage is not merely an opportunity to have personal pleasure. It is an opportunity to produce pleasure for others, to continue the great chain that began with Avraham and Sarah, to connect with the Creator and His Torah.


4:3 And it was after (some) days, in the fourteenth of Nisan, (that) Kayin (Cain) brought an offering of the first fruits from the produce of the land, from flax seed.

4:4 And Hevel (Able) also brought from the first of his flock, from the choicest (animals), and (this was) desirable before G-d and He expressed recognition towards Hevel and his offering.

4:5 And He (G-d) did not give (any) regard for Kayin and his offering. And Kayin became very angry and he lost his composure.

4:6 And G-d said to Kayin, 'Why are you angry and why have you lost your composure?'

4:7 'If only you would improve your deeds then your sin would be released. (However,) if you don't improve your deeds (in this world) then your sin will be preserved for the Great Day Of Judgment. Your sin will be poised at the opening of your heart. The domain of the evil inclination is in your hands and you are its focus of desire. You can win over it, for good and for evil.'

The above was translated per Targum Yonosan Ben Uziel)

Rashi in verse 3 refers to a tradition that the produce that Kayin brought was of low quality. This is in contrast to Hevel's offering, which consisted of the choicest of his flock.

Verse 7 states that Kayin did a sin. Furthermore, it says: 'You can win over it, for good and for evil.'

Now, a sin is an act of evil, a misdeed.

In Judaism there are three general classes of sin: unintentional, done intentionally but out of weakness, and an act of rebellion.

In what way was Kayin's offering a sin, or similar to a sin? What is the Torah trying to tell us?

The following came to mind.

We must struggle with our evil inclination on two fronts. It tries to get us to do evil. It also tries to keep us from doing good. Even when we decide to do good, it tries to reduce the quality of our actions.

Perhaps this is the message of the words, 'You can win over it, for good and for evil.' That is, one must deal with the evil inclination when presented with opportunities for doing good as well as evil.

The Hebrew word for an unintentional sin is a 'Chet.' This word is used elsewhere to imply something that is lacking or missing.

Kayin's offering was a good deed, but it could have been done in a better manner. As it lacked quality, it was referred to in terms of a 'Chet,' something lacking.

Just because a person does not sin, he/she can not afford to feel confident about his/her spiritual status. As stated in the book, 'Mesilas Yesharim,' one must constantly scrutinize his/her good deeds to see whether they could have been done in a better manner.


4:25 .. and she (Chava - Eve) gave birth to a son, and she called his name Shais (Seth) because [she said that] G-d gave (shas - Hebrew) me another child in place of Hevel (Able) 'because' (kee - Hebrew) Kayin (Cain) killed him.

Shais was born some one-hundred-thirty years after Hevel's death.

While it is understandable for Chava to name Shais after her lost child, why did she also mention Kayin's act of murder? Also, why did the Torah make a point of recording this association?

The following came to mind.

Note the quotation marks in 4:25 around the word 'because' and the original Hebrew for it, 'kee'.

The Talmud (Rosh Hashana 3) teaches that the Hebrew word 'kee' has four translations. They are: if/when, perhaps, rather, and because/for. The word 'kee' in this verse is popularly translated 'because'. Perhaps we can consider another translation for this word.

The Oral Torah tells us that Adam separated from Chava after she caused him to sin.

Lemech was a descendant of Kayin and a plea that he made to his wives is recorded in the Torah.

4:23-24 .. wives of Lemech listen to my speech, for I killed a man in my injury and a child in my wound. For (to) seven (generations) was vengeance taken (against) Kayin, and Lemech (should therefore be given a period of at least) seven times seven.

Our verse, 4:25 follows this speech. This all seems rather strange.

The Oral Torah explains 4:23-24 as follows.

The Torah (4:9) says that vengeance will be taken against Kayin after seven generations.

Lemech was Kayin's sixth generation. He was blind but he was a powerful hunter. His son, the seventh generation, went on an expedition with him. He told Lemech where and when to shoot. Kayin was in the field and the child mistook him for an animal. Lemech accidentally killed Kayin. When he realized the mistake, he struck his hands together in grief. In the process, he accidentally struck and killed his son.

Lemech's wives were filled with grief and horror. They feared that G-d's curse against Kayin would continue into their family. They separated from Lemech so as not to bring children with a cursed fate into the world. Lemech pleaded with them to return, but in vain.

As a last resort he summoned them to court. Adam was the judge.

Adam turned to Lemech's wives and told them that the bond of marriage had obligated them to be with Lemech. They had no right to abandon him, curses or not. We have no right to interfere with G-d's plans, especially at the expense of others.

In accepting the judgment, Lemech's wives turned to Adam and asked him why he had still abandoned Chava after one-hundred-thirty years. Adam didn't have a good answer. Instead, he took Chava back.

We now have a chain of events. Adam separated from Chava. Subsequently, Kayin killed Hevel and he was sentenced to death in seven generations. The circumstances surrounding Kayin's death in the seventh generation caused Adam and Chava to reconcile and they had a child.

Let us now consider translating verse 4:25 with another usage of the word, 'kee'

.. and she (Chava - Eve) gave birth to a son, and she called his name Shais (Seth) because [she said that] G-d gave (shas - Hebrew) me another child in place of Hevel (Able) 'WHEN' (kee - Hebrew) Kayin (Cain) killed him.

Chava brought calamity to Mankind. However, after a hundred-thirty years of remorse and repentance, Chava was now a person of great vision and sensitivity. As proof of her greatness, she was able to see this chain of events and she sought to praise G-d and His guiding hand in her personal and family history. Perhaps this is what the Torah is recording for us.


6:8 And Noach (Noah) found favor in G-D's eyes.

7:7 And Noach, his sons, his wife, and his son's wives came with him into the ark.

The Sefurno commentary (6:8) says that Noach would have been spared from the flood on the merit of his personal behavior. G-D's favor was only needed to spare his immediate family members.

This was because of the approach that Noach took to correct the society in which he lived. Instead of trying to repair the relationship his peers felt towards G-D, Noach appealed to their personal sensitivities for decent civil behavior.

I view this as another example of how G-D instructively responds to a person's behavior by reflecting it back, measure for measure.

Although not always obvious, G-D has a deep relationship with mankind, being very much interested and involved with our affairs.

Noach's approach may have been easier for him to implement but it did not reflect G-D's connection with the world. Therefore, without special favor from G-D, Noach's merits were not sufficient to spare those with whom Noach had a connection with in this world.

The Sefurno goes on to state that had Noach focused on G-D's relationship with mankind, this would have provided their only hope for repentance.

I understand this to mean that an appeal to a person's feelings of civil decency provides a weak basis for evoking corrective behavior because a person tends to take the easy way out. That is, instead of moving one to adjust his personal behavior, one would tend to adjust his standards for civility.


Noach (Genesis 6-11)

There's been a recent surge of interest in Bible codes.

We have also been taught that the letters of the Torah convey meanings on their own.

Perhaps we can uncover a few.

6:8 'And Noach (Noah) found favor in the Eyes of G-d.' (end of Genesis.)

Noach's name consists of two Hebrew letters, Nun and Ches.

The Hebrew word for favor is Chen. It is spelled Ches and Nun (reverse of Noach)

If we begin with the second letter in this verse, we have Nun-Ches (Noah), the word Matza (found) and the letters Ches-Nun, the letters of Noach in reverse.

Let's look at the word Matza, Hebrew for found.

This word consists of three letters, Mem, Tzadi, and Aleph.

Mem is close to Mayim, Hebrew for water. Tzadi is close to Tzadik, Hebrew for a righteous person, and Aleph is Aramaic for learning.

The Talmud (Bava Kama 17a) teaches that references to water in the scriptures can also refer to Torah.

We know that Noach studied Torah (Rashi 7:2).

It came to mind that this all may be conveying a special message.

Noach, Mem-Tzadi-Aleph and the reverse of Noach are perhaps hinting to what can happen when a Mayim-Tzadik-Aleph, a person studies Torah, the Will of G-d. He or she becomes righteous and transformed, even reversed, into becoming worthy of obtaining G-d's favor.


6:9 These are the generations of Noach (Noah). Noach was a righteous man. He was perfect in his generation. Noach walked with G-d.

6:13 And G-d said to Noach, 'The (decree to) end all flesh has come before me'

6:14 'Make for yourself an ark'

7:1 And G-d said to Noach, 'You and your household must (now) enter the ark, because I saw you as being righteous before me in this generation.'

It took Noach a hundred-twenty years to build the ark (Rashi 6:14).

When Noach was commanded to build the ark, he was not told that he was righteous, even though it was true at that time (verse 6:9). Why did G-d tell him this after it was built and not before?

As of this moment, I don't recall any other place in the Torah where G-d told someone that he was righteous. A person never knows how Heaven views him until he passes away.

Why did G-d tell Noach that he was righteous at all?

The following came to mind.

The Talmud (Kidushin 40) teaches that it is very beneficial for a person to always view himself as though he has equal amounts of merits and sins, with his eternal fate at stake. If his next deed is positive then he will enter heaven and the reverse, if G-d forbid the next deed is a sin. With such a perspective, a person will always be inclined to do only good.

Perhaps this is why G-d did not initially let Noach know about his status. It served to guarantee that Noach would retain his righteousness, especially during the difficult period when he built the ark, a time when he was the subject of public ridicule.

During those one-hundred-twenty years, Noach needed to persuade the people of his generation to repent. G-d told him that they were wicked. Perhaps, had his righteousness been verified by G-d at that time then the confirmed spiritual gap may have affected his actions or speech.

When the time of destruction came, Noach was reluctant to enter the ark (Rashi 7:7). Perhaps this knowledge helped him make the difficult physical separation from society.

Only Noach was told of his righteousness. As far as he knew, he was the only cause for there being a subsequent civilization. This focused a great deal of responsibility on him, which was very much needed at this critical time.

Perhaps the tragedy and responsibility were so great that this knowledge served to console Noach.


6:11 And the earth was ruined before G-D and the earth was filled with robbery.

6:12 And G-D looked at the earth and behold it was ruined, for all flesh had destroyed its ways on the earth.

6:13 And G-D said to Noach (Noah), "The end of all flesh has come before Me because the earth is filled with robbery because of them and I shall destroy them with the earth."

Our sages explain that the ruination refers to incest. It so was rampant and the ways that people did it were so shocking that their behavior distorted nature and corrupted the mating preferences of animals, beasts, and birds.

Robbery was also out of control and our tradition provides the following example of life in those days. A person would be carrying a basket of small legumes and people would snatch away his food in small amounts, just below the threshold for which he would be able to make a claim against them in court.

Our sages also teach us that the Divine decree against mankind was sealed because of robbery.

We note in 6:13 that G-D only mentioned robbery to Noach. Perhaps this is because robbery was the decisive factor and G-D wished to minimize ill-speech against mankind, even though the incest was well-known.

The commentaries note that incest is a cardinal sin and that robbery is relatively less serious. Why then was their fate sealed because of a sin that was relatively less significant than incest?

The following came to mind.

Society consists of a broad spectrum of people. When there is some degree of unity and mutual respect within society, then there is always hope that society can improve, as those who possess strengths can have a positive effect on those who have weaknesses. However, this becomes unlikely in a climate of robbery, when strife and distrust are rampant.


6:14 (G-d said to Noach - Noah, ) 'Make for yourself an ark of gofer wood ..'

The Targum Yonasan Ben Uziel translates gofer wood as Kadronian wood.

8:4 On the seventeenth day of the seventh day (of the flood,) the ark came to rest on (one of the) mountains of Ararat.

The Targum Yonosan Ben Uziel translates Arrat as Kadron. That's similar to where the wood came from. Perhap it's the same place.

The following came to mind.

The ordeal which Noach and his family had just been through was caused by a civilization that had been morally and spiritually lost.

Noach did not want this to happen again. He was actually hesitant to repopulate the world and this is why G-d made the Rainbow Covenant with him (Rashi 9:9).

Perhaps G-d selected this landing site in order to raise Noach's hopes for the future of Mankind.

Despite months of being bounced in turbulent waters, G-d guided the ark in such a way as to make it come to rest in the region of its source.

Just as G-d guided the ark back to its source, He will also guide all of Mankind back to its moral and spiritual source.

Daily, we await and pray for this glorious era.


6:15 And this is how you shall make it: The length of the ark shall be 300 cubits, its width 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits.

The Malbim commentary suggests that we view three numbers as four pairs of these products, as follows:

300 = (6 x 50);
50 = (5 x 10);
30 = (10 x 1) plus (5 x 4).

The numbers in these pairs correspond to the numerical values of these letters in the Hebrew alphabet:

1 = Aleph
4 = Daled
5 = Heh
6 = Vav
10 = Yud
50 = Nun

If we substitute the numbers in these four pairs with their corresponding Hebrew letters, then we see that the first numbers in each pair are the letters of the Name of G-D as it is spelled in the Torah (Yud – H..) and the second numbers are the letters of that Name as we pronounce it (Aleph - D..).

Noach (Noah) lived in an ark whose dimensions reflected two names of G-D.

Perhaps this served to remind him that G-D was with him during his ordeal.

The following also came to mind.

The A – D name contains the Hebrew word 'adon,' which means master / manager. It represents G-D's role and power to manage everything.

The Y – H name contains the same letters as the Hebrew word 'havaya,' which means existence. It represents G-D's role as the creator and sustainer of everything that exists.

It was a frightening time for Noach and his family, rolling with the wild waves, hearing the relentless pounding of thunderous rain, and seeing violent flashes of lightening. Holding onto survival n a world that seemed out of control, the reference to G-D's name of Mastery may have served to remind him that G-D was still calling the shots and his voyage was in His strong and full control, as always.

Have courage, Noach. Don't give up.

It was also an exceedingly sad time for him, as the world he lived in and much of his earthly possessions were destroyed. His home, farm, and community were gone forever. In a time when he had no idea what the future would bring, the reference to G-D's nameof Existence may have served to remind him that just like G-D created the world from nothing, so will He create a new life for Noach when the ordeal is over.

Keep your faith, Noach. Don't lose hope. Don't give up.


6:21 And now take for yourself from every type of food that can be eaten and gather it to your. And it shall be for you and for them [the animals] to eat.

A person must feed his animals before he feeds himself (Talmud Berachos 40a). The Be'er Yosef commentary notes that this verse suggests the reverse because it lists people before animals.

He answers by using the Yad Ephraim's rationale for this law.

A righteous person makes G-D's will a central factor in his life and a wicked person puts his will before G-D's.

Measure for measure, G-D manages the world around the will and needs of the righteous person. And until a wicked person repents he is on the peripheral.

A righteous person needs to eat so providing his food becomes a focus in heaven. If he needs or desires to eat meat then G-D ensures that animals are available. Since animals need to be raised and delivered to them for consumption, G-D needs to have people to run farms and distribute food products.

So it is possible for G-D to need some non-righteous people to take care of animals because these animals are needed for some righteous people.

Therefore if we are to assign an order to feeding living beings, the righteous should be fed first, then the animals, and then the non-righteous.

To remind ourselves that we should not take it for granted that we are among the righteous we therefore assumed the practice of feeding our animals before feeding ourselves.

In 7:1 G-D will tell Noach that he was singled out to be saved for his righteousness. To be consistent with this fact it is therefore appropriate for Noach's food to be listed first.

The Be'er Yosef offers a second explanation.

Noach had the exhausting responsibility of keeping up with the round-the-clock feeding schedule of every type of animal that is in creation. Any time that he took some nourishment for himself he was eating both before the animals he was about to feed and he was also eating after the animals he had just fed.

So perhaps G-D was telling him of this responsibility by listing his food before that of the animals.


6:22 And Noach did all that G-d commanded him, he did so.

Rashi says that this verse refers to Noach's the building the Ark.

Prior to this verse, G-d commanded him to build the Ark, to enter it, and to bring animals and food into the Ark

In the next chapter, when the flood was about to occur, G-d commanded Noach to enter the Ark and to take the animals inside.

7:5 And Noach did all that G-d commanded him to do.

Rashi says that this refers to his entering the Ark. We note that the phrase, 'he did so,' is not in this verse, as it is in the previous verse. Why?

7:7 And Noach, his sons, his wife, and the wives of his sons went into the ark with him because of the flood waters.

It does not say that he entered the Ark because G-d commanded him to do so.

Rashi provides the following commentary :

"… (And Noach … went into the ark …) because of the flood waters." Even Noach was among those with undersized faith ("emunah"). He (both) believed and didn't believe that the flood would happen. He (therefore) did not enter the ark until he was forced to do so by the flood waters.

Yet, verse 7:5 appears to be praising Noach for entering the Ark. How do we understand this?

7:9 Two, two (of each species of animals) came to Noach into the ark, male and female, just as G-d commanded Noach.

Here, it does not say that Noach did that which G-d commanded him. Rather, it says that it happened like G-d commanded. Why?

The following came to mind.

Although G-d gives us free will to choose how to act, what a person winds up doing and what a person accomplishes is up to G-d. That is, a person may choose to do good, try to do something to accomplish it, but G-d may stop him. In this case, G-d will give the person credit for having done the good act. Conversely, a person may choose to not do good but G-d may force him to do it anyway. In this case, the person may get minimal credit for doing the good act, if at all.

Man has many thoughts, but (only that which decreed by) council of G-d is what stands. (Proverbs 19:12)

Verse 6:22 has the extra phrase at the end, 'he did so.' Noach was commanded to build the Ark, he choose to build it, and he got full credit for doing so.

Verse 7:5 does not have this extra phrase. It just says that Noach did that which G-d commanded him to do. Since he hesitated, he had to be forced to go inside and he wound up doing that which G-d commanded him to do anyway. Perhaps this is why the extra phrase is missing.

Even after toiling for one-hundred-twenty years to build a huge ark as an object lesson to Mankind, when push came to shove, Noach could not fully accept that an all-merciful G-d could bring Himself to destroy the world. This is how we can understand his hesitation.

If Noach didn't enter the ark, one can assume that he didn't bring the animals inside, either. Perhaps this is why verse 7:9 tells us what happened, not that Noach did it. This is, in fact what Rashi says on this verse:

.. (the animals) came to Noach: - By themselves.

Due to Noach's hesitation, the ark had no people or animals inside. G-d then used the flood waters to force Noach inside. Noach was then unable to go around and gather the animals. So, G-d made the animals come inside by themselves, without Noach's assistance.

Man has many thoughts, but (only that which decreed by) council of G-d is what stands. (Proverbs 19:12)

Questions are fine, but one can't afford to let them get in the way of performing G-d's commandment.


7:1 And G-D said to Noach, "Go into the ark, you and your household, for I see you as being righteous in this generation."

7:7 And Noach, his sons, his wife, and the wives of his sons went into the ark with him because of the flood waters.

Rashi provides the following commentary :

"… (And Noach … went into the ark …) because of the flood waters." Even Noach was among those with undersized faith ("emunah"). He (both) believed and didn't believe that the flood would happen. He (therefore) did not enter the ark until he was forced to do so by the flood waters.

It is remarkable that he and his family had previously invested much time and resources in building the colossal ark and they were publicly scorned and ridiculed for doing so. Yet, he hesitated when G-D commanded him to enter the ark.

It appears to me that Noach was able to justify the personal and emotional expense if the ark was just used as a monument or vehicle of protest against the decadence of his generation. However, he could not come to terms with the benevolent Creator destroying the world because of misbehavior.

In contrast, we find in chapter twenty-two that Avraham (Abraham) did not understand G-D's commandment to bring up his only son on the altar. Yet he did so without hesitation.

One of life's many tasks and tests is to learn how to manage uncertainty and doubt.


7:2 From all the animals that are clear (ritually permissible to eat) take for yourself seven – seven, man and its wife. And from the animals that are not clear (take) two, man and its wife.

The choice of words that the Torah uses for male and female animals is very unusual. We would expect the Torah to say that Noach should take males animals with their mates, not men and their wives.

The Marsha says that the expression of marriage for animals means that they did not crossbreed (Sanhedrin 108b).

The following additional thought came to mind.

The Rambam says that in general, a person’s character traits should be moderate, not tending towards an extreme. (Madah – Daos 2) For example, one should not be stingy; neither should one be a spend-thrift.

A person with a nature that tends towards one extreme can correct the imbalance by behaving for a limited time towards the opposite extreme. Over time this will bring him towards moderation, to the middle.

The Bais Halevi teaches that positive human behavior raises the quality of the entire creation and negative behavior corrupts it.

Rashi on 6:12 tells us that the immorality of the people during those times was extreme and rampant. It affected the environment to the degree that animals began cross-breeding on their own.

The Talmud says that only the exceptional animals that were not tainted by misbehavior were permitted into the ark and were saved (Sanhedrin 108b).

The male and female relationship of human beings is on a much higher level than that of animals.

Perhaps the Torah’s reference of human relationships for the untainted animals reflects the Rambam’s teaching. It’s as if the animals were able to behave normally and remain untainted because they focused on behaving on a higher level.


7:7 And Noach, his sons, his wife, and the wives of his sons went into the ark with him because of the flood waters.

Rashi provides the following commentary :

"… (And Noach … went into the ark …) because of the flood waters." Even Noach was among those with undersized faith ("emunah"). He (both) believed and didn't believe that the flood would happen. He (therefore) did not enter the ark until he was forced to do so by the flood waters.

This appears to be based on the following Medrash.

Rav Yochanan said, "Noach was deficient in his faith ("emunah"). He would not have entered the ark had the water not reached his ankles" (Beraishis Rabah 32:9).

It seems strange to attribute Noach's hesitation to a deficiency in faith of G-D.

G-D spoke directly to Noach. He had just invested the past hundred years of his life building the ark. Money and effort appeared to be no object to him. And all during that time he wasn't fazed by the mockery and derision of his peers. Obviously, he was driven by his encounter with G-D and the charge G-D gave him to build the ark.

Such experiences must have generated a great deal of faith. If that faith drove him for such a long and difficult time to build the ark then how can we ascribe his hesitation to a flaw in his faith?

The following came to mind.

In the English language, the word faith is used for a belief that is not based on proof.

Faith is a poor translation for the Hebrew word "emunah."

Do you think that Noach lacked any proof that there would be a flood, especially after G-D appeared to him a second time, told him that the flood would begin in seven days, the rain began on schedule, and his feet were getting wet? Did he really the water to come up to his ankles before he scrambled into the ark?

A clue comes from a verse in Exodus that uses the same Hebrew word:

17:11 And it was when Moshe (Moses) raised his hand that Israel triumphed (in battle with the Amalekites) and when he rested his hand that Amalek triumphed (in the battle).

17:12 And Moses' hands were (getting) heavy. And they took a stone and placed it under him and he sat on it. And Aharon (Aaron) and Chur (Hur) supported his hands, from this one (side) and from that one (side). And his hands were steady ("emunim" - plural usage for "emunah") until sunset.

The Torah does not charge us to believe in G-D out of "faith." Rather we are charged base our belief in a decision that G-D's existence and management of our lives is a reality.

Emunah is all about being steady in this decision, despite our biases.

Noach really didn't want the flood to happen.

Rav Yerucham Levovitz of blessed memory said that had G-D been real enough to him then he wouldn't have needed to see and feel the rain to seek shelter inside the ark.

Noach is not alone in this shortcoming.

Let me put it differently: We're in good company.

You see, by design of the Great Designer we emerged some time ago into a world that compelled us to make decisions that are based on our five senses. We saw no G-D. We were the only "supreme" being in the world, not all those fuzzy objects that were lifting, wiping, feeding, and poking us.

The rest of life is all about learning and becoming aware of other realities, deciding that they are real despite our biases, and growth in becoming steady with these decisions, which is "emunah".

The Medrash provides a powerful insight into our fragility and frailty. If it happened to Noach then it could happen to some of the best of us.

When it's all over, we're judged in how much we grew and how much we tried.

We will succeed, with G-D's help.


7:7 And Noach, his sons, his wife, and the wives of his sons went into the ark with him because of the flood waters.

Rashi provides the following commentary :

"… (And Noach … went into the ark …) because of the flood waters." Even Noach was among those with undersized faith ("emunah"). He (both) believed and didn't believe that the flood would happen. He (therefore) did not enter the ark until he was forced to do so by the flood waters.

We know that Noach's had faith that the flood would happen because he spent one-hundred-twenty years of his life constructing the ark, during which time he withstood ridicule and threats.

The Be'er Yosef commentary explains that Noach was faulted for not obeying a direct commandment from G-D. He did not believe that the flood would happen because he knew that G-D's is merciful. He also counted on his peer's repentance.

This explains Rashi's statement that that Noach both believed and he didn't believe. Yet Rashi also states that he had undersized faith, which implies that he had something in-between, or partial faith. How do we understand this third state?

The following came to mind.

Perhaps Noach thought that he could stop the flood by not entering the ark. As G-D committed to spare his life, he thought that he could prevent G-D from making the flood so long as he was outside the ark.

Our verse states that Noach eventually entered the ark, but only because the flood waters forced him to do so.

I would not view Noach's entertaining the notion that he could force G-D's Hand as a demonstration of partial faith. Rather, it is more similar to an absence of faith in G-D's Omnipotence.

Perhaps we can take a cue from what we know about the recent Days of Judgment.

We are taught that Heavenly judgment utilizes the notion of a balance scale. If there are more merits then the outcome is favorable. An unfavorable judgment is decreed when there are more demerits.

We are also taught that the weights of merits and demerits are affected by both quantity and quality, or significance.

Therefore, as the outcome of Heavenly judgment depends upon a balance, a single merit can tip the scale.

Perhaps Noach's deficiency in faith was that he did not fully appreciate the significance of the merit that he could have generated by obeying G-D's commandment to enter the ark.

I truly believe that the knowledge of the significance of any of our meritorious acts would profoundly transform our lives.

Did you get this secret?


7:12 And the rain was on the land for forty days and forty nights.

7:17 And the flood (waters) were on the land for forty days …

Rashi notes that in 7:12 the Torah describes the water as rain and later in 7:17 as floodwater.

Rashi explains that the water had the potential to be either rainwater or floodwater, depending on how the people reacted. If they would have repented then G-D would have given the water the properties of rainwater and it would have brought blessing to the world.

Rashi does not say how many of the forty days would have been rainwater and how many would have been floodwater.

The Rinas Yitzchok commentary entertains the notion that all of that water could have been transformed into a blessing.

They did not repent and the water destroyed them.

We see that the people held out in their rebellion against G-D throughout the entire forty days.

We recently witnessed the havoc and damage that was caused by an extended period of rainfall.

It’s hard to imagine how the people of that generation could be so stubborn and wicked as to hold out in defiance for such a long time in the face of such destruction.

It’s also amazing to note that G-D held out so long for them to repent.


7:23 And He wiped out all existence that was on the surface of the earth, from man to creeping things, to the birds of the sky. And they were wiped off from the earth. Only Noach (Noah) and those that were with him in the ark remained.

The Medrash adds that Noach was not all there, either. This was because he was suffering from stress, as he was caring for the world's entire animal population.

It has been said that Heaven saw a need for Noach to undergo this experience.

The Rambam (Daos 2:2) says that while moderate behavior is usually ideal, there are times when a person needs to take an extreme. For example, a person who frequently loses his temper must force himself for a period of time to go to the other extreme and not let anything get him upset. Over time he will find the strength to bring himself to moderation and he will only show anger when appropriate.

Similarly, Noach lived in a generation of evil and self-centered people. They connived all day (6:5), they behaved in a destructive manner, and they filled the world with violent crime (6:11).

Noach was about to found a new civilization. To balance the effects that this former environment had on his personality, G-D saw a need for Noach to temporarily go to an extreme in showing care for other living beings.


7:15 And they [the animals] came to Noach (Noah) to the ark, two by two from all flesh that had the spirit of life within them.

7:21 And all flesh that moved on the earth perished (in the flood), including the birds, the animals, the beasts, and all creeping things that creep on the earth, and all (the) people.

7:22 Whomever had the soul of the spirit of life in his nostrils perished, from all those that were on dry land.

Verse 7:21 tells us what perished. It appears to be a list of every living being. The next verse appears to be adding something to the list. What is it adding?

The verse refers to beings that have a soul and whose souls are in their nostrils.

Only people have souls in their nostrils, as we see from the following verse:

2:7 And G-D formed man (from) dust of the ground. And He blew the soul of life into his nostrils …

However, it's difficult to say that verse 7:22 is adding man to the list because people are already listed in 7:21.

The author of the Aruch Le'Ner offers this explanation.

The Torah uses several terms to describe the creation process.

One is the word "made" and another is the word "created."

When it says that G-D made something, it refers to a finished product. When it says that G-D created something, it refers to an unfinished product.

Genesis verse 1:27 states that G-D created man. This teaches that it's up to us to refine and complete ourselves.

Breathing the soul of life into our nostrils is unique.

When we exhale, we breath out something that comes from within us. Similarly, the soul that G-D breathed into man is something great and holy, something that came from within G-D, so to speak.

But note that G-D didn't put our souls very deep inside us. He just placed them in our nostrils. It is up to us to internalize our souls into our bodies and lives. We must actualize the potential greatness that we have.

That is a good part of the finishing job that we are responsible for.

With this we can now understand what verse 7:22 is telling us.

"Whomever had the soul of the spirit of life in his nostrils perished." These refer to people whose souls were in exactly the same place where G-D installed it. They ignored their spiritual dimension and totally immersed themselves into physicality.

The Torah is telling us more than just who perished. It's also telling us why they perished.


7:23 And He wiped out all existence that was on the surface of the earth, from man to creeping things, to the birds of the sky. And they were wiped off from the earth. Only Noach (Noah) and those that were with him in the ark remained.

We know from the rules of analyzing the Torah's text that the word 'only' comes to exclude something. In this case, Rashi teaches that the burden of caring for an ark-full of animals made him sick. That is, Noach was not completely himself due to the stress.

The Ramban commentary points out that the ark was too small to contain every type of animal and its success was a miracle from G-D. G-D wanted the ark to be small to move the rest of mankind to repent when they saw them all fit inside. (6:19)

The Shiras Dovid commentary asks why G-D did not perform a miracle for Noach so that he would not be under so much pressure. If G-D was making miracles anyway, why didn't He reduce their appetite to make it easier for Noach?

He answers from the same Ramban who adds that G-D didn't want the ark to be too small in order to minimize the miracle, for this is the way of all miracles. G-D takes over once man does whatever he can. Here to, Noach had to exert himself and build a huge ark.

Therefore, Noach had to exert himself to the point of near exhaustion before G-D took over and helped him care for all the animals.

We must take from here to never let hardship cause us to give up, for if we give up then we may be taking away our opportunity for G-D to intercede and help us succeed.


8:1 And G-D remembered Noach (Noah) and all of the beasts and all of the animals that were with him in the ark. And G-D made a wind pass over the earth and the waters calmed.

The Torah writes that G-D remembered Noach and the animals.

We do not understand this to imply that G-D forgot about Noach and his companions until now. Rather, and so to speak, G-D consciously brought a thought to the forefront that justified and dictated a change in the situation.

The Ramban explains that Noach's righteousness and G-D's covenant with him became relevant at this time in deciding Noach's fate and this became the determining factor for Noach. It was Noach's righteousness and the covenant that are referred to when the Torah writes that G-D remembered Noach.

The Ramban continues and says that unlike Noach, the animals did not earn their being saved because animals have no free will. The only justification for saving the animals was the expression of G-D's will at the time of Creation that there shall be a world that contains animals and this is what became relevant when G-D decided to make the waters subside.

If sufficient justification existed for saving the animals without their deserving to be alive then I derive from this Ramban an inherent value that each and every human being has in just being alive in this world. Just as it was G-D's will that there be a world that has animals and they were saved as a result of this will, so was His will that there should be people in the world.

If merely being alive justifies that the Torah should write that G-D remembered the animals, then how much more so should G-D's protection and attention be directed towards a person who consciously chooses to do good.

In a related thought, the following selection from our Rosh Hashana (musaf) service makes a reference to a verse in the above weekly Torah reading.

"Moreover, You lovingly remembered Noach (Noah) and You recalled him with words of salvation and mercy, when You brought the flood waters to destroy all flesh because of the evil of their deeds. Therefore, his memory comes before You, Hashem our G-D, to increase his offspring like the dust of the world, and his descendents like the sand of the sea. As it is written, 'And G-D remembered Noach, and all the beasts, and all the animals that were together with him in the ark. And G-D made a wind pass over the earth and the waters subsided. (Genesis 8:1)'"

How do we see from our verse that G-D remembered Noach in a loving manner?

The following came to mind.

The flood destroyed both human and animal life. Only humans have free-will and only they are held responsible for their actions. Yet, the animals were also destroyed because they were created for people and without people they lose their significance (Rashi 6:7).

It follows that ascribing significance to animals within the context of their relation to human life is a demonstration of value towards humanity.

The above verse states that G-D remembered both Noach and the animals.

Thus, after destroying the animals because of the massive loss of human life, G-D displayed his love to Noach, and thereby to mankind, by writing explicitly that He remembered the animals together with Noach.


8:20 And Noach built an altar to G-D and he took from all of the ritually acceptable (kosher) animals and birds and he brought sacrifices on the altar.

8:21 And G-D accepted the scent of the (appeasement) offering and G-D said, "I will no longer curse the earth because of man's (misdeeds) because his inner tendency is towards doing evil from his youth. And I will no longer strike all living beings as I have already done."

Later in the Bible we find the majority suffering because of the misdeeds of the minority. The Yehoshua (Joshua) chapter seven is a very good example, where the Jewish people lost in battle and suffered causalities because one person secretly disregarded a ban against taking spoils from their first victory.

The story of Noach (Noah) appears to be a counter-example because every family in mankind except for one was corrupt.

Why wasn't Noach destroyed with the rest of the world?

Also, it appears that Noach's sacrifice moved G-D to state that He will no longer destroy the world because of mankind's misdeeds. What was the particular significance of Noach's sacrifice over many of the other sacrifices that are recorded in the Bible?

The following came to mind.

A saying comes to mind. Love acts as a magnifying glass. The closer people are, the more they expect and the more they are strict with each other.

Noach made accomplishments strides in developing a relationship between G-D and mankind.

The seeds came to fruit in a very unique way through Abraham (Avraham) and the Jewish people when G-D called them "His children."

A person is more strict with his children than with strangers. Therefore while the enhanced relationship brought new opportunities to the Jewish people, it also brought new responsibilities and standards. Therefore, they were held more to account than Noach's generation, including Noach himself.

The commentaries and Medrash give us a glimpse of Noach's greatness from the above verse.

Rashi says the following for verse 20: He [Noach] said, 'G-D must have asked me to take seven pairs from these kinds (of animals and birds) so that I should make an offering with them."

We see from this Rashi that Noach inferred that it was G-D's will to make these offerings. He wasn't commanded to make them. This indicates that he recognized that G-D had a will, that we must pay close attention to what He says, and we must do our best to figure out what He wants. This is no small feat and not everyone does this today.

The Medrash says that Noach built his altar on Mount Moriah, on the same spot that Adam brought his offering and where Avraham would later bring his son for sacrifice.

He probably selected this spot because that was where G-D demonstrated His appeasement to Adam. He therefore wanted to maximize the probability that his offering would also be acceptable to G-D.

It was no small feat for Noach to bring sacrifices to G-D on Mount Moriah from every kind of ritually acceptable animal.

The Torah openly states that the ark landed on Mount Ararat. It is commonly believed that this location is somewhere in Afghanistan. Mount Moriah is the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Noach found a pretty desolate world when he left the ark.

Noach needed to move himself and some animals this great distance with no support.

He couldn't leave the animals home and buy a set at his destination because there were no more. He had to take provisions for the trip and back because there were no Burger Kings (Mac-Dovids?) along the way. There were no Holiday Inns for sleeping along the way, no triple-A to call for breakdowns, no cell-phones either.

He trekked by foot (no airlines, trains, or trucks yet) from Afghanistan to Israel with a bunch of cranky animals simply because he thought that G-D would like the sacrifice more if it were brought there.

The Torah records for the rest of mankind this great demonstration of the significance that one man assigned to G-D's will. It provided hope for mankind and a foundation stone for mankind to enhance their relationship with G-D.

Thus, mankind was finally evolving upwards instead of downwards, has they had done in the past.

Therefore:

"I will no longer curse the earth because of man's (misdeeds) because his inner tendency is towards doing evil from his youth. And I will no longer strike all living beings as I have already done."


9:9 Therefore He (G-d) called its name Bavel (Babylon, the place where the Tower of Babel was built) because (it was) there (that) He mixed up the language(s) of all (of the people on) the Earth'

Bavel (Babylon) consists of three letters: Bais, Bais and Lamed. The Hebrew word for mixed up is Balal: Bais, Lamed, and Lamed. Why was the place named Bavel and not Balal?

The following came to mind.

According to our tradition, the people of Bavel were wicked. Their king Nimrod led them in spiritual rebellion against G-d. The tower was intended to become a center for idolatry.

Now, the letter Lamed is also a Hebrew word. It means learning. Perhaps the missing Lamed from Balal is a reference to the Babylonians not taking a lesson from what happened to the people in their recent history who also rebelled against G-d and subsequently suffered misfortune.

So, let's remove a Lamed from Balal.

However, this would give us the word, Bal, Bais and Lamed. How do we get to Bavel, Bais Bais Lamed?

Perhaps the Targum (translation of) Onkolus can be of help. His translation is written in Aramaic, the language of ancient Babylonia. He translates the Hebrew word Balel into the Aramaic word Bilbel. Bilbel is spelled Bais Lamed Bais Lamed. By removing a Lamed from Bilbel we have Bais Bais Lamed, or Bavel.

So, the Babylonians did not need to learn much Hebrew to figure out what hit them and why.


11:3 And each man said to his fellow, "Let us make bricks and make a fire." And the bricks became stones to them and the slime became for them mortar.

11:4 And they said, "Let us build for ourselves a city and a tower with its top into the sky and we will make a name for ourselves, lest we scatter over the face of the earth."

11:5 And G-D came down to see the city and the tower the sons of man built.

11:6 And G-D said, "Behold they are one people and one language for them all and this is what they began to do. And now, nothing will be withheld from them regarding all that they proposed to do."

11:7 "Let us (the Heavenly court) descend there and mix their languages so that each man will not understand the language of his fellow."

The Sefurno commentary explains this episode in the following manner, as reflected by the Oral Torah.

The leaders of that generation wanted all of mankind to commit to idol worship. They began by bringing Nimrod to power. (I assume this was to counter the leadership of Shem son of Noach who opposed idolatry.)

They planned to build mammoth city that would have a colossal tower and its summit would host an idol that would be billed as a god of all gods, all to make a massive impression that would insure mankind's following. As the city would be the world's center of theology, Nimrod's rule of that city would give him power over mankind. (I assume that they planned for the theology to serve the politics and that the politics would serve the theology.)

Mankind's common culture and language served to unite everyone behind the common cause. This was harmful because it would cause them all to stop trying to know G-D and to understand that He is the Creator.

The differences in culture and language that resulted from G-D's action served to create and grow disagreement and diversity. While people were still prone to succumb to idolatry, the new potential for diversity in religion would bring the people of resulting nations to consider that there is a G-D that all gods seek to know, One that completes their order and that of all existence. (Not that theological diversity is good. Rather, universal agreement in the wrong theology is far worse because it would deter people from arriving at the true theology. Also, the hierarchy of gods was by no means the objective theology for Mankind. Rather it was a step in the right direction, one that would lead to the monotheism that Avraham / Abraham realized and taught.)

To me, the above reflects a viewpoint that while Man was created with the ability to have theological failings, Man was also endowed with a tendency to strive towards theological maturity and truth.

The initial harmony provided opportunists with the ability to establish an exclusive theological environment that could replace G-D in the minds and hearts of Mankind. The diversity provided a climate for idol worshipers to question the theology that they were born into, enabling them to grow and to strive towards truth.


11:32 And the days of Terach [father of Avraham / Abraham] were two-hundred-five years. And Terach passed away in (the city of) Charan. [Last verse in Noach]

12:1 And G-D said to Avraham, 'Go (out) for yourself from your land and from your birthplace and from the house of your father (and travel) to a land that I will show you.' [First verse in Lech Lecha]

The text flow suggests that Terach died before G-D appeared to Avraham. However, from 11:26 and 11:32 we know that Avraham was 135 years old when his father passed away. And, from 12:4 we know that Avraham was 75 years old when he left his father's house in Charan. Thus, G-D's appearance to Avraham in 12:1 occurred sixty years before Terach died.

Rashi provides two reasons for Terach's death being recorded before G-D's appearance to Avraham.

In his second reason, Rashi cites the teaching that wicked people who are alive are referred to by the Torah as being dead and that righteous people who are dead are referred to as being alive.

We know that Terach was into idol worship. This suggests to me that Avraham's exit gave Terach his final opportunity to repent and repair his relationship with G-D, for Avraham was Terach's only positive influence and this ceased with the imposed separation.

As he did not repent, Terach was classified as a wicked person and so the Torah records his death with Avraham's exit.

The Ramban commentary notes that Rashi in 15:15 says that Terach repented at the moment of his death. He states that this is not a contradiction because Terach did continue to practice idolatry when Avraham left his home.

The full quote of 15:15 is as follows:

15:15 And you (Avraham) will return to your fathers in peace, you will be buried in good old age.

Rashi brings up the question that Terach was an idol worshiper. If so, then why is G-D promising Avraham that he will go to his father when he dies? Rashi answers that this teaches us that Terach repented.

It is interesting to note that our version of Rashi in 15:15 states that Terach repented. There is no reference to him repenting at the moment of death, as the Ramban writes. He must have had another edition of Rashi's commentary.

The Ramban then presents another approach and says that perhaps Terach never repented and that he actually died as an idol worshiper. Yet, G-D can promise Avraham that he will go to his father, even though the wicked Terach should not be in a neighborhood (or climate) in the next world that is suitable for a righteous person, especially Avraham.

The Ramban explains that in the merit of his great son, Terach will be given an eternity that is fitting for Avarham. This is the lesson of 15:15, that a son can bestow a great eternity on an unworthy parent.

It came to mind that perhaps the Ramban's two approaches revolve around the question of whether a person can have a peaceful eternity without having made any attempt to repent prior to death.

Rabbi Avigdor Miller of blessed memory taught that the spiritual quality of a person is eternally fixated at the moment of his death.

This is how we understand the Talmud in Gittin (55b) where Unkolus, then a perspective convert to Judaism, had a communication with his dead uncle Titus. He asked Titus for the status of the Jewish people in the next world and received a very positive report. He then sought advice on whether he should convert and Titus said no. Instead, Titus advised him to oppress the Jewish people. Unkolus then asked Titus how he was being treated in the next world and got an extremely upsetting picture.

Fortunately for Unkolus, he did convert and he excelled to such a degree that his record of the Torah translation into Aramaic is used to this day.

Still, how could Titus advise his nephew to oppress the Jewish people while at the same he confesses that he is being eternally tormented for doing so himself?

Rabbi Miller explains that Titus died as an anti-Semite and this was how he was fixated. And of course, he was quite frustrated because up there (actually down there), anti-Semites have no resources to do mischief and the only thing they have in 'life' is to suffer for what they did before they died.

Getting back to Terach, the Ramban's two approaches may then revolve around whether the merit of a son can undo or perhaps override a parent's fixation.

Perhaps the first approach takes on the assumption that it can't so this is why we must say that Terach repented. And, perhaps the second approach assumes that it can so this is why we can say that Terach died as an idol worshiper.

If our understanding of the first approach is correct, we need to reconcile this other teachings which state that children can elevate and even save their parents who have passsed onto the next world.

One approach to reconciliation is that there is a limit to the extent that children can help. Perhaps Terach was too heavily committed to idolatry to be helped by his son Avraham. Or perhaps, this mechanism was put into effect after the Giving of the Torah when there was a Jewish people and it was possible for someone to start out with an initial share in the world to come.


Lech Lecha (Genesis 12-17)

12:1 And G-d said to Avram (Abraham), 'Go for yourself from your land, from your birthplace, and from the house of your father to a land that I will show you.'

12:2 'And I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will become blessed.'

Rabbi Shimon Ben Lakish said:

"And I will make you into a great nation" refers to the phrase "G-D of Avraham"

"I will bless you" refers to the phrase "G-D of Yitzchok (Isaac).

"I will make your name great" refers to the phrase "G-D of Yaakov (Jacob).

I would think that they would end with all of them.

"And you will become blessed." They will end with you and not with all of them.

(Talmud Pesachim 117b)

One would assume that the teaching of Rabbi Shimon Ben Lakish refers to the first blessing of our Shmoneh Esreh prayer. This blessing contains the phrase, "G-D of Avraham, G-D of Yitzchak, and G-D of Yaakov and it ends with, "Blessed are you G-D, G-D of Avraham.

Rabbi Moshe Bick of blessed memory provided the following interpretation.

The teachings of the Orchos Tzadikim derive from Songs of Songs 4:8 that the exiles will be gathered in the end of days in the merit of the faith that the Jewish people had in G-D.

Avraham was cited for his great faith in G-D (Genesis 15:6).

Rabbi Shimon Ben Lakish concludes with, "They will end with you and not with all of them."

Rabbi Bick reads this to mean that the Jewish people will end their long and bitter exile in the merit of their remaining steadfast in their faith in G-D, like Avraham.


12:1 And G-d said to Avram (Abraham), 'Go for yourself from your land, from your birthplace, and from the house of your father to a land that I will show you.'

12:2 'And I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will become blessed.'

12:5 And Avram took Sarai his wife and Lot, son of his brother, and all of their belongings that they acquired and the people that they converted (away from idolatry). And they went out to travel to the Land of Canaan. And they came to the Land of Canaan.

Rashi provides the following commentary for 12:2

"And I will make you into a great nation:" Because the process of relocation causes three things: It reduces opportunities for procreation, it is financially draining, and it causes a decrease in status. Therefore, Avram needed these three blessings: He was promised (by G-d to have) children, wealth, and status.

Rashi makes it sound like Avram was being tasked to be a wandering traveler for the rest of his life and that these blessings would shelter him from the side effects of this life style.

However, this doesn't seem to be what happened.

Avram wandered for somewhat less than a year before he settled in Chevron, where he resided for the next twenty-five years. He moved afterwards to Gerar and lived there for twenty-six years. (Rashi 31:34) He amassed great wealth (Rashi 18:7) and fame (23:6).

Avram had no children because his wife Sarai was barren (Tanchuma Vayera 17), not because they travelled too much.

The following came to mind.

Avram and Sarai devoted their lives to pull people away from the clutches of the religion industry.

To them, parenthood, fame, and wealth were all means for them to increase their influence and effectiveness.

The thought that parenthood, fame and wealth would be at risk served only to increase the test that G-D was presenting them.

So perhaps it was never intended for Avram and Sarai to adopt a nomadic lifestyle. Rather, G-D just wanted the adoption of a counter-productive lifestyle to be a factor in their decision, thereby increasing their reward for making the right choice.


12:1 And G-D said to Avram (Abraham), "Go for yourself from your land, from your birthplace, and from our father's house to the land that I will show you."

12:2 "And I will make you into a great nation …"

Rashi says that Avram was given a blessing for having children because he was asked to move, which can disrupt family life.

Avram and Sarai did not have children during their relocation. Instead, Hagar gave birth to Avram's first child some thirteen years after the move, long after he had settled in the Land of Canaan. Sarai gave birth to Yitzchak thirty years after his departure.

How was this special blessing applied to his family life?

The following came to mind.

The message behind the blessing is that Avram's new journey will be more than physical relocation. It was his venture into the field of outreach, which can be both very rewarding and very demanding.

Avram reached out to men and Sarai did the same with women. It is in their merit that the Jewish people exist today, who seek to follow in their footsteps.


12:1 And G-d said to Avram (Abraham), 'For yourself, go forth from your land, from your place of birth, and from your father's home (and travel) to the land that I will (later) reveal to you.'

Rashi provides the following commentary on the phrase, 'that I will (later) reveal to you:'

G-d did not divulge the land at that time in order to make it cherished in Avram's eyes. Also, G-d spoke in this (wordy) manner to give Avram reward for fulfilling every word. (That is, G-d could have said, 'travel to the Land of Canaan,' instead of saying 'travel to the land that I will later reveal to you. When Avram later fulfilled this commandment, the additional words increased his reward.)

Similarly, (when G-d commanded Avraham to sacrifice Yitzchak - Isaac, it says [22:2] 'Please take) your son, your only one, that you love, Yitzchak (and go for yourself to the land of Moriah')

Similarly, it says (in this same verse 'and bring him up there as a sacrifice) on one of the mountains that I will (later) reveal to you.'

Similarly, (Yona - Jonah:3:1 'And the word of G-d came to Yonah a second time, saying. [3:2] Arise and go forth to the great city of Ninveh) and furnish it with the prophecy that I am telling you.' (The first time G-d spoke to Yonah, He just said, [Yonah 1:2] 'Arise and go forth to the great city of Ninveh and furnish it with a prophecy.')

Why does Rashi need to provide three references? In what way do they differ from one another? What is each one teaching us? Why does Rashi split up verse 22:2 and count it as two references?

The following came to mind.

G-d's commandment to leave the homeland is counted as one of the ten tests by which Avram was tested.

The story of Yitzchak's near sacrifice on Mount Moriah is Avraham's final test.

The verse from Yonah is second time G-d commanded Yonah to furnish the prophecy in Ninveh. You may recall that Yonah fled when G-d first asked him to prophesize. After his ordeal with the fish, Yonah was accepted the mission without contest.

Again, Rashi says that G-d did not divulge the land at that time in order to make it cherished in Avram's eyes.

The Sifsei Chachamim's commentary on Rashi references the following Mizrachi commentary.

By saying, 'go forth from your land, from your place of birth, and from your father's home,' G-d sought to make the land that Avram was leaving become cherished in his eyes. This increased the test and Avram's reward for passing it.

Similarly, by asking Avraham to take 'your son, your only one, that you love, Yitzchak,' G-d was increasing that test.

So, our verse discusses two places, the place of departure and the destination. We now have reasons to make both places cherished. The place of departure was made cherished in order to increase Avram's test and subsequent reward. The destination was not immediately revealed and Avram was kept in suspense in order so that the Promised Land would be more cherished in his eyes.

We now understand the need for Rashi's first reference. It addresses the test.

Recall that Rashi said, 'G-d spoke in this (wordy) manner to give Avram reward for fulfilling every word.'

Imagine that a blue book is laying on a table before you. Imagine that you hear the following heavenly voice: 'Pick up that book.' This is a four-word commandment. Now imagine another heavenly voice: 'Pick up that blue book.' This is a five-word commandment. Rashi is apparently telling us that one gets more reward by fulfilling the second commandment.

Now, by the calling to sacrifice Yitzchak, at first glance it seems difficult to say that G-d withheld the exact location in order to make it cherished in Avraham's eyes. Rather, the extra words were to increase Avraham's reward.

Actually, our blue-book example is not fully congruous to the near sacrifice of Yitzchak. While both cases involve a commandment from G-d, picking up a book involves no test. Rashi's second example suggests that a person who is being tested will receive a greater reward if the test is made with more words. This is similar to our verse, where Avram is also being tested.

We thus can understand why Rashi split up verse 22:2 and counted it as two references. Each addresses a different aspect.

The third example from Yonah extends Rashi's second lesson further and addresses the blue-book example. After being swallowed up by a fish for refusing to prophesize, there was no longer a test for whether Yonah would go or not. So, Rashi is telling us that the extra words would have increased Avram's reward, even if he was not under test.

In closing, recall that we said that at first glance it seems difficult to say that G-d withheld the exact location of Yitzchak's sacrifice in order to make it cherished in Avraham's eyes. Perhaps, Avraham's love of G-d surpassed the natural love for his son to the extent that it was possible to make the place of sacrifice cherished.


12:1 And G-d said to Avram (Abraham), 'Go for yourself from your land, from your birthplace, and from the house of your father to a land that I will show you.'

12:2 'And I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will become blessed.'

12:3 'And I will bless those who bless you and those who curse you I will curse. And all the families of the earth will become blessed because of you.'

Rashi provides the following commentary for 12:1

'Go for yourself:' For your benefit and pleasure. And there I will make you into a great nation, for you will not be fortunate to have children if you live here. Furthermore, I will make your (good) character known in the (civilized) world (if you make this move).

Rashi provides the following commentary for 12:2

'And I will make you into a great nation:' Because the process of relocation causes three things: It reduces opportunities for procreation, it is financially draining, and it causes a decrease in status. Therefore, Avram needed these three blessings: He was promised (by G-d to have) children, wealth, and status.

'And I will bless you:' With money.

For Avram's benefit and pleasure, Rashi lists two things in 12:1: Children and Avram's character becoming known. In the very next verse, Rashi explains that Avram will have three benefits from the move: Having children, becoming wealthy, and obtaining status. Why is there a difference between these two lists of advantages? What is Rashi trying to tell us?

The following came to mind.

While both verses list advantages, only the first verse explicitly describes its list as being for Avram's benefit and pleasure.

Children and having good character traits known to one's peers are great benefits.

Children are one of G-d's greatest gifts.

People who became aware of Avram and Sarai's legendary hospitality and kindness were inspired to follow their fine example, which only served to raise the quality of life that surrounded Avram and Sarai.

For Avram and his wife Sarai, only having children and making their good character traits known were their source of true pleasure. This is because they were focused on influencing others to commit themselves to G-d.

With proper training, children will perpetuate the fine example of their parents.

Verse 12:5 says that when Avram moved, people that he and Sarai 'made' in the city of Charan came along.

Rashi provides the following commentary:

'That they made in Charan:' Who they brought under the 'wings of Divine Presence.' Avraham converted the men and Sarah converted the women. Thus, the scripture give them credit as though they (actually) made them'

Perpetuation and inspiring others was Avram and Sarai's only true source of pleasure. For such great people, wealth and status were comparatively meaningless.


12:2 And I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you and I will make your name great. And you will be a blessing.

Rabbi Yuden says the following commentary in the Medrash Rabah on the phrase, 'And you will be a blessing:' "I (G-D) am establishing a blessing for you in the eighteen (blessings of the Jewish people's prayer service) but you will not know whether My blessing will be said first or whether yours will be said first."

Rabbi Achviah adds the following in the name of Rabbi Zeira, "Your (blessing) will come before Mine" as the first blessing is (Blessed are You, Oh G-D) Magen Avraham [Shield of Abraham] and the second blessing is (Blessed are You, Oh G-D) Who revives the dead.

The structure of our prayer service was established some twenty-three-hundred years ago by the Men of the Great Assembly.

Having Avraham's blessing placed before that of G-D's appears to be contradictory to that which Avraham himself lived and taught which is that G-D is supreme. How do we understand this Medrash? What is the Torah trying to tell us by saying that Avraham will be a blessing?

The following came to mind.

Placing Avraham's blessing first is not an indication of his importance over that which is mentioned afterwards, G-D forbid. Rather, it may be understood as providing a preface to the prayers that follow.

Mankind is the centerpiece of a Creation that emanated from G-D's will. Alternately, among all physical and spiritual creations, Mankind's significance is supreme. But as significant as Man is, it is G-D and His will that are paramount. Alternately again, Man has no significance with respect to G-D and it is G-D's will that provides significance (not to mention existence) to Man.

These ideas can challenge the notion of prayer, for how can a lowly and relatively insignificant creation have any hope of making a request or even having a relationship with the Greatest of all beings?

An answer is that since Creation emanated from G-D's will, the more a person lives in a manner that demonstrates that G-D's will is supreme, the greater is that person's justification for making a request from G-D.

Avraham is our model of the supremacy of G-D's will. He was therefore a person of great prayer.

Since it may take quite a while for us to develop into an Avraham (and most of us, if not all, will probably not make it that far), how can we pray in the meantime without feeling totally inadequate and discouraged? An answer is by associating and referencing ourselves with Avraham in our prayers. By approaching G-D a descendant of Avraham and by declaring that Avraham is our role model, we add credence and legitimacy to the prayers that follow.

Perhaps this is the meaning of Avraham's becoming a blessing, that future generations will enhance the effectiveness of their prayers by referencing themselves through Avraham's great relationship with G-D.


12:3 And I (G-D) will bless those who bless you (Avraham / Abraham) and those who curse you I will curse. And all the families of the earth will become blessed because of you.

The Gaon from Vilna notes an apparent lack of symmetry in the first part of this verse.

"I will bless those who bless you" says first what G-D will do and then what a person will do, which is to bless Avraham.

"Those who curse you I will curse" specifies first what a person does and then what G-D will do.

The order is reversed.

He provides the following explanation.

If you ask a rich person for a blessing he may wish that you should have a billion dollars.

But the blessing of one who lives from hand to mouth may be entirely different, as he doesn't deal with huge sums of money. He may wish you to always have a slice of bread to eat whenever you want.

Conversely, the curse of a rich person could be that one should lose a billion dollars. But almost nobody has such sums so the curse wouldn't have much relevance.

But the curse of a poor person can be very painful, such as that one shouldn't have anything to eat for an entire week.

So when it comes giving blessings, G-d's action comes first. That is, G-D will make anyone who plans to bless Avraham very wealthy to widen his horizon so that he will give a fabulous blessing.

And when it comes to cursing, G-D's action comes last, reducing the risk from the one who curses so that the curse is not so devastating.


12:4 And Avram went as G-D spoke to him and with him went Lot …

The purpose of this journey was for Avraham to disconnect from an environment and society that was getting nowhere and move to a land with great spiritual connection and potential.

The Ohr Yahel notes that the Torah says ‘with him went Lot,’ instead of ‘Lot went with him.’

Placing his name at the end puts his name a bit further away from Avraham’s name, mentioned first. It suggests that Avraham was front and moving forward in this journey towards greatness while Lot was dragging behind, not fully ready or willing to disconnect. He lacked commitment and was straddling behind.

When walking, we put one foot ahead, then we shift our weight, and then we lift up the other foot, disconnecting from where it was. The person who develops and climbs towards perfection must do the same in order to succeed.


12:12 And it will be that when they will see you they will kill me and they will let you live.

Avraham (Abraham) is asking his wife Sarah to tell the Egyptians that she is his sister. He says that two things will happen if the Egyptians think that she is his wife: they will kill him and they will let her live.

Now, since the Egyptians want to free Sarah up for Pharaoh, it is obvious that they will let her live. The Be'er Yosef commentary therefore asks why this second statement, that she would live, would help persuade Sarah to say that she is Avraham's sister.

We are taught that human life takes precedence over Torah observance for all but three commandments: Idolatry, incest, and murder. So, for example, if one is threatened to do something that would kill another person then he must refuse, even at the cost of his life.

The Be'er Yosef commentary takes the position that Jewish law would not allow a single woman to let herself be killed to avoid being involuntary violated. This is partially because it is the male that does the action during the violation. However, he rules that a married woman would be permitted to let herself be killed this situation. (He does not say that she is required to do so and other authorities rule differently.)

This being said, Avraham's death would preclude Sarah from refusing to consent to the forced marriage with Pharaoh, for she would no longer be a married woman and she would be required do whatever is necessary avoid risking her life.

Avraham knew that if his pure and righteous wife would be given the choice of being queen or being killed for refusing to marry Pharaoh that she would prefer death.

Thus, he was telling her that his death would also condemn her to a meaningless and spiritually non-productive life, despite the title, power, and wealth that results from being Queen of Egypt.

Sarah concurred.


14:12 And they took Lot and his property, the nephew of Avram, and they went off. And he was living in Sodom.

The Sefurno offers the following commentary: They [the victorious kings] tried hard to capture Lot because he was Avram's nephew for they knew of Avram's wealth and they were looking for him to spend a great wealth of money to redeem Lot from captivity.

These mighty kings travelled a great distance to put down a rebellion against their domination over that part of the world. They were successful, plundered their enemies, and were walking away with all of their wealth.

Avram was just an individual and it is unlikely that his wealth matched that of the cities that they had just plundered. What made Avram become such a focus of their attention?

But Avram used all of his wealth to win people over to the truth. He was widely respected and they did not dare attack him directly.

By putting him in a position where he had no choice but to ransom Lot they sought to impoverish him, thereby rendering him incapable of spreading his message to Mankind that there is one G-D, He guides the world with His loving-kindness, and it is up to us to emulate Him.

So Lot's kidnapping was perhaps also for politics, for they sought to neutralize Avram, thereby eliminating a person who they viewed as a competitor to their self-serving and false theologies.

This was not merely an attack against Avram. It was an attack against G-D and His relationship with mankind. So Avram put his trust in G-D and declared war against the mightiest armies of his time. And with G-D's help he was victorious.


14:21 And the king of Sedom said to Avram (Abraham), "Give me the souls and take the belongings for yourself."

14:22 And Avraham said to the king of Sedom, "I raise my hands (in an oath) to G-D, the Acquirer of heaven and earth.

14:23 That I will not take anything that is yours, from a thread to a shoelace, so that you will not (be able to) say, "I made Avram wealthy."

Why is Avraham referencing G-D as the One who acquires the heaven and earth and not the One who created them? Why is this reference written in the present tense?

The Talmud (Chulin 88b-89a) says the following about this interchange between Avraham and the king of Sedom:

Rava said, "As a reward for Avraham saying, 'From a thread to a shoelace,' his children merited having two commandments, the royal blue thread of the talis/tzitzis and the strap of the tefilin."

Rashi notes that Avraham didn't want the king's property because he did not want to derive benefit from stolen goods.

Where do we see that the king of Sedom was a thief? Was this common knowledge during Avraham's time?

The Talmud continues and states some benefits that result from these two commandments.

The wearer of tefilin is able to project an aura of great dignity, majesty, and a resulting awe.

Regarding the talis, the Talmud cites a teaching of Rabbi Meir that the royal blue color of its techeles thread (which is no longer available today) is similar to the color of the sea, which in turn is similar to the sky, which is similar to sapphire, which is similar to G-D's Heavenly Throne.

How do we benefit from the latter chain of associations?

The following came to mind:

Perhaps the king of Sedom was not a thief and all of his property was legally his. Nevertheless, Avraham did not want to have anything to do with it because of his aversion to stolen property.

I can understand this with a teaching of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein of blessed memory. He taught that the act of theft demonstrates a gap or a weakness in a person's attitude towards G-D.

We are taught that G-D didn't just create the world and walk away from it. Rather, G-D assumed full responsibility for providing everyone's needs and He actively manages the world to assure that everyone's needs are cared for. We are also taught that G-D tasked everyone to take action towards obtaining needs and that He provided guidelines within which we can act through, providing an opportunity for testing for compliance. Finally, we are taught that success is up to G-D, not through our actions. So, it is quite possible for a person to take one set of actions to obtain his needs, the person can fail, but yet the person will obtain his needs anyway because of G-D's role as the Provider of Mankind.

Unfortunately, every human being does not fully operate within this framework. An example of one such person is the thief. By taking action outside of the behavioral guidelines that G-D set for mankind, he/she demonstrates a weakness or a gap in trust that G-D will provides for the needs of every person. (Or it may demonstrate an inappropriate appetite.)

While the king of Sedom may not have been a thief, he appeared to operate in a theological context that is similar to the thief, for he did not recognize G-D's interactive and supportive role with mankind.

In contrast to the king of Sedom who disconnected G-D with humanity, Avraham was steadfast in his belief that we are all deeply connected. Perhaps this explains why he referenced G-D as the Acquirer of the heaven and earth and in the present tense, for G-D's connection is always active and current and His sustenance is a great means of acquisition.

In the light that Avraham stood for G-D's connection with humanity we can now better see a relationship to his statement and the resulting reward for his children.

We are taught that G-D Himself wears a type of tefilin. So our donning these adornments provides us with a visible connection to G-D, reminding us of His Existence and Nobility.

Through the teaching of Rabbi Meir we see how our very clothing can provide a visual cue and connection to G-D's heavenly throne.

So, in the merit of Avraham's great sacrifice to demonstrate his belief in G-D's connection with our lives and the world, G-D gave commandments to his children to help them strengthen their personal awareness of these great truths.

As an aside, I'd like to share a story that is said about the Gaon of Vilna and the majesty of tefilin.

This great rabbi of two centuries ago was once traveling and was given the very best room of an inn. During his stay, a nobleman sought residence and became infuriated that the best room was given to some Jew. He pushed the innkeeper aside, who was also Jewish, and he stormed up to the room to give the occupant a piece of his mind. He burst open the door, took one look at the Gaon, and fled the inn with great terror and fear.

The innkeeper was absolutely dazed. What did the nobleman see and what caused his terror? He went to the room and found the Gaon wearing tefilin and studying Torah. The Gaon looked up and saw the astonishment on the innkeeper's face. He explained (as usual) that the Torah can provide a full explanation for what had just occurred.

It states in Deuteronomy 28:10, "And the nations of the earth will see that the Name of G-D is called upon you and they will fear you." The Oral Torah (Menachos 35b) provides an explanation in the name of Rabbi Eliezer the Great that this refers to the 'tefilin shebarosh.'

The innkeeper took this to mean that the reference was to the tefilin that we wear on our head and therefore requested from the Gaon a further clarification. "Rebbie, I also wear tefilin. This nobleman has seen me in the past while I was wearing them and he never fled my presence."

Thereupon (I can just imagine a twinkle in his eye), the Gaon instructed him to take a closer look at the words of the Talmud (as usual). Had the Talmud written, 'tefilin shel rosh,' which translates to "tefilin that are *on* the head" then the innkeeper's question would be valid. However, the Talmud states, 'tefilin shebarosh' which strictly translates to "tefilin that are *in* the head."

So, while the innkeeper exhibited piety and compliance by placing tefilin *on* his head every day, the Gaon of Vilna's spiritual development brought him to bring the message and sanctity of the tefilin *into* his head, thereby meriting the great aura that projected great fear and terror into the heart of the thug who broke into his hotel room.


14:23 (Avram said to the King of Sedom,') I shall take nothing (from the spoils of war, ) from a thread to a shoelace, so that you should not say, "I made Avram wealthy."'

The Talmud (Chulin 89a) says that because of his refusal, Avraham (Abraham) merited that his descendents wear the techeles thread and the strap of tefilin.

The techeles thread is part of the prayer shawl, or talis of tzitzis.

However, Rashi in 9:23 cites a Medrash which says that because Shem son of Noach (Noah) clothed his father, he merited that his descendents would have the commandment to wear the talis of tzitzis.

The commentaries note an apparent contradiction, as it not clear whether the commandment to wear tzitzis is in the merit of Avraham or Shem.

A simple resolution is offered by noting that Avraham is himself a descendent of Shem. Of the many descendents that Shem had, it was only Avraham that had this passed on this commandment. And of the many descendents that Avraham had, the commandment was passed on only to the children of Yaakov (Jacob).

But since it is only the Jewish people who have this commandment, Shem's contribution and distinction appears to be lost.

The Chavatzeles Hasharon commentary offers the following approach.

A talis is a four-cornered garment that has tzitzis fringes on its corners. The fringes consist of blue and white threads.

The Torah presents the commandment as follows:

Speak to the Children of Israel and for all generations they shall make tzizis on the corners of their garments. And they shall affix a techeles thread on the tzitzis of the corner (Numbers 15:38).

As always, the Oral Torah provides the detail we need to understand and fulfill this commandment.

One could say that the focus of the commandment is to wear a four-cornered garment that has tzitzis on it. Alternately, the focus could be to affix tzitzis fringes on the four-cornered garments that we wear.

These two views have practical implications.

As affixing tzitzis involves tying the strings into knots, one may not affix tzitzis during Shabbos, as this is a forbidden form of creation.

If the focus is on the wearing then it would be improper to put on a four-cornered garment on Shabbos that has no tzitzis on it. However, if the focus is on affixing the strings, then one should be able to done such a garment, for the Torah would not expect us to violate the Shabbos in order to fulfill this commandment.

Also, we make a blessing when we fulfill this commandment. And we have a general rule that a blessing should be recited prior to fulfilling a commandment.

If the focus is on wearing such a garment then we fulfill the commandment as we put it on and we should make the blessing beforehand. Indeed, some authorities rule that this is when the blessing should be made. However, there are some authorities who suggest that we make the blessing after donning the talis. This reflects the notion that the focus is on affixing the tzitzis, as this may be done after the talis is on our shoulders, as long as we do this right away.

I would think that another implication is whether one should try to affix the tzitzis to the garment himself. If the focus is on wearing a garment with tzitzis then one could fulfill the commandment with a talis that already has tzitzis on it. However, if the focus is on affixing the tzitzis then one should try to affix them himself, even if the knots on a professionally-made talis look nicer.

With the above we are now ready to appreciate the Rambam's golden words in his first chapter of Laws of Tzitzis:

1: The fringes on the corner that are of the same material as the garment are called tzitzis … They are called 'white' because there is no commandment to dye them any color ..

2: One takes a woolen thread that is colored like the sky and wraps it around the fringes. This thread is called techeles …

3: It comes out that this commandment has two charges. One is that fringes should be made and come forth from the corner and (another is) to wrap a techeles thread around it.

So the commandment has both aspects, to wear a four-cornered garment with tzitzis on it and also to make a blue coil.

The Chavatzeles Hasharon commentary uses this to resolve our difficulty with respect to Shem's contribution. The white fringes are in the merit of Shem and the blue coil is in the merit of Avraham.

And this fits in so well to what each great personality achieved.

Because Shem clothed his father we clothe ourselves with the talis.

Among his many great accomplishments and teachings, we know Avraham as being the first person to succeed in impressing into all of mankind the notion of combining Heaven and earth. G-D who may appear to be high in the sky is actually involved and so to speak enwrapped in everything that goes on the lowly earth below.


15:1 The word of G-D came to Avram (Abraham) in a vision of the night after these matters (occurred) saying, "Fear not Avram (for) I am a shield for you. Your reward is very great."

Rashi writes that this encounter occurred after Avraham's miraculous victory over the four evil kings.

He writes that Avraham thought that his merits were used by the heavenly court to justify these miracles. He was concerned that this consumed them entirely, causing him to not receive any reward in the next world.

This is puzzling.

This verse says that he still has great reward. It implies that Avraham did indeed sustain a loss.

While it must have given some comfort to know that a positive balance remained, a loss is still a loss. Why should he sustain a loss for trying to save his nephew? Why was this recorded in the Torah and what message can we derive for ourselves?

The following came to mind.

Compensation is measured by amount, frequency, and duration of payment.

Life in the next world is forever, so even a relatively small and infrequent amount will add up to very great rewards.

While duration has no limit, there may be a limit at which the amount and frequency of compensation begins to lose significance.

For example, picture having reasonable living and spending habits. Should your income continuously double, you may accumulate so much money that you would never be able to keep up with spending it for your needs and wants.

Wouldn't that be nice?

And once you go beyond that point, you would not feel any pinch if you sustained a loss, as long as you remain above the mark.

We are all creations and finite beings, including Avraham. And no matter how great a transformation we will undergo in the next world, we will always be constrained by the limitation being a finite being.

Perhaps this verse is saying that Avraham's reward in the next world was so great that he wouldn't even feel the reduction in his merits. It was well worth losing something whose loss would not be felt so that he could save his nephew from destruction.


15:1 The word of G-D came to Avram (Abraham) in a vision of the night after these matters (occurred) saying, "Fear not Avram (for) I [Anochi] am a shield for you. Your reward is very great."

15:2 And Avram said, "Hashem - G-D, what will you give me (if) I [Anochi] (continue to) go childless and the steward of my household is Eliezer (from) Dameshek?"

15:3 And Avram said, "Behold you gave me no children and behold one of my household is inheriting me."

Why does Avraham mention twice that G-D has yet to give him children?

The following came to mind.

Consider these verses:

Exodus 4:22 "Yisroel (Israel) is My first-born child," so says G-D.

Deuteronomy 14:1 You (Israel) are children to G-D …

The concept of the Jewish people being referenced as G-D's children is clearly one of the most overlooked and misunderstood concepts in the works of non-Jewish Bible scholars.

In the Bible, two words refer to the first person, I. They are 'ani' and 'anochi.'

In 15:1, G-D refers to Himself with the word 'Anochi.' Avraham uses this same expression in his first statement about being childless.

Perhaps Avraham in 15:2 is not speaking about himself being childless. Perhaps the first reference to being childless is not a request for Avraham to have children. Rather, perhaps it is a request towards G-D Himself, that He adopt and refer to a people as His children.

This is truly a sobering and an awesome concept.

By making this statement, G-D has committed Himself to share in the happiness and success of the Jewish people. At the same time, G-D has committed to put up our foibles and pranks, just like a parent does. His acts of anger are external, just like a parent's.

The following is an interpretation of another verse. While I have yet to find any open support for this interpretation in our writings, I believe that it is a valid interpretation.

When G-D first revealed Himself to Moshe (Moses), he said the following:

Exodus 3:6 And He said, "I [Anochi] am the G-D of your fathers, the G-D of Avraham, the G-D of Yitzchak (Isaac), and the G-D of Yaakov (Jacob) …"

Exodus 3:11 And Moshe said to G-D, "Who am I ( literally: Who is Anochi) that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should take the Children of Israel from Egypt?"

Exodus 3:12 And He said, "For I will be with you. And this for you a sign that I (Anochi) sent you. You will worship G-D (E-lohim) on this mountain (of Sinai) when you take this nation from Egypt."

How is the sign of 3:12 of relevance to Moshe's request in 3:11? It appears that Moshe wanted a sign that he would succeed in taking the Children of Israel out of Egypt. The Sinai experience happened after the Exodus.

What made Moshe question the success of the mission that G-D assigned? It is absurd to consider that the miracles of the Exodus were more difficult to G-D than the creation of the universe.

The following came to mind.

Consider the following verses:

Exodus 22:19 He who slaughters (sacrifices) to Elohim (the gods) shall be destroyed. (Do this) only to Hashem.

Exodus 32:7 And Hashem said to Moshe, "Go down (from this Mount Sinai) for your nation that you took out of Egypt has become corrupted."

Exodus 32:8 "They turned away quickly from the way that I commanded them. They made for themselves a molten calf. And they bowed down to it. And they slaughtered to it. And they said, 'These, O Israel, are your gods (Elohecha - same root as Elohim in 22:19) who took you out from Egypt.'"

The standard interpretation of 3:12 is that the sign that G-d gave for Moshe is that the Jewish people will worship Him at Mount Sinai.

As stated above, it is difficult to see how this signals to Moshe that he will succeed in taking the Jewish people out of Egypt since this occurred afterwards.

However, perhaps Moshe wasn't asking for a sign that the Exodus will succeed. Rather, perhaps he sought a sign that the mission of Jewish people will succeed, that G-D's plans and goals will be achieved.

Perhaps the sign of worship in 3:12 is not just about worship to G-D. Rather, perhaps it's also a reference to that of the Golden Calf. In this light, this becomes a revelation of the extent that the concept of Anochi can go. That is, G-D's response to Moshe is that He is taking the Jewish people out of Egypt in spite of His foreknowledge that this same people will be responsible for worshipping a Golden Calf a mere 40 days after their receiving the Torah, the purpose and climax of the Exodus process.

Our worship of the Golden Calf has got to be the world's greatest bungle. It is an historical watershed in many ways. While many are negative, one is clearly positive. It is inconceivable for us to mess up any more than that. If G-D took us out of Egypt with this foreknowledge and if G-D subsequently forgave us, then we've got to survive history and G-D's goals and plan will definitely succeed, someday.

The response for Moshe's request for a sign is now understood in this light.

A father will do everything in his power to see that his child will succeed.

We owe this all to our forefather Avraham


15:1 The word of G-D came to Avram (Abraham) in a vision of the night after these matters (occurred) saying, "Fear not Avram (for) I am a shield for you. Your reward is very great."

15:2 And Avram said, "Oh G-D, what will you give me and I (still) go childless. And the one who feeds those in my house is Eliezer from Damascus."

15:3 And Avram said, "Behold, to me you did not give children and behold someone from my household will inherit me."

The Targum Yonoson Ben Eliezer explains why G-D came to Avraham in 15:1 at this time, right after his war with the four kings.

Avram said to himself, "Woe is to me. Perhaps (the victory caused) me to receive the reward of my observance of (G-D's) commandments in this world and I have no share in the next world. Or perhaps the relatives of those who were killed will organize into legions and will attack me. Or perhaps I will have some reward (left) and (it will cause) them to fall before me but in another confrontation I will have exhausted my reward (and I will lose), causing the Name (i.e. the reputation) of G-D to be profaned.

And so, the word of G-D came to Avram in a vision saying, "Fear not. Even if their mighty soldiers organize into legions and attack you, My word will make you victorious. And even though they are falling before you in this world, the great reward of your good deeds are preserved before Me in the next world.

According to the Targum, Avraham was worried about his afterlife and also about causing G-D's name to be profaned.

How then do we understand the next two verses? Why is Avraham bringing up the fact that he is childless. How does it relate to his initial concerns?

The following came to mind.

The Orach Hachayim commentary provides the following insight.

He asks the following questions:

How could Avraham bring up the fact that he was childless at this time if G-D had already promised him that he will have children. In 12:16 it states, "And I will make your seed like the dust of the Earth." Surely, Avraham would not complain that G-D is not fulfilling His commitment in a timely manner.

Also 15:3 says, "Behold, to me you did not give children." It sounds more correct to write, "Behold, you did not give me children."

(To understand the above,) the intent of the scriptures is (as follows). The promise (of G-D) was for children who were to be like the dust of the earth. People who are described in this manner are typically lowly and scorned, with no connection to holiness.

Thus, Avraham said "to me you did not give children," meaning that the future offspring will not match who I am. That is, they will not be "to me."

And so, G-D responded in 15:8 by telling Avraham to "count the stars" and "you children will be like this."

This sheds light on the projected similarity of his children to the dust of the earth. We now focus on the positive aspects of earth, such as its ability to overpower (i.e. oxidize) metal utensils.

We now have an answer to our first question. Avraham wasn't questioning when and whether G-D would give him children. Rather, he was questioning the quality of his future offspring.

On the surface, the Orach Hachayim's approach answers the questions that were posed but it also raises others. If Avraham is questioning the quality of the offspring that G-D promised him then this transforms his question into a complaint, which is what we were avoiding in the first place.

Perhaps the Orach Hachayim can be understood within the context of the Targum that we cited above.

Avraham's focus in life was to elevate G-D's reputation and this is evident from the Targum.

Since he was public known as a person of G-D, if all of his offspring turned out to be animalistic then this would not reflect well on how other people viewed G-D's management of the affairs of mankind. Avraham's questioning of the quality of his offspring came from his sincere and lofty motives, which was to protect G'D's reputation in the eyes of his fellow man.

With a new understanding of the Orach Hachayim we now have an answer to our initial queston.

Avraham is not bringing up the fact that he is childless. Rather, his question directly relates to his initial concerns of G-D's reputation within this world and he is trying to insure that his offspring would be fitting for someone who was closely linked by his peers to G-D Himself.


15:3 And Avram (Abraham) said, "Behold you did not give me seed and behold the son [product] of my household (Eliezer) is inheriting me."

15:4 And behold the word of G-D came to him saying, "This (person) will not inherit you. Rather one who will emerge from your body will inherit you."

We find that G-D promised the land to Avraham a number of times. The Ramban (15:18) tells us that the promises reflect a progression and are not duplicative.

Upon his arrival and journey to Shechem and Aylon Moreh, G-D promised: "I will give this land to your seed" (12:7). This could mean that G-D only gave him the land that he traveled through. And we do not know for how long it would belong to Avraham's seed.

When his merits in the land increased, G-D told him: "Please lift up your eyes from the place where you are towards the north, south, east and west. I will give all the land that you see to you and your seed forever. And I will make your seed (as numerous) as the dust of the earth…" (13:14-16).

Here, more land was specified. And it could be taken that his seed would take possession in a way that could last forever, depending on their behavior. And G-D said that Avraham's seed would be numerous, that not just a handful of people that are righteous.

At the 'Covenant between the Pieces,' verses 15:9-21, the land was clearly defined. And the covenant meant that his seed would receive the land unconditionally, regardless of their level behavior.

From verse 12:4 and discussion in the Talmud (Brachos 7b, Tosfos), the above three encounters occurred during Avraham's first year of residence in Israel, when he was seventy.

Another encounter is recorded when Avraham was ninety-nine.

And I will establish My covenant between Myself and between you and between your seed who is after you for their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a G-D to you and your seed after you. And I will give to you and to your seed (who follows in your ways) after you the land of your sojourning, all the Land of Canaan for an everlasting possession, and I will be a G-D to them. (17:7-8)

Here, Avraham was told that the land would always belong to the Jewish people. And should they be exiled from the land, then they would eventually return, because their ownership is everlasting. Also, G-D would manage the Jewish people directly, not through His celestial intermediaries.

It is interesting to note that the discussion in the Talmud (Brachos 7b, Tosfos) states that the encounter of verses 15:3-4 was a fifth encounter and it occurred between the third and fourth, when Avraham was seventy-three.

Although Avraham heard three times from G-D that he would produce seed, he was concerned that this would be virtual, not actual. That is, he thought that his teachings would survive via his students and followers, but not through natural children, that there would be Jews in spirit but not biologically.

G-D assured him otherwise.


15:7 And He said to him [Avraham / Abraham], "I am G-D who took you out from Ur Kasdim to give you this land to inherit it."

15:8 And he [Avraham] said, "Oh G-D A-lmighty, how will I know that I will inherit it?"

Avraham appears to be asking for a verification that he will inherit the land. He does not appear to be concerned with whether or not he will actually receive the land. Why?

From a surface reading of the Scriptures it doesn't appear that Avraham ever got this land. How could it be that G-D makes a solemn covenant to give something to a person and this is not fulfilled?

It appears that G-D is promising two things, that Avraham will receive the land and that he will inherit it. Or, it could be that this is really one thing, that Avraham will receive the land as an inheritance. What is the significance of this inheritance?

The following came to mind.

Possession through gifting is very different from possession through inheritance.

If all we have to say it that "This Land Is Mine, G-D Gave It To Me" then we have no eternal basis for ownership and Palestine is up for grabs each and every day. G-D gave the Jewish people the Promised Land some three-thousand years ago. However, He also let others take it away from us some two-thousand years ago. And, He gave it back and then He took it away, and today some of us are clinging to some parts of this land but we have no guarantee what tomorrow will bring.

I submit that this 'arrangement' is NOT what G-D promised Avraham.

Rather, G-D promised that Avraham will *inherit* the land. And this is very significant. By receiving the land through inheritance, Avraham enabled his offspring (who inherited him) to do the same.

Therefore, when the Babylonians and Romans seized the land, they only affected our ability to live there, not our claims to ownership.

This explains why Avraham's focus was only on the inheritance. It explains why he never got the land because his legal rights as they were defined by the government in power at the time were of little significance. Rather, the focus was on his legal status with the land by the Government of all governments, G-D Himself. G-D fulfilled His promise. In the eyes of the Heavenly legal system, Avraham got the land through inheritance.

I hope that you do not view this arrangement as mere legal trick to insure that the Jewish people will always have a basis for claiming the land. G-D forbid. Rather, it is the key to our being able to live there, all of us and forever.

Linking ownership to inheritance through Avraham will now insure that the Jewish people (and the rest of the world) will keep thinking about Avraham.

They will now say, "What on earth did Avraham *DO* that warranted such favor from G-D? Look at how it paid off. Perhaps we should study what we know about this person. Perhaps we can do better and behave more like an Avraham."

I'm sure that if we all pull together and focus on the true source of our ownership, which may require some changes in attitudes and behavior, that we will all indeed live there, in peace and in the best of relations with the rest of mankind.


15:13 And He [G-D] said to Avram (Abraham), "Know very well that your offspring will be strangers in a land that is not theirs. And they will serve them [the nation where they reside] and they [that nation] will afflict them [your offspring] (for) four-hundred years."

15:14 "And I will also meet justice upon the nation that they will serve. And they will afterwards leave (that land – Egypt) with many possessions."

The Talmud (Pesachim 119a) provides us with the following historical record of these possessions.

When the Jewish people left Egypt, they took all of that wealth with them as it states, "And they emptied Egypt (Exodus 12:36)."

Rav Asi said, 'They made Egypt like a (bird) trap that has no grain.' Rabbi Shimon son of Lakish said, ' They made Egypt like a deep sea that has no fish.'

That wealth remained with the Jewish people until the reign of king Rechavam (some five-hundred-twenty-five years later).

Then, king Shishak of Egypt came and seized it from Rechavam as it states, "And it was on the fifth year of the reign of king Rechavam (that) Shishak king of Egypt rose up (in battle) against Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) and he took the treasures of G-D's house [the temple] and the treasures of the king's palace (Kings 1: 14:25-26).

Then, king Zerach of Kush came and seized the wealth from Shishak. Then (Rechavam's grandson king) Asa came and seized it from Zerach (Chronicles 2: 14:7-14) and he sent it to Hadrimon son of Tavrimon (to induce him to come to his defense against king Baasha – Kings 1: 15: 17-22).

The Ammonites seized the wealth from Hadrimon son of Tavrimon. (Asa's son) king Yehoshafat came and seized it from the Ammonites (Chronicles 2: 20:1-29).

It remained with the Jewish people until king Achaz (seven kings later) when Sennacherib of Assyria came and took it from Achaz (Chronicles 2: 28: 20-21).

(Achaz's son king Chizkia) came and took it from Sennacherib (Kings 2 19:35) and it remained with the Jewish people until the end of king Tzidkiyahu's reign (some eight-hundred-ninety years after the Exodus).

The Chaldeans [Babylonians] came and seized it from Tzidkiyahu (Kings 2:25). The Persians came and took it from the Chaldeans; the Greeks came and seized it from the Persians; the Romans came and took it from the Greeks. And it remains in Rome to this day.

Whew!

It is remarkable that this wealth was identifiable within the Jewish people and they didn't simply spend it all as soon as they got it. It appears that the Jewish people wanted it to be a treasured memorial of our great ancestor Avraham and also for the very memorable Exodus, both of which vividly remain in our hearts to this day.


15:15 [G-d is speaking to Avraham - Abraham] 'And you [Avraham] will go to your fathers in peace, you will be buried in good old age.'

Avraham's father was Terach, an idolater. We say this every year during our Pesach (Passover) seder:

'Your ancestors lived on the other side of the river, of old, Terach the father of Avraham and Nachor, and they worshipped other gods.'

Upon his passing, one would certainly not expect the saintly Avraham to move into the same neighborhood/department where idolaters go!

Rashi addresses this:

His (Avraham's) father was an idolater and He (G-d) declares that he will go to him. This teaches you that Terach did Teshuva (i.e. he repented).

Now, Avraham is the spiritual foundation stone for all of Jewry and for all of Mankind. Would it even be possible for us in our current existence to imagine the greatness and happiness of the afterlife, I'm certain that we would be unable to even imagine how to imagine that of Avraham's.

It is difficult to understand how Avraham would be given a place in the afterlife near his father. If anything, it would be a great privilege for Terach to be let in once in a while to where Avraham is situated in order to pay him a visit.

The following came to mind.

Terach was a Baal Teshuva, one who repented from evil. We know the following from the Talmud (Brachos 34b):

'Rav Abahu said, 'A purely righteous person (- one who did not sin, does not have enough status in the next world) to stand in the place where those who (sinned but who also) did Teshuva (are permitted to be.)

[Note: This is NOT a directive to do sins in order to repent! The Talmud also says that one who sins with the intention to repent is not given the ability to repent.]

From this teaching alone, one may be tempted to say that Terach was in fact greater than Avraham because he did Teshuva.

However, the Torah mentions Avraham's family relationship with Terach. If being a Baal Teshuva from idolatry is sufficient to make a person in the next world as great as Avraham, then G-d should have told Avraham, 'You will go to the place where those who did Teshuva from idolatry go.'

Apparently, Terach had another thing going for himself, too.

The Mishna (Sanhedrin 90) lists people who have no share in the next world. Many made the list because of their extreme wickedness.

The Talmud (Sanhedrin 104a) notes that some people are missing.

'Why is Amnon (the wicked King of Judea) not listed? Because of the esteem of (his righteous son) Yoshiahu. (If so,) Menasheh (who made the list) should not be (on it) because of the esteem of (his righteous father) Chizkiyahu (Hezekiah). (Answers the Talmud: ) A son can provide merit for a father but a father can not provide merit for a son. (The fact that a father can not help a son is reflected in the following teaching on the verse, ) 'No one can save from My (G-d's) hand (Deuteronomy 32)' (We learn from here that) Avraham can not save Yishmael (Ishmael), and Yitzchak (Isaac) can not save Aisav (Essau).'

So apparently, Terach had two wonderful things. First, he had a terrific (understatement) son. However, from this alone the Talmud seems to be saying that Terach would have only been saved from the unfortunate fate in the next world of an idolator. We may not be able to derive that he would have been in Avraham's neighborhood-to-come.

However, Terach also did Teshuva and we already know how great that is.

Perhaps this is what the Torah is trying to tell us.

So, let's all get busy doing Teshuva and having righteous children.


16:2 And Sarai said to Avram (Abraham), "Behold G-D withheld me from giving birth. Please come to my maidservant, perhaps I can become built through her." And Avram listened to the voice of Sarai.

16:4 And he (Avram) came to Hagar and she became pregnant. And she saw that she became pregnant and her mistress (Sarai) became cheapened in her eyes (because Sarai failed to conceive from Avraham).

16:5 And Sarai said to Avram, "You are responsible for my shame ..."

The Seforno commentary explains that Sarai was disappointed that Avram did not sufficiently protest when Hagar belittled Sarai.

Avram subsequently consented to Sarai's afflicting Hagar to clarify the point that while Hagar was married to Avram, she was still Sarai's maidservant.

Sarai's affliction drove Hagar to escape into the desert where she had an encounter with an angel who encouraged her return and bear the affliction. By returning to Avram's home she would soon afterward bear a child who would become the founder of a great nation.

16:13 And she called the Name of G-D that spoke to her, "You are G-D who sees" for she said, "Could it be that I saw here (such a vision) after I had already seen so (in Avram's home.)

The Sefurno explains that she praised G-D for showing consideration for her hurt feelings even though she was in such a remote place, outside the walls of Avram and Sarai's great home.

This Sefurno tells me that the pain that Sarai inflicted on Hagar was of a corrective nature, not one of being vindictive.

As much as Sarai wanted Avram to have a child, even if meant bringing another woman into the home, it was unacceptable for the circumstances surrounding the birth of this child to include the humiliation of another person.

It was only after Hagar realized the significance that G-D places on a person's hurt feelings that she became worthy of becoming a mother to Avram's child.


Vayera (Genesis 18-22)

18:1 And G-D appeared to him [Avraham/Abraham] in Elonei Mamrei. And he was sitting by the opening of the tent as the day grew hot.

Avraham was very focused on providing hospitality to travelers.

Rashi teaches that he was recovering from his recent circumcision and G-D made it a very hot day to discourage people from travelling to give him a break. The lack of opportunity to be of service to others bothered Avraham more than his wound so G-D sent three angels to pose as guests.

Rabbi Yisochor Frand questioned the need for these special agents. Why didn't G-D simply turn down the thermostat and let the rest of mankind resume their travelling?

Rashi in 18:8 says that Avraham's special guests merely appeared to eat, because angels have no digestive system. It's like they put food into their mouth and then vaporized it inside.

This adds to the puzzle because this is the only example that the Torah provides us of Avraham's outstanding hospitality for the rest of us to learn from and follow. If so, why wasn't Avraham given the opportunity to give food to beings that needed it?

Rabbi Frand uses this last question as part of the answer.

G-D can provide for needy people in many ways and from many sources.

It is the donor or host that is singled out by G-D to be His agent, thereby having another opportunity to become a better person from this act of kindness.

The angels didn't need Avraham for their nourishment. Rather it was Avraham who needed to do acts of kindness.

It's the same for us when someone comes to the door. We need them and not the reverse, for G-D can satisfy their needs elsewhere.

This is why the Torah selected this story for us to learn about providing for the needs of others.


18:1 And G-D appeared to him [Avraham/Abraham] in Elonei Mamrei. And he was sitting by the opening of the tent as the day grew hot.

18:2 And he lifted up his eyes and he saw. And behold there are three men standing across him. And he saw (this) and he ran towards them from the opening of the tent and he bowed to the ground (to greet them and provide them with hospitality).

18:3 And he said, "Please, Oh G-D, if I have found favor in your eyes then please do not pass away from your servant."

This happened after Avraham's circumcision, while he was recovering. Our sages tell us that G-D appeared to Avraham in accordance with the practice of visiting the sick. Avraham begged G-D's pardon and interrupted the Divine encounter so that he could provide hospitality to the three men, whom he didn't even know.

Avraham was never faulted for the disruption. In fact, G-D picked up the conversation in verse 20, after the guests were fed and sent on their way.

Rabbi Yehudah says in the name of Rav that Avraham's behavior teaches us that receiving guests is greater than receiving G-D's presence.

The Be'er Yosef commentary questions whether receiving G-D's presence is associated with the fulfillment of any commandment.

If it does fulfill a commandment then Avraham's behavior appears inconsistent with a Torah rule that one is not permitted to interrupt the fulfillment of one commandment in order to fulfill another commandment, even if the second commandment is of greater importance, such as receiving guests. Following this rule, Avraham would not have been permitted to interrupt his encounter with G-D.

We must therefore say that no Divine commandment is associated with receiving G-D's presence.

If so, then we have no proof that greeting guests is of greater significance or priority over any other commandment.

Rather, Rav Yehudah's teaching that receiving guests is greater than receiving G-D's presence must be referring to honor and related behaviors.

Avraham had a conflict between greeting G-D and greeting guests.

If one was privileged to have an audience with a mortal king, it would be hard to justify interrupting the encounter to greet a set of ordinary guests for this would slight the honor that is due the king.

Rav Yehudah derives from Avraham's behavior that this does not apply to a Divine encounter and greeting guests justifies an interruption.

I understand this in the following manner.

We are taught that the underlying purpose of the Creation to provide G-D a way to bestow the greatest possible pleasure upon His creations, for it is fitting for that which is good to bestow good.

We are on this earth is to perform acts that can later justify G-D's bestowing upon us this goodness.

The principle that our existence is founded on providing loving kindness to G-D's creations drove Avraham's decision to interrupt his awesome encounter with G-D in order to take in some guests.

To Avraham, greeting guests was a far greater way to honor G-D than ignoring them at that moment, for doing so addressed G-D's will and the purpose of Creation.

The Be'er Yosef also notes the Ramban commentary that Avraham's Divine encounter was a reward for his decision to circumcise. Such an encounter brings with it one of the greatest and meaningful pleasures that a human being can experience.

Avraham did not hesitate interrupting the experience so that he could run out in the heat of the day and care for some perfect strangers, despite the discomfort of his illness.


18:1 And G-D appeared to him [Avraham/Abraham] in Elonei Mamrei. And he was sitting by the opening of the tent as the day grew hot.

Rashi explains that G-D was paying Avraham a visit because he was ill from the circumcision. Rabbi Chana son of Chanina explains that it was the third day since the procedure was done (Talmud Bava Metziah 86b).

We know from the story of Chamor (34:25) that the third day from circumcision is the most painful.

Why did G-D wait until the third day to make this visit? Why didn’t G-D heal Avraham immediately so that he would not have to endure the pain for three days?

The following came to mind.

A story is told of a youth who took his studies seriously and decided to become religious. His parents were not religious and were outraged over his decision to the degree that his mother slapped him for observing a commandment.

The youth bemoaned his plight to his mentor. In response, the mentor offered several hundred dollars to purchase the reward in the next word that the youth would receive for the slap.

The youth thought about it for a moment and decided to keep the slap for himself.

Similarly, had G-D healed Avraham immediately then I suggest that Avraham would have felt distress for not having had the opportunity to demonstrate his love towards G-D by experiencing some discomfort that naturally comes from fulfilling His commandment. I submit that the distress that this great person would have felt would have been more than the three days of discomfort that he felt and this is why G-D waited before paying the visit.


18:2 And he lifted up his eyes and he saw. And behold there are three men standing across him. And he saw (this) and he ran towards them from the opening of the tent and he bowed to the ground (to greet them and provide them with hospitality).

Avaham's guests were quite unusual and were no ordinary people.

Rashi 18:1 says the following:

Avraham dedicated his life and assets to hospitality. He had recently undergone circumcision and was recovering from the surgery. G-d did not want to bother him with taking care of guests. G-d therefore made the sun shine so intensely that it discouraged people from traveling. Although Avraham had no guests, he was not relieved. Due to his greatness, the lack of guests caused him more distress than his illness. G-d therefore disguised three angels and sent them from heaven to visit Avraham.

Rashi tells us more about the angels in the next verse. One angel was sent to destroy the evil city of Sodom. The second angel had two missions. He first healed Avraham. He then accompanied the first angel and went to Sodom where Lot resided. He was charged to save Avraham's nephew from the destruction. The third angel was sent to tell Sarah that she will have a child.

Why didn't one guest / angel suffice? Why didn't G-d just send the one angel which healed Avraham? Why did Avraham have to meet Sodom's angel of destruction? Why did Avraham have to see the healing / rescuing angel accompany the angel of destruction? Why did the third guest / angel need to come at this point in the story? Angel or not, Sarah was to become pregnant within three months anyway.

The following came to mind.

From the first Rashi we see that G-d sought to put Avraham at ease and make him comfortable.

The Sodomite culture was the antithesis of Avraham. They outlawed hospitality and extended cruel punishment to anyone who broke this law (See Rashi's reference to Talmud Sanhedrin 109b). Yet, as the world's Pillar of Kindness, Avraham sincerely prayed to save them from destruction(18:23-33).

G-d assured Avraham that He would not destroy the city if there was hope for them. Perhaps G-d wanted to provide Avrohom with visible confirmation that the city would be spared if there was hope. He therefore showed Avrohom that the angel of rescue was accompanying the angel of destruction.

We now have a reason for the two angels.

The third angel completed his mission when he announced Yitzchak (Isaac's) birth. This provided Avraham great relief at this time for the following reason.

G-d had already told Avraham about the birth of Yitzchak (17:19 & 21) However, G-d did not give this prophecy to Sarah. Since she herself was a prophet (Rashi 21:12), Avraham reasoned that if G-d wanted her to have foreknowledge about the birth then He would have told her, also.

We can assume that Avraham was bursting to tell Sarah the good news, but he couldn't.

This third angel thus enabled Avraham to immediately share the joy with his dear wife.


18:17 And G-D said, "Could I conceal from Avraham what I am doing? (Certainly I will not.)"

18:18 And Avraham will surely become (the founder of) a great and mighty nation. And all of the nations of the earth will be blessed through him.

18:20 And G-D said (to Avraham), "For the outcry of Sodom and Amorah is great and for their sin that is very severe."

18:23 And Avraham said, "Can anger destroy a righteous person together with a wicked person?"

19:24 And G-D rained sulfur and fire down upon Sodom and Amorah. It was from G-D, from the heaven.

G-D is well aware of the past, present, and future. It appears here that G-D gave Avraham the opportunity to pray for Sodom and Amorah despite the fact that He knew that Avraham's prayers would not cause them to be spared.

How do we understand this?

And how do we take it when we extend ourselves in prayer for someone who is sick and the person dies?

Rabbi Shimshon Pincus, of blessed memory, offers the following thought.

King David was overwhelmed by the generosity of the Jewish people who contributed to build the first temple. He asks G-D to "Remember this forever." (Divrei Hayomim / Chronicles I, 29:18)

His wish is understood as follows:

As fund raising doesn't always succeed, King David beseeched G-D to save the extra merits that the Jewish people earned now to compensate for shortfalls that they may have in future efforts.

Similarly, prayer always works and is beneficial. As life and death is in G-D's hands, if G-D decides to take someone away from us now then He will use our prayers another time, when we need them and their extra merits/energy.

Applying this to Avraham, G-D foresaw that there will be times when the Jewish people will need to rely upon Avraham's great efforts and merits when he prayed to spare these cities.


18:19 For I [G-D] know him (Avraham / Abraham) so that he will charge his household (to follow) after him. And they will keep the way of G-D to do charity and justice. (This is) so that G-D will bring about to Avraham that which He spoke of him.

The Shiras Dovid commentary notes that there are two sources in the Torah for doing acts of kindness, such as giving charity. One comes from the phrase, "And you shall love your fellow as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18). The second comes from, "And you shall walk in His [G-D's] ways" (Deuteronomy 28:9).

He notes that our verse emphasizes the latter, Avraham's ensuring that his children will act in a way that reflects G-D's ways.

Rav Hutner of blessed memory writes that Avraham achieved the status of becoming the patriarch of the Jewish people because he focused on emulating G-D, to the best of his ability.

The Shiras Dovid commentary explains this teaching and I understand it as follows.

There is a fundamental difference between these two sources of kindness.

Every commandment provides a unique benefit to those that fulfill it. When acts of kindness come from an emphasis on "And you shall love your fellow as yourself" then the benefit is focused on those who do it, the 'yourselves.' However, when acts of kindness include an emphasis on following G-D's ways, then measure for measure, the benefit will be that it will be much easier for one's descendants to follow in his ways.

In effect, Avraham's great lifestyle caused a change in the nature of his children, that they became more inclined to do acts of kindness. This contributed to his achieving the status of a patriarch of the Jewish people.


18:20 And G-D said, "The scream of (the cities of) Sodom and Amorah are great and their sins are very serious."

18:21 I will descend and judge whether they are responsible for the outcry that comes before me (and) if so then I will destroy (them but) if they repent then I will not exact (punishment).

18:32 And he (Avraham / Abraham) said (to G-D), "May G-D please not be angry (that) I speak just one more time. Perhaps (only) ten (righteous people) will be found there. (Will You still destroy the city?)" And He responded, "I will not destroy for the sake of the ten."

The Sodomic region was infamous for the wickedness of its inhabitants.

The Oral Torah records some examples.

Charity was illegal and the poverty-stricken were persecuted.

Hospitality was illegal. Travelers seeking hospitality were maimed. The Torah records that the entire region was in an uproar over Lot's caring for two travelers.

The legal system was corrupt and did not protect the weak. Avraham's servant Eliezer was assaulted and wounded. He took the assailant to court and the judge required him to pay the assailant a fee for bloodletting.

The word, 'sodomy' is derived from their behavior.

Had Sodom contained ten righteous people then they would have been saved from doom. Given the outrageous conduct of Sodom, one would expect that these people would need outstanding behavior and merits to shield their fellow citizens from destruction.

The Sefurno provides the following insight for 18:21.

"If so then I will destroy:" If they all behaved in this manner and there was not one person who protested.

We see from here that a person can be characterized as being a righteous person by merely protesting against evil behavior.

Even within the Torah's clearly delineated standards and criteria for conduct, people can be termed as being righteous in some sense even though they are not fully compliant.

Understandably, being classified righteous does not relieve one from experiencing consequences from non-compliance.


18:25 It is not befitting to You [G-D] to do this thing, to kill the righteous (of Sodom together) with the wicked. And the righteous will be (treated) just like the wicked. It is not befitting to you, who judges all the earth (and) not to do justice.

Avraham's plea for justice is puzzling because by reversing the judgment and sparing the wicked of the city then the injustice will still exist, only in the reverse. That is, instead of the righteous receiving the same judgment as the wicked people; the wicked people will receive the same judgment as the righteous.

Also, how could Avraham contemplate that G-D would do an injustice and kill innocent people?

The following came to mind.

In the current phase of world history, it sometimes appears that good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people.

I say that this appears so because our vision is limited by physicality and by time. Once we transition into the afterlife, we enter a world where only good things eternally happen to good people and bad people are eternal losers.

Many reasons are given for the temporal comfort of the wicked in this world and for the righteous having temporal discomfort.

The temporal suffering of the righteous is sometimes understood as a vehicle for them to avoid intense suffering in the next world for their shortcomings in this world. Their temporal suffering is also sometimes understood as a vehicle for them to obtain eternal reward for it, as it provides a test of faith for others. Comfort and suffering are G-D's call, and only He knows the trade-offs and what is best. This is why it is not injustice when the righteous die with the wicked.

Avraham understood that if righteous people in Sodom would be killed because of the deeds of the sinners that the reward they would receive would by far be greater than what they would have lost, because it is both of its intensity in the afterlife, which can not be matched by any experience in this world and it is also eternal.

However, this has the appearance of an injustice to those who lack this perspective. Avraham therefore prayed for the reverse to avoid providing people in this world the opportunity to misconceive the events, despite the fact that it would take a much greater toll on the wicked in the next world.


19:16 And he [Lot] delayed and the [angles who appeared to Lot as] men grabbed his hand and the hand of his wife and the hand of his two daughters out of G-D's mercy for him. And they took them out and placed him outside the city.

19:17 And they said as they took them out, "Run for your lives. Do not look backwards and do not stop throughout the plane. Flee to the mountain lest you get destroyed."

Rashi on 19:16 says that Lot spent time to save his money. In 19:17 the angels told him that it was enough that his life was spared and that he should not feel sorry over the loss of his money.

Why didn't G-D authorize the angels to help Lot save his money?

The Shiras Dovid commentary offers the following explanation.

Avraham (Abraham) was a great mentor for all mankind and Lot was very fortunate to be in his company.

In chapter 13 we learned that Lot gained financially from being with Avraham. We also learned that he left Avraham over a money quarrel. And he chose to keep company with the wicked people of Sedom because he saw opportunities to increase his fortune.

In chapter 14, Lot was captured and lost all of his money. He was expected to understand that was a message from G-D that he should not have left his great mentor to become wealthier.

G-d performed a miracle and helped Avraham save the entire city, including Lot. Avraham restored much of the spoils that were lost.

Unfortunately, Lot did not listen to these messages and he chose to return to Sedom.

He therefore needed to lose the money he made because of Avraham's company and the gains he earned from leaving Avraham's company to teach him that the greatest material and spiritual gains he achieved and could ever have achieved were all through Avraham.


Our matriarch Sarah was abducted two times in the Torah, both by monarchs who were stunned by her beauty.

The first incident was with Pharaoh, in the previous Torah reading.

The following describes her rescue:

12:17 And G-d afflicted Pharaoh and his household with great plagues, by the word of Sarai, wife of Avram.

12:18 And Pharaoh called for Avram and said (to him), 'What is this that you did to me? Why didn't you tell me that she is your wife?'

12:19 'Why did you say that, 'She is my sister?' (So,) I took her for myself as a wife. And now, here is your wife, take (her) and leave.'

The second incident was with Avimelech, in this Torah reading.

The following describes her rescue:

20:3 And G-d came to Avimelech in a dream of the night. And He said to him, "'Behold you will die because of the woman that you took, for she is a married woman."

20:7 "And now, return the wife of the man, for he is a prophet. And he will pray for you and (so) you will live. And if you don't return (her), know that you will surely die, you and all that you have."

20:8 And Avimelech arose early in the morning and he called all of his servants. And he spoke all of these words in their ears. And the men were very afraid.

20:9 And Avimelech called for Avraham and said to him, "What did you do to us and how have I sinned to you, for which you brought upon myself and upon my kingdom a great sin. You have done with me acts that should not be done."

20:10 And Avimelech said to Avraham, 'What did you see, because of which you did this thing?'

20:11 And Avraham said, "Because I said (to myself), Only there is no fear of G-D in this place and they will kill me because of my wife."

20:12 "But, truly, she is my sister. She is a (grand) daughter of my father. However, (she is) not a daughter of my mother. And (so) she became a wife to me."

20:17 And Avraham prayed to G-d. And G-d healed Avimelech and his wife and his maids, and they gave birth.

20:18 For G-d closed up all of the wombs in the home of Avimelech, by the word of Sarah, wife of Avraham.

Our commentaries explain that the body orifices of everyone in Avimelech's home, men included, were sealed up until Avraham prayed.

G-d came to Avimelech in a dream, but not to Pharaoh. Why?

The following came to mind.

One possibility is that Avimelech lived in the Holy Land, whereas Pharaoh lived in Egypt. Perhaps the merit of living in the Land of Israel is so great that it made Avimelech worthy of experiencing this encounter with G-d.

A close examination of their dialogue with Avraham may provide another insight.

It appears that Pharaoh was both afraid and annoyed. This was his mindset when he asked Avraham to leave.

Avimelech started out this way too, in verse 20:9, where he asked Avraham for an explanation. However, he asks for an explanation a second time in the next verse. I was taught that Avraham refused to respond to the first request, which was rather harsh when compared to the second request.

It is noteworthy that Avimelech persevered in a soul-searching manner, that he truly wanted to know why Avraham acted in this manner. Avimelech suspected that he sinned or that there was something wrong with his kingdom. This is in contrast to Pharaoh, who just wanted to get rid of his problem.

Perhaps the difference in attitude made only Avimelech worthy of an encounter with G-d.


20:3 And G-d came to Avimelech in a dream of the night. And He said to him, "'Behold you will die because of the woman that you took, for she is a married woman."

20:4 And Avimelech did not come near her. And he said, "(Oh) G-D, will you even kill a righteous nation?"

Rashi explains that Avimelech was insinuating that G-D brought the Great Flood for no good reason and that He kills innocent people.

20:5 "Did he [Avraham] not say, 'She was my sister?' And did she [Sarah] say, 'He was my brother?' I did this with the innocence of my heart and with my clean hands!"

Avimelech appears to be lecturing G-D about being fair.

20:6 And G-D said to him in a dream of the night, "I also know that you did this with your innocence of heart. And I also kept you back from sinning to Me. This is why I disabled you from touching her."

It appears that Avimelech's lecture struck home with G-D. This is very strange and not expected.

Note that Avimelech implies in verse four that he is a righteous person.

I believe that a better way to understand the apparent turn-around is that it was planned by G-D to help Avimelech realize that he was not the righteous person that he viewed himself as being.

The Talmud teaches that G-D gives righteous people the ability to withstand the full level of Heavenly justice (Yevamos 121b). In this light, had Avimelech been the righteous person he viewed himself as being, a death sentence would have been appropriate for even a minor infraction. But in His mercy, G-D adjusts the level of scrutiny so that we can have more opportunities to grow into what we can be.

20:7 "And now, return the wife of the man, for he is a prophet. And he will pray for you and (so) you will live. And if you don't return (her), know that you will surely die, you and all that you have."

20:8 And Avimelech arose early in the morning and he called all of his servants. And he spoke all of these words in their ears. And the men were very afraid.

20:9 And Avimelech called for Avraham and said to him, "What did you do to us and how have I sinned to you, for which you brought upon myself and upon my kingdom a great sin. You have done with me acts that should not be done."

Even though G-D told Avimelech that Avraham was prophet, he appears to blame Avraham for what happened. Perhaps he is not ready to consider anything else.

This happens many times. Instead of blaming G-D, people blame those who represent G-D.

The next verse suggests that Avraham did not respond this rant. Instead, Avraham waited to respond until he felt Avimelech was ready to consider that something was not right in the kingdom.

20:10 And Avimelech said to Avraham, 'What did you see, because of which you did this thing?'

20:11 And Avraham said, "Because I said (to myself), Only there is no fear of G-D in this place and they will kill me because of my wife."

It's hard to be afraid that G-D will do something that causes discomfort or death if you are certain that you are righteous.


21:22 And it happened in that time (that) Avimelech (King of Plishtim) and his chief of staff said to Avraham, 'G-d is with you in all that you do.'

21:23 'So now, swear to me in G-d's (name) that you will not deal falsely with me, my children, and my grandchildren. Just as I did kindness with you, do the same to me and to the land that you dwelled in.'

Apparently, this powerful monarch was terrified of Avraham to the degree that he felt a need to make a treaty with him. He also felt the need to bring along his chief of staff for additional security.

This is quite remarkable, as Avraham was a gentle and kindly old man who wouldn't even think of hurting anybody.

Rashi adds the following:

21:22 '..G-d is with you..'

Since (Avimelech) saw him [Avraham] move out of the district of Sodom in peace, he waged war and won over four kings, and Sarah was visited [gave birth to a child] in her old age. [Avimelech therefore felt a need to make a treaty.]

From this Rashi we learn that this treaty was made some time after the birth of Yitzchok.

The dramatic war against the four kings occurred several decades ago. Why didn't Avimelech propose the treaty then?

Also, Avimelech had a prior encounter with Avraham's family that was most personal and terrifying. Yet it is not even mentioned among the reasons for the treaty. Why?

20:3 And G-d came to Avimelech in a dream and said, 'You shall die because of the woman (Sarah) that you took (away), for she is married (to Avraham).

20:7 And now, return this married woman (to her husband), because he is a prophet and he will pray for you (so that) you will live. And if you don't return (her), know that you everyone who is with you will die.

20:8 And Avimelech got up early in the morning and called all of his servants and told them all of these words in their ears. And the men were very afraid.

The following came to mind.

The Haameck Davar (by the Netziv) gives the following reason for Avimelech seeking a treaty.

He knew that G-d promised the land to Avraham's descendants. The promised land included the land of the Plishtim, Avimelech's own kingdom.

Avimelech also knew that G-d will command Avraham's descendants to annihilate the corrupt and corruptive inhabitants of the land as part of their conquest. Avimelech simply didn't want his descendants to be included.

Perhaps we can use this Haamek Davar to better understand our Rashi.

We must first know the manner of the Cannanite corruption.

They were a people who ritually burn their sons and daughters in fire (Deuteronomy 12:31), men slept with wives of other men, with mothers, step-mothers, daughters-in-law, men, mothers-in-law, daughters, animals, sisters, menstrual women, aunts, women slept with women and animals, (Leviticus 20:10-23), they practiced witch craft, and consulted the dead (Deuteronomy 18:10-12).

Avimelech's most frightening encounter with Avraham was the result of his own near act of incest. He therefore did not want it mentioned as a rationale for the treaty because it would only serve to associate his lifestyle and that of his family with the Cannanite people.

However, the following aspects about Avraham were of relevance and perhaps they were mentioned by Avimelech during his proposal.

First, Avraham was a person of great spiritual strength. This is symbolized by his being able to live near Sodom without being influenced by them. He was therefore well deserving of G-d's promise to get the land. Furthermore, this suggests an ability within Avraham's family to maintain a high level of spirituality despite the negative surroundings. Avimelech therefore had every reason to suspect that there was a solid spiritual basis for Avraham's descendants to succeed.

Second, Avraham's miraculous victory over the four kings demonstrated G-d's readiness to make Avraham and his descendants succeed on the battlefield. Perhaps this is why the war is listed.

Third, now that Avraham had a descendant of great spiritual potential and worth, it was only a matter of time before the family would grow to become worthy of that which G-d promised Avraham. Perhaps this is why the birth of Yitzchok is mentioned.


21:22 And it was in that time that (King) Avimelech and Pichol his chief of staff told to Avraham saying, "G-D is with you in everything that you do."

21:23 "And swear now to me by G-D right here that you will not deal falsely with me, my children, and grandchildren. Do to me just like the kindness that I did to you, together with the land that you are residing on."

21:24 And Avraham said, "I will swear."

21:25 And Avraham (Abraham) admonished Avimelech for the well that the servants of Avimelech stole (from him).

21:26 And Avimelech said, "I don't know who did this and you did not tell me about this and also I did not hear (about this) until today."

Why did Avraham wait until then to tell Avimelech about the well?

The following came to mind.

Perhaps Avraham did not want to bring the matter up until he knew that he had gained Avimilech's respect. Now that Avimelech came to him and sought to make a pact, Avraham was certain that Avimelech had this respect.

However, we need not say that it was merely out of fear of mistreatment by Avimelech that he delayed in presenting his case.

We know that Avraham was very much a person who gave to others. Of course, he did not take that which belonged to others. From the encounter with the King of Sedom we see that Avraham did not even take that which is rightfully his when another person expressed an interest and claim on that same property.

By bending over backwards and acting in this manner, Avraham tried to represent and demonstrate that which he came to know about G-D. He taught that G-D is purely kind and seeks only that which He knows is really the best for mankind, which may not always be that which provides instant and obvious gratification.

Therefore, had Avraham brought up Avimelech's injustice beforehand, then Avimelech would have viewed this in the light of a victim seeking compensation.

However, Avraham did not want to be seen in this light for it could have been viewed by others as an act of self-interest, even though it was fully justified. Therefore, Avraham went on for the rest of his life without the well.

But he didn't, for while the commandment to return a stolen article certainly benefits the victim, it also benefits the criminal for it provides a means for recovery and atonement.

So, Avraham could have brought up the matter up earlier and claimed that his motivation was for Avimelech's benefit and not his own. However, had Avimelech not grown to have a deep respect for Avraham then he could have dismissed this as a false claim of piety. But now that Avimelech came to this respect, he was able to see that the claim for the well was solely motivated by Avrahams concern for Avimelech's spiritual status and not for personal gain or recovery.


22:3 And Avraham (Abraham) arose early in the morning and he saddled his donkey and he took his two lads with him and Yitzchak (Isaac) his son. And he split the wood for his Olah offering. And he got up and went to the place where G-D told him to go.

The Noam Elimelech commentary asks why he took wood from his home and hauled it for three days. Why couldn't he get wood along the way and save the trouble?

The answer lies in the way many commentaries understand this very unique test of Avraham's steadfast faith in G-D.

The test wasn't so much whether we would bring up his son as an offering. Rather, it was in the way he did it.

Puzzling request didn't affect the close relationship that he felt with G-D.

He arose early in the morning with enthusiasm and he looked for ways to apply as much of this enthusiasm to everything he did, as it's natural for enthusiasm to wear off.

Therefore, writes the Noam Elimelech, he took the wood as he was leaving instead of later and he chose transport it for three days. He felt that had he waited until later to get the wood, it would have been done with less enthusiasm.


22:7 And Yitzchak (Isaac) said to Avraham (Abraham) his father, "My father." And he said, "I am here, my son." And he said, "Here is the fire and the wood (for the sacrifice), but where is the sheep for the Olah offering?"

22:8 And Avraham said, "G-D will see for Himself a sheep - for an Olah offering my son." And they both went together (to sacrifice Yitzhak as the offering.)

We understand verse eight to mean that Avraham was telling his son that the offering will be either a sheep or Yitzchak himself.

The late Rebbe of Belz of blessed memory provides the following commentary, cited in the Chamudei Tzvi.

We say in our prayers, "Just as Avraham suppressed his mercy for his son, may Your mercy suppress the anger that You have towards us."

This is difficult to understand.

If G-D displays anger and His punishment is forthcoming then we must really deserve and need it, because G-D is All-Merciful.

If so, what good is it to mention that Avraham suppressed his mercy? Avraham had to suppress his feelings to fulfill G-D's plan. But Divine punishments are also part of G-D's plan. They can be understood as in-process adjustments to fix the defects that we introduced into ourselves. In this light, much like a doctor that must to a painful procedure to a patient, it's is G-d's mercy that needs to be suppressed, not His anger.

The Rebbe goes on to cite the Talmud (Sanhedrin 89b) that discusses Avraham's encounter with the Satan, who tried to dissuade him from sacrificing his son.

The Satan first tried the angle that sacrificing Yitzchak would undo all the work that Avraham devoted his life towards, which was for mankind to realize the loving kindness of G-D. At the very least, Avraham should re-interpret the commandment in a way that would not bring a desecration to G-D's name.

Avraham responded, "I will walk in my perfect innocence …" (Tehilim / Psalms 26:11)

Then the Satan tried the angle that Avraham was a religious fanatic and that such behavior would drive people away from his teachings.

Avraham responded with "Who is the innocent that was ever lost?" (Iyov / Job 4:7) Nobody ever lost out by listening to G-D.

Having seen that he couldn't sway Avraham, the Satan tried to blunt the greatness of what Avraham was doing by saying, "I heard the following statement emit from behind the partition in Heaven: A sheep will be offered, not Yitzchak."

Avraham responded, "The fate of those who say falsehoods is that nobody believes them, even when are even saying truth."

And Avraham continued on with the same degree of self-sacrifice. He would have killed Yitzchak, had G-D not sent an angel at the last moment to stop the ceremony.

Avraham acknowledged that the Satan may be saying truth. In spite of this, he ignored it, thereby disregarding a potential reality.

In his role as the prosecutor in the Heavenly court, the Satan raises accusations and criticisms against people. Given that not many of us behave like angels, his statements may be very well based on truth and reality, not upon exaggeration.

But from Avraham did, we can now say in our prayers, "Just as Avraham suppressed his mercy for his son, may Your mercy suppress the anger that You have towards us."

That is, in the merit that Avraham ignored what may be true in order to fulfill G-D's will with completeness of heart, so do we ask G-D to ignore what the Satan says about us, even if it may be based on truth.


22:9 And he came to the place that G-D told him and Avraham (Abraham) built there the altar and he arranged the wood and he bound up Yitzchok (Isaac) his son and he put him on the altar above the wood.

22:12 And he (the angel of G-D) said, "Do not stretch your hand to the boy and do nothing to him. For now I (G-D) know that you are G-D fearing and you did not hold back your son, your only one, from (being slaughtered to) Me."

22:13 And Avraham lifted up his eyes and looked and behold afterwards there was a ram that was caught with his horns in a bush. And Avraham went and took the ram and he brought it for an olah offering in place of his son.

23:15 And an angel of G-D called from heaven a second time to Avraham.

23:16 And he said, "I swear by Myself, says G-D, that because you did this thing and you did not hold back your son, your only one."

Verses 17 and 18 describe the blessings bestowed upon Avraham and his children.

Verse 16 says that these blessings were for something that Avraham did.

G-D commanded Avraham to bring Yitzchak up upon the altar and he did that. He also sacrificed a ram.

The revelation of the blessings was recorded immediately after he sacrificed the ram. From the sequence of the verses it appears that the blessings were given because he made the ram offering, not because he brought Yitzchak upon the altar.

But G-D never commanded him to bring the ram offering.

It was much more difficult for Avraham to bring Yitzchak up on the altar with the intent of making him into a sacrifice than for him to bring a ram offering.

Why does it appear that Avraham was blessed for doing something that he was not commanded to do versus being blessed for doing something much harder and which he was commanded to do?

Rabbi Bick of blessed memory provides the following thought.

We are measured by the extent we fulfill G-D's will and also how we fulfill it, by both quantity and quality.

The sages provide these two models: Service to a king as a servant and service as the child of the king.

The servant is motivated by fear. The child is driven by the relationship.

The difference comes out when both are tasked to do something that demands great sacrifice and are subsequently excused from doing the task.

The servant feels relief. He is happy that he showed willingness to undergo great sacrifice for the king. He is also happy that he does not have to make that sacrifice.

The child is also happy that he showed his willingness. But he is also disappointed that he did not have the opportunity to extend himself any further for his father.

Here is one way that this can come out.

Eating in a Succa can be an inconvenience. But any inconvenience is drowned out by the joy of the holiday, family, and festivity.

Other than the first night of the holiday, everyone leaves the Succa and eats in the house when it rains enough to spoil the meal.

While everyone leaves the Succa, some walk out with feelings of relief because it's more comfortable to eat inside. But others walk out with a twinge of sadness.

Mind you, serving G-D in either mode is commendable, done either as servant or as a child. But there is a qualitative difference.

It is only fair to recognize those who have worked on themselves to raise their level of service and relationship with G-D.

Getting back to Avraham, the extra blessings indeed came for the ram offering, even though he was not commanded to do it.

As he went each step of the sacrifice he kept on saying, "May it be viewed by G-D as if I did this to my son Yitzchak."

This showed that whatever he did prior to the ram was done not only out of fear and respect of G-D but also out of love.

May we all continually grow in every dimension of our service to G-D, both in quantity and also in quality.


22:9 And he came to the place that G-D told him and Avraham (Abraham) built there the altar and he arranged the wood and he bound up Yitzchok (Isaac) his son and he put him on the altar above the wood.

We are taught that the binding was done because Yitzchok was worried that he may flinch at the last moment, possibly causing Avraham's act of slaughter to be done in an improper and non-kosher manner.

This service is known in the literature as the Akedas Yitzchok, the binding of Yitzchok. When compared to the overall supreme demonstrations of both Avraham and Yitzchok, why is this binding of such great significance?

The following came to mind, based on teachings of Horav Dovid Kronglass, of blessed memory.

The Medrash teaches that a person's greatness can be demonstrated by relatively insignificant detail. It is the small and soft detail of a person's life that shows the person's natural level of greatness and it is this that can best provide a justification for elevating the person to greatness.

The Medrash teaches that G-D selected Moshe to be the redeemer and leader of Israel because Moshe took pity on a wayward sheep that ran away and he carried the little animal back to the herd. Also, David was chosen to be king of Israel because he tended his father's flocks in a way that showed great concern that each age level should have enough to eat. He therefore first kept away all but the newborn sheep for the newborn , could only eat grass tips. Then he let the oldest sheep graze on what was left. Their worn-out teeth could only chew on the middle part. Afterwards he opened the field to the rest of the flock, to those with hardy teeth who could chew near the thick grass roots.

Perhaps in a similar manner, Avraham and Yitzchok are best characterized by a relatively insignificant detail, that which demonstrated their true and natural greatness.

To achieve greatness and recognition one does not need to wait be tested by acts of profound sacrifice and courage.


22:12 And he (the angel of G-D) said, "Do not stretch your hand to the boy (Yitzchak - Isaac) and do nothing to him. For now I (G-D) know that you are G-D fearing and you did not hold back your son, your only one, from (being slaughtered to) Me."

When we begin to realize our relationship with G-D we serve Him out of fear. As we advance, we serve Him out of love, which is a higher level.

These verses describe the greatest test that Avraham was ever subjected to.

It is remarkable that this test focused only his fear of G-D, not love.

The following came to mind.

Perhaps it measured the interaction between the two, for we must come to serve G-D both with fear and with love, together.

An act of service is of greater significance when it is done out of love, provided that it's the right thing to do. And having fear of G-D will help to ensure that the right thing is done.

Here is what I mean.

Avraham succeeded in bringing mankind to accept the notion that there is one G-D and that He continually bestows His loving kindness upon us all.

Thereupon, G-D commanded him to slaughter his son to Him, which is cruelty.

Had Avraham slaughtered his son, he would have undone his teachings and he would no longer be able to teach people about a G-D of loving kindness.

Avraham's great love of G-D could have caused him to disobey and fail this test, for it could have made him decide to demonstrate his love by disobeying G-D's commandment, regardless of the consequences, so that he could continue brining mankind towards the truth.

It was his great fear of G-D that kept his great love of G-D in check and enabled him to do the right thing, which was to obey that which G-D commands, unquestionably.


22:12 And he (the angel of G-D) said, "Do not stretch your hand to the boy (Yitzchak - Isaac) and do nothing to him. For now I (G-D) know that you are G-D fearing and you did not hold back your son, your only one, from (being slaughtered to) Me."

Rashi provides the following commentary:

22:12 'For now I know:' Rabbi Abah said, "Avraham (Abraham) said the following to G-D, 'I shall put before You my conversation. Yesterday You told me that my posterity will be called through Yitzchok. And (then) you reversed and said, 'Please take your son, your only one.' Now you tell me to 'not stretch your hand to the boy.' The Holy One Blessed He responded, 'I will not waive my covenant and I will not go back on my word. When I told you to take (him) I will not go back on my word. I did not say to slaughter him. (You were to just) bring him up. Bring him up and (now) take him down.

This dialogue between G-D and Avraham pertains to the angel's commandment to do Yitzchok no harm. It doesn't seem to pertain to the observation that Avraham fears G-D. Why does Rashi attach this commentary to the phrase, 'For now I know (that you fear G-D)?'

Also, it should be unnecessary for a commentary to support the fact that Avraham feared G-D because the last part of this verse provides explicit support, 'and you did not hold back your son, your only one from Me.'

Finally, Avraham is questioning G-D. How does this show his fear of G-D.

The following came to mind.

Strength is a relative quality. There are many degrees of strength. The same is true for awareness. Some people are more aware of themselves and their environment than others. The same is true for the fear of G-D, which is the result of a person's awareness of G-D, of G-D's role and uniqueness, and the person's relationship to G-D, which is the result of a person's growing focus and consistency in these matters.

The following is written about the sailors who threw Yonah (Jonah) into the water and experienced the associated miracles, "And the men feared G-D greatly. And they slaughtered sacrifices to G-D and they made vows." (Yonah 1:16).

Both Avraham and the sailors feared G-D. However, Avraham's fear / awareness of G-D towered above theirs.

By standing ready to slaughter his son, Avraham demonstrated his great and steadfast belief in G-D. However, his waiting to question G-D about this commandment until after it was retracted gives us the extent of his fear of G-D.

There is nothing wrong in asking G-D a question. Avraham knew that G-D would have a good answer and he could have posed the question at any time.

However, had Avraham asked G-D beforehand, when he stood to loose Yitzchok, as legitimate as this question is, it would have appeared to be motivated for selfish reason.

It is difficult for a selfish person to be aware of G-D.

Even though the dialogue was a private matter between him and G-D, Avraham did not want to raise this question beforehand, for doing so relates to selfishness and since a person is influenced by his own actions, this could desensitize him to G-D by some minute degree.

So, Avraham contained his curiosity until the an appropriate time.

Perhaps this is why Rashi references the dialogue by the phrase, 'For now I know that you fear G-D.' We see the extent of Avraham's fear of G-D by his not asking until now, after he stood ready to slaughter Yitzchok.

May we all be inspired by Avraham. May we all continually develop, especially in our awareness of G-D.


Chaye Sarah (Genesis 23-25)

23:1 And the life of Sarah (lasted for) a hundred years and twenty years and seven years. (These were the) years of Sara's life.

23:2 And Sarah passed away in Kiryas Arba, which is Chevron in the Land of Canaan. And Avraham (Abraham) came to eulogize and to cry for (the loss of) Sarah.

While to us a lifespan of 127 is long, it was short when compared to Avraham's life, for he until 175.

Indeed, we are taught that Sarah's life was shortened and this was because she pressed a grievance and requested a Divine judgement.

This refers to Genesis 16:4-5. There, the Torah records that when Hagar became pregnant, "her mistress (Sarah) became cheapened in her eyes". Thereupon she complained to Avraham and exclaimed, "I placed my maid in your lap, she realized that she was pregnant, and I became cheapened in her eyes. May G-D judge between me and you".

The Medrash (45:5) cites the following: Whomever invites Divine justice against another will not emerge unscathed. Sarah's life was also destined to be 175 years but it was shortened by 48 years because of this.

Also, Rav Chanan (Bava Kama 93a) said: Whomever requests Divine judgment against a fellow will be (first put under Heavenly scrutiny for what he did and will be) punished first (for any flaws that they find.)

Sarah, who was then childless, selflessly suggested to Avraham that he marry her personal servant so that he could have children. Our sages say that she even encouraged Hagar to go through with it.

Others would have balked at the idea of bringing another woman into the home, who may eventually compete for a husband's attention and affection, but not Sarah.

Rav Chanan closes by saying that this can occur when the person with his grievance has recourse in a human court of law. This implies that if a person has no recourse then he could submit plead for Divine justice against a fellow without risking the consequences of Divine scrutiny.

Even so, given what is at stake I personally don't recommend doing this without taking counsel from a Torah scholar.

Rav Chanan does imply that Sarah could have gone to a court of justice. Indeed, notes Rav Yehudah Lev Chasman in his work "Ohr Yahel," the Tosfos commentary in Bava Kama says that Sarah could have pleaded her case with Shem, son of Noach (Noah), who held court in her times.

Given the outrage that Hagar did, notes Rav Chasman, Avraham saw merit in Sarah's case and allowed her to work Hagar very hard, to the point where Hagar felt compelled to run away. Furthermore, we find an angel of G-D telling Hagar to return and accept the punishing work, apparently indicating that Heaven agreed that Sarah was wronged.

Nevertheless, writes Rav Chasman, no matter how certain a person is that he is right, since we are naturally biased towards ourselves we must never rely exclusively on our own judgment.

The story leaves us with some questions.

Was there any constructive purpose in forcing Hagar into hard labor? Knowing the personalities and given that Heaven agreed to the sentence, it couldn't have been based on mere revenge.

Furthermore, how did Sarah know that she became cheapened in Hagar's eyes? And why did she let it bother her?

The Medrash says that Sarah's complaint to Avraham was that he heard that Sarah was being degraded and he was silent. How did Avraham hear of it?

The Talmud implies that she would been able to present her case in a court of law. What evidence did she have? What would have been the charges?

Rashi says the following: She [Hagar] said, "This Sarah, her inside is not consistent with her outside. She carries herself as a righteous person. But she is not righteous, for she did not merit pregnancy for all these years. Yet I became pregnant from just the first encounter."

From Rashi's words it doesn't appear that Hagar was speaking to Sarah. Was she speaking to herself? Was she saying this to others? To whom?

We find later that Hagar and her son Yishmael were banished from Avraham's home.

In 21:9-10, Sarah sees Yishmael jesting about something and she commands Avraham to drive both Hagar and Yishmael away. This upsets Avraham but Heaven charges him to listen to Sarah.

Our sages say that Yishmael was telling people that Sarah was a rape victim. She became pregnant with Yitzchak (Isaac) not from Avraham. Rather, king Avimelech took her away from Avraham for one night (20:2) and Yitzchak's father was Avimelech, not Avraham.

By then, Yishmael was around sixteen years old and he could have made it on his own. Why didn't Avraham just banish Yishmael? Why was Hagar also banished?

The following two teachings in the Medrash shed considerable insight on Hager and what she did.

Hagar was Pharaoh's daughter when Avraham and Sarah came to Egypt (12:10). When Pharaoh saw what occurred when Sarah was in his house, he gave his daughter to Sarah as a maid. He said, "It is better that my daughter be a maid in this home instead of being a mistress in another home" (45:1).

So, Hagar was a former princess.

Another Medrash teaches that whenever the noblewomen would visit Sarah, she would tell them to pay a visit to Hagar, who was downtrodden.

We can assume that this was out of Sarah's respect and concern for Hagar's feelings, as she came from nobility.

Apparently, Hagar did not react appropriately to this gesture of care, for the Medrash says that Hagar said the following to the noble visitors that Sarah sent her way: "The private conduct of my mistress Sarah is not like her public appearance. She appears to be a righteous woman but she is not righteous. If she was truly righteous then consider the fact that after so many years she could not become pregnant. However, I became pregnant from one night" (45:4).

This answers how Sarah knew about Hagar's views, for it must have been the talk of the town. Her evidence was in every gossip column. This is how Avraham found out. This would have been a basis for Sarah's claim in a court of law.

It appears that that Hagar's father was wise enough to realize the value of and opportunity to disconnect his daughter from vanity and frivolity that was rampant in the palace high society.

It is possible that Hagar was not as ready as her father was to buy into this.

In order to develop, sometimes a person needs a carrot and other times he needs the stick. Given all the carrot Sarah sent Hagar's way, perhaps, Avraham saw that Hagar needed the stick to help her manage her ego. He therefore decided that it was in Hagar's best interest to feel servitude (16:6). And apparently, Heaven agreed and perhaps that's why G-D sent an angel to tell Hagar to return.

This may have something to do with G-D's decree that the Jewish people later serve the Egyptians, for this could have only been in our best interests.

And perhaps, had Yishmael realized that his mother would not have tolerated his putting Sarah down by trivializing her pregnancy, he would have kept his mouth shut. Maybe this is why Hagar was sent away, also. She need more of a push to move in the right direction.

We know that this was not the end of Hagar's story.

Later in our Torah reading, after Sarah's death, Avraham took a wife by the name of Keturah. Our sages teach that this was Hagar.

Perhaps Avraham realized that his relationship with Hagar would help develop her potential and become more of a sensitive and balanced human being.

Perhaps Avraham realized that his relationship with Hagar could not continue as long as Sarah was alive, possibly because he felt that Hagar could not reconcile with her past while Sarah was with her.

So, perhaps their second marriage was an act of outreach on Avraham's part. Maybe he saw that her development would also benefit Yishmael's development.

Indeed, Yishmael took a turn for the better.

The Torah says that Avraham passed away in a 'good' old age (25:8). The Talmud teaches that Yishmael eventually repented (Bava Basra 16b).

In describing Avraham's funeral, the Torah writes: And Yitzchak and Yishmael his children buried him. Yishmael's behavior was a public acknowledgement that Yitzchak's father was indeed Avraham, Avimelech.


23:1 And the life of Sarah (lasted for) a hundred years and twenty years and seven years. (These were the) years of Sara's life.

Rashi understands this verse to be saying that all of the days of her life were filled with good.

The Gevuras Yitzchak commentary notes that this is remarkable because Sarah's life was filled with setbacks, disappointment, and misfortune. She was barren for ninety years, she was dishonored by Hagar, she was twice separated from her husband against her will, and she died from shock upon hearing that her son was almost sacrificed.

We must therefore say that Sarah had great faith in G-D that all is for the best. She did not let things get her down. She focused on others instead of herself. Her life was filled with accomplishment and she busied herself with inspiring others.


23:1 And the life of Sarah (lasted for) a hundred years and twenty years and seven years. (These were the) years of Sara's life.

The word ‘life’ is mentioned two times in this verse.

The HaKsav Ve’HaKabala commentary offers the following thought.

The life of an angel is in the realm of spirituality. Angels find no happiness in physicality.

The life of an animal is in the realm of physicality. Animals find no happiness in spirituality.

A wicked person finds him/herself in the same rut as the animal.

However, a righteous person is able to span, grow, thrive, and find happiness in both realms.


23:1 And the life of Sarah (lasted for) a hundred years and twenty years and seven years. (These were the ) years of Sara's life. And Sarah passed away in Kiryas Arba, which is Chevron (Hebron) ..

This parsha is called Chaye Sarah, Hebrew for 'the life of Sarah.' The beginning of this parsha focuses on Sarah's death and burial, not her life.

Perhaps the way in which she died was an indication of how she lived or what she was.

Targum Yonasan (Gen. 22:20) tells us how Sarah passed away.

The Satan appeared to Sarah after Avraham (Abraham) tied Yitzchak (Isaac) to the alter for the near sacrificial slaughter.

The Satan told Sarah that Avraham slaughtered Yitzchak. She got up and screamed. She choked and then she died.

We are taught that the Satan has several jobs. He is also the Angel of Death and the Evil Inclination. Why didn't he come in his Angel of Death hat and take her away like he does with most everyone else?

Why did he kill her in this manner? Just to be mean?

The following came to mind.

The Angel of Death is a creation of G-d and its powers are finite. Aharon (Aaron), a descendent of Sarah was able to seize the Angel of Death and stop him from killing people. (Rashi, Numbers 17:13).

It was probably not an easy task for him to take Sarah away from this world. Perhaps he needed a trick.

The Satan's role appears to be that of a prosecutor in the Heavenly court.

So, the Angel of Death appeared to Sarah in his lawyer's suit. In this role, it probably seemed to Sarah that he was preparing a case.

Now, Avraham and Sarah's lives were dedicated to teaching their fellow man the respect of G-d and that G-d was kind and compassionate. They condemned human sacrifice. Avraham slaughter of Yitzchak was the ultimate hyprocracy.

Apparently, Sarah was so devoted to the honor of G-d that the appearance of the Satan preparing a case of this nature was enough to kill her.

So, this parsha is called Chaye Sarah, the life of Sarah. We can learn about the the life of our great mother from the way that she died.


23:2 And Sarah passed away in Kiryas Arba, which is Chevron in the Land of Canaan. And Avraham (Abraham) came to eulogize and to cry for (the loss of) Sarah.

The Sefurno provides the following commentary:

(The previous Torah reading concluded with Avraham hearing that Rivkah (Rebecca) was just born to his brother.) Sarah passed away at this time, after the birth of Rivkah who was a person that is destined to fill her place in the world, and now that Avraham heard this news. This reflects the teaching of our sages who say that a righteous person does not leave this world without another similarly righteous person first being born (to take his/her place) (Yoma 38b). This is derived from the verse, "And the sun shines and the sun sets.."(Koheles / Ecclesiastics 1:5).

One of our greatest losses is the death of a righteous person, for he/she provides us with inspiration, encouragement, and direction so that we can easier achieve the greatness that is within our reach, both immediate and eternal.

The continuity appears to be saying that we must always keep in mind that G-D always plans for and provides for all of our needs, even when we suffer the loss of a resource.

The continuity that our sages of blessed memory refer to does not seem obvious because Rivkah was a new born and was not yet capable of accomplishment. The link would then not be obvious to Avraham for many years later.

This in and of itself is a lesson for living, for we must frequently rely on our trust in G-D to provide us with the energy to move on, without waiting for demonstrations that provide immediate and obvious confirmation of that which we know is true.


23:1 And the (years of) Sarah's life were a hundred years and twenty years and seven years. These are the years of Sarah's life.

25:7 And these are the days of the years of Avraham's (Abraham's) life that he lived: a hundred years and seventy years and five years.

No doubt, there are many lessons to learn from the verbosity of the above verses.

Rashi focuses on the breakdown of years.

23:1 "And the (years of) Sarah's life were a hundred years and twenty years and seven years:" The word 'year' is repeated by each grouping of years to tell us that a lesson can be derived from each group. When Sarah was a hundred years-old she was like a woman of twenty with regard to being accountable for sin. Just like a twenty year-old woman is considered (in certain aspects) as though she is innocent of sin, for she is not punished (like a woman who has wisdom from living a hundred years), so was (Sarah) innocent when she was a hundred years-old. And (when she was) twenty, (Sarah had) the beauty of a seven year-old.

25:7 "A hundred years and seventy years and five years:" (When Avraham was) a hundred years-old, he was like seventy. And when he was seventy, Avraham was like five in that he was without sin.

Rashi derives two different lessons from the breakdown of Sarah's years, that she was innocent and that she was beautiful. From Avraham's years, it appears that the lessons are the same, that he had no sin when he was both a hundred and when he was seventy.

Why is the breakdown of Sarah's years different from that of Avraham? What is Rashi trying to tell us?

The following came to mind.

Avraham was seventy years-old when G-D entered him into the Covenant Between The Pieces, Genesis 15:1-21.

After G-D said that He will give the land to Avraham for an inheritance, Avraham responded, "Hashem - G-D, how will I know that I'll inherit it. (16:8)"

Avraham's question has the appearance of a grave sin. Furthermore, it appears to be linked to the great suffering that Avraham's children will undergo, for just a few verses later G-D says, "And He said to Avraham, 'You shall surely know that your seed will be a stranger in a land that is not theirs. And they will serve them [their tormentors] and they will torment them for four-hundred years.'"

The Oral Torah seems to say this explicitly.

Avraham was punished with 'you shall surely know' because of his shortcoming by saying, 'how will I know.' (Nedarim 32a).

However, the Kli Yakar commentary clarifies both the Torah and the Talmud. He explains that Avraham did not sin and the agony that his children suffered had nothing to do with Avraham's question.

Rather, G-D knew that the Egyptian exile was a necessary process that the Chosen Nation had to undergo for their purification and refinement, so that they would be fit to be commissioned for their historic and critical mission for mankind, now some thirty-three centuries long.

Avraham didn't doubt that his children would inherit the land. Rather, he just wanted to know how it was going to work. That is, Avraham rightly assumed that the inheritance will be meaningful in that it would be eternal. In order for this to occur, his children would need to become a nation that would maintain an eternal belief in G-D. To date, none of his ancestors were able to produce such a nation.

There are some things that a person is better off not knowing. Had Avraham not sought to know more, had he not asked the question, he would not have known about the mechanism which refined the Jewish people, the long and agonizing exile that evolved into the slavery in Egypt.

So, Avraham did not actually sin when he was seventy years-old and asked this question. Perhaps this is what our Rashi is trying to tell us.


23:4 I am an alien and a settler among you. Give an estate for a grave among you and I will bury my dead from before me.

23:5 And the sons of Chais answered Avraham (Abraham), to say to him.

23:6 "Hear us, my master. You are a noble of G-D among us. Bury your dead in the choice of our graves. No man will hold back his grave for burying your dead."

23:13 And he [Avraham] spoke to Ephron in earshot of the people of the land, saying. "If only you would hear me. I gave the money for the (burial) field. Take it from me and I will bury my dead there."

23:17 And Ephron's field … was confirmed.

23:18 As Avraham's as a purchase …

Rashi provides the following commentary for verse 23:4.

I am an alien and a settler among you: "I am an alien (because I came) from another land and I am (now) a settler with you." The Medrash provides the following: "If you want then I will be an alien. And if not then I will be a settler and I will take the land according to law because G-D said that He will give me this land."

Which law was Avraham referring to? It couldn't be G-D's promise itself because verse 15:16 states that it would take four generations for the iniquities of the current inhabitants to pile high enough to justify their eviction. Until that time, which was the Exodus of Egypt some four-hundred years later, it would only be a promised land, not a possession of the Jewish people.

Rabbi Yeruchom Levovitz of blessed memory says the following, according to my understanding.

This Medrash is merely providing us with insight into the agenda that was behind the dialogue between Avraham and the inhabitants. Avraham never injected the reference of G-D's promise into the conversation.

The inhabitants were very aware of G-D's promise and they were not very happy about it. They had no problem with letting Avraham use one of their grave sites for Sarah. But they had a problem with Avraham owning it, because this would show that G-D's promise was indeed coming true.

Avraham countered that he would merely buy the land like any other real-estate transaction. And he offered a huge sum for the purchase.

This calmed their fears because they envisioned the promise coming into reality in the form of conquest that was authorized by G-D, which actually happened some four-hundred years later.

So they let him buy the burial site which today you can visit in Chevron (Hebron).

The law that the Medrash mentions is the law of ownership through purchase. The link between the purchase and G-D's promise was the money that Avraham used to buy the land.

Who do you think provided Avraham with the means to buy the land in the first place?

Of course it was G-D!

So G-D's promise was indeed being fulfilled, for He never said how Avraham and his children will get the land, only that they will own it. Today it was by purchase and tomorrow it will be by conquest.

But it will happen and it did happen.


23:4 I am an alien and a settler among you. Give an estate for a grave among you and I will bury my dead from before me.

23:5 And the sons of Chais answered Avraham (Abraham), to say to him.

23:6 "Hear us, my master. You are a noble of G-D among us. Bury your dead in the choice of our graves. No man will hold back his grave for burying your dead."

23:7 And Avraham got up and bowed to the people of the land, to the sons of Chais.

23:8 And he spoke with them saying, "If it pleases you to bury my dead from before me then please listen to me and make a request from Ephron the son of Tzochar."

23:9 That he sell me the Cave of Machpela that he owns, that is in the corner of his field. He will sell it to me for a grave at its full value."

23:12 And Avraham bowed before the people of the land.

23:16 And Avraham listened to Ephron and he paid to Ephron the money that he said in the ears of the sons of Chais. Four-hundred Shekels of silver that were fit for commerce.

23:17 And the field of Ephron in Machpela that was before Mamre came up. The field and the cave that was in it and all of the trees in the field in and around all of its border.

When Avraham's needs were first brought up in 23:4 it appeared that Avraham was interested in only purchasing a single plot for a grave. The Medrash says so explicitly.

Then, in 23:9 he requested an entire cave. At the end he bought an entire field and he paid an exorbitant price for it. Why? Also, of what significance was his bowing down to the people that the Torah recorded this for all eternity?

The following came to mind.

The Medrash provides the following reading of 23:6, the response of the sons of Chais: "You are a king among us. You are a noble among us. You are a god among us". Avraham reacted to this and said, "The world shall not be missing its King (G-D) and the world shall not be missing its G-D."

Perhaps Avraham changed his mind about his burial needs and perhaps it was the response of the sons of Chais that prompted this.

Avraham and Sarah dedicated their lives and all of their resources to teach others an awareness and an appreciation of G-D. So, his plans were canceled once Avraham heard that they considered him a deity. From then on it became a major goal of Avraham to change their theology, and at all costs.

His first assault on their beliefs was to bow down to them. You see, people bow down to gods, not the reverse.

Then he insisted on purchasing an entire burial cave because he was going to die someday and would need his own plot. Avraham was a mortal, not a god.

Then he haggled with Ephron. Gods don't haggle.

Ephron took advantage of the situation and coupled the field together with the cave, enabling him to somehow justify a price that was fit for a lot in downtown Manhattan. In the end, Avraham lets himself get ripped off. Gods don't get ripped off.

In this light, this episode now becomes so typical of the stories we hear about our great ancestors Avraham and Sarah, people who pursued and promoted truth and kindness with all of their strength and all of their resources.

Only those who live by truth and kindness can be considered children of Avraham, not those who live by falsehood and cruelty.


23:6 "Hear us, our master. You are among us a Prince of G-D. Bury your dead (wife Sarah) in the choicest of our graves. No man among us will withhold from you for burying your dead."

23:13 And he [Avraham] spoke to Ephron in earshot of the people of the land, saying. "If only you would hear me. I gave the money for the (burial) field. Take it from me and I will bury my dead there."

23:14 And Ephron answered Avraham, saying to him.

23:15 "Hear me my master." What is between you and me a land of four-hundred silver shekel? And (you can) bury your dead (there)."

23:16 And Avraham listened to Ephron. And Avraham paid Ephron the money that he spoke (about) in the earshot of the sons of Ches, four-hundred silvers shekels that were acceptable to (all) merchants.

The commentators note that this was a ridiculously high price for the land.

Both Avraham and Sarah devoted their resources and many decades of their lives to teach and inspire the people of Canaan.

We note that although Avraham was highly regarded by the populace as a 'Prince of G-D', nobody stopped Ephron from overcharging Avraham.

As the story continues to unfold, we will see that within the next six generations the inhabitants of the land will forget all that Avraham and Sarah stood for. They will come to commit "abominations" and their behavior will degenerate to the degree that the Jewish people will be charged by G-D to purge them from the land and remove their influence. (Leviticus 18:25-8, Deuteronomy 20:16-18)

This gives new meaning to Avraham's desire to inherit the land to his children and for the need of a covenantal guarantee from G-D to ensure that this will happen (Genesis 15). It will be the loyal within the Jewish people who will succeed in preserving everything that Avraham and Sarah stood for throughout the next 37 centuries and beyond.


23:10 And Efron was sitting among the descendants of Ches. And Efron the Chitite responded (to) Avraham (and his offer to purchase the burial cave for Sarah) in the earshot of descendants of Ches, for all who come to the gate of city, saying.

In the Hebrew text, the word for ‘was sitting’ is spelled in the past tense. That is, the spelling of the verb is, ‘yashav,’ past tense. However, it is pronounced ‘yoshaiv,’ which is the form for the present tense.

Rashi references the following explanation for this difference from Medrash Rabah, in the name of Rabbi Yitzchak.

It is written ‘yashav,’ (which means sat, but is pronounced ‘yoshaiv,’ which means was sitting). This is because on that very day Efron was appointed to office as a city official. It was decreed in Heaven that Efron have this high office before Avraham mentioned his name and made the offer so that Avraham should not transact business with a common person.

This is a very puzzling accommodation that G-D made for Avraham.

It was perhaps the saddest day of Avraham’s entire life as he stood before the lifeless body of his dear wife. Would it have mattered to him whether he purchased a burial cave from a nobleman or from a commoner?

The following came to mind.

Avraham’s discovered and developed the perspective that G-D is always doing only the very best for us. He and Sarah made it their lifetime mission to promote this notion to mankind by practicing hospitality to guests on a grand scale.

One could say that since Avraham and Sarah went to an extreme to accommodate the needs and wishes of everyone that, measure for measure, G-D made an extreme accommodation for Avraham.

But I believe that this contains a much more powerful message.

Understandably, we are not always able in this life to see the good that comes from every decision that G-D makes for us. Until we can see the good we must remain steadfast and not become discouraged or depressed. Instead, when we face tragedy we must cope, rely on faith, and move on.

In our darkest moments we must believe that G-D is still with us and shares our pain. And it is in these moments, to gain the strength we need to move on, that we should look for subtle hints from G-D that He is indeed with us.

Efron’s ascension to nobility on that very day, immediately before Avraham needed him, was such a hint. It was a message from G-D to Avraham that He loved and cared, that He was with him in his darkest moments.


The Torah reading begins with the Sarah's last days. It goes on to say:

24:1 And Avraham was old, well on in years, and G-D blessed Avraham with everything.

The Medrash Tanchuma links this verse with the verses in Mishlei (Parables) that describe a woman of valor.

One reads: She will not be afraid about (the adverse effects of) snow on (the members of) her household because all of (the members of) her household are clothed in 'shani.' (Mishlei 31:21)

The Medrash homiletically interprets the reference to snow as 'Gehenim,' a place in the next world where the wicked are punished. It also reads the last word in the verse from Mishlei as 'shnayim,' which is Hebrew for the number two.

That is, Sarah our mother, our great woman of valor, will not fear that her descendants will be eternally condemned to Gehenim because all of the members of her household are covered by two.

What are the two coverings that will keep us away from being condemned? The Medrash says that they are two commandments: Circumcision and Shabbos.

The Chamudei Tzvi commentary understands the Medrash as follows.

There are two things that can bring a person to decide that he will have nothing at all to do with the Torah.

One comes from the body and the other from the mind.

One cause is unbridled lust. Rather than acknowledging the messages of his conscience and working on self-control, the person decides to chuck the Torah, G-D forbid, so that he will have no rules to break.

The other thing that can bring a person to leave the fold is a corruptive or defective theology.

Circumcision addresses the first cause and keeping Shabbos addresses the second.

Circumcision reduces some of the opportunity for sensual impulses that can bring a person to sin.

Keeping Shabbos demonstrates many basic beliefs.

Specifically:

1. G-D created the world.

2. By not working one day each week, we show that G-D is actively managing the world and He will provide for our needs, despite the missed day of work.

3. Just like the seventh day is sanctified, so will the seventh millennium be sanctified. We will be restored to life to begin a new, greater, and eternal life, in the world-to-come.


24:4 (You should) go only to my (family's) land and birth place and take a wife for my son, for Yitzchak (Isaac).

To my knowledge, this is the first recorded human-driven match-making project.

The Medrash has a fascinating discussion about match-making (Beraishis Raba 68).

A noble-woman asked Rabbi Yossi son of Chalafta, "How many days did it take G-D to create the world?"

"Six," he answered.

"And what is he occupied with from then on?" she continued.

Rabbi Yossi answered, "He matches things together. For instance: 'the daughter of so-in-so is for so-in-so, the wife of so- in -so is for so-in-so, the money of so-in-so is for so-in-so.'"

Amazed, she responded: "Is that His occupation? Even I can do this. I have so many male and female servants. I can match them up in no-time!"

Rabbi Yossi responded, "It may seem simple to you but to G-D, this is as difficult as splitting the sea."

Rabbi Yossi son of Chalafta left her presence.

Thereupon, she took a thousand male servants and a thousand female servants, lined them up by groups, and matched them up.

The next day, this one came to her with a head wound, that one with a dislocated eyeball, another with a broken leg.

"What happened!" she asked.

This one said, "I wanted that person." Another said, "I didn't want this person."

She called the Rabbi back and said, "There is no G-D like yours. Your Torah is true. Your words are correct and praiseworthy."

But this Medrash appears to contradict a teaching in the Talmud:

Rav Yehuda said in the name of Rav: Forty days before a child is formed a heavenly voice declares, "The daughter of so-in-so is for this person, the field of that person is for this person, the house of that person is for him." (Sotah 2a)

It doesn't appear to take much time for Heaven to make the decision.

The following came to mind.

Everybody is unique and everyone's mission in life is unique, as decreed by Heaven. It follows that everyone's G-D-given set of resources, talents, strengths, weaknesses, environments, backgrounds, limitations, etc. are unique.

The noble-woman failed because she was not aware enough of what was in front of her and what each person wanted. And complexity and the interactions of all the factors that must be taken into account made this task overwhelming for a human to get right.

But G-D is all-aware and His resources / abilities are endless. His decisions are always instantaneous and correct.

Besides the above, a very significant factor that makes us all different is human behavior, for our own actions and the actions of those we interact with can change who we are. And this is subject to the free-will choice that G-D gives us, which is why G-D put us here in the first place.

So without free-will, Heaven's one-time decision would stick.

But since we are all moving targets, Heaven needs to continuously monitor and tweak events to keep how we and our future spouses are turning out in order to achieve the goals that He set out for us all.

And the job doesn't end at the bridal canopy.


24:5 And the servant [Eliezer] said [to Avraham (Abraham)], "Perhaps the woman will not agree to come after me to (be a wife for Yitzchak (Isaac) in) this land. Should I bring Yitzchak back to the land that you came out of?"

24:39 And I [Eliezer] said to my master (Avraham), "Perhaps the woman will not agree to come after me."

Verse 24:5 records the conversation that Eliezer had with Avraham and verse 24:39 records Eliezer's recount of this conversation to Besuel and Lavan, who were Rivka's father and brother.

Rashi notes that there is a difference between the two verses in the Hebrew spelling of the word, "Perhaps".

24:5 is written with four letters and 24:39 has only three. The difference in pronunciation is compensated by vowels, so they sound the same when read, 'oolai.' However, 24:39 is minus the letter 'vav' and therefore has the same spelling as the Hebrew word, 'ailai,' which means 'to me.'

Rashi explains that Eliezer was very excited when he learned that Avraham was seeking a wife for Yitzchak, because he had an eligible daughter of his own who he felt was worth consideration.

Now, although a mere slave of Avraham, Eliezer was an outstanding human being. He was Avraham's chief disciple and was very G-D fearing.

In 24:39, Eliezer is recounting to Rivka's relatives that he sought the marriage for his own daughter. The Torah hints at this by the spelling the word 'Perhaps' like the words, 'To me,' meaning that Eliezer wanted Avraham to agree to look into Eliezer's family.

As hard as it was for Avraham to say no, he did so. He explained that he and his children were blessed by G-D (12:2). However, Eliezer was a descendent of Canaan who was cursed by Noach / Noah (9:25). While Yitzchak could not have had a better father-in-law by marrying into his family, Eliezer's daughter would not be sufficiently compatible for Yitzchak to produce the nation that would help bring mankind up to a higher level of greatness. While Canaan's descendents were never disqualified by the Torah from marrying into what later became the Jewish people, Avraham felt the need to be more exclusive as Yitzchak he was founding that nation with his wife-to-be.

It is puzzling that the Torah chose to record this at a point in the story where Eliezer is giving his recount to Rivka's parents and not in the earlier verse, which records the actual conversation that he had with Avraham.

The following came to mind.

As soon as he was told about his disqualification, Eliezer became concerned that his personal interest and conflict would affect accomplishing the goal of his mission. So he internalized with all his might the disqualification, removing from his consciousness any spec of the 'to me', the 'ailai.'

The Torah recognizes this unselfishness and loyalty to Avraham by delaying the record of the 'ailai' until his recount of the conversation with Lavan and Besuel, which occurred after his successfully identifying Rivka.

Yes, Eliezer learned that he had no opportunity to connect into Avraham's family because of his lineage and this was disappointing and he may very well have felt hurt.

But Divine Justice loses no opportunity to give reward.

The Torah records the following words of Lavan, Rivka's brother, when first met Eliezer: "Come, you who are blessed by G-D …"

The Medrash shares the following teaching of Rabbi Yosi Ben Dosa.

"Because he [Eliezer] faithfully served that righteous person (Avraham), the Torah writes that G-D transformed him personally from being included among those who were under a curse into being among those who are blessed."

He lost one connection but gained another.


24:5 And the servant [Eliezer] said [to Avraham (Abraham)], "Perhaps the woman will not agree to come after me to (be a wife for Yitzchak (Isaac) in) this land. Should I bring Yitzchak back to the land that you came out of?"

24:6 And Avraham said to him, "Take care not to bring my son back there."

The Sefurno provides the following discussion for the words, "… (the land) that you went out," of verse 24:5.

Your leaving that land indicates that you dislike it. If I take an oath to engage a wife (for Yitzchak) then she will not want to come back (to live) here. Now, the engagement will impose marital obligations upon your son. If she does not come here then the only way he can fulfill his obligations is by moving there. Otherwise he would be deserting the woman of his youth.

The commentary is puzzling.

Prior to committing Yitzchak into marriage, one would expect Eliezer to disclose to Yitzchak's perspective the implications of entering into the family, including the condition that she relocates to where Yitzchak lives.

Assuming that he made the disclosure prior to the marriage and that she agreed to this condition, if she afterwards refuses to meet her commitment then this should be grounds for a divorce for which she would be at fault.

Why is Eliezer assuming that her breaking this agreement would force Yitzchak to relocate to her land?

The following came to mind.

True, Yitzchak would have grounds to divorce this woman that he never even met. However, this would embarrass her family as the reason for the divorce would become known.

Eliezer knew Yitzchak very well. Perhaps he felt that Yitzchak would rather keep the life-long commitment to maintain the marriage to a woman that did not keep her word rather then subject her and her family to disgrace.


24:12 And he (Eliezer) said, 'Hashem the G-d of Avraham (Abraham), please make (a successful) happening (occur) before me today (that I may find a wife for Yitzchak - Isaac) and (please) do kindness with my master Avraham.'

Eliezer is on a mission to find a wife for Avraham's son, Yitzchak. He was successful and he found Rivka (Rebecca), Yitzchak's pre-ordained match.

In his prayer to G-d, why does Eliezer focus on the success being a kindness for Avraham and not for both Avraham and Yitzchak?

24:42 And I (Eliezer who is speaking to the prospective in-laws) came today to the well..

From Rashi on this verse: Today I (Eliezer) left the home of Avraham and today I arrived here (near Babylon). This distance normally takes several days to travel but G-d made a miracle for Eliezer.

The Talmud (Sanhedrin 95a) says that G-d performed an abbreviation of travel for only three people in history: Eliezer, Yaakov (Jacob), and Avishai Ben-Tzuria.

Why did G-d make this miracle for Eliezer? Other than a convenience for Eliezer, of what benefit was it?

The following came to mind.

One could say that the miracle served as a sign from G-d that Rivka (Rebecca) was the right choice for Yitzchak. However, G-d provided Eliezer with other indications. For one, Eliezer found Rivka immediately after his prayer. She caught his attention because the water from the well miraculously rose up towards her. Rivka offered to give Eliezer's camels to drink and this matched the signal from G-d that Eliezer prayed for. Of all the maidens in the city who came to get water, she was from Avraham's family. She was naturally beautiful and she naturally acted in a beautiful manner.

Not only did G-d provide signs for Eliezer, G-d also made it obvious to Yitzchak that Rivka was a worthy match for him.

24:67 And Yitzchak brought her (Rivka) into the tent (of) his (deceased) mother Sarah'

Rashi: He brought her into Sarah's tent and she became like Sarah. That is, G-d performed the same miracles for Rivka as He did for Sarah. As long as Sarah was alive, the Shabbos candles remained lit the entire week, there was a blessing in the dough, and a cloud hovered over her tent. These miracles ceased when Sarah died. They returned for Rivka.

Actually, Yitzchak who was about to make a life-long commitment needed these signals more than Eliezer did. Apparently, Eliezer himself needed some extra reinforcement. Why?

24:39 And I (Eliezer who is still speaking to the prospective in-laws) said to my master (Avraham) 'Perhaps the woman (who I will find) won't agree to come (back) with me (to marry Yitzchak).'

Rashi notes that the word, 'Perhaps' is spelled in an unusual manner. It looks a bit like a Hebrew word which means 'to me.'

You see, Eliezer himself had a very worthy daughter and he suggested the match to his master, Avraham. For this reason, the Torah hints this by spelling Eliezer's word, 'Perhaps' as 'to me.'

Avraham said thank you but no.

Eliezer may have been hurt and he could have taken this personally. Under normal circumstances and with 'normal' people, this would have made a potential for hard feelings between Avraham and his servant Eliezer. However, Eliezer was a great and deeply religious person.

Perhaps the abbreviated travel was indeed mostly for Eliezer's convenience. Maybe the extra signal from G-d was for Eliezer to help him soothe the feelings he had towards Avraham. The signals served to confirm to Eliezer that the match between Yitzchak and Rivka was G-d's decision, not a personal decision of Avraham.

Thus, perhaps, Eliezer had two reasons to seek signals. One was for Yitzchak's sake. The other was for the sake of his relationship with Avraham. For the latter, he prayed that G-d should 'do kindness with my master Avraham.'

By insuring that his feelings were fully soothed he would make a better servant and he would be able to discharge his duties properly and fully.


24:14 And it will be that the maiden to whom I say, "Please tip over your pitcher (so that) I can drink" and she reply, "Drink, and I'll even give your camels to drink," she is the one who You [G-D] have designated for your servant Yitzchak (Isaac) (as a wife) and through her I will know that you did kindness with my master (Avraham - Abraham).

Eliezer was on a mission to find a wife for Yitzchak. He had assistants and they travelled with a caravan of camels. He arrived at the city where Avraham's family lived and didn't know anybody. He needed to find the right girl.

Our verse is his prayer for Divine assistance.

Why was it important for her to give water to the camels?

The Nesivas Shalom gives the following answer.

But for us to appreciate his approach we need to realize that the attitude of today's culture toward animals is significantly different from that of our ancestors.

An Associated Press-Petside.com poll released in 2009 found that half of all American pet owners consider their pets as much a part of the family as any other person in the household; another 36 percent said their pet is part of the family but not a full member

The ASPCA was founded in 1866, making it the oldest animal-protection organization in the Western Hemisphere. I doubt that many of its founding members viewed their pets as members of their family.

And if we dial the clock back another hundred years I assume that many people in this hemisphere didn't see anything wrong with exploiting animals. And it was probably a bit rougher for animals in the other hemisphere.

Acts of mercy are stimulated by that which external from us, from seeing others who are in dire straits. In contrast, writes the Nesivas Shalom, acts of true kindness are stimulated from within, from the benefactor's internal nature.

Those who act only with mercy are comfortable with having no causes. In contrast, those who are driven by kindness will look for causes.

Those who act only with mercy will tend to help those with whom they identify themselves with. In contrast, those who are driven by kindness don't need a personal connection with the recipient.

Our sages teach that the virtues of discipline and justice complement the virtue of kindness.

Avraham was the world's greatest example and trend setter for the virtue of kindness. And we are taught that the strengths of his wife Sarah were in discipline and justice.

Yitzchak took after his mother and became the world's greatest example of discipline and justice. He therefore needed a wife who excelled in kindness.

Eliezer reasoned that it was a positive indicator in selecting Yitzchak's wife if the candidate took pity on people and even on animals that don't belong to her and with whom she has no personal connection.

But not all forms of kindness towards animals are the same and some may be warped.

Rivka's response deserves study.

She said first, "Drink my master." She gave him to drink and only afterwards offered to water his camels.


24:14 And it will be that the maiden to whom I say, "Please tip over your pitcher (so that) I can drink" and she reply, "Drink, and I'll even give your camels to drink," she is the one who You [G-D] have designated for your servant Yitzchak (Isaac) (as a wife) and through her I will know that you did kindness with my master (Avraham - Abraham).

The Talmud (Taanis 4a) regards this as a form of prayer and that this prayer was improper. Rashi explains that while her volunteering to water the camels would have indicated that the girl had the qualities of being kind and caring, she could also have had physical defects that were not obvious and that were significant enough to disqualify her from being a wife for his master's son. The Talmud further states G-D responded with the proper match for Yitzchok despite the deficiency in Eliezer's prayer.

Given that G-D knows our intentions and that Eliezer intended for Yitzchok to get the best possible bride, it is puzzling that the lack of additional clarification was an issue and that it could have had such significance.

The following came to mind, based on the teachings of Rabbi Shimshon Pinkus, of blessed memory.

How many times have our prayers been answered by G-D when we asked Him to make us win the lottery? The answer is that G-D answers every prayer immediately, only, most of the time the answer for the lottery is "No" and we never hear Him say it at the time.

Given our vantage point, it is easy for a person to grossly underestimate the power of his/her prayer.

Rabbi Pinkus told the following story.

The donkey of a lone traveler suddenly died. He lifted up his eyes toward heaven and pleaded for another donkey. There was a sudden clearing in the bushes and he saw a noble with a female donkey that had just given birth. The noble noticed the traveler and demanded that he provide assistance and carry the newborn to his stable. The traveler looked upward and said, "I wanted a donkey to carry me, not the reverse."

We should think that responses to our prayers are automatic and immediate. Treat prayer like you would a knife. You push it and it cuts. If you are not careful how you push it, the knife may cut into something that you didn't want to be pierced.

Therefore, had G-D not intervened, Yitzchok may very well have wound up with a less than perfect match because Eliezer's prayers were less than perfect.


24:12 And he (Eliezer) said, 'Hashem the G-d of my master Avraham (Abraham), please make (success) happen before me, and do kindness with my master Avraham.'

24:13 'Behold I stand by a water well and the daughters of the people of the city are going out to draw water.'

24:14 'And it shall be: The maiden that I will say to her, 'Please tilt your pitcher so that I can drink.' And she will say, 'Drink, and also I will give your camels to drink.' She is the one you have pointed out for your servant, for Yitzchok (Isaac), and through her I will know that you have done kindness with my master.'

24:15 And (there) he was, just before he finished speaking, and behold Rivka (Rebecca) was going out, who was born to Besuel son of Milkah, wife of Nachor brother of Avraham, and her pitcher was on her shoulder.

24:17 And the servant ran towards her and he said, 'Please give me to sip a bit of water from your pitcher.'

24:18 And she said, 'Drink my master.' And she quickly brought down the pitcher onto her hand and she gave him to drink.

24:19 And she finished giving him to drink. And she said, 'I'll also draw for your camels, until they finish drinking.'

At this point in the story, it appears that Rivka fulfilled Eliezer's requirement, in that she offered both him and his camels to drink.

She went further and offered to give the camels enough water to satisfy their thirst.

24:20 And she rushed and she emptied her pitcher into the trough, and she ran yet to the well to draw (water), and she drew (water) for all of his camels.

At this point in the story, not only did Rivkah make the offer, but she also backed it up with action. We don't know yet whether the animals finished drinking, but we do know that she drew enough water for the animals. It appears that she has not yet emptied the last pitcher-full into the trough, perhaps waiting to see if the camels are satisfied with what is already there. Does Eliezer wait for the camels to stop drinking?

24:21 And the man (Eliezer) was astonished from her (behavior), keeping silent, (waiting) to know whether G-d had made his way successful or not.

Yes he waits! Even though Rivkah met all of his requirements, even though she exceeded them by offering to do more, even though she drew enough water for every one of Eliezer's ten thirsty camels, he still withholds judgement. Why? Shall we assume that he wants to verify her lineage?

24:22 And it was, when the camels completed drinking, and the man took a golden ring, a beka in weight, and two arm bands on her hands, ten golden weights.

24:23 And he said, 'Whose daughter are you? Please tell me. Does your father's home have a place for us to stay over?'

Rashi provides the following commentary:

He asked her these questions after he gave her the gifts, because he trusted that G-d made him successful in the merit of Avraham.

So, Eliezer didn't feel a need to verify her lineage. But then why did he wait until the camels stopped drinking?

The Orach Hachayim commentary provides the following insight.

Even though Rivkah met all of Eliezer's requirements, since she put additional obligations upon herself, he had to make sure that Rivka was not the type of a person who says a lot but does little.

This is quite remarkable.

I assume that ten thirsty camels can drink several bathtubs-full of water and that Rivka didn't carry a huge pitcher.

If they had wanted one more tiny pitcher-full, even though Rivka had it already drawn up from the well, had she not emptied it into the trough then this would have overridden the signal Eliezer asked from G-d and she would have been disqualified from being the wife of Yitzchok.


24:50 And Lavan and Besuel responded, 'This (proposed marriage of Yitzchok and Rivka is the result of a decree that) came out from G-d. We can't say to you anything about it, good or bad.'

24:51 'Here is Rivka before you. Take (her) and go. Let her be a wife to the son of your master, just as G-d spoke.'

These words follow Eliezer's account of his mission and encounter with Rivka.

Eliezer was a perfect stranger to Besuel, Rivka's father. It is quite odd for a father to offer his daughter in marriage on the basis of a stranger's impressive speech.

We meet Lavan, Rivka's brother, in Genesis 29-31. He shows himself to be quite a scoundrel. Here Lavan seems to be so agreeable to send his sister away and receive nothing in return. Why? Also, Lavan here seems to be a believer. Yet we later find him to be an idolater (Genesis 31:30).

The following came to mind.

The Jewish people received two Torahs some thirty-three centuries ago, the Written Torah and the Oral Torah. They are interdependent. The Written Torah can only be understood within the context of the Oral Torah and visa versa.

Today, we obtain the perspective of the Oral Torah from many authoritative sources. Let's compare the words of the written Torah in verse 24:33 with how the Targum Yonasan Ben Uziel translates this verse.

Written Torah:

24:23 And (food) was put before him [Eliezer] to eat. And he said, ' I will not eat until I have spoken my words.' And he (Besuel?) said, 'Speak.'

Oral Torah:

24:23 And they arranged before him [Eliezer] some food that contained a lethal poison. And he [Eliezer] detected this. And he said, ' I will not eat until I have spoken my words.' And he [Besuel?] said, 'Speak.'

So, Besuel and Lavan's behavior can now be understood within the context of a plot to foil this great and holy mission.

Let's now read on.

24:54 And they ate and they drank, he [Eliezer] and the men who were with him. And they slept over. And they arose in the morning. And he said, 'Send me away to my master.'

- Eliezer was very careful about what he ate that evening.

24:55 And her brother and mother said, 'Let the girl stay with us for a year or for ten months. Afterwards she will go (away and marry Yitzchok.)'

Where was Besuel?

The Oral Torah (Targum Yonosan Ben Uziel) fills in the gap.

24:55 During the discussion that evening, Besuel (accidentally) ate from the (poisoned) food. In the morning they found him dead. And her brother and mother said, 'Let the girl stay with us for a year or for ten months. Afterwards she will go (away and marry Yitzchok.)'

Further.

24:56 'And he [Eliezer] said, 'Don't make me late, for G-d has granted my journey with success. Send me away (so that) I can go to my master.'

24:57 And they said, 'Let's call the girl and ask her (what she wants to do.)'

24:58 And they called Rivka and asked her, 'Will you go with this man?' And she said, 'I'll go.'

Had Besuel not died that morning, do you think they would have risked giving Rivka the power to decide?

We see another example of how G-d's will is carried out in spite of what evil people try to do to foil it.

Furthermore, we have an example of how G-d's will is carried out with the assistance of what evil people do.


24:67 And he brought her to the tent, Sarah his mother.

Rashi provides the following reading: He brought her to the tent and what occurred to his mother Sarah also happened for Rivkah.

During Sarah's lifetime a candle burned continually in her tent from one Shabbos eve to the next, the bread dough was blessed, and a cloud always clung to her tent.

These miracles ceased upon Sarah's death and returned with Rivkah's arrival.

The Rinas Yitzchak commentary focuses on Sarah's Shabbos candles and asks whether they ever went out by themselves.

The Medrash Tanchuma cites a statement by Rabbi Chanina that the lights of the Menorah in the temple remained lit from year to year, from one Rosh Hashana to the next. Perhaps Sarah's candles never went out, either.

The Tosfos on the Talmud (Shabbos 25b) brings opposing views regarding whether one can fulfill the commandment of Shabbos candles with something that is already lit. One view requires the candles to be extinguished and re-lit in honor of the Shabbos.

Rashi says that Sarah's candles burned from one Shabbos eve to the next. Does he mean that they went out every Friday and were re-lit for Shabbos? Or, does Rashi mean that they would have continued burning but Sarah purposely extinguished them so that she could fulfill the commandment of lighting Shabbos candles each week?

It would seem that those who do not require a newly lit candle for Shabbos would take the position that Sarah's flame went out each week and this is why Rashi says that they burned from one Shabbos eve to the next.

However, we do not know the position on Sarah's candles according to those who require a fresh light each week. Perhaps they went out by themselves or perhaps Sarah extinguished them to fulfill the commandment.

Now the above Medrash Tanchuma puzzled Rabbi Chaim Soleveichik because the Torah commands us to light the Menorah each day. This should require us to extinguish the light each day to fulfill this commandment. If they did so then how did we know that the Menorah remained lit the entire year?

The Gerer Rebbe applies a Talmudic ruling to answer this question. It is forbidden during Shabbos to kindle a light. The Talmud states that adding oil to a lamp that is already burning is included in this prohibition (Betza 22). So the Menorah did not have to be extinguished in order to light it each day. Rather, the priest simply added some fresh oil and let it continue burning. This is how they were able to know that the Menorah's light lasted from one Rosh Hashana to the next.

Now, if we require Shabbos candles to be freshly lit each week and if Sarah's candles burned continuously then Sarah would not have needed to extinguish them in order to fulfill the commandment of lighting candles for Shabbos. Rather she would have simply added more oil, similar to what they did in the Temple.

We should be able to now derive the answer to our question from Rashi's statement that her candles burned from one Shabbos eve to the next. Had they burned continuously then Sarah would have been able to fulfill the commandment by adding oil. The fact that they burned from one Shabbos eve to the next implies that they indeed lasted for only one week.

The Rinas Yitzchak concludes that we do not have sufficient proof.

The Rav from Brisk notes that the requirements for lighting Shabbos candles are unique and perhaps different from lighting the Menorah.

It is not enough to light candles with the intention that they are for the Shabbos, even if they are freshly lit. They must also be lit shortly before Shabbos commences so that it is apparent from what we do that they are for Shabbos.

While adding oil to something already lit qualifies for transgressing Shabbos and also for lighting the Menorah in the temple, we do not know whether this is sufficient for demonstrating that this is an act of lighting Shabbos candles, even if it is done right before Shabbos. Perhaps the only way this can be done is by actually lighting something, which would require an existing candle be extinguished.

Therefore, if we say that Shabbos candles must be freshly lit then perhaps Sarah's candles went out by themselves each week or perhaps they didn't but Sarah needed to extinguish them to fulfill the commandment.


25:8 And Avraham expired and passed away in a good old age, an elder and satisfied. And he was gathered to his people.

The Ramban commentary reads that Avraham was satisfied with achieving his desires.

The Klei Yakar commentary reads that Avraham was satisfied with the days of his life.

The latter explains that the main existence of the righteous is in the next world, where they will receive their reward. It is an existence that they year for and they can therefore become satisfied with the days of their life in this world.

However, the wicked live for only this world. It is therefore very difficult for them to be satisfied with life in this world because it is the only place where they can hope to avert discomfort and even have some pleasure.

I'd just like to add that one does not need to become an elder to be sincerely content with life in this world.

The word for elder is Zaken and we are taught that the letters that make up this world, (Zayin, Kuf, Nun) can be understood to represent three Hebrew words, "Zeh Kanah Chachma," "This is a person who acquired wisdom .

We are also taught that "The beginning of Wisdom is fear of G-D.

Since a person at any age can acquire fear of G-D and the wisdom that is associated with it, a person at any age can become content with his/her life in this world.


Toldos (Genesis 25-28)

25:18: And they (the descendants of Yishmael - Ishmael) dwelt from Chavila to Shur, facing Egypt as one comes to Ashur. He fell before all of his brothers.

25:19 And these are the generations of Yitzchok (Isaac) son of Avraham (Abraham). Avraham gave birth to Yitzchok.

There is a fascinating comment from the Baal Haturim for verse 25:18.

He writes that the adjacency of this verse with the one that follows and introduces Yitzchok indicates that the Messianic son of David who will be a descendant of Yitzchok will grow (e.g. will come to power) when Yishmael has his downfall in the End of Days.

We have no details about this foretold downfall of many hundred years ago, whether it will be military, political, or economic. Or perhaps this refers to a loss of respect in the eyes of the entire civilized world.

It is not productive or helpful to speculate on interpretations of prophetic visions into the future, especially if one is not learned in the traditions that have been hosting the Bible for the past 33 centuries.

What I would like to focus on is the connection that Yitzchok will have with those who will be alive in this period, the 'End of Days.'

The Talmud (Shabbos 89b) provides us with the following fascinating discussion:

Rav Shmuel son of Nachmeni says the following in the name of Rav Yochanan.:

What is meant by the following verse: "For you are our father because Avraham does not know us and Yaakov (Jacob) does not recognize us. You G-D are our Father and Redeemer, for all times is Your Name. (Yeshia / Isaiah 63:16)"

G-D will approach Avraham in times to come and say to him, "Your children have sinned to Me." He will respond, "Master of the world, let them (achieve correction by) being wiped out from the world through sanctifying Your Name (through martyrdom)."

G-D will say to Himself, "Let me approach Yaakov, who went through stress from raising children. Perhaps he will seek mercy for them.

G-D will say to Yaakov, "Your children have sinned to Me. He will also respond, "Master of the world, let them (achieve correction by) being wiped out from the world through sanctifying Your Name (through martyrdom)."

G-D will say to Himself, "The aged one (Avraham) has no sense and the little one (Yaakov) is missing counsel."

Thereupon he will approach Yitzchok and say, "Your children have sinned to Me."

Yitzchok will respond: "Master of the world, are they my children and not Yours? You called them 'My first born children' when they prefaced 'We will understand (Your commandments)' with the words, 'We will obey.' Also, how much did they sin anyway? How long does a person live? Seventy years? Take away the first twenty because a person is too young to be held responsible. Take twenty-five years from the remaining fifty for when it is night and a person is not fully functional. Take twelve and a half from the remaining years for all the times that a person is busy praying, eating, and caring for his physical needs. Perhaps you can then bear the remaining twelve and a half years. If this is too much then let's divide these years among ourselves. And if necessary, You can put all of them on my account because I was ready to sacrifice myself for You.

The Jewish people will immediately burst out in praise for Yitzchok and they will say, "For you are our father because Avraham does not know us and Yaakov (Jacob) does not recognize us."

Yitzchok will then say to them, "Rather then praise me, why don't you praise G-D?"

They will immediately look upwards and say, "You G-D are our Father and Redeemer, for all times is Your Name."

Only Yitzchok will be able to relate with this wayward generation. Perhaps this is because he fathered Aisav (Esau), a wayward and unrepentant son.


25:19 And these are the generations of Yitzchok (Isaac) son of Avraham (Abraham): Avraham gave birth to Yitzchok.

Rashi provides the following commentary: "It was after G-D called his (i.e. Avram's) name Avraham that he afterwards gave birth to Yitzchok."

The Beer Yosef commentary notes that this sequence of events is obvious from the previous Torah readings. What is Rashi trying to tell us? And what does this have to do with the future generations of Yitzchok?

He offers the following explanation.

Our sages teach that prior to the name change, Avram's knowledge of astrology told him that he would not have any children.

When G-D told him that his children will inherit the land, G-D acknowledged this. However, while the stars say that Avram is barren, they say nothing about Avraham. Thus, by changing his name, G-D worked around nature and gave Avraham the ability to become a father.

Rivka (Rebecca) was also naturally barren but through the combined prayers of Yitzchok and Rivka they had children. Here again we see that nature worked against there being a Jewish people but G-D stepped in.

And so it has been throughout history. Nature seems to work against the continuity of Yitzchok's generations, the Jewish people, but we continue to survive with G-D's help.


25:19 And these are the generations of Yitzchak son of Avraham (Isaac son of Abraham). Avraham gave birth to Yitzchok.

Rashi provides the following commentary for "Avraham gave birth to Yitzchok:"

The scoffers of that generation were saying that Avimelech made Sarah pregnant with Yitzchok (during the period he held her captive). So G-D made Yitzchok's facial features look just like Avraham in a manner that caused everyone to be certain that Avraham gave birth to Yitzchok.

The Medrash adds that some scoffers claimed that it was Pharaoh who made Sarah pregnant with Yitzchok when he held her captive.

It is puzzling that the Torah writes this here, when Yitzchok is already forty years old and not earlier when it writes of Yitzchok's birth.

It is also puzzling how people could think of connecting Pharaoh with Yitzchok since Sarah's captivity and freedom occurred some thirty years prior to Yitzchok's birth.

The following came to mind.

Perhaps this reflects the adage that opposition to a person is proportionate to his/her greatness. It is only now, after forty years of spiritual growth and accomplishment, that Yitzchok becomes subjected to mockery and outrageous denigration.

Obviously he did not let this get him down and he continued to grow and develop.


25:21 And Yitzchok (Isaac) entreated G-d opposite his wife, (praying for her) because she was barren. And G-d yielded to him and Rivka his wife conceived.

Rashi provides the following commentary.

Opposite his wife: He stood in one corner (of the room) and prayed and she stood in another corner and prayed.

And G-d yielded to him: (G-d yielded to) his prayers, not to her (prayers.) From here we learn that the prayer of one who is righteous and whose parent is (also) righteous is not (comparable) to the prayer of one who is righteous (but) whose parent is wicked. (Yitzchok's father was the righteous Avraham - Abraham. However, Rivka's father was the wicked Besuel.) This is why it states (that G-d yielded) to him, not to her.

We need to understand this.

Yitzchok's background supported his righteousness, not Rivka's. To her great credit, she was righteous in spite of her background. Why should she be denied any privilege because of the failings of her parents?

The following came to mind.

First of all, Rashi does not say that G-d would never have answered her. G-d forbid. Rather, since they were praying for the same thing and G-d answered Yitzchok first, there was no need to answer her. Had they both not been praying for the same thing, then surely G-d would have answered Rivka's prayers. She just would have needed a bit more prayers.

Still, this does imply that Yitzchok's background provided an advantage. How? Why shouldn't Rivka's great personal accomplishment put the quality of her prayer on somewhat of an equal footing with that of Yitzchok's?

We need to have a better understanding of prayer.

Prayer is not merely a mechanism by which a person can get what he wants or needs. Rather, Judaism teaches that the main function of prayer is to provide a person with the opportunity to express his/her dependence on G-d, thereby internalizing this more deeply. Prayer is an opportunity to grow.

In other words, G-d know what a person needs and wants. G-d is able to deliver anything to us without our asking. In fact, most of the time, He does just that. However, G-d does not do this all of the time because this would lead a person to have a distorted perspective about G-d and himself.

At times, G-d withholds significant objectives from people, thereby bringing them to pray so that they can come to better realize and internalize reality. Specifically, they come to better feel the existence of G-d, their own lack of supremacy, and a real dependence on G-d.

With this in mind, we can understand how the quality of prayer is affected by a person's humility and meekness, since this is its main objective.

Yitzchok could have based his prayer on his merit or on the merit of Avraham. Rivka just had her own merit, which could have been even greater than that of Yitzchok.

If Yitzchok refrained from mentioning his own merit, this would have enabled his prayer to made with a greater degree of humility than that of Rivka's. Perhaps this is why it was answered first.

Again, this does not preclude anyone's prayer from being answered, especially that of our great Matriarch Rivka.


25:22 And the children agitated within her (womb) and she [Rivkah / Rebecca] said, “Why is this (happening to) me?” And she went to inquire from (a prophet of) G-D.

Rashi writes that Yaakov (Jacob) and Aisav (Esau) were quarrelling over the inheritance of the two worlds.

I assume that the two worlds are the world we live in right now and the world to come.

Yaakov and Aisav founded two great nations.

This world is temporal and physical. The next world is eternal and is not physical. There is certainly enough room in both realms for both them and all of their descendants.

How do we understand the struggle?

Perhaps the struggle was over charting the course of the history for mankind. Perhaps the difference in the orientation of the two resulting cultures reflects their issues.

Judaism stresses that physicality is a means and spirituality is the end. The perspective of many of Aisav’s descendants was the reverse.

A righteous person brings spirituality into his physicality and is in a position to inherit both worlds. A wicked person is focused on physicality. Such a person essentially has neither world, for his/her life in this world lacks meaning and a future.


25:23: And G-D said to her [Rivkah], "There are two nations in your womb. Two regimes shall be separated from inside of you. Power shall pass from one regime to another. And the elder shall serve the younger."

25:28 And Yitzchak loved Aisav (Esau) because hunted game was in his mouth …

The mouth is the most powerful organ that a person has. We are taught that prayer is the greatest power that a person has. And we are taught that Yitzchak had the greatest power of prayer.

Aisav was the eldest son. His father's love made him the most powerful person to have ever lived. And yet he was destined to serve his younger brother.

This reminds me that if G-d wants something to occur then it will happen. Nothing that looks impossible to us is really impossible.


25:27 And the boys grew up. And Eisav was an expert hunter, a man of the field. And Yaakov was a plain person, one who dwells in tents (of study).

Rashi provides the following commentary.

Their personalities weren't obvious while they were young. However, when they grew up and became thirteen, this one went to the study hall and that one went to idolatry.

Now the scriptures state that Eisav was an outdoorsman. Where does it indicate that he became an idolater?

The following came to mind.

Deuteronomy 11:16 states, "Take care lest your heart becomes enticed and you turn away and serve other gods and you bow down to them."

The Medrash Sifri references a verse in which King David complains that people are pressing him to serve idols. The Medrash explains that David made this statement while he was pursued by King Shaul (Saul). As he was unable to maintain his Torah studies while he was fleeing for his life, David equated the inability to study with being pressured to serve idols.

With this in mind, perhaps we can say that Eisav's choice of a life as a hunter over life in the Torah study hall was equated with serving idols. This would explain why Rashi viewed Eisav in the light of an idolater.

Why is a break-away from Torah study compared to pursuing idolatry?

The following came to mind.

The Torah is an expression of G-D's will as it was presented to Mankind some 33 centuries ago and preserved by the Jewish people ever since.

Disregard of Torah study is therefore a disregard of G-D's will. Idolatry is the allegiance to a will of a false god, clearly a disregard of G-D's will except in a different context and type.


25:29 And Yaakov (Jacob) cooked some food and Aisav (Esau) came (in) from the field and he was fatigued.

25:30 And Aisav said to Yaakov, "Please stuff my mouth with that reddish red (food that you are cooking) because I am worn out." He therefore called his name Adom (red).

25:31 And Yaakov said, "Sell to me as (clear as) the day your birthright."

The Sefurno provides the following commentary.

25:30 "He therefore called his name Adom:" When Yaakov saw how much Aisav was committed to his work (in the field) to the degree that he no longer related to food it in a normal way and he could only recognize a food by its (red) color.

25:31: "Sell to me as (clear as) the day" Since today you have come to bring the focus of your entire being on your work, making you so worn out that you can no longer recognize a food by its type, clearly you are unable to service G-D and act in a manner that befits the role of a first-born

Yaakov disqualifies Aisav because of the intensity of his commitment to work even though the example did not indicate that Aisav abused or neglected anybody other than himself because of this commitment.

This is somewhat unusual to someone who is not accustomed to thinking in terms of how the Torah views our role in achieving material success.

To appreciate our unique and enlightening perspective, I recommend a book called Chovos Halevovos, or Duties Of The Heart, a Judaic classic. The author masterfully devotes an entire chapter to this issue and it is called Shaar Habitochon, or Gate of Trust/Insurance.

The author presents this outlook against a background that takes as given that G-D actively manages in detail the affairs of each and every individual. G-D defines everyone's mission. He provides the tools and sets the bounds. G-D is aware of and controls every outcome.

A person's choice to do good or bad is within his own control. However, whether this actually comes to action, and the effects of this choice on others is in G-D's hands. So, for example, a person can choose to hurt someone else. However, whether the victim gets hurt or not is up to G-D.

The author applies the logical conclusions of this approach to many areas of life.

He also cautions the reader against excess passivity. Therefore, for example, a person may not lie down on a busy street and assume that if he gets run over by a car then it reflects a pre-destination and that it would have happened anyway had he not put himself in danger.

The author assigns responsibility to us for taking steps to make a livelihood. He also removes the anxiety that is associated with the fear of failure.

It is expected that a person focus energy on making a living. However, extreme stress is inappropriate and this appears to be what Aisav was being faulted for.


25:29 And Yaakov (Jacob) cooked some food and Aisav (Esau) came (in) from the field and he was fatigued.

25:30 And Aisav said to Yaakov, "Please stuff my mouth with that reddish red (food that you are cooking) because I am worn out." He therefore called his name Adom (red).

25:31 And Yaakov said, "Sell to me as (clear as) the day your birthright."

25:32 And Aisav said, 'Here I'm going to die, so why do I need this birthright?'

25:33 And Yaakov said, 'Swear to me as the day (that this will be a valid sale).'

25:34 And he swore to him. And he sold his birthright to Yaakov.

25:35 And Yaakov gave bread and a dish of lentils to Aisav.

25:36 And he [Aisav] ate, drank, and he walked away. And Aisav despised the birthright.

During history, this episode has been misinterpreted by detractors of the Jewish people. They pictured Yaakov as a Jewish businessman who cheated his brother. The detractors overlook the fact that the Torah itself testifies that the birthright which Aisav sold was something that he despised and didn't really want.

Rashi explains that Aisav was turned off when he discovered that the birthright within the family of Avraham (Abraham) included the privilege and thereby the obligation to serve in the Temple. While an honor, it also entailed restrictions and liability that Aisav did not want.

We know from the Oral Torah that Yaakov and Aisav were fifteen years old at the time of this sale. Avraham had just passed away and Yaakov was cooking lentils for his father to eat for the Meal of Consolation.

Up to that day, Aisav kept the moral standards of the family of Avraham. However, from then on, Aisav became a delinquent.

The Oral Torah (Psikta and Talmud Bava Basra 16b) teaches that just prior to the sale, Aisav violated a betrothed maiden and he also murdered someone.

Aisav never mended his ways. His branch of the family adopted behaviors of idolatry and incest.

It came to mind that many of us can derive strength from this misfortune.

Aisav was a failure, but the Torah does not blame his parents.

Yitzchak and Rivka (Isaac and Rebecca) were pious people. We can assume that they did whatever was humanly possible to raise Aisav in the proper manner.

May G-d spare us all from the misfortune of being the parents of a delinquent.

It is natural for grieving parents to take stock of themselves and the way they raised their child. When done in a positive and constructive manner, this can lead to self-improvement, which is beneficial. However, this can also lead to depression, despair, and it can also destroy a marriage.

Let those of us who are in this situation seek self improvement. Let them also use Yitzchak and Rivka as a source of strength. Despite the failure, they were model people and they had a model marriage. Despite the failure, their own lives were a great success.


The Torah records that G-d said the following to Avraham (Abraham) after his near-sacrifice of Yitzchok (Isaac):

22:17 'For bless will I bless you and increase shall I increase your children like the stars of the heaven and like the sand that is by the edge of the sea. And your children will inherit the gate of its enemies.

22:18 And all of the nations of the earth will be blessed through your children because you listened to my voice.

In this section, the Torah records that G-d said the following to Yitzchok:

26:3 Live in this land and I will be with you and I will bless you. For I will give all of these lands to you and to your children. And I will establish the oath that I swore to Avraham your father.

26:4 And I will increase your children like the stars of the heaven. And I will give to your children all of these lands. And all of the nations of the earth will be blessed through your children.

26:5 (All) because Avraham listened to my voice, and he watched my guard, my commandments, my precepts and my Torahs.

Rather than making reference to the blessing of Avraham, the Torah appears to be writing it again. There are some differences between the two and they must teach us many great lessons. We will focus on a difference between 22:18 and 26:5.

Avraham was told that the blessings were given because he listened to G-d's voice. However, Yitzchok is told that besides listening to G-d's voice, Avraham also watched the guard, the commandments, precepts, and Torah. What is the Torah trying to tell us by listing these extra merits?

The following came to mind.

On a simple level, one could say that this reflects the following teaching:

Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ben Elazar said, 'One says only part, but not all of a person's praise in his presence' (Eruvin 18). So, when G-d spoke to Avraham, He only mentioned one of his praises, that Avraham listened to G-d's voice.

Or, perhaps in the second reference, the Torah is telling us how one come to be able to truly listen to G-d's voice.

Let's first discuss what 'listening to the voice' means. Here are two stories.

The Talmud tells us of an old man that lived with his son and who received a draft notice from the government. In those days, such a calling could have involved an extended period of hard and menial labor for the king's service. The son offered to go in place of his father but was concerned about running the family mill. The father readily and happily agreed to push a millstone while his son was in service of the king (Talmud Kedushin 31).

The Torah commands us to honor our parents and yet this son let his father do hard labor. Was he listening to the 'voice' of this commandment? Absolutely, says the Talmud.

In the second story, I was by the home of a woman who suddenly realized that her youngest daughter wandered off. She quickly summoned two daughters and charged them to go in opposite directions to find their lost sister. The youngest, who seemed to be around seven, proceeded to calmly walk away towards a neighbor's house. The mother saw this and screamed, 'HURRY UP! RUSH!' (It turned out that the child was safe by a neighbor.)

Prior to the second directive, the girl was obeying her mother's command but she wasn't listening to her voice.

G-d expects us to listen to His voice and this requires one to read into the message behind the commandments. How can one do this without risking their misinterpretation or distortion?

Perhaps this is the lesson that G-d is telling Yitzchok (and us, too) from the second reference, '.. he watched my guard, my commandments, my precepts and my Torahs.'

One eventually achieves competence through extensive observance and study of the entire Torah, Written and Oral (See Rashi).

This is reflected in the following teaching, Ignorant people can not achieve piety.


26:10 And [King] Avimelech said [to Yitzchok / Isaac], "What did you do to us? A man of distinction within the nation almost slept with your wife and you brought guilt upon us."

Sarah was snatched twice from Avraham (Abraham), once by the king of Egypt and a second time by the king of the Plishtim (Philistines). Here, Yitzchok's Rivkah was almost snatched. Both Avraham and Yitzchok were living in civilized regions and yet three women in their family are jeopardized in a similar manner. This is very unusual.

The following came to mind.

As Genesis 10:14 traces the lineage of the Plishtim nation to the Egyptians, all three attacks pertain to Egypt.

We have a general rule that the act of our forefathers paved the way for their descendants.

We also know that four generations of the Jewish people were destined to endure the Egyptian exile, beginning with Yaakov's immediate family and then for the next three generations. (Rashi Genesis 15:16).

So perhaps the ordeals and the protection afforded to matriarchs were paving the way to preserve family integrity and to foster resistance to intermarriage during the exile.


27:1 And it was when Yitzchak (Isaac) became elderly and he lost his eyesight …

The Medrash says the following:

Yitzchak asked G-D to introduce suffering into the world.

Given that people have spiritual shortcomings, Yitzchak reasoned that if a person never suffers during his lifetime then he will suffer more in the next world when he is judged. However, if people suffer in this world then they will not have to endure suffering in the next world, which is very intense.

G-D granted his request and remarked that he requested something beneficial. "By your life," G-D said, "I will begin with you."

And this is why Yitzchak lost his eyesight (Medrash Rabah).

I suspect that the benefit extends beyond personal cost versus benefit.

Everything that happens to us comes from G-D. Therefore, suffering can be taken to mean Heavenly rejection, that there is a limit to G-D's patience and love. This is a falsehood. It is a tactic of the evil inclination to cause a person to lose hope and give up.

For most people, suffering and discomfort purge a person from defects.

Everyone who winds up in the right place in the next world will be perfect, zero defects. It's up to us to make the right choice and avoid or correct defects. The alternative is to experience suffering and discomfort to purge these defects.

A firm conviction that G-D's loving kindness has no limits can balance the test that comes from suffering.

Humanity had no proponent of G-D's limitless kindness until Avraham (Abraham) emerged.

By promoting this concept, Avraham gave his son Yitzchak an ability to make a contribution of his own.

The collective teachings of both Avraham and Yitzchak enable us to deal with the notion that suffering is a form of G-D's goodness, as it serves to cleanse and refine. They enable a person to accept the notion that G-D loves us in spite of discomfort. They tell us that G-D does not use physical comfort and discomfort to signal that He loves us or does not love us.

We are here on this world to earn our life in the next world, which is eternal. It is therefore reasonable for G-D to place limits on His loving kindness when not doing so will prevent a person or mankind from achieving the greatness that G-D planned for us.

We can therefore begin to accept the notion that damage from spiritual misconduct can reach a point of no return (… for the iniquity of the Emorites will not be complete until then…-Genesis 15:16). The commentaries refer to this state as reaching the limits of a measurement.

This helps explain several instances of mass destruction in the text of the Torah, such as the flood and the destruction of Sodom.

We also note from the text of the Torah and from both Medrash and commentaries that life was pleasant and comfortable prior to the flood. Mankind never felt any change of season and they enjoyed long lives. We also know that Sodom was like "the Garden of G-D" (Genesis 13:10).

Without a connection to the teachings of both Avraham and Yitzchak, the civilizations of the Emorites, the generation of the flood, and Sodom had no opportunity to experience significant discomfort without impacting their free-will to repent. So while living a good life they reached a limit of deformity and needed to be destroyed.

The teachings of Avraham and Yitzchak provide the ability for civilizations to become relatively indestructible by enabling their members to not lose hope, to disconnect what happens to them from the degree that G-D loves them, and to accept suffering and discomfort without impacting their ability to repent.

Stressful as it has sometimes been, the waves of pain that the Jewish people experienced for the past thirty-three centuries served to avert their extinction.


27:1 And it was when Yitzchak (Isaac) became elderly and he lost his eyesight …

Yitzchok's loss of eyesight is the first time that the Torah mentions anybody who lived with physical suffering.

The Medrash teaches that this did not exist prior to Yitzchak.

The Medrash goes further to say that Yitzchak asked G-D to include physical suffering as part of our natural experiences.

Rabbi Yehudah said the following teaching:

Yitzchak requested physical suffering.

He said before G-D, "Master of all Worlds, if a person dies without enduring physical suffering during his lifetime then (entire) Attribute of Justice is spread out before him. (This is because, he will have to undergo intensive suffering in the next world if none of his misdeeds received corrective atonement in this world.)

(However,) if You bring suffering upon a person (in this world) then the (entire) Attribute of Justice will not be spread out before him (in the next world because he will have already received some atonement in this world)."

The Holy One Blessed Be He said to him, "By your life, you requested something that is good. And I will start this with you."

From the beginning of the Book (of Genesis) we do not find (anybody living with) suffering. Once Yitzchak stood up (and made this request) He gave him suffering.

I understand this to be saying that there is a trade-off.

A life in this world without suffering gives a person more of a chance to develop a positive relationship with G-D, as he only experiences G-D's loving-kindness. In fact, Avraham (Abraham) focused exclusively on publicizing G-D's loving-kindness and he succeeded in convincing many people to abandon idolatry.

But there is a hidden cost.

If a person does not repent then he must undergo corrective atonement which involves suffering.

It requires significantly less suffering in this world to achieve corrective atonement than in the next world.

G-D realized this but in His loving kindness did not want to extend suffering into this world until someone like Yitzchak saw the benefit and asked for it.


27:4 And make for me delicacies just as I like and bring them to me and I will eat it so that my soul will bless you before I die.

The Sefurno commentary notes that Yitzchak did not ask Yaakov to make any food when he later blessed him in verse 28:3.

The Sefurno says that Yitzchak knew that Aisav (Esau) did not behave in a manner that made him not worthy of the parental blessing.

Yitzchak felt that the merit of Aisav bringing this food would compensate for his errant behavior and make him worthy to receive the blessing.

However, Yitzchak knew that Yaakov was qualified for his blessing. This is why he did not ask Yaakov to bring any food.

We see from this Sefurno the greatness of doing a single act to honor a parent.

The Sefurno also notes that had Yitzchak realized the extent of Aisav's wickedness that he would never have made the offer in the first place.


27:12 Perhaps my father will feel me (while I'm impersonating as my brother) and I will be in his eyes like someone who is mocking him. And I (thus) will bring up upon myself a curse, not a blessing.

In these highly traumatic moments for Yaakov, he was about to do something that he had never done and that was very uncharacteristic of himself. He would have never impersonated his brother to receive his father's blessing had not his mother told him that he had to do it to be consistent with a prophecy that she received (see Targum Unkelus).

It is noteworthy from this verse to see that Yaakov was not focused on himself and his being exposed. Rather, his focus was on how his father would take it and that his father would feel hurt.


27:33 And Yitzchak (Isaac) trembled excitedly and he said (when he realized that the pervious person was not Aisav / Esau), "Who (and) where is the one who hunted game, brought it to me, and I ate from it all before you came and I blessed him? He should also be blessed.

We note that Yitzchak didn't say that he can keep the blessing. Rather, he said that he should also be blessed.

Also, saying that he should also be blessed implies that there was someone else who was already blessed. It was certainly not Aisav, who has yet to receive any blessing. Who was that other person?

The following came to mind.

A person can have things by receiving a blessing from someone else. Yitzchak gave such blessings to both Yaakov (Jacob) and to Aisav.

But there is something much greater and we can see it in the words that G-D said to Avraham (Abraham):

And I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing (12:2).

To me, "I will bless you" means that Avraham will have things from G-D's blessings. "And you will be a blessing" means that Avraham will himself become a wellspring of blessings for others.

In charting the destiny of two great nations, Yitzchak always knew that Aisav's attitudes and behavior did not warrant the mission of passing on the heritage of Avraham to a Jewish people and to mankind.

Perhaps this is what Yitzchak meant when he said that his previous visitor should also be blessed. He meant that the greatness of Avraham, himself a blessing, should go to Yaakov. It was only Yaakov who was capable of the assignment to represent and pass on Avraham's way of life.


27:41 And Aisav (Esau) hated Yaakov (Jacob) over the blessing that his father blessed him. And Aisav said in his heart, "Let the days of mourning for my father come near and (then) I will kill Yaakov my brother."

The Kli Yakar commentary provides the following insight:

Aisav made Yaakov's execution dependent on mourning for their father Yitzchak (Isaac).

This is because a mourner is forbidden to be engaged in Torah study since it brings happiness to the heart..

Now, in when Yitzchok blessed Aisav in 27:40, he said to the effect that Aisav can prevail when Yaakov or his descendents do not uphold the Torah. So, since Yaakov will not be engaged in Torah study when he is in mourning over Yitzchok, he will not have the special protection that Torah study provides. This would then be an opportune time to attempt to kill Yaakov.

It is for this reason that our sages of blessed memory require that people continually look after a mourner during the mourning period, for he/she may not be engaged in Torah study that would have offered protection. This is supported by the verse, "When you walk it will guide you and when you sleep it will watch over you. (Proverbs 6:22).

I noted that the verse in Proverbs in appears to indicate contrary to the Kli Yakar's explanation of why Aisav was delaying the murder.

If Aisav is looking for a time when Yaakov is not learning then why doesn't just look for an opportunity to find Yaakov when he stops learning and falls asleep? The answer is that the verse in Proverbs teaches us that Torah scholars are offered protection when they are asleep, even though they are not learning at that time. If so, then why should a Torah scholar in mourning be any different? He should also be afforded the Torah's protection even though he is not learning at that time? Why then did Aisav want to delay his assault until Yaakov was in mourning?

The following came to mind.

A person can either live in order to eat or a person can eat in order to live.

The true Torah scholar is a person whose entire focus in life is Torah and its study. Involvement with physicality is kept to that which is obligatory, necessary, and expected. He eats so that he can have stamina to study. He sleeps and vacations so that he can have a clear mind to study. Even his social life is measured to that which is necessary and proper for a person who is deeply associated with the Torah. He does absolutely nothing for just the 'fun of it.'

It is my understanding that to the degree that a person's involvement with physicality is in the context of Torah, it is to that degree that his involvements in physicality are considered as though they are acts of Torah study. So when a Torah scholar closes his book for five minutes to grab a bit to eat, those five minutes are also considered as if they were Torah study.

So, when Yaakov fell asleep, it was still considered as though he was still studying Torah and he was afforded the same protection as if he was learning at that time.

However, during the mourning period, a Torah scholar is forbidden to study. The cessation is to meet the needs of mourning, not of study. Therefore, Aisav expected that Yaakov would be unprotected at that time. Perhaps it was for that reason that he wanted to delay the murder of his brother Yaakov.

Apparently, even an Aisav can recognize the great significance of a Torah scholar's sleep and other physical involvements.


27:41 And Aisav (Esau) hated Yaakov (Jacob) over the blessing that his father blessed him. And Aisav said in his heart, "Let the days of mourning for my father come near and (then) I will kill Yaakov my brother."

27:42 And it was told to Rivka (through prophecy) the words of Aisav … and she sent for and called to Yaakov (Jacob) …

27:43 And now my son, listen to my voice and flee for yourself to my brother Lavan, to Charan (to save your life).

28:10 And Yaakov left from Be’er Sheva and he went to Charan.

The Talmud says that he stayed in Be’er Sheva for fourteen years before fleeing for his life (Megila 17a). He hid himself in the yeshiva of Shem and Ever, son and grandson of Noach (Noah).

The Marsha there says that there were at least two great academies of Torah learning in Be’er Sheva, that of Yitzchak and Shem/Ever. This is hinted in the Hebrew letters of the words, “from Be’er Sheva.” The seven letters can be re-arranged to spell Shem, Ever, and Av (father).

He could obviously not hide from his brother in their father’s institution.

It was remarkable that he chose to hide right under his own brother’s nose, and for such a long time.

My understanding is that Yaakov knew that he was about to establish a family and he hoped to succeed in founding the Jewish people. Although he was already sixty-three years old, he felt that he needed another fourteen years of intense Torah study to prepare himself for this task and to also improve his ability to survive and thrive in a culture that was foreign to Torah values.

He also had faith that the merit of his Torah study would protect him from Aisav’s wrath.


28:5 And Yitzchak (Isaac) sent Yaakov (Jacob) away and he went to Paden Aram, to Lavan son of Besuel the Armenian, the brother of Rivka, mother of Yaakov and Aisav.

Rashi provides the following commentary for "Mother of Yaakov and Aisav:" I do not know what this teaches us.

One could say that Rashi is puzzled because it is already well known that Rivka was the mother of Yaakov and Aisav.

Indeed, there are a myriad of teachings from every word in the Torah, most of which have yet to be discovered. Why would Rashi single out this phrase to tell us that he does not know what it teaches us?

The Sifsei Chachamim commentary explains that perhaps in Rashi's time there were several teachings on this verse but Rashi was not satisfied with them, so this is what he is trying to tell us.

The Maskil LeDavid takes an entirely different approach.

"I do not know what this teaches me" is part of Rashi's commentary on the verse, not a candid statement of Rashi's humility.

The Talmud teaches that most of the children in a family are similar to their mother's brother. When looking for a wife it is therefore important to look into what type of person her brother is. (Bava Basra 110a)

Yitzchak is about to send Yaakov to his uncle Lavan but had no idea what type of person he was, whether he was righteous or wicked. If Lavan was an upright person then he needed to encourage Yaakov to use him as a mentor. If Lavan was wicked then he needed to warn Yaakov to stay away from his evil ways.

If Rivka would have had many more children then Yitzchak would have learned about Lavan by seeing how the children turned out. However, Rivka was the mother of only two children, Yaakov and Aisav. One was righteous and the other was wicked. So Yitzchak could not learn anything from how the children turned out.

"Mother of Yaakov and Aisav - I do not know what this teaches us" is not meant to tell us that Rashi does not understand this phrase or that he has yet to hear a satisfactory explanation.

Rather, Rashi is telling us that these are Yitzchak's words to his son Yaakov.

Yitzchak was telling Yaakov to approach Lavan with caution because they could not tell from the family whether Lavan is righteous or wicked because Rivka was the mother of only two children.


From the Haftora, Malachi 1:2-3

'I loved you,' says G-d, but you [the Jewish people] ask, 'In what way have you loved us?'

Says G-d, 'Is not Aisav a brother to Yaakov and I loved Yaakov. And [However] I hated Aisav, and I made his mountains desolate, and I gave over his legacy to the beasts of the wilderness.'

The Torah discourages us from exhibiting hatred. Yet, G-d proclaims through his prophet that He, Himself hated Aisav. How can this be understood.

The following came to mind. I hope that the approach is correct and is properly expressed.

At one time, the children of Aisav formed a nation. Long ago, this ancient nation dissolved amongst the civilizations. From what little we know of them they were steeped in idolatry.

Idolatry is a distortion and it has many facets. One of them is that the idol worshiper imposes constraints on G-d's existence.

The idol worshiper carries his god (or gods) around in his pocket. He defines a god that he can understand, comprehend, and therefore control. The idol worshiper can therefore forbid god to hate anybody.

Judaism teaches that G-d is infinite and man is finite. G-d's true essence is beyond our ability to comprehend. We dare not define on our own how G-d supposed to act or be.

The prophet declared that G-d hated Aisav. It is quite awkward to view this as a candid admission of G-d's feelings.

Rather, it was perhaps an approach to correct the ancient nation of Aisav. By setting up Aisav as an object model of His hatred, G-d taught and demonstrated to them that they are finite. The rest of mankind was then able to take this lesson into their own lives.


Vayetze (Gen. 28-32)

28:10 And Yaakov ( Jacob) went out from Be'er Sheva and he went to Charan.

28:11 And he [Yaakov / Jacob] came upon ("vayifga") the place and he lodged there because the sun had set. And he took from the stones of that place and arranged them around his head. And he slept in that place.

The Talmud says that we learn from verse 28:11 that Yaakov established the evening (Maariv) prayer for the Jewish people (Brachos 26b). They derive this from the word "vayifga," which refers elsewhere to prayer (Yirmiyahu / Jeremiah 7:16).

We know that Yaakov was seventy-seven years old at this time, when he set out for Charan. The Nesivas Shalom commentary asks why he didn't establish the Maariv prayer earlier in his life.

He answers that until now he lived in a sheltered and enlightened environment, among righteous people. He was now about to enter for the first time into a spiritually dark and hostile world.

The uncertainties of the moment helped him focus on and pray about the challenges both he and his descendants would cope with to maintain their perspective and even grow from their experiences.


28:10 And Yaakov ( Jacob) went out from Be'er Sheva and he went to Charan.

Rashi provides the following commentary:

The Torah only needed to write that Yaakov went to Charan. Why did the Torah mention his departure (from Be'er Sheva)? This teaches us that the departure of a righteous person makes a difference in the place that he left. When a righteous person is in a city, he/she is its glory, radiance, and splendor. When the righteous person leaves, the city's glory, radiance, and splendor also leaves. Similarly "And she went out of the place" which refers to Naomi and Russ (Ruth).

Rashi's comparison of Yaakov's exit with the story of Naomi and Russ is very interesting.

Yaakov left behind his righteous parents who appreciated his greatness. However, we have no evidence that Naomi and Russ left behind anybody in the Moabite nation who appreciated their righteousness.

Yaakov was an accomplished Torah scholar. No doubt, his departure left a vacuum in the great academies of higher learning. In contrast, Naomi and Russ were simple and impoverished widows. Furthermore, Russ had yet to express her interest in converting to Judaism.

So we have two exits. One exit was by a spiritual giant who grew to become one of the founders of the Jewish people. The other exit was by two decent and G-D fearing women.

To me, it's just another reminder that one need not have outstanding accomplishments in order to make a difference.


28:10 And Yaakov went out from Be'er Sheva and he went to Charan.

Rashi provides the following commentary:

The Torah only needed to write that Yaakov went to Charan. Why did the Torah mention his departure (from Be'er Sheva)? This teaches us that the departure of a righteous person makes a difference in the place that he left. When a righteous person is in a city, he/she is its glory, radiance, and splendor. When the righteous person leave, the city's glory, radiance, and splendor also leaves.

The Kli Yakar commentary is puzzled by Rashi's teaching because this is not the first time that the Torah writes about a righteous person's travel. When the Torah writes about Avraham's and Yitzchok's (Abraham and Isaac) journeys it doesn't make a point of mentioning the loss of glory, radiance, and splendor from the cities that they left from.

The Kli Yakar answers that Yaakov's departure was different. When and where Avraham and Yitzchok traveled, were accompanied by their followers and they inspired others to join their way of life. Those who remained behind did not appreciate their teachings and they felt no loss by their departure.

However, when Yaakov left Be'er Sheva, he left behind his parents, saintly people who fully appreciated the lifestyle and spiritual goals that Yaakov stood and strove for. They recognized and sorely felt the spiritual vacuum that resulted from Yaakov's departure. So only for them was it appropriate for the Torah to write that the city lost its glory, radiance, and splendor.

I learn from this Kli Yakar that part of the job of a righteous person is to learn to appreciate other righteous people.


28:11 And he [Yaakov / Jacob] came upon the place and he lodged there because the sun had set. And he took from the stones of that place and arranged them around his head. And he slept in that place.

The Talmud (Chulin 91b) teaches that Yaakov had trekked from southern Israel to someplace in what we now call Iraq. Shortly before arriving at his destination he realized that he had passed the place in Israel where his ancestors had prayed. Thereupon he set his mind to return and pray there. As he began the long journey back, he miraculously found himself at that place, which would later become the Temple Mount. Upon completing his prayers he planned to resume his journey and travel back to Iraq. Thereupon G-D declared, "How could I let this righteous person leave my hotel without having him spend the night there?" G-D made the sun set before its time so that Yaakov would not be able to travel and so he slept there. He later learned that this spot was host to the "House of G-D" and that it was the "Gates of Heaven" where everyone's prayers went up to heaven (28:17).

It is interesting that the Temple Mount is referred to by G-D as His hotel.

This brings to mind the following themes.

It is taught that the Temple corresponds to our world in a miniature form. It was Avraham who recognized G-D's loving-kindness and that He lavishly tends to all of our needs. This prompted him and Sarah opened their home to guests, thereby emulating G-D and demonstrating this relationship to mankind.

It is also taught that the layout of the Third Temple will be similar to Avraham and Sarah's home. They ran their home with renowned hospitality and it is partially in their merit that we were assigned the privilege of building the temples.

Finally, when we later built the Temple, whoever brought a sacrifice was required to spend the night in Jerusalem. Perhaps this is partially so that we can strengthen our connection to our great ancestors Avraham, Sarah, and Yaakov.


28:11 And he (Yaakov / Jacob) encountered the place and he lodged there because the sun set. And he took from the stones of that place and placed (them) around his head. And he lied down there.

Rashi says that Yaakov placed the stones around his head in the shape of a semi-circle because he was concerned about wild animals that prowl in the dark of the night.

What protection did these stones provide Yaakov with? Did they block his scent? Could they prevent a hungry bear from stepping over them?

The following came to mind.

We are taught that our welfare and wellbeing are in the hands of G-D. However, this does not mean that we are permitted to take a laid-back approach with respect to obtaining our needs.

We are charged to take action to meet our needs, but within a context of complete reliance on G-D for success. We are charged to exert ourselves in a sensible manner, but with no anxiety whatsoever, because it is up to G-D whether we meet with success or not. Our teachings view a person's working for a living as a form of a tax that most of us must pay. Work is significant in that it provides us with opportunities for test and self-perfection.

Let us speculate how a person without this viewpoint would have reacted to the predicament that Yaakov our great ancestor was in.

The exhausted traveler is caught by nightfall in the middle of a wilderness. He may as well fall asleep because he has no weapons to defend himself against the wild. However, out of anxiety and worry, he tries to stay up all night, cringing at every sound in the dark. He is exhausted at daybreak and continues on.

However, Yaakov's viewpoint affords him the ability to take a different approach. Since the situation looks hopeless, he might as well go to sleep. If G-D wills his protection then a good night's sleep will be of great value for the next day's travel. If G-D wants him to be eaten up by a wild animal then so be it.

This explains how Yaakov was able to lay down for a restful nights sleep. However, why did he bother with the stones?

Perhaps he viewed them as an opportunity to fulfill G-D's will and pay the tax that every human must pay, which is to take some action to meet his/her needs. His focus was solely on fulfilling G-D's commandments

So Yaakov did not rely on the stones for any protection at all, for this comes from G-D. That night he was just as complacent being surrounded with some stones around his head as he would have been were he surrounded with electrified barbed wire and a host of fearless marines that wore night-vision goggles and were armed with assault rifles.

Also, perhaps the merit of this act was sufficient to calm Yaakov's fear of being attacked in the dark of the night while he was asleep.


28:11 And he (Yaakov / Jacob) encountered the place and he lodged there because the sun set. And he took from the stones of that place and placed (them) around his head. And he lied down there.

28:12 And he dreamed and behold there was a ladder standing on the ground and its top was reaching the sky and behold there were angels of G-D ascending and descending on it.

The Targum Yonasan Ben Uziel states that there were two attending angels that ascended the ladder and were the same that came down from heaven to destroy Sodom. They were still on this earth some 138 years later and were not yet permitted to return because they had improperly disclosed their mission to Lot (19:13). It appears that in return for their doing a favor for Yaakov and accompanying him on the way that they achieved reconciliation and were allowed back into heaven.

The Medrash (Rabah and Tanchuma) provides a different background in the name of Rav Shmuel Ben Nachmeni. These angels represented the empires that subjugated the Jewish people. The angel that represented the Babylonian Empire climbed seventy rungs and stopped. This corresponded to the duration of the Babylonian exile. The Median representative climbed fifty-two and the angel representing the Greek Empire climbed one-hundred-eighty. However, the ascent of the Edomian representative seemed to Yaakov as it if would never end. G-D responded to this and assured Yaakov that this exile will also end, meaning that his children will achieve reconciliation and will return to their homeland.

Both teachings reflect reconciliation and return to origin.

They most probably provided Yaakov with hope and strength that he needed for his most difficult journey, as both he and his children will achieve reconciliation and will both eventually return to their ancestral homelands.


28:12 And he dreamed and behold there was a ladder standing on the ground and its top was reaching the sky and behold there were angels of G-D ascending and descending on it.

The following thought came to mind from studying the Chamudei Tzvi's commentary on this verse.

The blessing from his father that Yaakov received was about his having an abundance of earthly resources.

The vision of the ladder standing upon the earth with its top reaching the heavens carries a message that we must always realize that having physical possessions is not an end unto itself. Rather, our physical resources are meant to be used as a means to elevate ourselves, for spiritual growth and achievement.

We are based upon the earth; our focus must always be towards heaven.


28:12 And he dreamed and behold there was a ladder standing on the ground and its top was reaching the sky and behold there were angels of G-D ascending and descending on it.

Rabbi Bick of blessed memory cites a Midrash that the numerical equivalent of the Hebrew word for ladder is the same as the word "Sinai," which is where we received the Torah.

He also cites an observation of the Sefurno commentary that the numerical equivalent of ladder is the same as the Hebrew word for money.

I understand his discussion as follows.

Rashi in 36:29 teaches that Yaakov was sixty-three years old when left his parent's home. However, he did not get on the road to start his own family until he was seventy-seven. The intermediate years were spent immersed in study in the halls of the greatest Torah scholars of his generation.

At this point in his life, Yaakov was in transition between being a full-time scholar in a spiritually ideal environment and earning a livelihood as a simple laborer in a new land that was spiritually foreign and hazardous.

Every phase of our lives is designed and managed by G-D as an opportunity for self-development and refinement, to bring out our best.

Some people earn money in order to live within the context of G-D's Torah. Some earn money to live in a way that makes them feel good, akin to a sophisticated animal. And some live to earn money.

The association between Sinai and money is meant to bring out the notion that one needs to focus his endeavors and resources towards spiritual greatness.

There was a huge spiritual chasm between where Yaakov came from and where he was travelling to.

The ladder brings out the notion that whatever starting point G-D places us, we must be careful to move upwards at our own pace and not risk skipping steps out of impatience or eagerness to fill perceived gaps.


28:13 And behold G-D is standing above him (Yaakov / Jacob) and He said, "I am Hashem the G-D of your father Avraham (Abraham) and the G-D of Yitzchak (Isaac). I will give the land that you are lying on to you and to your children."

Rashi says that it is unusual for Yaakov's father Yitzchok to be referenced in this manner. He provides the following commentary.

Throughout the Scriptures, we normally do not find G-D associating His name with a righteous person while the person is still alive, such as the G-D of so and so. This is because of (Iyov / Job 15:15) "Behold He (G-D) has no faith in his holy ones (i.e. righteous people while they are alive because they have free will and they are subject to be influenced by evil."

(However,) here G-D associates His name with Yitzchak. This is because Yitzchak lost his eyesight and he was home-bound. (Therefore,) it was as if he was no longer under the influence of evil.

Now, we find numerous references in the Scriptures to the Jewish people being a Nation of G-D. If G-D does not associate His name with entities that are at spiritual risk then why are the Jewish people so referenced?

The following came to mind.

While individuals within the Jewish people are at risk and can suffer a premanent spiritual downfall, we know that this is not true for the Jewish people as a whole.

This is because of the merit of our ancestors Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov. The loyalty to G-D of the Community Israel is destined and even managed by G-D to be unswerving throughout history.

For this reason, G-D openly associates His name with the Jewish people as a whole.

With the Grace of G-D, after thirty-three centuries we are still His nation.


I believe it noteworthy that the Torah provides references that all three forefathers tithed their earnings.

We know from the Oral Torah that all three forefathers fulfilled the entire Torah. It is unusual that the Written Torah singles out this particular commandment out of the six-hundred-thirteen and provides explicit references that our forefathers fulfilled it.

By Avraham (Abraham) it states in 14:20: 'And he (Avraham) gave him (Malkitzedek) a tenth of all (the spoils from the battle).'

By Yitzchak (Isaac) it states in 26:12: 'And Yitzchak planted in that land and he found in that year a hundred-fold (of its estimated produce), and G-d blessed him'. Rashi notes that Yitzchak himself made the estimation for the sake of tithes. I assume that he did so to plan for them.

By Yaakov (Jacob) it states in 28:22: '..and I will tithe all that you will give me.' Yaakov made this statement during a period of great uncertainty and darkness. He was fleeing for his life and he was impoverished at that time.

The following came to mind.

These three references actually provide snapshots of how the three forefathers complemented each other.

According to our tradition, Avraham served as the model Pillar of Kindness and Yitzchak served as the model Pillar of Justice and Regulation.

We thus find Avraham tithing from the spoils of victory, from great wealth.

We thus find Yitzchak planning to tithe, out of his concern that it should be properly done.

Yaakov represents the model synthesis of Avraham and Yitzchak's spiritual resources. He successfully studied and applied the teachings of his great ancestors and formed in this respect a model for the Jewish people, who have spent most of their history in exile. It is therefore fitting that the Torah selects this period of uncertainty in Yaakov's life for a reference of his tithing. Yaakov promises to tithe that which he hopes to have.


29:11 And Yaakov kissed Rachel. And he raised his voice and wept.

Rashi provides the following from the Medrash.

He cried because he had a heavenly vision at that moment that she would not be buried together with him. Also, because he came there empty-handed he declared, "My grandfather's slave Eliezer came here with rings, arm-bands, and delicacies (for my mother and her family). I came here with nothing."

The Be'er Yosef commentary writes how remarkable this encounter was.

Heaven decreed that Rachel will be buried in Bais Lechem (Bethlehem) so that she would be available for prayer as her descendants were being marched into exile. We are taught that among all of the great ancestors and leaders who prayed for the Jewish people during this tragic moment, only her prayer succeeded. G-D brought to mind that she remained silent to avoid shaming her sister as her father fooled Yaakov on what would have been her wedding day.

The prophet Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) writes: A voice is heard on high, lamentation, bitter weeping. Rachel is crying for her children, for they are not. So says G-D, "Refrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears." "For there is reward for your action," says G-D, "and they shall return from the land of the enemy." "And there is hope for those at the end," says G-D, "and children shall return to their border." (Yirmiyahu - Jeremiah 31:14-16)

It is amazing that as Yaakov met his future bride that he beheld a prophetic vision about her burial and how it would be instrumental for events in Jewish history that will occur over a thousand years later.

No wonder he cried.

But why did Rashi give the second reason for Yaakov's crying?

The Be'er Yosef commentary reminds suggests that it was simply not appropriate at that time for Yaakov to tell Rachel that this is why he broke down.

Indeed, it was sad that he came there as a fugitive and with no gifts. This would have to suffice as an explanation for why he cried.


29:25 And it was in the morning and behold she [his new bride] was Leah. And he said to Lavan, "What did you do to me? Didn't I work for Rachel? And why did you trick me"?

The Talmud (Bava Basra 123a) tells us that Yaakov (Jacob) suspected that Lavan would trick him He therefore made up a signal with Rachel before the wedding for him to be certain that his heavily covered bride was indeed her.

Had Leah not been able to produce the signal then Yaakov would have stopped the wedding.

The Talmud says that Rachel gave the signals over to her sister because she did not want her to be put to shame in public.

Think for a moment. Was it right for Rachel to do this? Wasn't it her responsibility to ensure that her future and innocent husband not be tricked? He loved her and he trusted her.

We are taught that putting another person to shame in public is likened to a capital offense. But it is Lavan who would have been held accountable, not Rachel.

I would expect any G-D fearing woman in this situation to consult a great Torah scholar for advice before taking such action.

One of the greatest and world-class Torah scholars that Rachel could have consulted was Yaakov himself, who made up the signal in the first place.

This is very puzzling.

More puzzling is the way the Talmud introduces the story.

It says that Rachel merited having a first-born because of her extreme modesty. The Talmud then appears to illustrate her modesty by telling us about the signal.

What does the signal have to do with modesty?

The following came to mind.

I think that we need to better understand what modesty and immodesty are all about.

One dictionary associates immodesty with dressing in a manner that exposes certain areas of the body. Another dictionary goes further and talks about propriety in dress, speech, or conduct.

The Talmud applies modesty to men.

Obviously then, dressing in a manner that exposes the female body to males is a not a definition of immodesty but rather it is a symptom of a character weakness or deficiency. For if it would be a definition then what does it have to do with speech and how would it apply to men?

The core of immodesty is the statement, "Look at what I have."

It implies that the person feels inferior to what they are so they resort to substitution with something that can be had, such as beauty, jewelry, palaces, or expensive adult toys.

It implies a dependency on others to give recognition.

At this level, immodesty can take on many forms.

We all have weaknesses and most of us have practice the above to some degree. It takes many years of personal growth and maturity to reach a high degree of self-confidence and character refinement before we can naturally wean ourselves out of it.

Many forms of immodesty are harmless. So a guy may want drive around with a SUV that is propped up with huge tires to show some roadside macho. He has yet to sufficiently appreciate what he is. He wants recognition, others to confirm his existence, for he thinks that he is a nobody.

While many forms are harmless, some forms of immodesty can wreck great havoc, especially when applied to male and female relationships. It is unacceptable when it violates the Torah's behavioral standards.

Getting back to Yaakov and Rochel, I propose that her providing the signals could be viewed as a form of "Look at what I have."

I grant you that this is a stretch.

And I believe that had Rochel been on a train and asked by a conductor to show her ticket that she would have no problem with showing him/her what she has.

But her wedding ceremony was different. Rachel was about to begin a marriage upon which the Jewish people will be founded, upon which G-D's system of morality will be directly transmitted to mankind.

It had to start off on the right foot. Perhaps the pressure, coupled with her life-long strive and sacrifice for modesty as a woman drove her subconscious to look for reason to get rid of the signal, rather then produce it to Yaakov.

Perhaps Rochel didn't simply just give the signal to Leah. Rather, she unloaded it.

Had Yaakov realized her sublime degree of modesty and her feelings then perhaps he would have never proposed to use signals in the first place. One never appreciates or understands a spouse until long after the marriage.

This clears up our question on the Talmud and we now can see the connection between the signals and Rachel's immodesty.

G-D understood where Rachel's actions were coming from and He rewarded her accordingly with a first-born.


29:31 And G-D saw that Leah was not beloved and He gave her the ability to have children. And Rachel was barren. (Translation according to Targum Yonasan Ben Uziel.)

29:32 And Leah conceived and gave birth to a son (Ben) and she called his name Reuven because she said, "G-D saw (Ra-ah) my affliction for now my husband will love me."

29:33 And she conceived further and gave birth to a son. And she said that G-D heard (Shamah) that I am hated and He gave me also this. And she called his name Shimon.

29:34 And she conceived further and gave birth to a son. And she said, "Now my husband will bond (Yilaveh) with me because I have given him birth to three sons." She therefore called his name Levi.

It is unusual for someone to name their children after their marriage problems.

The following came to mind.

Leah was not acting out of depression or an obsession. Rather, I suspect that the underlying motive was her concern for the feelings of her sister Rachel, who had yet to achieve motherhood. She therefore chose names suggesting that she was unsuccessful and a victim of circumstance to reduce the impact of her success on Rachel, who remained childless.

The names of these great people are therefore a monument of love and sensitivity, for all generations.


30:1 And Rachel saw that she didn't give birth (a child) for Yaakov (Jacob) and Rachel became jealous about (the good deeds of) her sister. And she said to Yaakov, 'Give me children. Otherwise I am dead.'

30:2 And Yaakov became angry at Rachel and he said, 'Am I in the place of G-d, who withheld children from you?'

30:3 And she said, ' Here is my handmaid Bilha, come (have children from) her and she will give birth and I will raise (the children so that) I will also be built, through her.'

Rashi provides the following commentary for these verses:

30:1 'Give me children:' Said Rachel to Yaakov: 'Is this how your father acted with your mother? Did he not pray for her (to have children?)'

30:2 'Who withheld children from you:' Said Yaakov to Rachel: 'You say that I should act like (my) father. (However, my situation is) not like (my) father's, (for) father had no children (when he prayed for my mother) but I have children.(G-d) withheld children from you, not from me.'

30:3 'And I will also be built:' What is the meaning of the word 'also' (in this discussion)? She said to him: 'Your ancestor (already) had children from Hagar when he [prayed] for Sarah, so why don't you pray for me?' He responded: 'Sarah brought a co-wife into her home.' She said to him: 'If this is what is holding things back, then here is my handmaiden.'

How do we understand this dialogue?

The following came to mind.

It is most appropriate to view this as a discussion about the best strategy for Rachel to conceive, not as a family argument.

As we believe that G-d is actively managing in detail the events of every person's life, one can suspect that by withholding children from Rachel, G-d was trying to tell her that she needed to exert herself more, in some way.

Perhaps this is what Yaakov is telling her in 30:2, that she needs to pray. In 30:3, Rachel is apparently asking Yaakov a second time for his prayer. If so, of what relevance in his response is the reference to Sarah's co-wife?

Perhaps, Yaakov was suggesting that Rachel needs to do something to earn special merit, just as Sarah did something to earn special merit. Rachel did exactly what Sarah did and she gave Yaakov a co-wife.

But, how was this of special merit for Rachel? In Sarah's case, Avraham was childless and she provided him through Hagar with an heir. However, Yaakov was not looking for a co-wife and he was not childless. He already had two wives and four children. Why did she suggest this? Why did he accept Rachel's offer?

Perhaps the very act of emulating Sarah, of showing the importance of using her as a role model, was in and of itself the great merit that Rachel sought.


30:25 And is was, after Rachel gave birth to Yosef (Joseph). And Yaakov (Jacob) said to Lavan, "Send me off and I will go to my place and my land."

The Sefurno provides the following commentary:

Even though he had no flocks of his own, Yaakov still was able to accumulate enough money for the trip back home, at least enough to purchase food and clothing for the journey. One can not conceive otherwise, that this righteous and wise person would plan to take his family into the desert to die from exposure or starvation. Also, given his father-in-law's wealth and reputation in his community, Lavan would have never allowed his children and grandchildren to undertake a hazardous journey. Nevertheless, Yaakov was pressed to remain and this was so that Lavan can derive more benefit, as it states in 30:27, "G-D blessed me (Lavan) because of you (Yaakov)."

Yaakov was a modest person and he desired to return home without amassing impressive wealth. He was only interested in obtaining basic needs and he trusted that G-D would provide him with them.

We are also taught that Yaakov was a very wise person.

It is therefore surprising that the Torah records that Yaakov made the following statement just a few verses later:

30:30 For the little that you had before me (when I initially arrived) and is (now) an outpouring of abundance, and G-D blessed you because of me. And now, when can I do the same for my own household?

Here, it appears that Yaakov is interested in accumulating wealth. How do we understand this in light of the Sefurno's comments?

Furthermore we later find Yaakov's complaint against Lavan, after his escape and subsequent encounter with his father-in-law, who was in hot pursuit.

31:41 "These twenty years that I have been your house. I worked for you for fourteen years for your two daughters and six years (afterwards) for your sheep. And you switched my wages ten times ('monim').

Rashi provides the following commentary for "and you switched my wages:"

"You changes the terms, from (my taking all the future) spotted sheep, to the patched ones, from the banded ones to the brown ones."

The Medrash reads the Hebrew 'monim' to be no less than the number ten. That is, Lavan switched the terms of the agreement ten times ten, or a hundred times.

Cited in the Mizrachi, the Sifsei Chachamim commentary expands on the fraud and lists one-hundred possible combinations and permutations of the terms.

In light of our knowing Yaakov as a very wise and perceptive person, how do we understand this? How could he allow Lavan to play this out?

Finally, we find the following at a turning point in Yaakov's relationship with Lavan

30:43 And the man (Yaakov) was bursting with great wealth. And he had much sheep, maids, slaves, camels, and donkeys.

31:1 And He heard the words of Lavan's children saying, Yaakov took all that belongs to our father. And he made all of this honor from that which belongs to our father.

31:2 And Yaakov saw the face of Lavan and behold, he wasn't with him as he used to be.

31:3 And G-D said to Yaakov, "Return to the land of your fathers and your birthplace and I will be with you."

If it was so decreed by G-D that Yaakov should leave then what is the significance of recording that Lavan and his children were turning a sour face towards Yaakov? Surely, Yaakov was mature enough to not allow himself to be driven by a lack of someone else' approval.

The following came to mind.

Let's take a closer look at Yaakov's discussion with Lavan when he first brought up the idea of leaving.

30:25 And is was, after Rachel gave birth to Yosef (Joseph). And Yaakov (Jacob) said to Lavan, "Send me off and I will go to my place and my land."

30:26 "Give (me) my wives and children that I worked with you for them and I will go. For you know the service that I worked for you."

30:27 And Lavan said to him, "If I have please found favor in your eyes. I have divined. And G-D has blessed me because of you."

The latter phrase, "G-D has blessed me because of you," must have been soothing to Yaakov, our great ancestor.

Through G-D's guidance, the honest and upright Yaakov wound up with a father-in-law who was a crook. Yaakov the steadfast believer in the G-D of Avraham (Abraham) wound up with a father-in-law who was an idolater.

It now appears that Yaakov's continuing presence in Lavan's company was having an effect. Apparently, Lavan is drawing closer to the truth.

However, Lavan also says, "I have divined," which implies that he is still into witchcraft. Perhaps this provided Yaakov with disappointment.

At this point in his life, Lavan appears to be both a diviner and a believer. Or perhaps he remains a non-believer but wants to impress Yaakov so that he will agree to stay.

I wonder if perhaps this was enough to motivate Yaakov to change his plans and remain with Lavan for a while. Lavan was at least verbalizing the possibility of his having some belief in G-D. Perhaps he can be rehabilitated. Perhaps Yaakov now felt that he could not abandon his father-in-law.

Also, perhaps he was concerned that he would be disappointing his wives if he did not try all that was in his power to sway their father to accept the great truths that they were committed to.

Also, perhaps if Lavan suffered a downfall right after Yaakov's departure then this could be used by Lavan to substantiate his beliefs.

However, if this was a ploy to get him to stay a bit longer, Yaakov would need some way to unmask the fraud so that Lavan could not later complain that Yaakov was spiritually abandoning him. This would also make it easier for his wives to accept separation from their father. Finally, it would show that Lavan was driven by greed, not spirituality.

If this was Yaakov's true intent, then we can offer an explanation for the above questions that we raised.

To reinforce the truth in Lavan's statement, that his wealth was from G-D in the merit of Yaakov, it now becomes necessary for Yaakov to become wealthier than Lavan, for Yaakov is closer to the source and is the cause of the abundance. Perhaps this is why he said, "G-D blessed you because of me. And now, when can I do the same for my own household."

However, if Lavan really believed that his wealth was due to conniving and not spirituality then he must be given every opportunity to cheat Yaakov so that G-D can make Yaakov wealthy in spite of Lavan. This would also demonstrate the truth in G-D being the source of Yaakov's wealth. It would also either help Lavan over his remaining spiritual hang-ups or it would serve to unmask Lavan's true motives. Perhaps then, Yaakov intentionally allowed Lavan to cheat him, even though this cost some of his wealth. There were far more important things to Yaakov than a small fortune of sheep.

After six years of miracles, Lavan and his sons remained spiritually fixated. Yaakov perceived that they had no interest in the G-D of Avraham. He viewed their venting as being driven by frustration. Their insincerity was unmasked.

And so, Yaakov realized that there was no longer any reason for him to remain and this was an opportune (and probably engineered) time for G-D to ask Yaakov to return home.

And so, despite being commanded by G-D himself, Yaakov does not rush home and begin packing. Instead, the first thing he does is to consult with his wives, for it was his concern of their feelings that drove him to stay in the first place.


31:17 And Yaakov (Jacob) got up and lifted up his sons and wives on the camels.

Rashi provides the following commentary:

He put the males before the females. Aisav (Essau) put the females before the males as it states, 'And Aisav took his wives and his children.. (Genesis 36:6)

How are we to understand this? Can it be that Rashi is telling us that Aisav was more polite than Yaakov?

The following came to mind.

One merely needs to look up the referenced verse to see that Aisav was not consistent in this appearance of being polite.

36:6 And Aisav took his wives and his sons and his daughters and all of the members of his household and his flock and all of his animals and all of his property that he acquired in the Land of Canaan and he went to a land because of Yaakov his brother.

The order in this verse is:

  1. Wives
  2. Sons
  3. Daughters

Wives first but little girls last. This gives us another picture.

The Medrash in Chapter 36, which may very well have been Rashi's source, fills in the detail.

Rabbi Yochanan said the following. 'The heart of the wise is towards his right (side) and the heart of the fool is towards the left (Koleles 10)'

'The heart of the wise is towards his right' refers to Yaakov. As it is written, 'And Yaakov (Jacob) arose and lifted up his sons and wives..'

'The heart of the fool is towards the left' refers to Aisav. As it is written, 'And Aisav took his wives and his sons..' His wives and then afterwards his sons.

As explained in the commentaries of this Medrash, the right side is symbolic of importance and priority. The behavior of the wise person is consistent with the right priorities.

In the family of the righteous, the children are the focus of both the husband and the wife. Yaakov therefore gave priority to the care of the children. This was certainly the wishes of his wives, also.

Apparently, Aisav had a different approach to family life. He derived more pleasure in life from his wives than from his children.


Lavan cheated Yaakov and switched brides on him. He then squeezed out of Yaakov an extra seven years of hard labor to let Yaakov marry the daughter that he initially worked seven years for. Then, Lavan made an agreement to enable Yaakov to earn some livestock for his growing family. Lavan switched the terms of this agreement in order to minimize the amount of livestock that Yaakov was to keep. He switched the agreement a hundred times. With G-d's help, Yaakov prevailed and was successful. Yaakov finally sneaks away and this outrages Lavan. Yaakov tells Lavan that he did not notify him about his departure out of fear that Lavan would have robbed him of his family.

Yaakov tells him in 31:42: 'Had the G-d of my father, the G-d of Avraham and the Fear of Yitzchak not been with me, then you (Lavan) would have sent me away right now with nothing. G-d saw my suffering and the toil of my hands, and he made this clear yesterday.'

Lavan outrageously responds in 31:43: And Lavan answered and he said to Yaakov, 'The daughters (your wives) are my daughters, the (grand) children are my children, the sheep (Yaakov's wages) are my sheep, and all that you see(Yaakov's property) belongs to me..'

Lavan was Yaakov's father-in-law.

The Torah provides us with another model for a father-in-law. His name is Yisro (Jethro), father-in-law of Moshe (Moses).

Yisro didn't chase after his son-in-law to rip his daughter away. Rather, he brought her back to her husband and he restored the family (Exodus 18).

Lavan made demands. Yisro was helpful and gently suggested advice (Exodus 18).

Yaakov ran away from his father-in-law. Moshe begged his father-in-law not to leave (Numbers 10).

Lavan was a Big Taker. Yisro was a Big Giver.


31:36 And Yaakov (Jacob) became angry and he argued with Lavan. And Yaakov responded and said to Lavan, "What is my flaw and shortcoming for which you raced after me?"

31:37 You searched through all of my utensils. What did utensil you find from your household? Put them before my brothers and yours and they will prove what is between us.

Yaakov continues on describing the abuses that Lavan subjected him to over the past twenty years. Despite being tricked on his wedding day and subsequently cheated for seven years to marry the woman he initially worked seven years for, Yaakov worked hard and honestly for Lavan. Afterwards, Lavan switched Yaakov's compensation one-hundred times.

The Be'er Yosef commentary says that this is the only time that Yaakov publicly protested Lavan's actions.

He writes that Yaakov did this only now and not during the twenty years of abuse because this time Lavan publicly accused Yaakov of stealing his belongings.

This great restraint is one of many examples of the greatness of our ancestors.


32:2 And Yaakov (Jacob) went on his way. And angels of G-D encountered him.

32.3 And Yaakov said when he saw them, "This is a camp group ('machaneh - one camp group) of G-D." And he named that place Machanayim (two camp groups).

The Jerusalem Targum explains that when Yaakov saw the group coming towards him, he could not make out whether they were friends or foes. From the way they looked from afar, the group could have been warriors that were sent by Lavan to wage a battle against him. Or, the group could have been holy angels that were sent by G-D to save him from Lavan. As they got closer he realized that they were angels of G-D.

It is interesting that the name given by Yaakov to that place reflected his initial confusion and that the two conflicting notions that crossed his mind.

It is also interesting that his confusion occurred right as he was returning to the Holy Land, after a long period of exile.

There is a fascinating Mishnah in Edius (2:9). It has Rabbi Akiva's list of the things that a father endows his children with. The last item in the list is the number of generations that preceded the father. This is the "Kaitz", a limit or an end-point of an exile.

The Mishnah cites the redemption from Egypt as an example of an end point. G-D told Avraham (Abraham) that his children will be enslaved for four-hundred years. G-D also told him that the fourth generation would return to the Promised Land. That return was a "Kaitz". Each generation brought it closer to reality.

The Raavad lived many hundreds of years ago. He provides the following explanation, according to my understanding.

The Medrash notes two end-points in the Egyptian exile. One is the end of their suffering and enslavement. The other is the end of their waiting for something very special to occur, which was their entrance into the Promised Land.

At times, G-D decrees that a person or a nation must suffer to enable a purge of defects in personalities or attitudes. Such decrees have a limit that is measured in terms of time.

The goal of such decrees is a higher level of existence. The journey towards that higher may take longer than the suffering which propels it. The journey itself may have its own limit. A delay may be needed between the end of the suffering and the achievement of the end-state. This delay allows the person or the nation to manage and internalize the improvement. The duration to reach the goal is measured in terms of a number of generations, unlike suffering which is measured in units of time.

Levi and his son Kehas were among those who went down to Egypt. Their generation was the first, followed by the generation of Kehas' son Amram, followed by the generation of Moshe (Moses), number three. Yehoshua (Joshua) lived in Egypt and was part of the fourth generation. G-D foresaw that Yehoshua's generation would be sufficiently refined and also worthy of returning to the Land of Egypt. Hence, G-D told Avraham that the fourth generation shall return.

The Raavad commentary concludes by saying that this same phenomenon will occur in the redemption process of the Messianic era. We will not enter the Promised Land right away. Instead, G-D will first lead us through a Wilderness of Nations, whatever that means (Yechezkel / Ezekiel 20:35).

One can only speculate on whether the relative lull in persecution has any relationship with the cessation of slavery in Egypt.

And one can only speculate whether the confusion over the significance of the State of Israel has any relationship with Yaakov's initial confusion as he entered Israel after his long exile.

Return To Forethoughts And AfterThoughts

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In Loving Memory Of Our Father, Mr. Joseph Black (Yosef Ben Zelig) O"H
In Loving Memory Of Our Mother, Mrs. Norma Black (Nechama Bas Tzvi Hirsh) O"H
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