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Home » Vayera

Vayera: Food for thought at your Dinner Table

Submitted by on October 18, 2007 – 8:59 pmNo Comment | 2,434 views

Sunday: When did it Happen?

Abraham was visited by three angels, who told him that his son would be born “Lamoed Hazeh,” during the next holiday. According to all opinions this next holiday was Passover, however the date on which this promise was was was disputed by our sages. Some held that the angels visited during Passover. Others said they visited during Sukkot. The first group understood the words, “the next holiday” as the next time this holiday will occur i.e. next Passover. The second group understood the words in their literal sense, Passover is the first biblical holiday after Sukkot.

Three days before the angels visited Abraham, G-d told Abraham that Isaac would be born in the following year. This raises a question. If the promise was made for the following year, how could it have been made on Sukkot? Passover and Sukkot always fall in the same year?

The answer lies in a dispute between Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehushua. Rabbi Eliezer held that the Jewish year begins on Rosh Hashanah, the first of Tishrei. Rabbi Yehushua held that the Jewish new year begins two weeks before Passover, on the first of Nissan. Those who held that the visit occurred on Sukkot would have to follow Rabbi Yehushua’s view that the year begins just before Passover.

We celebrate Rosh Hashanah on the first of Tishrei. Accordingly, it is our view that the visit occurred during Passover. We therefore place three Matzot on our Seder table to commemorate the three loaves that Sarah offered to the three angels on the first night of Passover. Daat Zkeinim Baalei Tosafot

Monday: By Whose Standard?

G-d told Abraham that he would descend to see if the Sodomites were as sinful below as they seemed from above. Why did G-d descend to discover their sins, could he not discern them from above?

The severity of an affront depends on the dignity of the affronted party. A defendant who interrupts the judge’s comments to make a point, affronts the judge and is held in contempt. On the other hand, when a judge interrupts a defendant there is no offense and no consequence. The interruption itself is not a the crime. The affront to dignity is. The more dignified the affronted party, the more severe the insult.

Every sin we commit is an affront to G-d. This affront makes the sin far more egregious than the sin itself. G-d saw the actions of the Sodomites and considered them sinful. However, G-d hoped to spare them by reviewing the face value of their sins rather than the affront to His honor. G-d offered to descend, in other words, to lower the criteria by which he would judge their sins. He offered to view them from a human perspective rather than from the divine perspective. Or Hachayim

Tuesday: Lot Saw Angels

Maimonides claimed that angels never appeared to Abraham, it was merely a vision. Nachmanides disagreed. Abraham was a prophet, he argued, but Lot was not. If the angels weren’t real, what did Lot see? This dispute  might be linked to another dispute between Maimonides and Nachmanidies.

Maimonides held that even in the Messianic era, mankind will die and their souls will ascend to heaven.  Nachmanides opined that physical life, in the Messianic era, will be eternal. This dispute rests on the question of fulfillment. Maimonides held that true fulfillment is possible only in the spiritual realm. Nachmanidies believed that Torah observance in the physical realm offers true fulfillment.

This disagreement might explain their dispute about the angels. Maimonides held that a spiritual vision of an angel is most profound. Nachmanidies held that a real life visit from an angel embodied in the physical is far more profound. Guide for the Perplexed and Nachmanidies on the Torah.

Wednesday: Ulterior Motive

Soon after Sarah prayed that G-d cure Avimelech, her own prayers were answered and she gave birth to a son. Soon after Job prayed that G-d forgive his friends’ indiscretions, Job’s own good fortune was restored. Our sages discerned from these two stories that our own prayers are answered when we pray for others. Why did our sages cite the additional story of Job when the story of Sarah should have sufficed to teach us this lesson?

Job’s story  teaches us that this blessing is available to us even when we pray for others for the express purpose of having our own prayers answered. Job lived many years after Sarah and was surely familiar with what happened to Sarah. He knew that praying on behalf of others would benefit him too, yet G-d did not deny Job his share of blessing. This is why our sages cited both stories, that of Sarah and of Job. Ktav Sofer

Thursday: Trusting G-d

When Ishmael was ill and seemed close to death, his mother threw him under one of the bushes. She had done all she could for him, there was nothing left to do, but prepare for his death. The Chassidic Masters saw it differently. In throwing him under the bushes, she was actually telling G-d, I have done all I could for him, now I throw him to you. I am confident that you will come through for me.

The Hebrew word for Bushes is “Sichim.” Sichim also means Orations, which refers to our prayers. In telling us this story the Torah taught us an important lesson. When confronted with hardship we must first and foremost attempt to solve the problem with the tools that G-d gave us. When this proves ineffective we mustn’t lose hope. It is time to pray and place our trust in G-d. He came through for Ishmael and can come through for us too. Divrei Yisrael

Friday: Good Deeds

Abraham planted an Eishel. Eishel means an inn, a place where wayfarers could be hosted. The Hebrew word is comprised of three letter, Aleph, Shin and Lamed. These letters form an acronym for the three services that are offered in an inn. Achilah, food, Shtiah, beverage and Leviyah, accompaniment. Accordingly we are taught that true hospitality includes not only the offering of food and drink, but also accompanying guests on their way.

When we return to heaven we are not accompanied by our gold and silver, but by our good deeds. Feeding our guests provides only for their physical needs, but we must also see to their spiritual needs. We must provide them with a service that will accompany them to heaven. In other words we must provide them with opportunities to perform good deeds of their own. Divrei Yisrael

Saturday: Birth of Rivkah

After recounting the tale of the Binding of Isaac the Torah recounts the birth of Abraham’s nieces and nephews. Why were they introduced at this particular point in the biblical narrative??

It was only after Abraham and Isaac’s faith and loyalty to G-d were proven on Mount Moriah that they could become the patriarchs of the Jewish Nation. It was therefore appropriate at this point to introduce Abraham’s nieces, the last of which was Rebbecca, the woman who would marry Isaac and become the matriarch of the Jewish Nation. Nachmanidies