Dvar Torah Parshat VaYera 5777 2016 – Being a Mentsch

Avraham was informed by the angels that came to his tent that Hashem was about to destroy the corrupt cities of Sodom and Amora. We are told that he did not accept this without a plea to save them. He pleads with Hashem and starts his appeal to save the city by pleading if there are only fifty righteous people there would Hashem destroy the city.

Hashem answers: אִם אֶמְצָא בִסְדֹם חֲמִשִּׁים צַדִּיקִם בְּתוֹךְ הָעִיר, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous people in the midst of the city…” (Gen. 18.26) he would not destroy the city. It is noteworthy that Hashem emphasized that He wants to find fifty people “in the midst of the city”.
This can serve as a good example for a Jewish city. It may not be difficult to find righteous people in the synagogue or in the Bet Midrash. Hashem wants to find righteous people in the midst of the city. He wants to find them in their businesses and in their actions with other people, in their normal activities.

It is not too challenging to be moral and virtuous in the synagogue. It is in the daily mundane activities of interaction with people where one must also display his honest and upright dealings with others.


Dvar Torah Parshat VaYera 5776 2015 – Being Considerate

In the opening verses of this week’s Sidra we read that Hashem appeared to Avraham. Then Avraham sees strangers approaching and he says to Hashem: אַל נָא תַעֲבֹר מֵעַל עַבְדֶּךָ, “…please pass not away from Your servant.” (Gen. 18,3) Avraham actually asked Hashem to wait while he went to greet the strangers. Strange!

The story is told about the Chafetz Chaim that one Friday night he invited strangers from Shul to come home with him for the meal. When they came into his house and they sat down at the table the Chafetz Chaim did not start with the usual Shalom Aleichem which is sung before Kiddush. He made Kiddush immediately and proceeded to have the meal served. After they were finished eating he then started to chant Shalom Aleichem.

When the strangers asked for a reason for this action he explained, “You strangers are hungry and have to eat. The angels are not hungry. Let them wait a while.” His source for this kind of conduct stems from this week’s portion. Avraham asked Hashem to wait while he fed the strangers.

This story emphasizes that one must be considerate of others and must not frustrate others while he practices his religious obligations.

Dvar Torah Parshat Vayera 5775 2014

Sarah saw that Ishmael was having an evil effect on Yitzhak and she asked Avraham to send Ishmael and his mother Hagar away from their household. This disturbed Avraham greatly but Hashem told him to listen to his wife. Avraham gave Hagar supplies and sent her away.

The Torah relates that when the supplies ran out Hagar cast off the boy and sat at a distance and: וַתִּשָּׂא אֶת־ קֹלָהּ וַתֵּבְךְּ, “…she lifted her voice and wept”. (Gen. 21,16) We are then told in the next verse: וַיִּשְׁמַע אֱלֹקים אֶת־קוֹל הַנַּעַר, “Hashem heard the cry of the youth…”. This is strange for no place are we told that the boy cried, only his mother did.

We learn here a great fact in life. If a mother cries for her son then we hear the son crying as well. Parents have a special attachment to their children and when they are depressed about what is happening to their child we can also understand that the child is suffering.

In line with this thought we can understand the great principle we have in Judaism known as זכות אבות, parental merit. When we pray we bring into the formula of prayer the merit of our parents, the former generations, and the merit of our forefathers. When our parents pray for us it is as if we ourselves are uttering the words.

Kindness goes along way – Parshat Vayera 5774 2013

Avraham was sitting: פֶּתַח הָאֹהֶל כְּחֹם הַיּוֹם, “…at the entrance of the tent in the heat of the day”. (Gen. 18,1) Rashi states that the sun was shining so as to prevent visitors coming to Avraham since he was still recovering from his circumcision. When he was peeved that no one was coming Hashem sent the three messengers.

Avraham, on the other hand, took a lesson from the sun. The sun shines on everyone, the good and the bad alike. Hence, he too was willing and anxious to greet any stranger that appeared near his tent. Before he knew who these three messengers were he invited them in and offered them water and a meal.

This is a wonderful trait if we could only imitate it. We should deal with everyone politely and with respect even if we know they don’t deserve it. We never know the effect and the influence we can have on a person. It is not an easy quality to develop, but it certainly is worth striving for.

Many years ago a little black boy had to leave his home at the age of seven and was out on the streets singing for coins. A Jewish family took him in and raised him and bought him a trumpet. He later was known as Louis Armstrong. He wrote a book about the family and wore a Star of David all his life. All because of the kindness of one family!

Dvar Torah Parshat Vayera 5773 2012

Before destroying Sodom and the other corrupt cities, Hashem says He will notify Avraham of His intentions. The reason He wanted to reveal His plan to Avraham, as Hashem says, is because Avraham commands, אֶת בָּנָיו וְאֶת בֵּיתוֹ אַחֲרָיו “…his children and his household after him.” (Gen. 18,19) Avraham’s descendants will follow his teachings, and the generations that will come after him will carry on with his principles of faith and worship Hashem.

Although this passage definitely refers to future generations, we cannot lose sight of its literal meaning. It talks about his children and his household. It is a tragic truth that many great leaders wh
o are busy with helping the community and society seem to neglect their own family and home.

Avraham was a worldly figure of his day. Yet he did not ignore his own household and managed to see that his son and the members of his domestic household were also imbued with his teachings. This is not a meager accomplishment. Public figures are often so busy that they have little time left for their own families. Yet it is most important that the family function as a unit.

In the state of New York, Regent Examinations are given to high school students in most subjects before they can graduate. A study was made of the students who earned the highest grades in these tests. One great feature showed up in the families of all the winners. Their families always ate their meals together. Unity of the family is a sine qua non, a most essential element, of successful children.

Dvar Torah Parshat VaYera 5772 2011

When Avimelech admonished Avraham for telling him that Sarah was his sister and demanded to know why he had told him that, Avraham answered, “Because I said”: RAK EIN YIRAT ELOKIM BAMAKOM HAZEH, “there is but no fear of G-d in this place…”. (Gen. 20,11) Avraham was afraid that since there is no fear of the Almighty they may kill him and take his wife.

The term RAK EIN YIRAT if translated literally means “there is only no fear”. This implies that there are other things that do exist there. The only thing lacking is fear of the Almighty.

The story is told in the name of Rabbi Elchanan Wasserman, the great Talmudic scholar and leader of European Jewry in the last generation who perished in the Holocaust. He explained to his students what Avraham’s answer to Avimelech implied. He did see great things in that land. He saw intellectual development, advanced civilization, and other great progressive growth. The one thing lacking was fear of the Almighty. Without this one component all the rest is meaningless.

Rabbi Wassermann compared that situation to the one in Europe at the time. There was great advanced knowledge and intellectual growth in Germany, but there was a lack of fear of the Almighty. He foresaw where this was leading.

This is a great moral warning. Intelligence and technical progress is not enough. It must be accompanied by ethical growth and commitment.

Dvar Torah Parshat Vayera 5771 2010

In trying to accommodate the three visitors Avraham said: YUKACH NA ME’AT MAYIM, “Let some water be brought…”. (18,4) Rashi comments that when Avraham said “Let some water be brought…”, he did not go to bring it himself but asked that the water should be brought by means of a messenger. Because he did not do it himself but delegated the task to a messenger who was actually his son Ishmael, Rashi says when the Israelites in the Wilderness needed water it was also given through a messenger or the rock and not sent directly from Hashem as was the case with the Manna.

The Chafetz Chaim explains why it was wrong for Avraham to ask someone else to do it. First he says that hospitality is a greater Mitzvah if one does it himself and, secondly, it is a greater honor to the guests when the host himself serves them.

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein has a different explanation. Why was it wrong to tell his son to bring the water if his intention was to teach him the Mitzvah of hospitality? His answer was that if the purpose of telling his son was Chinuch, to train him in the Mitzvah, then it would have been a greater Chinuch had he brought the water himself, demonstrating that it is better to do this Mitzvah yourself than to ask someone else to do it.

When a Mitzvah is involved, it is more important for you to perform it even of you can relegate it to others.