Subscribe to a Weekly Series

Posted on October 21, 2021 (5782) By Shlomo Katz | Series: | Level:

Volume 36, No. 4
17 Marcheshvan 5782
October 23, 2021

Sponsored by
the Dimont family
in memory of
grandmother and great-grandmother
Chaya Sarah Tarshish a”h
mother-in-law and grandmother
Chana Dimont a”h
and father and grandfather
Rabbi Elazar Tarshish a”h

Faith Ginsburg
on the yahrzeits of
her husband, Gil Ginsburg
Gershon Yosef ben Yisroel Moshe a”h (17 Cheshvan)
and her grandmother, Ethel Lavin
Etel bas Mordechai Dovid a”h (21 Cheshvan)

Among the events in this week’s Parashah, we read that Avraham prayed that Hashem not destroy S’dom and its sister cities. As the Torah relates, Avraham’s prayer was unsuccessful. Later in the Parashah, we read that Lot asked that S’dom’s sister city, Tzo’ar, not be destroyed, and he was answered. Why was Lot’s prayer successful, while the prayer of the world’s greatest Tzaddik, Avraham, was not?

R’ Noach Weinberg z”l (1930-2009; founder and Rosh Yeshiva of Aish HaTorah) explains: When one prays, he gets no more than what he asked for. Avraham asked that S’dom be saved if ten righteous people lived there. Since there were not ten such people, Avraham’s prayer was not answered. Lot, in contrast, asked that Tzo’ar be saved because it was one year newer than S’dom, so its sins were fewer (see Rashi to 19:20). Since that was true, Lot was answered.

R’ Weinberg continues: Why didn’t Avraham pray as Lot did, if his goal was to save lives? Because, R’ Weinberg answers, another important principle of prayer is that one needs to believe what he is saying. Avraham believed that there was hope for S’dom if there were ten Tzaddikim there; therefore, he prayed on that basis. The mere fact that Tzo’ar was one year newer than S’dom was not meaningful in Avraham’s mind, so he could not base his prayer on that difference.

This, concludes R’ Weinberg, explains why we pray every day in Shemoneh Esrei for the coming of Mashiach, even though great Tzaddikim before us did not succeed in bringing him. Because each succeeding generation is more degenerate than its predecessors and needs Mashiach more, we may be capable of praying with a yearning that our forebears could not muster. (48 Derachim L’Torah p.164)


“And so it was when Elokim destroyed the cities of the plain that Elokim remembered Avraham; so He sent Lot from amidst the upheaval when He overturned the cities in which Lot had lived.” (19:29)

Rashi z”l writes: What bearing does G-d’s remembering Avraham have upon the rescue of Lot? Hashem “remembered” that Lot knew that Sarah was Avraham’s wife–yet, when Lot heard Avraham say in Egypt that Sarah was his sister, Lot did not betray Avraham, because he sympathized with him. For this reason, G-d had mercy on Lot. [Until here from Rashi]

R’ David Halevi Bamberger shlita (Manchester, England) observes: Lot literally risked his life for the Mitzvah of taking in guests, but that did not give him sufficient merit to be saved. Only Lot’s silence in Egypt saved him, which teaches us the incredible merit of guarding one’s tongue. (Nachalei Devash Al Ha’sefer Chafetz Chaim p.3)


“Avraham said, ‘Because I said, “There is but no fear of Elokim in this place and they will slay me because of my wife”.’” (20:11)

R’ Yerachmiel Shulman z”l Hy”d (Menahel Ruchani of the Bet Yosef-Novardok Yeshiva in Pinsk, Poland; killed in the Holocaust) comments: Gerar was a civilized society. However, without fear of G-d, even descending into outright murder is not farfetched. (Peninei Ha’chochmah 1:23)

A related thought:

R’ Yosef Yozel Horowitz z”l (1847-1919; the Alter of Novardok) writes: With fear of G-d, one can make unbiased judgments. Without fear of G-d, one’s ability to weigh choices and alternatives is corrupted by biases. (Madregat Ha’adam: Ma’amar Yir’ah Va’ahavah ch.10)


“So Avraham woke up early in the morning . . .” (22:3)

Our Sages teach that, when Bnei Yisrael stood at the Yam Suf, the guardian angel of Egypt argued before Hashem: “Why do these–Bnei Yisrael–deserve to be saved more than these–the Egyptians? These are idolators and these are idolators!” The Zohar relates that Hashem answered the angel that Bnei Yisrael were being saved in the merit of Avraham.

One would imagine, observes R’ Moshe Zuriel shlita (Bnei Brak, Israel; former Mashgiach Ruchani of Yeshivat Sha’alvim), that Hashem was referring to Avraham’s act in picking up the knife in preparation for offering Yitzchak as a sacrifice. No! Rather, the Zohar teaches that it was in the merit of Avraham’s waking up early to do a Mitzvah! (Kuntreis Shuvu Aili Va’ashuvah Aleichem p.77)


From the Haftarah . . .

“She came and told the man of Elokim, and he said, ‘Go sell the oil and pay your creditors, and you and your sons will live on the remainder’.” (Melachim II 4:7)

R’ Shlomo Kluger z”l (1785-1869; rabbi of Brody, Galicia) explains: Our Sages teach that one should not derive benefit from a miracle, lest that enjoyment be deducted from his reward in the World to Come (see Rashi, Ta’anit 24a). Therefore, after the unnamed woman in our Haftarah miraculously filled all of the available jugs with oil from her one small container, she came to the prophet Elisha and asked, “Now what do I do with all this oil that I obtained miraculously?” Elisha answered her: First, pay your creditors. Paying creditors is a Mitzvah and, therefore, is not considered “having enjoyment” from the miracle. (This was especially true since the debts she was paying were her late husband’s debts, not her own.) Thereafter, Elisha continued, you and your sons may live on the remainder, which will be insignificant compared to the amount you spent on the Mitzvah. (Chochmat Ha’Torah: Shema Shlomo p.655)


“Elisha came into the house and behold! — the lad was dead, laid out on his bed. He entered and shut the door behind them both, and prayed to Hashem . . . and the lad opened his eyes.” (Melachim II 4:32-35)

R’ Daniel Movshovitz z”l Hy”d (1880-1941; a leading figure in the Kelm branch of the Mussar movement) teaches: Our Haftarah teaches the extent of the obligation of Hakarat Ha’tov / feeling and expressing gratitude. This lad’s mother had offered Elisha hospitality whenever he traveled past her home. She even set aside a room for him with a bed, table, and lamp. How did Elisha express his gratitude? Not only did he thank her, and not only did he discern that the woman was childless and bless her and her husband that they would have a son, he even returned to perform Techiyat Ha’meitim / to revive the child after the boy had died! (Haggadah Shel Pesach Kelm p.112)



This year–a Shemittah year–we will iy”H devote this space to discussing the related subject of Bitachon / placing one’s trust in Hashem.

This week, we begin to discuss what it means to “have Bitachon.” Iy”H, future issues will elaborate on the ideas summarized here.

R’ Nosson Yehuda Leib Mintzberg z”l (1943-2018; rabbi and Rosh Yeshiva in Yerushalayim and Bet Shemesh, Israel) writes: On the most basic level, Bitachon means knowing that Hashem alone is the King and the Director of the world; therefore, one should trust only in Him and should rely on Him to operate the world.

R’ Mintzberg writes further: When one delves deeper, one finds three basic approaches to defining Bitachon. He summarizes:

  1. R’ Avraham ben Ha’Rambam z”l (son of Maimonides; Egypt; 1186-1237; author of Ha’maspik L’ovdei Hashem) and R’ Avraham Yeshayahu Karelitz z”l (1878-1953; Bnei Brak, Israel; the “Chazon Ish”; major Halachic authority and author of Emunah U’vitachon) understand Bitachon as an outgrowth of the Mitzvah of Emunah / belief in G-d. Abstract belief is not enough. Rather, one’s Emunah must impact his daily life, so that every decision he makes reflects his Emunah. One who has this understanding views every good thing that happens to him as a gift from Hashem, and he gives thanks. Conversely, he views every bad thing that happens to him as a rebuke, and he seeks to come closer to Hashem in response.
  2. Rabbeinu Bachya ibn Pekudah z”l (Spain; early 11th century; author of Chovot Ha’levavot) understands Bitachon as focusing on Hashem’s goodness, and believing that one can count on Him. A person with Bitachon not only believes that Hashem is in charge, he believes that Hashem cares about him personally and will never forsake him.
  3. Rabbeinu Yonah Gerondi z”l (Spain; died 1263; author of Sha’arei Teshuvah) understands Bitachon as a very high level of Yir’at Shamayim / awe of Heaven, such that a person recognizes beyond a doubt that he can never lose out by obeying the Torah and can never gain by transgressing the Torah.

R’ Mintzberg notes that these three understandings of Bitachon are not mutually exclusive. (Ben Melech: Bitachon p.3 & 13-18)