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Posted on November 2, 2023 (5784) By Shlomo Katz | Series: | Level:

Volume 38, No. 4
20 Marcheshvan 5784
November 4, 2023

Sponsored by the Dimont family in memory of grandmother and great-grandmother Chaya Sarah Tarshish a”h (13 Cheshvan) mother-in-law and grandmother Chana Dimont a”h (21 Cheshvan) and father and grandfather Rabbi Elazar Tarshish a”h (24 Cheshvan) and 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 bat Mordechai Dovid a”h – 21 Cheshvan)

The climax of this week’s Parashah is the Akeidah / Binding of Yitzchak on the altar, as Hashem commanded Avraham. The Shulchan Aruch states (O.C. 1:5), “It is good to recite the Akeidah [every morning].” In most Siddurim, a short prayer is printed before the Akeidah passage in which we ask: “Remember on our behalf . . . the Brit / covenant, . . . and Shevu’ah / oath that You swore to our father Avraham at Mount Moriah . . .”

R’ Zvi Yisrael Thau shlita (founder of Yeshivat Har Ha’mor in Yerushalayim) writes in the name of R’ Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook z”l (1865-1935; first Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael) that the word “Brit” / “covenant” signifies the creation of a connection, a permanent relationship, that is integral to our existence. Something that is confirmed by a Brit cannot be uprooted by any outside circumstance, by time, by place or by choice. In turn, the word “Shevu’ah” / “oath” signifies Hashem’s promise to ensure the actualization of the Brit, notwithstanding all of the events in history that seem to be designed to derail its fulfillment.

What is the subject matter of this Brit? R’ Thau writes: The answer to this is also found in our daily prayers, where we quote the verse from Nechemiah (9:8), “You established the Brit with him (Avraham) to give him the land . . .” This indicates that the connection between the Jewish People and Eretz Yisrael is the subject of a Brit. It is absolute! That is a foundation of our belief system that must stand before us always, R’ Thau writes. (Ve’shavta Ha’aretz p.106)


“For I have loved him (Avraham), because he commands his children and his household after him that they keep the way of Hashem, doing charity and justice . . .” (18:19)

R’ Moshe ben Maimon z”l (Rambam; 1135-1204; Spain and Egypt) writes that, with a few exceptions, all character traits have a place in moderation. To cite two examples: A person should not be stingy, but neither should he give away all of his belongings. A person should not be quick to anger, but neither should he be unfeeling. And so with other traits.

Rambam continues: This is the way we are commanded to conduct our lives, thereby fulfilling the commandment (Devarim 28:9), “You shall go in His ways.” Our Sages interpret this to mean, “Just as He is called ‘Gracious,’ so you shall be gracious; just as He is called ‘Compassionate,’ so you shall be compassionate; just as He is called ‘Holy,’ so you shall be holy. . . This is called the “way of Hashem,” and this is what Avraham taught his children, as stated in our verse. [Until here from the Rambam]

R’ Ephraim Kirschenbaum shlita (rabbi in Bet Shemesh, Israel) writes: Based on Rambam’s understanding that our verse is referring to Avraham’s teaching his children to imitate G-d’s compassion (and other traits), it appears that our verse is referring in particular to Avraham’s Hachnassat Orchim / welcoming guests, which is described in the immediately preceding verses in our Parashah. Indeed, we read that Avraham directed “the lad,” i.e., his son Yishmael, and other members of his household, to help feed those guests (Bereishit 18:7). Based on the proximity of the verses, it appears that Hachnassat Orchim was the Mitzvah that demonstrated Avraham’s compete attachment to the ways of Hashem.

In this light, adds R’ Kirschenbaum, we can understand our Sages’ teaching that Hachnassat Orchim is greater than welcoming the Shechinah, which we learn from that fact that Avraham interrupted a “visit” from Hashem in order to welcome his guests (see Rashi to Bereishit 18:3). Speaking to Hashem is only knowing Hashem abstractedly, while welcoming guests is imitating Hashem–being G-d-like through action. (Huyedot Aharon p.116)


“Hashem said, ‘Because the outcry of S’dom and Amorah has become Rabah / great, and because their sin has been very grave.” (18:20)

The Gemara (Sanhedrin 109b) teaches that the word “Rabah” alludes to the fact that the fate of S’dom and its sister cities was sealed because of the atrocities they committed against a Rivah / young lady who was caught giving charity, which was against those cities’ laws.

R’ Menachem Mendel Schneerson z”l (1902-1994; Lubavitcher Rebbe) asks: We read (Yechezkel 16:49), “Behold, this was the sin of S’dom . . . she did not strengthen the hand of the poor and the needy.” This implies that S’dom was destroyed because its inhabitants did not give charity, not because of what they did to one girl who did give charity!

In reality, however, there is no contradiction, says the Lubavitcher Rebbe. The S’domites’ behavior toward the charity-giving girl was, indeed, the last straw that sealed their fate. What, however, led them to behave so cruelly? The fact that they did not give charity. Once one has cruelly resolved never to give charity, it is only a small step to act with excessive cruelty to someone who does give charity, as the S’domites did.

But giving charity is not one of the Seven Noachide Laws! Why, then, were the S’domites punished for not practicing that Mitzvah?

The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains (among several other answers): The Jewish People’s role in the world is to study the Torah and perform Mitzvot. The role of non-Jews is to create a functioning society within which we, the Jewish People, can fulfill our role, thereby elevating the world. By willfully refusing to create a functioning society where charity and other good behaviors could be practiced, the S’domites forfeited their right to exist. (Otzar Likkutei Sichot Vol. I: Vayishlach 1)


“Now I know that you are a G-d-fearing man, since you have not withheld your son, your only one, from Me.” (22:12)

Did Hashem not know before this that Avraham was G-d-fearing? R’ Yosef Yozel Horowitz z”l (1847-1919; the Alter of Novardok) explains:

The real battle against the Yetzer Ha’ra occurs when a person is tested and responds with action. Resolving to defeat the Yetzer Ha’ra–even making plans to do so–is not victory. Only when one suppresses the Yetzer Ha’ra in practice has he been victorious.

Likewise, the Alter writes, all of a person’s potential to be G-d-fearing and all of his plans to be G-d-fearing do not earn him the title “G-d-fearing.” Only when he demonstrates through action that he is G-d-fearing can he be given that appellation.

Thus, Hashem could not have said before now, i.e., before the Akeidah, “I know that you (Avraham) are a G-d-fearing man.” Though Hashem knows the future, so He knew that Avraham would rise to the occasion at the Akeidah, Avraham before the Akeidah merely had the potential to be G-d-fearing. He did not earn the title “G-d-fearing” until he acted. Accordingly, “Now I know that you are a G-d-fearing man” means: Now I know that you have become a G-d-fearing man in practice. (Madregat Ha’adam: Ma’amar U’vacharta Va’chaim ch.2)



R’ Aharon Roth z”l (1894-1947; Shomer Emunim Rebbe in Hungary and Yerushalayim) relates a parable:

A king built a new palace–more glorious and splendorous than any palace that had ever been built before. When the palace was completed, the king’s joy was beyond description, and he held a dedication ceremony that befitted the occasion. All types of delicacies were served, and the king distributed gifts freely to all the participants.

This king’s domain included distant provinces populated by relatively simple working-class folk. They had never seen the capital city and had no understanding of the uniqueness of the king’s wonderful new palace. Nevertheless, they, too, were the king’s subjects, and he wanted them to rejoice along with them. Therefore, the king decreed that, on the appointed day, every one of his subjects should eat meat and other delicacies, drink wine, and sing songs praising the king’s greatness.

R’ Roth explains: The “king” is Hashem, the “palace” is Creation, and the day of the “dedication ceremony” is Shabbat. Hashem’s joy on Shabbat is beyond our comprehension because His Handiwork is more incredible than we can imagine. We are the simple working class people of the parable, living in the king’s distant realms, far removed from the wonders of the universe, and even more distant from the indescribably amazing spiritual worlds that Hashem made. Nevertheless, Hashem wants us to celebrate with Him by eating good foods, drinking wine, and singing Zemirot that praise Him and Shabbat–so long as we are, indeed, with Him. (Shulchan Ha’tahor p.256b)