January 15, 2021   ✦   2 Sh'vat, 5781   ✦   Torah Portion: Vaera, Exodus 6:2-9:35   ✦   Haftorah: Ezekiel 28:25-29:21

Posted on November 4, 2020 (5781) By Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein | Series: | Level:

He [Avraham] sat at the tent’s entrance in the heat of the day.[2]

Chazal[3] teach that Avraham wished to stand, but Hashem told him to remain seated. “Sit. You will be a sign for your children. In the future, they will sit in judgment, and I will stand at the side of the judges, while they sit, as it is written,[4]G-d stands in the divine gathering, in the midst of judges….”

While this was certainly a welcome message for Avraham, why was this the time and place to inform him about the workings of the beis din in the future? What possible connection can there be between Avraham sitting in his tent three days after his bris, looking for guests to invite into his tent?

Perhaps we can explain the relevance through another allusion that Chazal[5] see in Avraham’s sitting at the entrance to his tent. Avraham, they say, will also sit at the entrance of Gehinom, and act as a gatekeeper. He will prevent any circumcised Jew from entering. (The reference to the “heat of the day” is, of course, fitting, as the navi of the day that “burns like an oven.”[6])

Avraham wished to stand because he entertained, in his humility, some doubt about his saving so many people from Gehinom. Hashem created it for a reason, after all. Was it right for him to attempt to contravene Hashem’s purpose in creating it? He sensed that Hashem might be judging him for his large-scale rescue operation. Perhaps his tenacity in saving souls from Gehinom was an affront to Hashem’s honor. Why should he flout His will?

Hashem instructed Avraham to remain seated. He was not being judged. Hashem was pleased with Avraham’s mission; it was entirely in accordance with His will. When the righteous stand in the breach and plead for G-d’s children, He is pleased. It brings honor to His name – not the opposite.

In fact, Avraham’s obstinate defense of Hashem’s children would be rewarded measure for measure. Hashem told him: “I will do the same in the future. Dayanim who sit in judgment are instructed to be very serious and careful about their work. They are told to see Gehinom opening up under them, if they should cause a miscarriage of justice.[7] I will follow from your lead, Avraham. Just as you saved people from descending into Gehinom, so will I. I will stand beside the judges in the courtroom, preventing them from making mistakes, and thus saving them from the punishment of Gehinom whose opening threatens to swallow them up.

  1. Based on Chidushei R. Yosef Nechemia (Kornitzer) (1880-1933)
  2. Bereishis 18:1
  3. Bereishis Rabbah 48:7
  4. Tehilim 82:1
  5. Yalkut Shimoni #82
  6. Malachi 3:19
  7. Yevamos 109b