1) The Belzer Rebbe made a point (link
) in his hesped for R’ Ovadya
Yosef that I think few others touched on.
We all know of R’ Ovadya Yosef’s unparalleled command
of shas and poskim and we all mourn the loss of his Torah knowledge.
But R’ Ovadya was also a leader who was
sensitive to the needs of Klal Yisrael and who davened for all of us,
for the entire generation.
daven for us now?” asked the Belzer Rebbe.
“We are surrounded by enemies like a lamb among seventy wolves.
We are surrounded by enemies without and enemies
within. Who will daven for us
2) Avraham asked Sarah to tell the Egyptians that he is her
brother “l'ma’an yitav li ba’avureiach v’chaysa nafshi biglaleiach
Although the Abrabanel reads the tovah
anticipated by “l'ma’an yitav li”
as no more than Avraham’s life being spared, the
fact that these words are added on top of “v’chaysa nafshi
” supports Rashi’s
reading that it refers to presents and riches. How could Avraham, the
man who refused to take any of the spoils of war in the battle he fought against
the four kings, justify his taking money from the Egyptians?
There are lots of answers to this one.
The Netziv notes that “yitav” is in the
singular, not the plural.
It is not the
Egyptians [plural] who will give Avraham wealth, but rather G-d [singular] who
will bless him on account of his actions.
Others suggest that the Egyptians, thinking Avraham was Sarah’s brother,
would compete with each other in trying to buy his favor so he would acquiesce to
Avraham never intended
to take the money offered, but rather intended to keep the competition going
back and forth as a delaying tactic until he could escape.
The Ta”z writes that Avraham’s plan had a fatal flaw.
If the Egyptians asked, then Sarah could
respond and tell them that Avraham was her brother.
But what if no one asked?
What if they just assumed Avraham was her
It would certainly sound
strange for Sarah, out of the blue, to start telling people that Avraham was
She needed an excuse to
broach the subject.
told her to concoct a story of her brother fallen on hard times who needed some
help and support, some ”tovah” to get back on his feet.
By ostensibly trying to find funds for him,
Sarah would be spreading the story that Avraham was her brother.
While not pshat, the Maor vaShemech has an interesting
insight that raises an important moral question. Avraham preached Torah, mussar,
midos, wherever he went and he undoubtedly saw an opportunity to give mussar to
an Egyptian society steeped in the sin of having illicit relations. Yet, Avraham realized that to speak about
arayos to others while his own wife was obviously a beautiful woman would look
bad. The Egyptians would never understand that he did not give Sarah's beauty a moment's thought. Therefore, he told Sarah to pretend
to be his sister. The "tovah" Avraham hoped to get out of the journey was finding a receptive audience for the dvar
Hashem among the Egyptians. It's remez/derush -- by re-reading "tovah" as spiritual riches (which is what we would expect to be on the mind of a tzadik like Avraham anyway), the question is rendered moot. My wife
objected to this idea on the grounds that Avraham should have known that if discovered,
he would look like an even bigger hypocrite and lose his credibility entirely. A valid criticism, but I still think the idea
is creative. Question this approach raises: Is using a little spin OK to help advance the message?
3) A local Jewish newspaper just a few days before R’ Ovadya’s
passing touted in its headline the “miracle” of R’ Ovadya’s apparent recovery. Last week the same newspaper had a front page
article on agunos and gittin. One of the
Rabbis whose views were quoted was arrested that same week by the FBI for
having people beaten up to force them to give gittin. I can’t wait to see this week’s
Another newspaper has an
opinion piece saying Israel should take a softer line in dealing with Iran
because, after all, the new Iranian president acknowledged [though there is
actually some debate about how to parse his words] that the Holocaust happened. Why do some Jews set such a low bar for peace
talks? Our enemies come to the table
with a laundry list of demands that would essentially destroy us. On our side, however the attitude is, "Hey, you acknowledge that a
Holocaust happened (even if you deny the number of dead was 6 million, etc.), we’re ready to embrace you with open arms." Accepting the facts of history is not a starting point for negotiation -- it's a starting point to being a human being.
Moral of both stories here: do not read newspapers.
After Avraham’s refusal to take money from the King of Sdom,
Hashem appears to him and tells Avraham that his potential reward remains
That reassurance would
seem to fit better had it come immediately after the battle, when Avraham was perhaps
looking back on the miracle of his victory and the potential cost in zechuyos
it might have had.
What is it doing here
after the conversation with the King of Sdom?
There is an old joke about a guy who refuses to leave his
home despite an impending flood and instead trusts in G-d to save him.
The neighbors offer him a ride out of town in
their car, but he insists G-d will save him.
He is forced by the rising water to his second floor, but he still refuses
a lift in a passing boat because he trusts that G-d will save him.
He is now standing on the roof, but he still
refuses a ride in the police helicopter because he trusts that G-d will save
Finally he drowns.
When he gets upstairs, he asks G-d, “Nu, I
trusted in you – why didn’t you save me?!”
To which G-d answers, “I sent the car, I sent the boat, I sent the
helicopter… what were you expecting?”
Avraham refused to take a penny from the King of Sdom because
he trusted in Hashem's promise given to him at the beginning of the parsha that
Hashem would make him rich and famous.
But then, writes the Ksav Sofer, it dawned on Avraham that perhaps the
offer by the King of Sdom was the means by which Hashem was fulfilling that
promise – it was the boat, the helicopter, etc. meant to help him! Therefore, Hashem came to Avraham and
reassured him that his instincts were right.
In this case, there was no reason to rely on the means offered by the
King of Sdom; his riches would come from elsewhere.