Thursday, October 28, 2010

Dvar Torah For Parshas Chayei Sarah

This week’s parshah starts off, “וַיִּהְיוּ חַיֵּי שָׂרָה מֵאָה שָׁנָה וְעֶשְׂרִים שָׁנָה וְשֶׁבַע שָׁנִים שְׁנֵי חַיֵּי שָׂרָה” “Sarah’s lifetime was one hundred years and twenty years and seven years; the years of Sarah’s life.” (23:1). The obvious question here is why is Sarah’s age split into 100 years, twenty years, and seven years? Just write that she lived for 127 years? Rashi explains on this pasuk from a Midrash that the Torah is teaching us that each set of years has its own drasha. When Sarah was 100, she was like she was twenty that she had no sins. (This is in reference to the fact that a person is not punished by heaven on account of their sins until the age of twenty.) When she was twenty, it was like she was seven in terms of beauty. Additionally, the end of the pasuk which says “שְׁנֵי חַיֵּי שָׂרָה” “the years of Sarah’s life”, is coming to teach us that all her years were equal in terms of goodness. This same system of drashas is used by Avraham when he dies. He died at the age of 175 and the pasuk splits his age into 100 years, seventy years, and five years, to say that they were all equal in that he had no sin (See 25:7).
The Ramban asks, when Yishmael dies (See 25:17) the pasuk also says “שְׁנֵי חַיֵּי” like it does by Sarah and Avraham. He explains this to mean that we are comparing Yishmael’s life to Avraham that just like Avraham was good his entire life, so was Yishmael. But we know this isn’t true, at first Yishmael was a rasha and only later in life did teshuvah? He wasn’t a tzaddik like Avraham his entire life. So this Midrash does not make sense!
The Mizrachi answers up for Rashi by clarifying his point. Rashi was going on the end of the pasuk when it repeats “שְׁנֵי חַיֵּי” “the years of (Sarah’s) life” by Sarah and by Avraham when it says “אֲשֶׁר חָי” “that he lived” after it already said “וְאֵלֶּה יְמֵי שְׁנֵי חַיֵּי אַבְרָהָם” “And these are the years of the life of Avraham” (25:7) in the same pasuk immediately beforehand. There is no reason to repeat these phrases. It is from these extra phrases that Rashi learns his explanation from. By Yishmael however, this phrase is not repeated (See 25:17), therefore, Rashi did not make the same drasha (which the Ramban assumed he would).
Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Dvar Torah for Vayeira

     I had a very hard time deciding what to write about this week. This parshah is packed from beginning to end with famous questions and lessons which affect all aspects of Torah learning and religion. At the end I chose this one since I feel that there is a very important lesson here which affects all of us on a day to day level, which you don’t get necessarily with all the topics in this week’s parshah (not to say that they are any less important, G-d forbid). So let’s get down to it!
      The first pasuk in this week’s parshah says, “וַיֵּרָא אֵלָיו יְ־הֹוָ־ה בְּאֵלֹנֵי מַמְרֵא…” “And Hashem appeared to him (Avraham) in the plains of Mamre…” (18:1). The Ohr HaChaim asks a technical question on the pasuk which results in a beautiful thought. He asks that in all other places where it says “וַיֵּרָא יְ־הֹוָ־ה” “Hashem appeared”, including all the times it says it by Avraham, the pasuk writes the “seen”, in this case Hashem, before the “see-er”, in this case Avraham. According to the rules of Biblical Hebrew, that is the correct structure. So how come here the word “אֵלָיו”, referring to Avraham the “see-er” is written before Hashem, the “seen”?  
      There is a famous midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 82:6) which says that the Avos (our forefathers, referring to Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov) were the chariot for the shechinah (Hashem’s “presence”) to come down to the physical world. Through their righteousness, we are able to have the presence of Hashem in our midst. The Ohr HaChaim explains that this started at this point in time. The reason the pasuk is written out of order is because the word “אֵלָיו” does not mean “to him” here like it usually does, rather it is translated as “עליו” “on him”. Meaning that at this time, Hashem placed his shechinah on Avraham to stay, in order that it should be in this world. If the pasuk had been written in its normal fashion, you could not have learned this out; I would have thought that Hashem revealed his presence to Avraham but not that it stayed with him afterwards.
      The Ohr HaChaim brings a proof to this from the fact that after this pasuk, the Torah never says again by Avraham that Hashem appeared to him, only that Hashem started speaking to him right away with no previous introduction. This is because that since Hashem was constantly with Avraham from this point on, Avraham was always ready to receive nevuah (prophecy). This continued through to Yitzchak and Yaakov.
      A second question can be asked. Why did Hashem decide to place his shechinah on Avraham now? What happened now more than before? The answer is obvious: Bris Milah. This meeting took place three days after Avraham had his bris. The Ohr HaChaim explains that according to the Zohar, the Bris Milah is the stamp of kedushah (holiness) on a person’s body. Anyone who has this stamp, the shechinah can rest on them.
      This applies to all of us. We have the mitzvah of Bris Milah! Therefore, we have the ability to have the shechinah rest on us! We must recall this mitzvah constantly as a way of reminding ourselves of our great potential to become physical vessels for the shechinah.
      May we all merit to reach the level where everything we do is for Hashem, where we can all be chariots for the shechinah like our great Avos.

Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Dvar Torah for Lech Lecha

I thought of an interesting discussion for this week’s parshah. This week’s parshah tells the story of Avraham going down to Mitzrayim, Sarah is taken to Paroh’s palace and later returned after Paroh is punished. When Paroh returns her, he says to Avraham, “וְעַתָּה הִנֵּה אִשְׁתְּךָ קַח וָלֵךְ” “Now, here is your wife, take her and go” (12:19). Rashi comments that this is not like Avimelech, the king of Garar, who in next week’s parshah also takes Sarah to the palace, returns her after being punished, and then tells Avraham that he may settle in his country wherever he desires. Why was Paroh not as welcoming? Rashi answers that the residents of Mitzrayim were “שטופי זמה”, disgusting people and Paroh was afraid of trouble breaking out if Avraham and Sarah would stay in Mitzrayim, so he sent them away.
Later on in the parshah, we are introduced to Hagar, Sarah’s maidservant and Paroh’s daughter. Rashi explains that when Paroh saw who Avraham was, he decided that it was better for his daughter to be a servant in the house of Avraham then to be a princess.
So who was better, Paroh or Avimelech? On one hand, Avimelech let Avraham stay in his land, keeping him around which could possibly have led to his people becoming influenced by Avraham. Or maybe Paroh, who did not want Avraham around even though he might have influenced his people, but still sent his daughter with him to be influenced by Avraham?
I thought of two different ways to look at it. You could say that Avimelech was better because he wanted to keep Avraham in the area in order to have his influence around for the benefit of his people as well as his own. Paroh, on the other hand, wanted no part of Avraham’s spirituality in his country and sent him away. However, he recognized that Avraham was a great man so he sent his daughter with Avraham.
The other way to look at it is that Paroh was better. He realized that his people were beyond help and didn’t want Avraham to be bothered by them. However, he still wanted to make sure that his children could benefit and be influenced by Avraham, so he sent his daughter with him. Maybe because of this he merited to have children from Avraham, which is not what he was thinking of when he sent Hagar to live with him.
Avimelech on the other hand did not have the same noble intentions. Notice in the words in the pasuk that Avimelech says Avraham can live anywhere in the country, “הנה ארצי לפניך” “My entire land is before you”, he says. He doesn’t care where Avraham lives, he just knows that Avraham is a special person and that Hashem will bless Avraham wherever he goes. So if Avraham stays in Garar, the entire country will benefit from his presence. But he could live on the other side of the country and it would be the same thing.  Avimelech doesn’t want to be influenced by him, he’s just a parasite.   
I’m more inclined to go with the second side based on my understanding of the story of Avimelech in next week’s parshah and his personality. Please let me know what you guys think. Comment below or email me.
Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Sorry, No Dvar Torah This Week

Hey, everybody. I'm sorry, but there will be no Dvar Torah posted this week. I have been away the past two days on a yeshiva tiyul, I'm on my way now to the kumzitz, and I am going away for Shabbos. So I simply don't have the time to post one. (Don't worry though, I do have one!)
Have a great Shabbos and G-d willing, we will continue posting next Erev Shabbos.