VOLUME 68 NUMBER 3
October 18, 2013
CHESHVAN 14, 5774
Candle-lighting Time: 5:57 PM
This edition of Sparks of Torah is dedicated in honor of the ladies travelling to Israel with Eve Levy this week on her third JWRP trip. Nisiya Tova (bon voyage)!
Run For It
by Rabbi Raphael Leban
The first snow has only just fallen, but the winter sniffles, nose blowing and other cold symptoms have been for a while. It’s beautiful outside, but it’s starting to feel crummy in here.
I shudder to think about how Avraham felt at the beginning of this week’s parsha.
The parsha begins three days after Avraham had his bris mila. He is sitting at the entrance to his tent, on a hot desert afternoon, in the midst of a prophetic communion with G-d. In the distance, he sees three wandering Arabs passing on their way.
If I would have been in his sandals, I would have stayed flat on my back and continued kvetching. (Not that Avraham was kvetching, but that’s what I would have been doing.) Avraham decides to get up and go catch the wandering Arabs so he can offer to feed and care for them. A bunch of strangers of no particular significance. And he didn’t just hobble over to them. The verse says he ran over to them and implored them to stop and let him feed them.
When they agreed, he hurried over to his wife Sarah and told her to bake for the guests, and he told her to hurry. Then he ran to his flock and picked out three calves for them, so that each one could have the best part of the animal—the tongue (gevaldik). He took the animals and he gave them to his son Yishmael to prepare, and the boy must have been so swept away with the sense of urgency that was rolling off his father in waves that he hurried to get the animals ready to eat. When it was all ready, Avraham personally served them a several course meal and stood over them while they ate.
All this from a wealthy, ninety-nine year old man recovering from circumcision. I don’t think on my best day, in the prime of my youth, in perfect health, I would ever have moved that fast or gone to such great lengths on behalf of someone’s else’s supper. Not to mention the supper of a total stranger. Not to mention that Avraham begged to be able to feed the strangers in the first place. And not to mention that he asked the Almighty, the King and Creator of the Universe, to wait while he did it!
With this incident we finally understand why Avraham is known as the ultimate paradigm of chessed, devoted generosity to others. His dedication to giving to others, compounded by the alacrity of his follow through, multiplied by the enormity of the obstacles he overcame to do a tova for someone else, was literally historic.
As I brace for impact at the outset of cold season and read about our Forefather Avraham, I am amazed. Our Sages instruct us to ask ourselves, “When will my deeds reach the level of my forefathers?” We should strive to reach their almost incomprehensible level of greatness. And although we may never actually achieve it, we’ll end up doing a lot more for our fellow man, a lot more often, a lot more quickly and with a lot more initiative than if we just lay around and kvetch.
IS IT WORTH IT?
by Rabbi Dovid Nussbaum
The parsha begins with Hashem ‘visiting’ Avraham after his bris. He is very weak and Hashem shows His concern and inquires about Avraham’s health. This sounds like a regular visit from a close friend after one has undergone some type of invasive procedure. It certainly does not fit the regular protocol of a prophetic appearance by Hashem to his beloved Avraham.
Netziv points out that the Talmud derives from this revelation that Avraham davened Shacharis in the morning, and our Sages instituted the morning prayers based upon his practice. In order to ‘receive’ Hashem, Avraham would have had to prepare himself by ‘removing’ himself from the confines of this world and ‘traveling’ to a different dimension. Since Hashem appeared to Avraham at noon, he must have spent the morning hours elevating his spirit thusly. Therefore, we should also utilize the beginning of the day in a similar fashion. Hence, we daven every morning and emulate Avraham, journeying to that lofty realm of spirituality that Avraham discovered. Yet our initial question remains, was there a purpose in this revelation or not?
The Midrash explains that Hashem visited Avraham to honor him because he had performed a very important mitzvah, that of circumcision. An analogy is drawn between the Mishkan and this situation. During the inauguration of the Mishkan certain sacrifices were offered in order to launch the functioning of the Mishkan. The Sages inferred that if we, as a nation, brought a few sacrifices and this was sufficient reason for the Divine Presence to appear, then certainly when one offers his entire being to Hashem, like with bris milah, it is certainly an ‘incentive’ for Hashem to ‘visit’ such an individual. Therefore, although there wasn’t any conveyance of message to Avraham from Hashem, nonetheless, the visit was warranted in order to encourage Avraham to continue his mission to proclaim Hashem’s existence. Essentially, Hashem was venerating Avraham with this revelation.
S’fas Emes sheds another insight into this extraordinary prophetic incident and explains that when Avraham removed the foreskin, which is the mitzvah of bris milah, he not only physically altered himself, he was now also elevated in a sacred fashion and was able relate to Hashem in an entirely new way. If so, Hashem didn’t just come to Avraham because he had performed another mitzvah, rather this mitzvah had prepared Avraham to access Hashem on a level previously unknown to him. Therefore, Hashem ‘honored’ or recognized this remarkable moment with His presence.
Opportunities abound that send a clear message to Hashem that we want to be close to Him. Although a private audience like Avraham’s may not await us, spiritual elevation and Divine closeness certainly do!
Joke of the Week
A woman goes to the post office to buy stamps for her Chanukah cards. She says to the clerk, “May I have 50 Chanukah stamps?”
The clerk says, “What denominations?”
“Really,” the woman says, “has it come to this? Give me 6 Orthodox, 12 Conservative, and 32 Reform.”
A BYTE FOR SHABBOS
An angel was sent to heal Avraham after his circumcision at age 99. The mere appearance of the angel was sufficient to heal the wound. Therefore, once Avraham ‘saw’ the angel he was already well enough to run after the angel to invite him stay.