Hashem continues to test Avram. This time Hashem commands him to leave his land, his birthplace and father's home to travel to Cana'an.LESSON:
A person is attached to his home. Leaving the security of where you live is difficult. A Jew must feel that living outside of Eretz Yisroel is just temporary. Don’t get too comfortable.STORY:
There was a simple Jew who slept with his shoes under his pillow. Someone asked him for an explanation for his unusual behavior. He explained, “When Moshiach comes, I’m going to be all excited to greet him. I can just imagine being woke up by the sound of the great Shofar and lo and behold, I won’t be able to remember where I put my shoes before I went to bed.” (That’s anticipation)STORY:
When Rav Beryl Wein was building his new Shul in Monsey, he was advised to buy a certain large and strong beam that would last 100 years. He told the builder, “I don’t plan on being here (in Galut) that long.”LESSON:
Fascinating Side point: Rashi says that "Lech lecha me'artzcha" means “go from your land”- lecha, - for your own good. Hashem tells Avram that he will benefit by going. Q. Why was this considered a test? Who wouldn't listen to Hashem if He tells you that you'll benefit by it, that seems fairly easy? A. The test was to see if Avram would obey this command with the thought of doing the will of Hashem and not because it would be good for him.
We know we will get rewarded for our Mitzvot, but we do them because Hashem told us to do them. Let’s not think, “What’s in it for me?” There will be more in it for you if you think, “What’s in it for Hashem?” (No, Hashem doesn’t benefit from our Mitzvot, but when we act in the way that Hashem tells us, He gets 'pleasure.' Let's think what it is that Hashem wants of us) Hashem promises Avram that he’ll become a great nation and those who bless Avraham will be blessed, while those who curse him will be cursed.LESSON:
Fascinating Side point: Blessing Avram includes blessing his descendants (that's us). When you wish a Jew “good morning” you are blessing him that Hashem should give him a good morning.
A simple “have a nice day” goes a long way.STORY:
When Rav Yechezkel Sarna (Rosh Yeshiva at Chevron) found out that Ma'ariv was over on Motzai Shabbos, he continued to walk to Shul, despite his weakness. (This happened a few weeks before his death). When he was asked what the purpose was, he replied, “Davening with a Minyan is an obligation from the rabbis (D’Rabanan), but wishing Jews a "Gut Voch” (good week) is a Torah command.STORY:
While immersed in Torah thought, Rav Boruch Ber was being escorted home by his students. A Jew passed by and greeted Reb Boruch Ber, but didn’t get a response. After passing the man, Reb Boruch Ber asked his students what the man had said. They informed him of the greeting. Reb Boruch Ber turned around and chased after the man. He gave the man a lengthy greeting as well as an apology for not realizing the man had greeted him.
Off to Canaan goes Avram and Sarai, his wife, along with Avram’s nephew Lot and all the people they made in Charan.LESSON:
Q. How do you "make people"?
A. These were people that Avram and Sarai converted to follow the Mitzvot of Hashem.
Teach someone Torah and you’ve created that person. Torah is the greatest gift you can give to some one. It is an eternal gift. If you give someone a car, this would be a fantastic gift. But cars don’t last forever. However, our Neshamot are everlasting and gain eternal reward for the Torah we have learned. (Your Neshama is your spiritual battery. It takes a lickin' but it keeps on tickin').LESSON:
Avram sets foot in Canaan and Hashem appears to him saying, “I’ll give this land (Eretz Yisroel) to your children.” Upon hearing this great news, Avram builds an altar- Mizbayach to Hashem.
Upon hearing good news, we make a Bracha to Hashem. When you feel happy, for whatever reason, take advantage of the opportunity to acknowledge that Hashem runs the world. Say some T'hillim. Connect your day’s ups and downs to Hashem by Davening to Him.
Avram and family were greeted in Canaan with a famine, forcing them to go down to Egypt. (Sound familiar?? Notice how Hashem tests Avram. After a promise that he’ll inherit this land, he’s forced to leave it. Avram nevertheless remained strong in his Emunah - trust). This trip paved the way for Avram’s great grandsons to go down to Egypt.LESSON:
There are times that we find ourselves in a situation that is unpleasant, or even difficult to perform Mitzvot. To us it seems purposeless, but in truth we may be helping other Jews (who may not have even been born yet) come closer to Hashem. A Jew may be put through a terribly difficult test in life. If he passes, other Jews will be brought closer to Hashem. Even a non-Jew may come to convert through a force put into him by you overcoming your Yeitzer HaRah.LESSON:
Avram then notices how beautiful Sarai is and realizes the danger he would be in, if Paroh realizes they are married.
Fascinating Side point:
Q. What?! He didn’t realize throughout their married life how beautiful she was?!
A. Avram never looked at his wife as a physical being with physical beauty. Rather, he saw past her outer beauty to her inner spiritual beauty. Now he looked at her as Paroh would, as a regular person.
Although we are influenced to look at outer beauty, the Torah teaches us to try and see past the surface and find the inner, spiritual qualities of each other. Avram and Sarai enter Mitzrayim and Sarai is taken to Pharaoh for the purpose of marriage (G-d forbid). Avram is tested again. His wife is taken from him. Yet, his belief- Emunah in Hashem, still remains strong. Avram is showered with gifts from Pharaoh. What about Sarai? Hashem caused a disease to befall Pharaoh and his people in order to protect Sarai (Phew! Close call). Avram and Sarai return to Eretz Yisroel and stay in the same place they did when they went down to Mitzrayim.LESSON:
A person should not change his place of lodging (Gem. Erichin 16b). Even though Avram returned a wealthy man from Egypt, he kept his loyalty to the people who “housed” him when he wasn’t so wealthy.STORY:
Reb Elimelech from Lizsensk with his brother Reb Zusia were traveling from city to city as beggars, they were welcomed to stay at the home of a poor man of the city. When they returned years later as famous Tzaddikim with horses and a carriage, they were offered to stay in the home of a wealthy man of the same city. They sent the horses and carriage to the home of the wealthy man but honored the poor man by staying with him once again. They told the wealthy man, “When we were here years ago as poor people, we weren’t welcomed in your home. We are the same people with horses and carriage, and now you want to host us? You seem to be interested in our horses and carriage, so we sent them to stay with you.” These Tzaddikim stayed in the home of the poor Jew who was kind enough to host them when they were beggars.LESSON:
Always remember those who helped you when you were in need.
Upon their return from Mitzrayim, the shepherds of Avram and Lot were not getting along. Avram wanted to avoid any fighting. He decides a friendly split would be a good idea.LESSON:
Avoid fights. The only way to win an argument is to avoid it.
There were four kings who waged war against five kings. A result of this war was that Avram’s nephew, Lot was taken captive. Avram gathered 318 people to wage war with the kings. Avram won and saved his nephew, Lot. Yeah!
Fascinating Side point: Some say that Avram only took his servant Eliezer with him to fight? The Gematria of Eliezer is 318!
The people of Sodom were blessed by Hashem with gold and silver. Unfortunately, instead of using their money for Mitzvot by helping people, they wanted it all for them-selves. They refused to let anyone visit their city unless they handed over their money. They did have a special bed for guests. If a person was too big for the bed, they would chop off his feet. If he was too small, they would stretch him. There was a girl who fed a poor man. The men of Sodom smeared honey on her and let the bees sting her. When Hashem heard her cries of pain, He said, “Let’s see what their cries are all about.”LESSON:
When Avram’s servant Eliezer came to Sodom, he was beaten until he bled. When he took his attackers to court, they made Eliezer pay his attackers, since letting out blood was considered healthy. Eliezer threw a stone at the judge and when he bled, Eliezer said, “Pay me for your treatment and then I’ll pay my attackers.”
Money and all material items are given to us to use for good purposes. Great people know the value of money and how it can be used to serve Hashem. Even a penny becomes priceless when it is given for Tzeddaka. The great Mitzvah that is done with our material possessions is Hachanasat Orchim.STORY:
The organization to take care of strangers in the town of Brisk was about to close. Rav Chaim Soloveitchik (the Rav of Brisk) told them, “If you close, I won’t be able to sleep at nights. There are many who pass by at night that don’t have a place to sleep. When the organization is open, I sleep at night. If you were to close, I would have to bring the people to my home late at night which would prevent me from sleeping.”
Avram, now 99 years old, was childless. It must have seemed hopelessLESSON:
We must never, never give up hope. Often, when we think there’s no hope, just then the salvation from Hashem will come. There have been times in our own lives when we’ve expected the worst - when we’ve seen no hope. Then, Hashem came through for us. Better we should think how we are to strengthen our Emunah and Bitachon (belief and trust) in Hashem. All is in Hashem’s ability. Keep on Davening. Hashem always hears our T'fillot.
Hashem tells Avram to look at the stars in the sky. “Surely, they are impossible to count. So many will be your children.”LESSON:
We can become stars each in our own way. From a distance, stars appear tiny but in reality, every star is much bigger than the whole planet earth!! When people get to know us better and see us for who we really are, they should see how we shine. Let’s work at it. Don’t be discouraged because in your eyes you seem small. Each one of us are stars.
Fascinating Side point: Hashem showed Avram the stars as if to say “Your destiny (future) is not bound by the stars. The stars say you will be childless, but you can lift yourself above the stars with Davening and good deeds.” Also, just as no one can conquer the stars, similarly, no one will exterminate (completely destroy) your children.
Hashem promises Avram that he’ll inherit Eretz Yisroel. Avram asks “How will I know?” Hashem commands him to take 3 heifers (what are those? Cows!), 3 goats, 3 rams, 1 pigeon and 1 young dove. Avram cuts the animals (not the birds!) in half, places them into two rows, and walks between them. A deep sleep overcomes him. Hashem tells him, "Your descendants will be oppressed in a strange land (Egypt is a strange land) for 400 years and will come out with great riches." (That's just what happened to him, he went down to Mitzrayim and returned a wealthy man)
Hagar's taunts towards Sarai were inconceivableLESSON:
Since Sarai can’t have children (yet), she gives to Avram, Hagar (an Egyptian maidservant) as a wife. Hagar becomes pregnant and makes fun of Sarai for not being able to.
If you're able to do something others cannot, don’t make them feel bad. Comfort them!
Hagar gives birth to a son. Avram names him Yishmael. 13 years later, Hashem commands Avram to circumcise himself (Brit Millah). This Mitzvah brings bodily perfection enabling man to gain spiritual perfection.LESSON:
Man is put into this world to perfect himself. Hashem reminds us that when we’re born, we have to we need to improve ourselves. We’re not born perfect. It’s the effort to reach greatness which makes us great.
Hashem tells Avram that he will now be named Avraham: a father of many nations. He commands Avraham to perform a Brit Millah on all the males of his household. Furthermore, Sarai will now be named Sarah.
Hashem tells Avraham how Sarah will give birth to a son. Avraham laughs from joy (After all, Sarah was 99!) Yitzchok (meaning: will laugh) will be the continuation of the Brit (covenant between Hashem to Avraham). Avraham circumcises all the male members of his household.STORY:
Eliyahu was a pious Jew who, aside from being a Mohel (one who performs circumcision) was a clerk of the king’s treasury. A high ranking minister also served in the king’s court, and was jealous of Eliyahu since Eliyahu was entrusted with the personal documents of the king. Eliyahu, in turn, had a servant he trusted. The minister bribed Eliyahu’s servant to steal the key to the king’s document safe and steal the documents. In it, the minister found a document containing information that had only been revealed to Eliyahu. The minister mentioned the information to the King in passing. The king, shocked to hear his secret revealed, demanded to know where the minister had learned it. The minister told the king that the information came from Eliyahu. The king, furious at Eliyahu’s breach of confidence, decided to secretly kill him off. He called Eliyahu in and gave him an envelope to deliver to a general in a faraway place. This man was the king’s executioner. The letter read: "The holder of this letter should be executed. If he tells you there is a mistake and another man is to be killed in his place, do not listen - kill him anyway.” Along with his servant, Eliyahu set out on his mission. Midway, a Jew ran up to the carriage and having recognized Eliyahu as a Mohel. “My son is in need of a Brit and the Mohel didn’t show up. The eight day is almost over and you’re my only chance to fulfill this Mitzvah in its right time.” Eliyahu was excited to perform the Mitzvah but he knew he had an obligation to the king. He rented another wagon and sent his servant to deliver the letter. Upon delivering the letter to the general, the servant was promptly executed. After completing the Brit, Eliyahu continued to the general to meet his servant. The general told him he had executed the holder of the letter as he had been instructed. However, prior to his execution, the servant had revealed how he had been disloyal to Eliyahu by accepting the minister’s bribe and handing over the key. Eliyahu realized the minister had made him look like a traitor to the king and the king had ordered his death.GOOD SHABBOS
Eliyahu returned to the king and told him of his servant’s confession. “If you send messengers to the minister’s house, I’m sure you’ll find your secret documents.” When the documents were found, the minister was put to death. Eliyahu was rewarded tenfold by the king. He realized Hashem had saved him by his eagerness to perform the Brit Millah for the Jew in need.
© 1998 by R' Matis Friedman, H.A.F.T.R.
R' Matis Friedman's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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