PARSHAT VAYEITZEI 5773 Rabbi Fishel Todd

PARSHAT VAYEITZEI 5773: D’VAR TORAH

Rabbi FIshel Todd

Parashat Vayeitzei appears to be the first in the middle of the three parshiot that focus on Yaakov Avinu – the Patriarch Jacob. The first – Toldot – sets the scene and escalates the tension between Jacob and Esau. Firstly over the birthright, and secondly, with the blessing. Jacob has to leave home and the Holy Land in a hurry, to the hospitality of Laban some eight hundred kilometers to the north. The second parasha – this week’s – is the bridging ‘roller coaster’. G-d promises him His protection wherever he goes. But he still has to endure falling in love with Rachel and his uncle holding her back, ‘excusing himself’ with local custom. And his success as a cattle breeder arouses Laban’s family’s jealousy to the degree that he has to leave – again in a hurry – with an enraged Laban in hot pursuit. And the greatest tension of all in the next parasha – Esau coming to meet him with four hundred men, which eventually gives way to Jacob’s homecoming and (finally, albeit temporarily), literally ‘Jacob living in quietude and at ease, with none to make him afraid’ (c.f. Jer. 46:27).

In short, this week’s Parasha is one of temporary – though spectacular – trials and tribulations, towards a greater goal.

The next three parshiot – are in the same rhythm; and this time the focus is on Joseph and his brothers, Jacob’s sons. The first – Vayeishev – sets the scene and escalates the tension: more than once. With the dreams and Joseph’s narrowly escaping death, and being sold into slavery. And his rising from a humble slave to the position of Potiphar’s manager, getting him the ‘attention’ of Potifphar’s wife, and her allegations of Joseph ‘getting too close’ – following which Joseph finds himself at the bottom of the Egyptian dungeons. The second parasha – Miketz – is again the bridging ‘roller coaster’; his rise to the top of Pharaoh’s court, his brothers having to make ‘over-frequent journeys’ between Canaan and Egypt for ‘high-tension-charged’ reasons – finishing on a note where Benjamin is to be taken into permanent Egyptian slavery. And again – with Judah’s impassioned plea rising to the highest point of the tension opening the following parasha, the truth emerges that ‘Joseph is still alive and he is a ruler in the land of Egypt’ (45:26), and the family is finally re-united and reconciled.

In short, Miketz – the parallel parasha to this week’s – is in the same mold. Like Vayeitzei, it goes through temporary – though spectacular – trials and tribulations, towards a greater goal.

Vayeitzei and Miketz have the distinction of not only being amongst the longest parshiot in the Torah, but have the joint uniqueness of being written in the Sefer Torah without a break – in one continuous prose paragraph. No other parasha in the Torah – however long or short – contains that characteristic. They are all broken up – as Rashi elsewhere (to Lev. 1:10) points out – to allow ‘pause for thinking it over’ between section and section.

Not so with Vayeitzei, not so with Miketz. Despite their great length, there are no pauses to catch breath and ‘think things over’.

This arrangement brings an important message. Many honest people who strive to their great and worthy goals in life find themselves on the seemingly interminable lonely ‘path less trodden’, with tensions, trials, tribulations, and a long series of frustrations. The message is – like this week’s parasha – ‘Don’t pause! Don’t look behind’. Press on, with your compass pointing to those great goals and destinies which will become yours in due course – and only then, on arrival, can you sit and contemplate the long journey, whose ‘trials and tribulations’ will finally make sense as the dots join themselves all together.

‘I will make you My bride forever. I will make you My bride [in reward for] your righteousness, justice, kindness, and compassion. I will make you a bride in reward for your faith. Then you will know G-d.’ (Hosea 2:21-22)

Guided Tour…

The prophet Hosea preached to the Ten Tribes in the northern kingdom of Israel during the prosperous reign of Jeroboam II – after whose death came the troubled times leading to their final fall to Assyria in 721 BCE. His Divine revelations focused on their pagan practices, and their infidelity towards G-d and their own traditions. The Talmud (Pesachim 87a) brings a tradition, creating the background to the prophecy. G-d told Hosea that Israel had sinned, to which the prophet replied: “All the world is Yours. If they are untrustworthy, exchange them for another nation.”

G-d replied to him: “Go and marry a prostitute who has conceived children from her prostitution, because the Land strays from G-d.” (1:2). This opening chapter of Hosea relates that he had three children from this marriage, and was instructed by G-d give them names of such a nature that they would reveal G-d’s plans for the wayward northern kingdom. The first was a son – which He ordered to be called ‘Jezreel’, meaning that G-d would gather in the exiled Israelites and ‘plant’ them in their Land. That would, however, be in the distant future only. The second was a daughter called ‘Lo-Ruchamah’ – ‘Object of No Mercy.’ That was near to the present: G-d would no longer show mercy to unrepentant Israelites. And the third – the youngest son – was ordered to be called ‘Lo-Ammi’ – ‘Not My People’. That also concerned the present – a statement that the Israelites had forfeited their right to be the Chosen People.

The Talmud (supra 87b) interjects that at that point G-d commanded Hosea to turn his wife and three children out of his home. Then – only then – did Hosea realize his grave mistake in having made a similar suggestion to the Almighty: “All the world is Yours. If they are untrustworthy, exchange them for another nation.”

This forms the scenery for the Haftara – in which Hosea pleads with G-d to have mercy on the Israelites once more. Understanding the depth of his error in speaking ill of his own people, he gives his own blessing that the Israelites will be as numerous as the grains of sand on the seashore (2:1). Their grave faults will be put right: Israel, like the straying wife, will be loved once again. The children’s names will change to ‘Ammi’ – ‘My People’, and ‘Ruhama’ – ‘Object of Mercy.’

That, however, is for the future. The message for the immediate present was simple: Hosea tells the children: “Rebuke your mother” to live faithfully (2:4) for if she does not, she and the children themselves will be disowned. She consorts with other men because she sees them as supplying ‘my bread and my water, my wool and my linen, my oil and my drink.’ (2:7) She will find that they betray her, leaving her abandoned, vulnerable, and utterly helpless. She will then yearn to return to her first husband, but he will not embrace her. Instead, he ‘will uncover her shame in the sight of her lovers’ (2:11), blighting ‘her vines and fig trees, about which she said “these are my fees which her lovers gave me.”‘ She will lose her joyous festivals, which are G-d’s true festivals, as well as the festivals of the pagan worship of Baal (2:13,15) with which she tried to replace them, leaving her with nothing. For she, and the subject of this object lesson, the Israelites themselves, abused the wealth given to them by their ‘lovers’. Israel abused its G-d given wealth by using silver and gold for Baal-worship (2:10).

This dejection will give way to a new era. The wife in the parable and the Israelites in real life will be ‘charmed’ (2:16) – in the case of the latter, G-d will instill a desire to repent and come close to Him (c.f. Deut. 4:29). They will be taken to the ‘desert’. Most commentaries understand this to mean the long period of exile, but Ibn Ezra suggests that it refers to a period that may well be part of living memory – to the land of Israel, which will have taken on the appearance of a desert. He will give her ‘vineyards and change the Valley of Affliction to the Opening of Hope.’ Significantly, the Targum advocates that these ‘vineyards’ are Israel’s spiritual leaders and the philanthropists: the necessary spiritual and economic elements to restore the people in harmony to the Land.

The Haftara concludes with a promise that Israel will be restored to its innocence. The cruel physical and wicked human forces will cease to trouble her, and she shall be G-d’s chosen in security and at ease. He will restore the His relationship with Israel as in the beginning: ‘I will make you My bride forever. I will make you My bride [in reward for] your righteousness, justice, kindness, and compassion. I will make you a bride in reward for your faith. Then you will know G-d.’ (2:21-22)

D’var Torah

The issue of G-d Who hates promiscuity ordering His prophet Hosea to marry a whore disturbed the commentators. The Rambam (Guide II:46), and Ibn Ezra maintain that he did not actually take a prostitute as a wife, but merely saw himself doing so in a prophetic vision. However, Abarbanel and later the Malbim take the narrative literally – he did form a union with such a woman of low repute, and the opening chapters of Hosea do mean what they say. Indeed, Abarbanel claims that the passages must be read that way in order to understand the true nature of prophecy. He writes:

“Those commentators have no claim in saying that, out of concern for the prophet’s honor, G-d would not have commanded Hosea to marry a harlot… G-d did not select the prophets in order to bestow honor upon them or raise them to the throne! No, he selected them for only one purpose: so that they would serve as His envoys in assisting His chosen people to repent for their sins. He commanded His prophets to do whatever He deemed necessary to reach this goal, regardless of their honor. Sometimes words were not sufficient; sometimes real actions were required to grab the people’s attention. Only in this manner would the prophet’s rebuke penetrate the people’s hearts, since that which a person sees with his eyes affects him for more that which he hears. Therefore, regardless of the fact that the prophet was a holy man, G-d commanded him to marry a harlot in order to illustrate that by worshiping idols, the Israelites had in fact done the same. In truth, it would have been fitting for Hosea to do even stranger things than marry a harlot if this would have helped dissuade the people from idolatry.”

Underlying this explanation is the notion that there are situations where the very mission of great personalities requires them to act in a way not normally associated with their position. Hosea being told to take a whore is one example. The story below – much nearer to our own times, serves to illustrate the same theme: a leader must be prepared to act in an unusual way in order to make the right impact on the community. In this case, the issue was not idolatry, but the importance of never doing good at the expense of others – never being a ‘tzadik’ (righteous person) at someone else’s expense.

Rabbi Israel Salanter (1810-1883) illustrated this above maxim with a personal experience, one of which had to do with Yom Kippur, of which he said:

“It is right and it is good that women go to the synagogue. It is true that the most important day of the year is Yom Kippur and that women should attend the Kol Nidrei (evening) service. But it is wrong that a woman attends that service if she leaves babies and young children at home without proper supervision.”

It once happened that Reb Israel was late for the Kol Nidrei service, so late in fact that members of the synagogue went in search of him. They found him in the home of a poor woman, rocking a baby’s cradle. “What is the matter, Rebbe?” they asked. “I was passing when I heard a baby crying,” Reb Israel replied, “I came in and found the mother had gone to synagogue leaving the tot in the care of the eldest daughter who is six or seven. I quietened the little one, but then the elder one begged me to stay because she was frightened of being all by herself.”

From the pulpit that evening he pointed out that the Mitzvah, the good deed, the mother thought she was doing by attending synagogue was more than negated by the sin she had committed in leaving her young children unattended.

Remember that Rabbi Israel Salanter was one of the greatest and most influential spiritual leaders of his day, indeed, of the entire modern era. He was neither a child minder nor a babysitter – most certainly not on Yom Kippur, when a vast community was waiting for him. He could no doubt have sent for someone to look after the children so that he could hurry along and not keep the congregation waiting.

But Reb Israel had a real message to give: one that was right and fitting for the ‘over-holy’ members of his congregation: never being a ‘tzadik’ at someone else’s expense! And like Hosea, he acted it out to ensure that his message would be remembered and internalized: “Why was the Rabbi late for Kol-Nidrei?” And that was underlined by the people’s having to wait for a long time until the proceedings of the evening began…

Rabbi Fishel Todd

 

Pirchei Shoshanim expands to England Rabbi Fishel Todd


Pirchei Shoshanim Rabbi Fishel Todd expands

to England

Nechama Gold

Last week, the Jewish Tribune ran an
advertisement for a course to qualify as
a To’en Rabbani. The course is organised
by the American organisation Pirchei
Shoshanim, headed by Rabbi Fischel Todd
of Lakewood. It is designed for those who
seek structure and accomplishment in their
learning and want to further their practical
knowledge of Shulchan Aruch Choshen
Mishpat, especially those who work full
time and would otherwise not have the
possibility to study Choshen Mishpat. It has
the approval of rabbanim in Eretz Yisrael
and the United States, most importantly in
this country the course has the haskama h
of Rav Avraham Gurwitz. The course is also
recognised by the Law Society of England
and Wales as a distance Learning CPD
Course Provider. The program teaches how
to deal with the court system, and many
other practical applications.

Intrigued by a course of this type, I spoke
to Rabbi Dovid Kestenbaum of Manchester
who is involved in promoting the course
in this country, who told me more details
about the course.

“I have known Rabbi Fischel Todd for
many years” shares Rabbi Kestenbaum, “and
he is a true tzaddik who has a tremendous
love for Yidden, for Torah and for Bnei
Torah. Rabbi Todd is involved in many
novel initiatives for the sake of increasing
Torah learning all over the world. His
organisation, Y eshivas Pir chei Shoshanim,
offers worldwide learning opportunities in
several languages on a variety of topics
with shiurim by top talmidei chachamim.
It also offers semicha programs and trains
orthodox chaplains for the US armed forces.
Rabbi Todd is also coordinator of military
chaplaincy affairs in the United States armed
forces, which means that his organisation has
the authority to approve Jewish chaplains for
the army and he has been instrumental in
curtailing reform and conservative influences
in the US armed forces.”

Rabbi Todd is a talmid of the late Rav
Aryeh Leib Berenbaum, zt’l, the son of Rav
Shmuel Berenbaum zt’l Rosh Yeshiva of Mir,
New York and of Rav Avidgor Miller, who
encouraged his initiatives.

Rabbi Kestenbaum continued to explain
that Rabbi Todd has now started a program
to train lay people in the halochos of
Choshen Mishpat. “ When Rabbi T odd
turned to me for help with introducing
the course in England, I felt apprehensive
about the idea of a course to train to’anim
rabani’im
. After all, doesn’t the Mishnah in
Pirkei Avos say ‘al tehi ke’orchei hadayanim’”,
he explained.

“I knew that in America Rabbi Todd has
close connection with Rav Eliyahu Levine. I
am close to Rav Eliyahu Levine who is a great
talmid chacham and a halachic authority.
Just as an example of his status as a posek,
I will tell you that after the World Trade

Centre attack, Rav Elyashiv referred all
agunos shaalos to him, and he would call Rav
Levine many times to discuss cases with him.
I approached my Rosh Yeshiva Rav Avraham
Gurwitz, to ask his opinion on this matter
and I was surprised to hear his enthusiasm
for the initiative.”

Rabbi Kestenbaum discussed the
course with Rav Avraham and he was
very encouraging, saying that this was an
opportunity to open up knowledge of
Choshen Mishpat to a wider public. The
study of Choshen Mishpat is very much
neglected, says Rav Gurwitz and there is a
tremendous need to broaden its knowledge.
With this course, he said, people will be able
to learn Choshen Mishpat in a structured
form. “

“I was also apprehensive about the fact
that the course is approved by secular
institutes of higher learning and that people
studying law will take the course just to
cover their quota of study requirements and
may not have erliche intents,” shares Rabbi
Kestenbaum, “but Rav Gurwitz dispelled
my fears. He emphasised the importance
of vetting candidates for the actual to’en
rabani
qualification so that only serious
yirei shomayim should act in this capacity,
but that the fact that it will be used by the
wider community as a study requirement
for their law studies is no problem, he said,
because ultimately it is an initiative that
will increase in-depth Limmud Torah in an
area that is sorely neglected and the fact
that it is an approved course by the Law
Society does nothing to detract from its
importance. It will appeal to professionals
because it is presented in a structured and
organised form, said Rav Gurwitz and if this
will encourage them to learn more Torah,
it is no different from any lo lishma that
Chazal promise will lead to Torah lishma.
Since the course will put the lomdim in touch
with talmidei chachamim and dayanim both
abroad and in this country, it will ultimately
increase the respect for batei dinim and
rabanim.

Rabbi Kestenbaum further elaborates that
Rabbi Avraham Pam is known to have
decried the fact that people go into business
without any knowledge – or even awareness
– of the complicated halachos of Choshen
Mishpat
and he often used to emphasize
the importance of studying Choshen Mishpat
before going into business. There are so
many halochos that can be transgressed by
lack of knowledge, like halochos of mekach
tov
, the transgressions of over-charging, of
ribbis and so much more. Rav Eliyhau Levine
is known to have said the recent financial
recession was Heavenly retribution for Klal
Yisrael’s lack of knowledge of Hilchos Ribbis.

Rabbi Kestenbaum also shared that the
fact that the course is given in English didn’t
bother Rav Gurwitz. On the contrary, he
said, it will allow access to Choshen Mishpat
to a large audience. This will increase
awareness of potential pitfalls in business and
Rabbi Fishel Todd
will make people aware of ‘what they don’t
know and what they need to ask’.

As part of the to’en program Pirchei
Shoshanim is planning to open legal clinics in
this country where dayanim will be available
to answer shaalos in Choshen Mishpat so the
course participants will have the opportunity
to learn from real-life shaalos and scenarios.

a message as follows: Most don’t know how
to learn the Shulchan Aruch, but those few
who do need a very big broom to clear the
dust that has accumulated on sections of
Choshen Mishpat. In Eretz Yisrael 40% of
the cases are presented to the Rabbinical
Courts by non–frum lawyers who can plead
their case because they have a law license!
The Rosh Yeshiva wants us to set a standard.
Our sister organisation Chesed v’Mishpat
has an office in Bnei Brak since we are
approved to provide the preparatory course
to take the exams of the Rabbanut through
our www.limd.co.il branch. We also have a
Spanish-speaking branch. Our Israel office
has 40 European Communities who are
members of the Conference of European
Rabbis based in London, and we hope they
as well will take advantage of this program.
Chesed v’Mishpat is creating a database of
every proper Beis Din in the world and
will create their own worldwide T o’en
association as the lawyers do.

This will provide a resource which will
be available to plead their cases in front
of a proper Beis Din and To’enim that are
experts in their field just as lawyers have
speciality areas.

Rabbi Kestenbaum concludes our
conversation with a vort that he heard
from a well-known English ger tzedek on the
words in Tehilim: maggid devarav leyaakov,
chukav umishpatav le-Ysrael, lo asa chen lechol
goy umishpatim bal yeda’um….
A non-Jew
can also understand that chukim are of
Divine origin, given to us by Hashem. What
he cannot grasp is the concept that for us
Yidden, even mishpatim – civil laws – which
every civilised country possesses – are not
just creations of the human mind. Rather,
they have been given to us from Shomayim
and they represent the ratzon Hashem.

In Rabbi Todd’s own words: Klal Yisrael
has thousands of very ‘ill’ people i.e. who
have legal problems, but very few doctors
– to’anim- and even less hospitals i.e. Batei
Dinim around the world. This is contrary
to the secular legal world where one can
file a lawsuit and hope for objectivity and
accountability. Our mission is to provide
guidance and support to all those seeking
assistance with the Beis Din system, thereby
alleviating any stress and uncertainty
associated with the world of halachic civil
law.
The greatest issues we have today are
financial issues, continues Rabbi Fishel Todd. 70
years ago the challenge both in the U.K. and
U.S. was being able to make a living without
having to work on Shabbos, kashrus and the
like. Today Shabbos and kashrus are a way of
life. The youth have the best cuisine available
rivalling the non-Jewish world. We learn
in Parshas Yisro that Yisro advised Moshe
Rabbeinu that he wouldn’t and couldn’t by
himself handle all the court cases he had in
front of him and he had to appoint other
judges to handle the case load. This is even
more true today! If more than 3300 years
ago there were issues, then kal vachomer
in our time, yet the Jewish court structure
is one of the most mystifying and unknown
areas to the Jewish world. Our goal is to
unlock that mystery.

When Rabbi Kestenbaum went to his
rebbe, the Gateshead Rosh Yeshiva, he sent

Rabbi Fishel Todd

http://shulchanaruchproject.com

Parshas Vayera Genesis Rabbi Fishel Todd

 

Shulchan Aruch Project

 

Rabbi Fishel Todd

Parshas Vayera

Genesis 18:19

A verse which leads the Ramban to an important philosophical insight.

For I know him (Hebrew: “yedativ”) because he will command his children and his household after him and they will keep the way of Hashem to do righteousness and judgment, that Hashem shall bring to Abraham that which He spoken of him.

RASHI

For I know him: Rashi: This (the word “yedativ”) is an expression denoting affection, as in (Ruth 2:1) “a kinsman of her husband” …………..But, in fact the essential meaning of all these examples is “knowledge” since one who likes someone draws him near to himself and gets to know him and is familiar with him. And why do I hold him dear ?

“Because he will command” because he commands his children regarding Me to keep My ways. But if you will explain (the word “yedativ”) as the Targum does ( “I know of him that he will command his children” etc.) then the word (Hebrew: “l’ma’an”) does not fit.

WHAT IS RASHI SAYING ?

Rashi is dealing with the word “yedativ” which literally means “I have known him” but Rashi finds this translation difficult in the syntax of this verse. Therefore he shows that the same verb which ordinarily means “knowing” can also mean “having affection for”, and that is its meaning in our verse. In short Rashi does here what he frequently does, gives us his understanding of the correct meaning of a word.

THE RAMBAN’S UNDERSTANDING

The Ramban offers other meanings, in addition to Rashi’s, to the word “yedativ.” Then he ends by saying something quite astounding. He says:

“But the correct understanding, in my opinion, is to “know him” literally. This hints at the principle that G-d’s knowledge, which is divine providence, in this lower world is (just) to guard the species and even humans He leaves them to chance happenings. Until their time of accounting ( i.e. death) comes. But with His righteous ones He directs His heart to know him individually, to have His protection cleave to him at all times. As it says (Job 36:7) “He does not remove His eyes from the righteous man.” There are many other similar verses which make this point.”

WHAT IS THE RAMBAN SAYING?

The Ramban is telling us something that is quite different from the common understanding of the Jewish view of “hasgacha pratit” – personal providence in our lives. The Ramban says that only for the righteous is there divine guidance for what happens to us in this world. (The Rambam – Maimonides – takes the same position.) All the ordinary people are subject to the “whims” of nature and other accidents. This is quite different from the Talmudic saying that “No man stubs his finger in this world unless it was decreed from Above. “(Tractate Chulin 7b) which means that everything that happens to people in this world is the result of divine decree. The Ramban is saying this is not so. Such divine providence exists only for the truly righteous.

The “Jewish” View on Things

When discussing Jewish Hashkafa questions, we should keep in mind that there are many and varied opinions expressed by the Torah giants. Some of these opinions may appear surprising to us when compared to the views most advocated today. Let us keep our minds open to constantly learn from our teachers, the Torah greats throughout the generations.

As Abraham was sitting before his tent, after having circumcised himself, God appeared. Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw three men standing there. Abraham invited them to come in and made a fine meal for them.

One of the men said that Sarah would have a son by the time he returns to their tent. Sarah heard this comment and laughed to herself, saying, “Oh, that I shall have the greatest fulfillment now that I am already worn out and my husband is an old man!”

God said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh? Is there anything too wondrous for God?”

The visiting men left and Abraham escorted them on their way to Sodom. Now, God said, “Should I keep undisclosed from Abraham that which I am doing? The sin of Sodom and Gomorrah already weighs very heavily. I will go down and see if I need to destroy it. If not, I shall handle it case by case.”

Now, Abraham stood before God asking, “Will you ruin the righteous along with the wicked? Perhaps there are fifty righteous in the city. To kill the righteous along with the wicked such that the righteous should be like the wicked–to do such a thing, I know would be a profanation to You, God. Shall the Judge of all the earth not do justice?”

And God said, “If there be 50 righteous, I will forgive the city because of them.”

Abraham continued, “See, now, I have begun to speak with my Lord and I am only dust and ashes. How about if there were only forty-five righteous? Or 40? Or 30? Or 20? Or 10?”

And God responded to each. “I shall not destroy the whole city if there are forty, or thirty, or twenty or even ten righteous people.”

After Abraham and God parted, the two angels went to Sodom in the evening. Lot greeted them with a reverent bow and urged them to stay at his house overnight. At first they refused, but then they agreed and Lot made them a feast.

But before they lay down to sleep, the men of Sodom surrounded the house. They wanted Lot to reveal his guests, but Lot refused, begging them to not act wickedly. But the men pushed harder until they almost pushed down Lot and his door. The visitors grabbed Lot and brought him inside, then struck down the men with blindness so that they could no longer find the entrance.

The visitors then told Lot to get his family and leave Sodom, for God had sent them to destroy the city. Lot lingered, but God took pity on him and had the men seize him and his wife and two daughters and lead them out of the city. They warned them, “Do not look back and do not stand still. Escape.” God caused sulfur and fire to rain upon Sodom and Gomorrah. When Lot’s wife looked back, she became a pillar of salt.

Lot ended up in a cave with his daughters. Because the daughters wanted to give descendants to their father, they made their father drunk with wine. Each slept with their drunken father, but he did not know when each daughter lay down or when each rose up. The elder daughter bore a son and named him Moab. He is the ancestor of Moab. The younger bore a son and she named him Ben-Ami. He is the ancestor of the sons of Ammon.

Abraham journeyed to the land of Abimelekh, king of Gerar. He said that Sarah was his sister, so Abimelekh took Sarah for his wife. Now, God came to Abimelekh in a dream and said, “You shall die, because the woman you have taken is already married.” But Abimelekh responded, “My God, will you even slay a righteous nation? They both told me they were siblings. In my innocence I have done this.”

And God answered, “I know you did this out of innocence. That’s why I prevented you from sinning against Me and touching her, even indirectly. Now, restore the wife to her husband, for he is a prophet, so he will pray for you and you will remain alive.”

Abimelekh returned Sarah and gave Abraham animals and servants, money and the right to settle on his land. He told Sarah she no longer had to disguise her marriage. So Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelek, his wife and his handmaids, and they gave birth.

Now, God remembered Sarah, and she conceived and bore Abraham a son, Isaac, at the appointed time, which God had spoken. Abraham circumcised his son Isaac on the eighth day. Isaac grew, and on the day he was weaned, Abraham made a great feast.

But Sarah saw Ishmael, the son of Hagar, the Egyptian woman, making mockery. Sarah said to her husband, “Cast out this handmaid and her son, for the son shall not share the inheritance with our son, Isaac.”

But the matter was very displeasing in the eyes of Abraham because of his son. And God said to Abraham, “Let it not be evil in your eyes because of the lad and your handmaid. Hearken to Sarah’s wishes, for in Isaac shall be your seed. And also for the son of the handmaid, I will make a nation, for he is your seed.”

Abraham rose early in the morning, took bread and water and gave it to Hagar and Ishmael and sent them away. Hagar lost her way in the wilderness of Beer Sheva and the water came to an end, and she threw the child under a shrub. She sat away from him, saying “Let me not look upon the death of the child.” Then she cried.

But God heard the voice of the lad, and an angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said, “What ails you, Hagar? Do not be afraid! For God has already heard the voice of the lad. Arise, pick him up and strengthen your hand upon him for I will make him a great nation.” And God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. God was with the lad and he grew up and became a master archer.

And it came to pass that God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham.”

“Here I am,” Abraham responded.

God said, “Take, I beg of you, your only son whom you love, Isaac, and get yourself to the land of Moriah and offer him on one of the mountains.”

So Abraham did as he was told, journeying with his wood for the offering and with his son and his servants to the place that God had told him. On the third day, Abraham and Isaac left the servants and took the wood for the offering, some fire and a knife. So they went, both of them, together.

Isaac spoke to his father, Abraham, “My father!”

Abraham said, “Here I am, my son.”

“Here is the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the offering?” asked Isaac.

”God will see that we have a lamb for the offering, my son.”They came to the place of which God had spoken, and Abraham built the altar and arranged the wood and bound Isaac, his son, and placed him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. And an angel of God called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Here I am!” said Abraham. And God said, “Do not stretch your hand toward the lad, nor do the slightest thing to him, for now I know that you are God-fearing and did not withhold from Me.”

Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked and lo! There was a ram caught in the hedge. Abraham took the ram and offered it up as offering in place of his son. Abraham named this place, “God sees.”

An angel of God called to Abraham a second time out of heaven and said, “By Myself have I sworn, says God, because you have done this thing and not withheld from Me your son, your only son, that I will bless you without fail, and without fail multiply your descendants as the stars in heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore, and your seed shall inherit the gate of its enemies. And all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves through your seed, as a consequence of your having hearkened to My voice.”

Then Abraham and Isaac and the servants returned to Beer Sheva.

 

Rabbi Fishel Todd