שבת טעם החיים וירא תשע”ב
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vayeira 5772
It’s a Numbers Game
ותאמר מי מלל לאברהם היניקה בנים שרה כי ילדתי בן לזקניו, and she said, “Who is the One Who said to Avraham, Sarah would nurse children? For I have borne a son in his old age!” (Bereishis 21:7)
In the world of sales there’s an expression that “it’s a numbers game.” That means that a certain amount of calls will yield a certain amount of appointments which will result in a certain amount of sales. In our parasha the Torah appears to focus on the association of names and numbers more than anywhere else. It is said (Bereishis 21:7) ותאמר מי מלל לאברהם היניקה בנים שרה כי ילדתי בן לזקניו, and she said, “Who is the One Who said to Avraham, Sarah would nurse children? For I have borne a son in his old age!” Rashi writes that the Torah employs the word מלל instead of the conventional world דבר, as the gematria of the word מלל equals 100, alluding to the idea that Avraham beget Yitzchak when he was 100 years old. Additionally, the word היניקה equals in gematria 180, which alludes to the years of Yitzchak’s life. In last week’s parasha it is said (Ibid 17:19) ויאמר אלקים אבל שרה אשתך ילדת לך בן וקראת את שמו יצחק והקמתי את בריתי אתו לברית עולם לזרעו אחריו, G-d said, “Nonetheless, your wife Sarah will bear you a son and you shall call his name Yitzchak; and I will fulfill My covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him.” Rashi writes that Yitzchak was named because of Avraham’s joy. Alternatively, Yitzchak was thus called because the letters of the name יצחק allude to various aspects of Avraham, Sarah and Yitzchak’s life. The letter י alludes to the ten tests of Avraham. The letter צ alludes to the fact that Sarah had her first child at the age of ninety. The letter ח hints to Yitzchak being circumcised on the eighth day of his life, and the letter ק alludes to Avraham being one hundred years old when Yitzchak was born. We do not find an allusion like this by the names of anyone else mentioned in the Torah. Why is Yitzchak singled out for these allusions?
Yitzchak’s descent to Egypt
In the simples sense it would seem that the Torah alludes to these numbers because they reflect the miracle that occurred to Avraham and Sara when they had a child in their old age. Upon any momentous occasion people will talk about the events that led up to the occasion and any sensational aspect of the event. In this case, the Torah highlights Avraham’s age, Avraham’s milestones, Sarah’s age and the fact that Yitzchak was the first person in history to be circumcised on the eighth day. On a deeper level, however, Yitzchak’s birth reflects the destiny of the Jewish People. The Medrashim are replete with references to the Jewish People being enslaved in Egypt for Avraham’s remarks and for Yaakov and his son’s actions later on. Yitzchak, however, does not appear to play a prominent role in the Egyptian exile. Nonetheless, a cryptic Medrash sheds light on Yitzchak’s function in the exile and the redemption from Egypt. The Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 63:3) states, “Avraham was called Avraham and Yitzchak was called Avraham, as it is said (Bereishis 25:19) ואלה תולדות יצחק בן אברהם אברהם, and these are the offspring of Yitzchak the son of Avraham – Avraham… Yaakov is called Yisroel, as it is said (Ibid 32:29) לא יעקב יאמר עוד שמך כי אם ישראל, “no longer will it be said that your name is Yaakov, but Yisroel.” Yitzchak is called Yisroel, as it is said (Shemos 1:1)ואלה שמות הני ישראל הבאים מצרימה את יעקב, and these are the names of the Children of Yisroel who were coming to Egypt; with Yaakov… Avraham is called Yisroel, and Rabbi Nassan said that this a deep matter, as it is said (Ibid 12:40)ומושב בני ישראל אשר ישבו במצרים ובארץ כנען ובארץ גושן שלשים שנה וארבע מאות שנה, the habitation of the Children of Yisroel during which they had dwelled in Egypt [and in the Land of Canaan and in the Land of Goshen] was four hundred and thirty years.” We see from this Medrash that states that Yitzchak was also called Yisroel that Yitzchak was also descending to Egypt. When Yosef was sold to Egypt, it is said (Bereishis 37:35)ויקמו כל בניו וכל בנתיו לנחמו וימאן להתנחם ויאמר כי ארד אל בני אבל שאלה ויבך אתו אביו, all his sons and all his daughters arose to comfort him, but he refused to comfort himself, and said, “For I will go down to the grave mourning for my son.” And his father bewailed him. Rashi writes that the father who bewailed his son was Yitzchak, who was crying because of Yaakov’s distress. Yitzchak, however, was not in mourning, because he knew that Yosef was alive. This statement gives us an indication that Yitzchak was connected to Yosef’s destiny. The idea is that Yitzchak’s descent to Egypt was camouflaged in Yosef being sold to Egypt. Further evidence to this idea is found when Yaakov descended to Egypt. It is said (Ibid 46:1)ויסע עשראל וכל אשר לו ויבא בארה שבע ויזבח זבחים לאלקי אביו יצחק, so Israel set out with all that he had and he came to Beer-Sheva where he slaughtered sacrifices to the G-d of his father Yitzchak. Here too we see that Yaakov understood that he would need the merits of his father Yitzchak in descending to the Egyptian exile. It is noteworthy that the name יצחק, when rearranging the letters, forms an acrostic for the words קץ חי, end and life. These words symbolize the end of the exile and that the Jewish People would survive the Egyptian persecution.
He was called Yitzchak to symbolize the future exile and redemption
Returning to the question of why the Torah specifically placed hints in the name of Yitzchak, the answer is that Avraham and Sarah foresaw the Egyptian exiles. The Ramban teaches us based on the Medrash that all the actions of the Patriarchs were a sign for their descendants. Avraham and Sara named their son יצחק to reflect the message that the Jewish People will always count the days and years of exile and the nation will always find hints to their salvation in the words of the Torah. HaShem chose Yitzchak to be the secret bearer of the key to redemption, and the hints to the redemption were contained in his name.
The Shabbos Connection
As of late, every week we hear of another leader of the Jewish People who passes on to the Next World. Many wonder why this is happening, and although there are many explanations that have been offered, there is one idea that we must internalize. HaShem is bringing the redemption ever closer, and the redemption will come about through the suffering and the passing of the righteous. In a similar vein, a Jew may struggle throughout the week with earning a livelihood and all the external forces that are foreign to the Jewish way of life. Nonetheless, the Jew is cognizant that on Shabbos the redemption arrives and all the struggles were worthwhile. HaShem should grant us the Ultimate Redemption when we will know no more sorrow, with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily, in our days.
Shabbos Through the Prism of the Parashah
It is said (Bereishis 21:28)ויצב אברהם את שבע כבשת הצאן לבדהן, Avraham set seven ewes of the flock by themselves. It is noteworthy that the word כבשת, when rearranging the letters, can be read as כשבת, like Shabbos. The preceding word is שבע, seven. This verse alludes to the idea throughout the six days of the week we are associated with the other nations, but on Shabbos, we are set apart and dedicated entirely to the service of HaShem.
Just another Bachur in Mir
As a young Bachur learning in the Mir Yerushalayim, it can be extremely disconcerting to find one’s place in a yeshiva of over 3000 talmidim. I had come from a small yeshiva and was not used to the hustle and bustle of a large institution. As I started to get settled into my new Yeshiva I was told that as large as the yeshiva was, The Rosh HaYeshiva zt”l, in his tzidkus, was willing to learn with any bachur who asked to learn with him. To say that I was a bit skeptical would be an understatement. How could it be that HaRav Nosson Tzvi Finkel zt”l, a man who ran the largest yeshiva in the world at the time and lived with Parkinson’s disease, could possibly find time to learn with anyone who simply asked. Nevertheless, I approached the Rosh Hayeshiva one evening, introduced myself and asked him if he had any time to learn with me. To my amazement, the Rosh Hayeshiva thought for a moment, and asked me to come to his house on the following Tuesday evening.
Needless to say as I approached the house I was a bit nervous. I knocked on the door and was greeted by a member of the family. I proudly said that I had an appointment to learn with the Rosh Hayeshiva and asked if he was available. To my chagrin I was told that the Rosh Hayeshiva was at the Chasunah of a Talmid and would not be able to meet tonight. I was very disappointed but I understood that the Rosh Hayeshiva was an extremely busy man. I was sure that there was not a night that went by without a myriad of obligations that the Rosh Hayeshiva had to take care of. I was not yet ready to give up though and decided to try again next week.
The following week I once again knocked on the Rosh HaYeshiva’s door only to be told that the Rosh Hayeshiva was home but was too tired to meet with anyone. All of the talmidim knew about the super human strength the Rosh Hayeshiva needed just to get up in the morning and I just couldn’t bring myself to try and talk my way in. I was extremely disappointed, though. I pretty much gave up at that point. I cannot say that I was upset but more than a bit surprised that the Rosh Hayeshiva would agree in the first place to learn with me if he was truly unable.
I did not realize it at the time but the next encounter I would have with the Rosh Hayeshiva would change my life forever. The Tuesday after I was turned away from the door of the Rosh Hayeshiva, I was walking out of the Mir after lunch when I was approached by none other than the Rosh Hayeshiva himself. In his incredibly quiet manner he apologized for not being able to meet with me the last two weeks and guaranteed me that if I would stop by tonight, he would make sure he was available. I could not believe that the Rosh Hayeshiva actually remembered me enough to recognize me and approach me.
I showed up that night and once again knocked on the door. This time however I was let right in. The Rosh Hayeshiva was lying on the couch resting from a long day. It was obvious to me that he was absolutely spent. He did not have one ounce of strength left. In utter exhaustion, he got up from his couch and slowly walked with me over to the table. We sat down together and I waited for the Rosh Hayeshiva to speak. Instead he just looked at me waiting for me to speak. “Uh, what does the Rosh Hayeshiva want to learn?” I asked like a school boy in the principal’s office. He smiled at me and said, “You’re the boss, what do you think?” I told him that I wanted to learn mussar (ethics), perhaps something about laziness.
At this point I assumed the Rosh Hayeshiva would shmuez with me about the importance of making every moment count or perhaps tell me over some Divrei Torah focusing on the midah of zrizus in Mitzvos. Instead, the Rosh Hayeshiva did something that I will never forget for the rest of my life. Without a second thought and as tired and week as he was, he literally jumped out of his chair, hurried to the bookshelf and pulled out a Musser Sefer. It was as if he had a sudden burst of energy suddenly fill his body. I watched in utter shock as a man who was completely exhausted just moments ago, came back to life right before my eyes. We learned together for another ½ hour. A half hour Me’ayn Olam Haba.
To tell you the truth I don’t even remember what the sefer was and I don’t remember a word of what we learnt. But I will never forget the incredible energy the Rosh Hayeshiva suddenly exhibited. It was a lesson not of words but of action and one that I have put to use many times. Whenever I feel tired after a long day at work and am not in the mood to do something, I remember the incredible actions of the Rosh Hayeshiva. If anyone had an excuse to be lazy it was the Rosh hayeshiva. I realized at that moment that there is only one way to overcome that midah or any bad midah. You can learn about it from today till tomorrow but until you jump out of that seat it’s really not something you can internalize. I stayed in the yeshiva for another two years. Unfortunately I only learned with the Rosh Hayeshiva one more time but the lessons I learned have lasted a life time. The Rosh Hayeshiva Zt”l will be sorely missed by everyone. Especially by the talmid who was just one of three thousand.
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vayeira 5772
Is sponsored in memory of the Mir Rosh HaYeshiva, Rav Nosson Tzvi ben HaRav Eliyahu Meir Finkel zt”l. May his memory be a blessing for the entire Jewish People
Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos
Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler
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Zmanim for Oak Park, MI for Shabbos
November 12 (according to http://www.ou.org)
Sof Zman Krias Shema: 9:12/9:48
Sof Zman Shacharis 10:37
Tzeis Hakochavim: 6:27 (72 minutes)