Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim: Vayera 5776


Vayera 5776

New Stories Vayera 5776

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vayera 5776

Avraham and Eradication of Evil

Introduction

This week’s parashah contain a theme that appears to run throughout the entire parashah. The Torah commences this week with the incident where Avraham has just been circumcised and despite his pain, he invites three strangers to partake in a sumptuous meal. Avraham himself waits on his guests and he is then informed that he and his wife Sarah will be having a child. The guests, who are angels in disguise, then depart to destroy the city of Sodom and its surroundings.

Praying for the wicked people of Sodom

HaShem informs Avraham of the tragic state of affairs in Sodom, and Avraham prays to HaShem to spare the cities in the merit of the righteous. Hashem informs Avraham that there are no righteous people in all the cities and Avraham desists from praying further. The angels then enter Sodom where they are greeted by Lot who invites them into his house. The residents of Sodom are not pleased with this act of hospitality and they attempt to harm the visitors. HaShem causes the citizens of Sodom to become blind and the angels then proceed to escort Lot and his remaining family out of the city. HaShem then destroys Sodom and its environs and Lot escapes with his two daughters. Lot and his daughters then engage in an illicit relationship, and the union bears the two forerunners of the Ammonite and Moabite nations. The Torah then records how Avraham settles in the Philistine city of Gerar and the king of Gerar, Avimelech, abducts Sarah. Hashem then punishes Avimelech and his household by restraining their orifices.

Yishmael is banished and Avraham and Yitzchak are tested by Hashem

The Torah then relates how Sarah gave birth to Yitzchak and subsequent to Yitzchak’s birth, Sarah demands that Avraham banish Yishmael and his mother because of Yishmael’s evil ways. Following this incident we learn how Avraham makes a treaty with Avimelech, and then the Torah relates the spellbinding incident where HaShem instructs Avraham to offer his cherished son Yitzchak as a sacrifice. HaShem then sends an angel to repeal this commandment and Avraham slaughters a ram in Yitzchak’s stead.

The negation of evil

The theme that we see running through this parashah is what is referred to as bittul hara, negation of evil. Circumcision is essentially a negation of the Evil Inclination and the materialism represented within. Sodom was the epitome of evil, and Avraham apparently desired, in the words of the Gemara (Brachos 10a), yitamu chataim vilo chotim, let the sins cease but not the sinners. Lot acted in a self-defeating manner, bringing shame upon himself and his future generations. Similarly, Avimelech encountered Avraham and Sarah, righteous people, and HaShem punished him harshly. Yishmael was banished from the home of the righteous, and Avraham and Yitzchak were tested in an unprecedented manner. This test, in a sense, was the expiation of any doubt in their minds that they could have possibly had regarding HaShem’s Oneness and His dominion over the entire world.

The Shabbos connection

In the prayer of kegavna that is recited by Nusach Sefard on Friday night, we recite the words kad ayil Shabbsa ihi isyachadas viisparashas misitra achara vichol dinin misabrin minah, when the Shabbos arrives, she unified herself in Oneness and divests herself of the Other Side, [any trace of evil] all harsh judgments are removed from her. Thus, the purpose of creation is that the Jewish People divest itself of all evil and harsh judgments. It is incumbent upon us to recognize that every moment of our lives is a test to choose between good and evil, and when we are victorious, we merit the holiness and exaltedness of Shabbos. HaShem should allow us to be victorious in this world and to merit a portion in the World to Come, when it will be a day that will be completely a Shabbos and a rest day for eternal life.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Yom Zeh LiYisroel

Some opinions attribute the authorship of this Zemer to the Arizal.

זְכוֹר קָדוֹשׁ לָנוּ, בִּזְכוּת יִקְרַת הַיּוֹם, remember for us, O Holy One, in the merit of this day’s great honor. One of the mitzvos regarding the Holy Shabbos is the mitzvah to remember the Shabbos. We are enjoined to remember the Shabbos during the week, by preparing properly for the Holy Shabbos. Furthermore, we are commanded to remember the Shabbos on the Holy Shabbos itself, by reciting Kiddush and constantly invoking this holy day. Here we ask HaShem to remember us, measure for measure, in the merit of remembering His Holy Day.

Shabbos Stories

Rav Aharon Kotler’s Father the Fur Merchant

HaGaon Rav Aharon Kotler told over a story about his father’s mesirus nefesh for Torah. His father was a fur merchant in Lita. At a certain period, his business dwindled, and it reached a point where his family was lacking food to sustain themselves.

Every day after Shacharis, his father would learn for two hours, and was mapkid on this learning period his entire life. One day, a wealthy merchant knocked on the door of the Kotler family, and informed them that he would like to buy a sizable amount of furs. However, it was the set learning time of Rav Kotler. His wife knocked on the door of his room, once, twice, and three times, and urged her husband to utilize this opportunity for his business.

Rav Kotler answered from behind the door, “Go tell him that if he’s willing to wait until I finish my learning, good! If not – he should go in peace. A person’s mezonos is set from Rosh HaShanah until Rosh HaShanah. If it was decreed that I will sell the merchandise, I’ll find a buyer!”

Rav Aharon concluded his story, “My father’s wondrous mesiras nefesh for Torah instilled in us the emunah peshutah, ‘When you learn Torah, you never lose out!’ All of my mesiras nefesh for Torah – I acquired from him!” (Tuvcha Yabiyu) [www.revach.net]

True humility

Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky writes: Rabbi Dovid Koppleman tells the story of Rabbi Abish, the Rav of Frankfurt who was known for his extraordinary humility. In addition, he would often raise funds for the needy families of his city. Once he heard that a wealthy man was on business in town and went to the man’s hotel suite to ask him for a donation. The tycoon was arrogant and assumed that the Rav was a poor shnorrer, and after a few moments drove him out of his room. A few minutes later the man went to leave his suite and looked for his silver cane. Noticing it was gone, he immediately suspected that Reb Abish took it during his brief visit.

Quickly, the man bolted toward the lobby of the hotel where he accosted Reb Abish. “Thief,” the man shouted while pushing the Rav, “give me back my cane!” Reb Abish calmly pleaded. “I did not steal your cane. Please do not accuse me! Please believe me. I did not steal your cane!”

The man was adamant in his arrogance and began to beat the Rav while onlookers recoiled in horror. Reb Abish, despite the pain, remained steadfast in his humble demeanor. “Please believe me. I did not steal your cane!” Finally, the man realized he was getting nowhere and left Reb Abish in disgust.

That Saturday was Shabbos Shuva. The entire community, including the wealthy visitor, packed Frankfurt’s main synagogue for the traditional Shabbos Shuva Speech. Horror gripped the visitor as a familiar looking figure rose to the podium and mesmerized the vast audience with an eloquent oration. It was the very shnorrer he had accosted in the hotel! As soon as the speech ended, the man pushed his way toward the podium and in a tearful voice tried to attract the Rabbi’s attention. He was about to plead forgiveness for his terrible behavior when Reb Abish noticed the man.

In all sincerity Reb Abish began to softly plead with him. “I beg of you! Please do not hit me. I truly did not steal your cane.” (www.Torah.org)

Shabbos in Halacha

לישה – Kneading

  1. Practical Applications
  1. Highly Absorbent Cereals

Cereals that are so absorbent that they merge into a mass without stirring may never be made into a thick mixture on Shabbos. This includes, for example, instant oatmeal, as well as many baby cereals. Such cereals must be mixed with a lot of liquid (with the proper shinuim) to form a loose mixture.

Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim: Vayera 5776

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New Stories Vayera 5776

A Very Special Passenger

Something extraordinary happened on my recent flight to Israel.

by Rabbi Yerachmiel Milstein

The only clue that something extraordinary was happening on my recent flight to Israel was a half hour delay in boarding. Otherwise, everything seemed to be quite unremarkable as we buckled up, raised our fold-down trays and brought our chair backs to their full upright position prior to take off.

The captain made his usual remarks about course, speed, altitude and unexpected turbulence that can happen any time. Within minutes, roaring engines peeled us away from the ground and we sliced through low hanging, cotton-candy clouds behind which was hiding a magnificently luminescent, seemingly enlarged, near full moon. Drinks were brought around, dinner was served and all the 777’s hundreds of video screens sprang to life with the usual mix of TV sitcom reruns, slightly stale movies and kid fare.

When the seat belt indicator dimmed just after dinner, I eagerly alighted from my seat and took a spin around the cabin to encourage the blood in my legs to reacquaint itself with the rest of my body and to meet and rub shoulders with new and hopefully a few familiar fellow passengers.

As I approached the rear of the aircraft I could make out a hospital-blue curtain which seemed to hover above the last 5 rows of the center seats in the shape of a bathtub. Upon closer examination I could see all type of hospital gear attached to hoses, pumps and wires adjacent to what was a flying intensive care unit (ICU), complete with EKG monitor, feeding tubes and intravenous drip equipment.

My first instinct was to satisfy my curiosity and try to steal a look at the patient inside, but I suddenly recalled a talk given by my rabbi in which he underscored the enormous importance the Torah places upon respecting every human’s right to privacy — especially the ill — and walked on past the impromptu ICU and into the aft galley of the plane.

Swinging around the rear of the aircraft, I re-entered the passenger cabin and my eyes instinctively darted again towards the blue curtain. I nearly bumped right into the man attending to the patient, someone I recognized as an old acquaintance from my native Brooklyn. Wearing a kipah on his head, a stethoscope around his neck and rubber gloves on his hands, he was occupied drawing some fluid into a syringe.

“Shalom aleichem,” I said heartily. He looked up and remembered me as well.

“Aleichem shalom,” he responded warmly. Casting a glance towards the makeshift ICU, I asked him if he was allowed to tell me anything regarding what this was all about.

“She had major heart surgery in the United States,” he replied, and we’re bringing her back to Israel to be with her family.

Tens of questions instantly began forming in my mind. Why was she being moved while in such a precarious state of health? How did they get the airline to agree to transport someone so ill? How much did it cost to arrange for this mini flying hospital?

As if reading my mind, my friend said, “Don’t ask me anything I’m not supposed to answer. A lot of people had to pull strings for all this to happen and if word got out, future missions like this could suffer.”

As I looked deeply into his face I could plainly see rings of exhaustion around his eyes. Reading my mind again he told me of the many hours of careful preparation that took place before the patient could be brought on board the plane. He had been awake many hours before dawn to prepare for our late afternoon flight, and I obviously can’t sleep during the flight, he said sweeping his hand toward the EKG and respiration monitor.

“How long do you get to stay in Israel?” I asked, figuring he’d take advantage of the ‘mission’ to get at least a few days of R&R in sunny Israel.

“About nine hours,” he smiled.

“They don’t pay for this. You have to volunteer if you want to do it.”

I remembered that he worked as an Emergency Medical Technician for a major ambulance company in New York and so I casually asked him if the firm paid extra compensation for this extraordinarily difficult assignment.

“Actually,” he said sheepishly, “they don’t pay for this. You have to volunteer if you want to do it.” I started feeling very small next to this truly generous man.

“Well then, it’s nice of them to at least give you the day off to allow you to do something as amazing as this.”

“They didn’t. It’s coming out of my vacation time.” Generous didn’t begin to describe this guy.

“You’re kidding aren’t you?” I incredulously asked.

“It’s no big deal. A few weeks ago, I had requested to take today off anyway.”

“But how could you have known a few weeks ago that this patient would need transporting precisely today?”

He chuckled, “Who knew? Tonight my wife and I are celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. Looking down at the floor of the plane he paused for just a few seconds and said, “We had plans to get away for the day.”

“So what happened to your plans?”

“When the opportunity arose to transport this patient, I mentioned it to my wife and she thought my being here would make a terrific anniversary gift for the two of us.”

When our flight began its steep descent into Tel Aviv the stewardess’ voice rang out over the public address system and thanked everyone for flying. She then apologized for the delay in takeoff due to our very special passenger in the rear of the aircraft.

She couldn’t have known just how very special, indeed. (www.aish.com)

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