Oneg Vayerah

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  • ?? Quiz Time?? Answers can be found on back page 1. Why is it called Akeidas Yitzchak and not attributed to Avraham as it is counted as one of his ten nisyonos?




    Rabbi Alan GarberRav of Shenley United Synagogue

    K I N D L Y S P O N S O R E D " " "

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    With best wishesT H I S P A G E H A S B E E N K I N D L Y S P O N S O R E D

    Our sedra opens with the narrative of how Abraham on the third day after his circumcision offers hospitality to three desert travellers.

    There are many nuances in the text which teach us how to offer

    hospitality: the fact that he acts with speed and enthusiasm; he says

    little and does much; he leads by example and gets other members of

    his household involved in the hospitality; and he shows his guests

    tremendous honour and respect.

    One interesting detail is that he invites his guests to sit under a tree and

    eat. We know that Abraham is a wealthy man and that he had a famous

    tent that was open on four sides. So why did he leave his guests outside

    and not invite them to come inside?

    The answer is a tremendous lesson in how to perform acts of kindness.

    When Abraham was looking to help someone he looked to see exactly

    what that person needed.

    As travellers, they were on a journey to arrive somewhere, presumably

    by a certain time. Had Abraham offered them to come inside, they may

    have felt obliged to stay. He therefore initially offered them to have

    something outside so they wouldnt feel awkward about leaving if they

    had to go in a hurry. This also explains why Abraham served both milky

    and meaty food. If they were in a rush they could partake of the light milky

    food and if they had more time, then Abraham had a large lavish meaty

    meal ready for them to be able to eat at a more leisurely pace.

    Therefore Abraham not only had an open heart to help others, but

    he also had his eyes open to see exactly what people needed. The verse

    explains that Abraham lifted his eyes and behold he saw three people

    standing upon him, and he saw them and he ran to greet them from the

    opening of the tent and bowed toward the ground. (GENESIS 18:2)

    Rashi asks, Why is the phrase and he saw repeated? He teaches

    us that the first and he saw was a physical seeing and the second was

    a seeing of understanding and perception of the needs of these people.

    There is a famous story of a Jew who came to Rabbi Yosef Dov

    Soloveitchik (the Beis HaLevi), before Pesach and asked whether milk has

    the status of a national beverage, and whether it could be used instead

    of wine for the four cups at the Seder. The Beis HaLevi understood that

    he would not ask the question about drinking milk at his Seder if he were

    having chicken or meat for his meal. He therefore sent him not only money

    for the wine for the four cups, but also for meat as well.

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  • ?? Quiz Time?? Answers can be found on back page 2. Why is it called Akeida? What does this mean?

    S P O N S O R E D

    Yitzchak: The Last LaughThe patriarch who exemplifies the trait of avodah, divine worship is Yitzchak. His particular service of G-d was that of din, judgment.1 In his absolute negation before his Creator and his punctilious devotion, Yitzchaks observance was without any personal agenda and accorded exactly with the letter of the law. He was a faithful G-d-fearing servant who consciously lived in the awesome presence of his Maker. However, this fear was not from without but from within.

    He possessed the fortitude to fearlessly battle and to defeat the evil inclination by staying on the right track, and by not deviating from it whatsoever.2 Indeed, Yitzchak did not depart

    not even one iota from the pathway forged by his saintly father. Several episodes that occurred to Avraham similarly played themselves out in Yitzchaks life3 and Yitzchak was, in fact, the spitting image of his father.4

    The emphases in their respective divine worship were not contradictory.

    Yitzchaks din, judgment was the next stage to his father Avrahams chesed, loving-kindness. Their respective traits, albeit on opposite ends of the spectrum, came to complement each other, It is the strictness of fear that comes to balance and to temper the outburst of love. Kindness without limits can be destructive. Water is a blessing; but an over-abundance of water results in a destructive flood. Therefore the imposition of boundaries (as a function of din) initiated by Yitzchak permits there to be a definitive framework for the original forces of Avrahams benevolence (chesed) to find their full expression.5

    Interestingly, Yitzchaks supernatural defiance of all expectations both in his miraculous birth and his childrens survival relates to the themes of laughter and resurrection.

    Laughter is, simply put, the human reaction to the unusual or the surprising: such as a complete reversal of expectations. A man walks on the street only to slip on a banana peel. This is amusing because of the abrupt and unexpected chain of events. So too, is laughter the natural reaction where one experiences salvation from a hopeless situation.

    1 This is also called gevurah, might or pachad, dread [of G-d].2 Who is the strong one (gibur from the word gevurah)? The one

    who overpowers his [evil] inclination (Pirkei Avos 4:1). 3 For example, both referred to their respective spouses as their

    sister; both were concerned of the kidnapping of their wives; both dug wells in Pelishtim etc.

    4 See Rashi, Bereishis 25:19.5 The scoffers argued the lack of continuity between Avraham

    who exemplified chesed, kindness versus Yitzchak as din, judgment. Hence the double Torah stresses Yitzchak son of Avraham and Avraham gave birth to Yitzchak (Bereishis 25:19).

    Yitzchaks name, meaning he will laugh, indicated how his

    life would scoff at the laws of the natural realm. Yitzchaks very

    being generated disbelief and laughter.6 The announcement

    of Yitzchaks birth, a reversal of Avraham and Sarahs

    expectations that contradicted the rules of nature, provoked

    a response of laughter.7 And Yitzchaks existence perpetually

    challenged the attitude that life is predictable. On the contrary,

    where man exclusively lives to worship his Creator, he

    transcends all natural expectations.

    It is true that from a spiritual perspective laughter has negative

    connotations. Take, for example, the banishment of Yishmael

    from Avrahams household on account of tzachok, laughter,

    a word alluding to his contravention of all three cardinal sins.8

    But this laughter was a cynicism which mocked religious

    belief; its imagery is likened to oil on a shield which deflects

    the arrows of faith.9 Laughter negates the inspiration that

    would otherwise motivate man it inexcusably profanes that

    what is sacrosanct.10 This proves ruinous to all attempts to

    venerate G-d and faithfully serve Him with all our energies.

    However, Yitzchaks laughter finds an important place in

    divine worship: it jeers at the evil inclination for foolishly trying

    to lure man to contradict the will of G-d. It is to laugh at those

    that laugh at our life of spirituality. Yitzchaks life of dread

    larks at all those whose attitude opposes fear of Heaven. He

    mocks, in turn, all those who define their existence based upon

    the limitations of the natural realm. All opposition towards

    spiritual growth is similarly laughed away.

    This explains why Yitzchaks birth and life were synonymous

    with techias hameisim, the resurrection of the dead.

    That he was born to parents of advanced age led to their

    rejuvenation akin to a new lease of life.11 And he was the

    only one to the forefathers to die and live again. At the climax

    of the akeidah, Avraham offered a ram in lieu of Yitzchak. But

    in spiritual terms, Avrahams original sacrifice of Yitzchak was

    consummated.12 That means to say, in G-ds mind, Yitzchak

    died as an offering13 such that the ashes of Yitzchak were

    6 Laughter is contained within the numerical value of the letters of Yitzchak. The letter yud (10) alludes to the ten trials of Avraham. Tzaddi (90) was the age at which Sarah gave birth to Yitzchak. Ches (8) refers to the eighth day of circumcision, raising ones physicality to the spiritual, and kuf (100) is the age at which Avraham fathered Yitzchak (Rashi, Bereishis 17:19).

    7 Avraham fell upon his face and laughed saying to himself, To a man of a hundred years shall [a child] be born? Shall Sarah, a woman of ninety years, give birth? (Bereishis 17:17). When Sarah heard the news, she also laughed at the prospect of having a child (Bereishis 18:12-15). Yitzchaks birth was nothing short of miraculous as his mother Sarah was not only elderly but lacked a womb (Bereishis 11:3