Parsha Potpourri: Parshas Lech Lecha

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Vayehi ka’asher hikriv la’vo Mitzraymah vayomer el Sarai ishto hinei na yadati ki isha yefas mareh at (12:11)

Due to a famine in the land of Canaan, Avrohom and Sorah decided to travel to Egypt. As they approached the border between the two countries, Avrohom became aware of Sorah’s beauty and began to fear that the Egyptians would want to marry her and would kill him in order to do so. Why did he suddenly become aware of her beauty at this time?

Rashi explains that due to their tremendous modesty, Avrohom had never looked at her and was unaware of her attractive appearance. At this time, something occurred which caused him to look at her for the first time, and he recognized her beauty. Why does the Torah emphasize the seemingly irrelevant geographical fact that this occurred as they drew close to Egypt, and as there are no coincidences in even the most minute details of events, why did Hashem cause this to occur at this time?

Although we are unable to relate to it, Avrohom was on such a high level in spirituality and modesty that he felt it appropriate to be married solely for the sake of Heaven and not to even look at his wife, a practice which he successfully upheld for decades. The Noda BiYehuda notes that this is even more remarkable in light of the teaching of the Gemora in Megillah (15a) that Sorah was one of the four most beautiful women in the history of the world, a reputation of which he was surely aware, and yet with tremendous self-control elected not to have any benefit from.

The Rambam writes (Hilchos Deios 6:1) that a person is naturally influenced by his surroundings. The Egyptians were a nation more immoral and depraved than any other, excelling in their passion for illicit relationships (Rashi Vayikra 18:3). Rav Moshe Wolfson explains that as Avrohom approached the Egyptian border – even before he crossed it – he was negatively influenced by the immorality which permeated the very air of Egypt, which caused him to fall from his great heights of personal modesty, and for the first time he glanced at his wife’s beauty.

The recognition of the effect one’s surroundings can have on even the greatest of men should serve as a lesson for us, who have much farther to fall, about the importance of dwelling and spending our leisure time in environments which are conducive to Torah values.

Vayomer Ado-nai Hashem ba’eh eid’ah ki irashena (15:8)

The Gemora in Berachos (7b) derives from our verse that Avrohom was the first person in history to call Hashem Adon – Master. The author of a new commentary on the Siddur brought his manuscript to the Vilna Gaon to receive his comments and to request a letter of approbation. The Gaon began to examine the work and noticed an original insight explaining why the morning prayers begin with Adon Olam (Master of the World).

The Gemora in Berachos (26b) teaches that each of the Avos instituted one of the three daily prayers: Avrohom enacted Shacharis, Yitzchok originated Mincha, and Yaakov introduced Maariv. As the morning prayers were instituted by Avrohom, who was the first person to refer to Hashem as Adon, we therefore begin Shacharis with Adon Olam. Upon reading this, the Gaon was overcome with joy and remarked that if only for the beauty and truth of this one insight, the publication of the entire work would be justified.

In a similar vein, the Meshech Chochmah explains why we are accustomed to wear a Tallis and Tefillin only during the morning prayers, even though both mitzvos are applicable the entire day. After miraculously defeating the armies of the four kings, Avrohom brought back all of the people and possessions which had been taken captive. The King of Sodom suggested that Avrohom return to him the people while keeping the possessions for himself. Lest the wicked king of Sodom take credit for making him rich, Avrohom refused to accept any gifts, emphatically swearing (14:23) that he wouldn’t accept even a thread or a shoestrap. The Gemora in Sotah (17a) teaches that in the merit of this statement, Avrohom’s descendants received the mitzvos of Tallis and Tefillin. Although they may be worn the entire day, because we merited receiving them through the actions of Avrohom, we are accustomed to commemorate this by wearing them during the morning prayers which he instituted.

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Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1) A person who sees a large and impressive lake recites the blessing Oseh Ma’aseh Bereishis – Who makes the work of Creation (Orach Chaim 228:1). However, this is only the case if the lake was created in that location at the time the world was formed, but not if it was subsequently formed through the actions of man (Mishnah Berurah 228:6). Does one who sees the Dead Sea recite this blessing, as the Torah seems to indicate that it was only created in the time of Avrohom (Rashi 14:3), but the Gemora in Bava Basra (74b) seems to indicate that it was one of the 7 lakes which was formed at the time of Creation to surround the land of Israel? (Ayeles HaShachar, Shu”t Shevet HaLevi 9:47, Nimukei Orach Chaim 228, Piskei Teshuvos 228:3)

2) Who was the father of Avrohom’s servant Eliezer (15:2)? (Targum Yonason ben Uziel 14:14)

3) Why didn’t Avrohom make a festive meal to celebrate the circumcision of himself and his son Yishmael as he did on the day of Yitzchok’s circumcision (21:8)? (Chavatzeles HaSharon)

© 2013 by Oizer Alport.