Weekly Reading Insights:
of the Torah Reading
be read on Shabbat Vayera, 17 Cheshvan 5782/Oct 23, 2021
Torah: Genesis 18:1-22:24; Haftorah: Kings II 4:1-37 (because
of v.22, similar to the angels' promise to Avraham)
is the 4th Reading out of 12 in Genesis and it contains 7862 letters,
in 2085 words, in 147 verses
a conversation with G-d to run and offer three people walking by a rest stop and
food. They were angels from G-d, who told him that Sarah would have a son next
year, and that G-d was about to wipe out Sodom. Avraham prayed for the people
there. The messengers continued to Sodom, and were invited home by Lot. They told
Lot to flee with his family, and not to look back. They ran, but his wife looked
back and became a pillar of salt. The five cities were destroyed. Lot and his
two daughters moved into a cave. Thinking they were sole survivors in the world,
the daughters got their father drunk and had his sons. Avraham visited Gerar,
announcing that Sarah was his sister. The king Avimelech took her, but G-d told
him in a dream that she was already married and that he must return her to her
husband. Sarah gave birth to Yitzchak, whom Avraham circumcised when he was eight
days old. Avraham sent Hagar and Yishmael away, as Sarah did not want Yitzchak
to share his inheritance. G-d promised Hagar that Yishmael would also become a
great nation. Avraham and Avimelech made an oath regarding the well which Avraham
had dug, and a peace treaty. G-d tested Avraham and told him to bring his son
Yitzchak as an offering. At the last moment a voice from heaven stopped him, telling
him that he had proved his faith. Avraham offered a ram instead. G-d blessed him
that he would have many descendants.
Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, Director of Ascent
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It is said about the Chafetz Chaim  that on Friday evenings
his custom was to first sing songs to welcome Shabbat (probably those printed
in both Ashkenazi and Sefardi prayer books) and only after this he would "make
the seuda", begin the Shabbat meal. Nevertheless, when he had a guest, he
would quickly start the meal and only sing afterwards.
As a very respected
rabbinical figure, his every action was a considered one and in line with understanding
the spiritual needs of the situation. Instead of changing his custom he could
have asked the guest if he was hungry or not. However, the Chafetz Chaim was afraid
that the visitor would be embarrassed to admit that he was hungry (and he was
probably right). Therefore, to give the visitor a good feeling and, even more
important, not to cause him or her any discomfort, the Chafetz Chaim would start
the meal promptly. He gave the commandment of welcoming and honoring guests every
priority, even if it meant personally inconveniencing himself.
people, we learn about the importance of the commandment of welcoming guests from
the very beginning of this week's Torah portion, Vayeira. It describes how Avraham
actually got up, even though weak from his recent circumcision, and, with apologies
to G-d, ran away from His presence, to welcome some guests (who were actually
not human at all but angels) to his tent.
Rabbi Moshe Levi Soloveitchik
points out something interesting. In general, Avraham is known and praised for
his attribute of alacrity, getting up early and not procrastinating, particularly
in connection to G-d's command that he bring his son Yitzchak as a sacrificial
offering (at the end of this week's Torah portion). Five times the Torah repeats
expressions of swiftness in connection with Avraham welcoming his guests. "He
ran to meet them", "He speeded to the tent of Sara", "Quickly
take three measures of flour", "He ran to the cattle" and "He
hurried to prepare it". Because of this alacrity to fulfill G-d's wishes,
he merited to be the father of the Jewish people.
But, if you think about
it, Avraham did all of this for guests (angels) who were not in truth hungry and
did not need all this effort and attention. Nevertheless, Avraham received the
merit and recognition for what he did, even if he did not in fact fulfill the
end result of the commandment of caring for guests (in a physical sense - the
angels did not eat).
Rabbi Soloveitchik suggests that the Torah is teaching
us that the main part of the commandment is not the care of the guests, that the
needy person should be fed. The needy person is the vehicle through which we fulfill
the real commandment, to have mercy and concern and feel the needs of another
person and then make every effort to help them and fulfill their needs. To make
it part of our consciousness to feel the needs of others.
(Adapted from the
Hamodia Torah magazine 2013)
The Lubavitcher Rebbe teaches we can actually
learn both aspects, not just the inner need to care for the other but also to
actually help the other person physically. Avraham lived before the Torah was
given on Mount Sinai, when it became possible to fuse the physical with spirituality.
For Avraham and the forefathers, the main emphasis was to fulfill G-d's commandments
in their most inner spiritual context.
After the Torah was given and the material
world and the spirituality of Torah because connected, it became possible to transform
the material world into something spiritual. Only then did it also become part
of the intention of the (hospitality) commandment to physically welcome and honor
and help the guest too. The commandment was no longer only to refine and spiritually
elevate the person who observed it.
(Rebbetzin Tzirel Livnoni. Shulchan Shabbat)
Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev  once came to Lelov and went to the home of one
of the town's wealthy residents for a place to sleep. The rich man did not recognize
the Rabbi and sent him on his way. The Rabbi next went to the home of a simple
schoolteacher and stayed there. The word got out that the Grand Rabbi Levi Yitzchak
of Berditshev was in town and everyone came to see him and ask for his blessings
and advice. When the wealthy man came and realized his mistake, he explained that
he had not known who the Rabbi was and now insisted that he come and stay with
him in a lodging that was on a level with his great honor.
Rabbi Levi declined
and explained. "Why do we give so much praise to Avraham for welcoming and
honoring guests? In the same Torah portion, his nephew Lot seems to do a much
better job, risking his life and that of his family to fulfill the commandment."
then answered, "Lot saw angels and received them to his home. He received
angels, not people! On the other hand, Avraham saw three people who looked like
poor travelers covered with dust from their journey and ran to greet them. This
is the commandment of welcoming guests!!!"
(Adapted from Rabi Yehuda Leib
Levine. Chassidim Mesaprim)
Shabbat Shalom, Shaul
Yisrael Meir HaKohen Kagan. 1838-1933. His book, Chafetz Chaim: Desires Life on
the laws of Lashon hara, speaking ill of others.Known for his legendary humility,
concern and love for people.
 1740-1809. A Chassidic leader renowned for
his love for the Jewish people, and his characteristic role of advocating before
the Heavenly court on behalf of the Jewish nation
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For last year's essay by Rabbi
Leiter on this week's Reading, see the archive.
THE SAGES OF KABBALAH ON KabbalaOnline.org
for an overview of the recommended articles in the columns:
Holy Ari, Mystic Classics, Chasidic Masters, Contemporary Kabbalists, and
click to Vayera
By Shaul Yosef Leiter
By receiving from G-d an additional
hei to their name, Abraham and Sarah each became more effective vessels for G-d's
blessings and merited a miracle. Abraham merited that G-d revealed Himself to
him and Sarah well past childbearing age, was blessed with news of a son.
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