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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Vayeira

Parshat Vayeira

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Vayeira                                                                 Print Version
17th of Cheshvan, 5782 | October 23, 2021

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Osher Chaim Levene
Man on a Mission

Parshas Vayeira begins with the episode of the three angels coming to visit Avraham Avinu. Rashi explains that there were three angels, one of which had come to inform Sarah that she would have a child, another to turn over Sodom and a third to heal Avraham from his circumcision. Rashi writes that it was imperative that there be three different angels, because it is impossible for an angel to carry out more than one mission.
This idea that one angel cannot perform two missions must be understood. Why is this so? Many people can multitask; why can’t an angel do the same?

We find many interactions with angels throughout Sefer Bereishis, which brings to question what the nature of an angel is, and what our task as humans are and how it differs from an angel.

Rav Yerucham Levovitz zt”l has an insightful explanation as to what an angel’s nature is and how that relates to his mission. For a malach, he as the messenger and his mission are not two independent entities. Rather, he is his mission and what defines him in totality. Therefore, when Hashem gives a malach a certain task, that is what the malach’s entire purpose and essence is about.

This is why when Yaakov Avinu fights the angel and Yaakov asks him for his name, the malach responds, “Why do you want to know my name?” The commentaries explain that the angel’s response was that his name is irrelevant in the sense that his identity – or his name – is inextricably tied into his mission. That is all that he is. An angel’s name is nothing more than the expression and directive of his mission. This is reflected in the names of the malachim, which define their essence. In example, Rafael (meaning “G-d is my healer”) speaks to the angel which healed Avraham Avinu and spared Lot from being killed. The malach is identified with what he is meant to do.

Therefore, it’s not that a malach cannot multitask. Rather, his whole life force and what he is created for is his mission, and therefore he cannot have two missions at the same time. Hashem entrusts him with a mission and when he fulfills it, he fulfills the purpose for which he was created.

How does this relate to us as human beings? We too as Jews have a similar outlook in life. The mission with which we are entrusted with is what defines us. The role of the messenger is to do the bidding of the one who sent him. That comprises his identity and essence. And therefore, if Hashem is the one who has sent us, that defines our essence and identity here on this earth, to the point that we can return to Hashem and tell him that we’ve successfully completed our mission. As such, similar to angels, we are to internalize that everything that we are and have is solely and singularly focused and utilized towards our goal and mission. Our will becomes transformed to be the will of Hashem. And given that Hashem’s will and Him are one – the two cannot be separated – by identifying ourselves with our mission, which is the directive and will of Hashem, we are directly connecting and identifying with Hashem Himself.

This, explains Rav Yerucham, is why there is a concept of zerizus, quickness, when it comes to mitzvos. The fact that we are a messenger, the speed in which we perform it reflects our yearning to do the mitzvah. It demonstrates our great desire to connect with Hashem. Angels too, not coincidentally, are described as “running this and that way,” given this very reason – they are wholly focused upon their purpose and their mission and look to carry it out with the greatest speed and no delay.
This is also why our Sages tell us, “Shliach mitzvah eino nizoken,” a messenger on his way to perform a mitzvah will have no harm befall him. Given that one who is in the pursuit of a mitzvah identifies with the messenger Himself – i.e. Hashem – and is thus a direct extension, he is protected by that very virtue of intimate identification and connection.

Our focus on our mission in life can be taken from the mission of a malach. Just as a mission for an angel requires his full concentration, when we reflect on our service of Hashem and purpose in life, it means that we are to invest every fiber of our being in such ways.

Rebbetzin Chaya Sora Gertzulin
Tents, Car Rides and Dips

I love chuppahs – all chuppahs, from the majestic and flowery, to the look of simple elegance, to a plain taalis – they are all special.

Though different, every chuppah has something in common – the four sides are open.

My father, HaRav Meshulem ben HaRav Osher Anshil HaLevi zt”l, explained that the open sides are a message to the chosson and kallah, the bride and groom. Build your home to be like the tent of Avraham and Sarah. They were known for their hachnosas orchim, providing hospitality to guests. Their tent was open 24/7, welcoming travelers from all directions – North, East, South and West.

The Torah relates that Avraham planted (built) an eishel (Bereishis 21:33). It was the “world’s first B&B”. Rashi in Tractate Sotah (10a) teaches that eishel, which is spelled in the Hebrew language as אשל, is an acronym for א – achilah, food; ש – shetiah, drink; and ל – levoyah, escorting guests upon their departure.

There is a well-known Midrash, “Ma’aseh avos siman l'banim”, the actions of the fathers are a sign for the children. This week’s parshah tells us of the mitzvah of hachnosas orchim through the lives of Avraham and Sarah. They experienced first-hand the challenges and difficulties of the nomadic traveler. They lived the life of lech-lecha, a life of journeys. They knew what it meant to walk upon burning hot sand, to be parched and in need of water, to feel weak and tired, and in need of a place to rest. They were the perfect couple to build an open home, an eishel.

Our Torah is a living Torah, with life lessons for all times, each passage with its own powerful message. “…And he was sitting at the entrance of the tent in the heat of the day” (Bereishis 18:1).
Avraham, at age 99, was recuperating from his bris. Anyone else would have been lying down, taking it easy. Not Avraham. Despite the intense heat, and being “post-op”, Avraham was out there, looking for guests.

“He lifted his eyes and saw three men” (Bereishis 18:2). Unbeknownst to Avraham, these men were angels, HaShem’s messengers. They appeared as typical travelers. Avraham ran to greet them, and invited them to the tent. Hachnosas orchim.
It’s an honor and privilege to invite an angel of HaShem into our home. Who wouldn’t want that blessing! Yet, we see that though Avraham saw the angels as “anoshim – ordinary men”, nonetheless, he jumped up upon seeing them, and invited them in. Through his actions, Avraham teaches us – open your home to all in need, don’t be selective or judgmental, make room in your heart and around your table for all of HaShem’s people. And once we invite them in, to treat every guest with respect and dignity.

“Rabbi Yossi ben Yochanan taught, let your house be open wide, and treat the poor as members of your household” (Ethics of Our Fathers 1:5)

Each of us is created “b’tzelem Elokim – in the image of G-d” When welcoming guests to our homes, we are honoring the Divine spark within each person.

Avraham included his son Yishmael in welcoming his guests, conveying to him the importance of hospitality (Rashi, Bereishis 18:7). How vital it is for us to include our children in the mitzvah of hachnosas orchim. There are so many ways our children can participate. Let them help set a table, serve and clear off. It is an opportunity to teach a way of life.

Even though he had household help, Avraham insisted on personally taking care of his guests’ needs.

A story is told about the Holy Berdichever, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak (1740–1809), who was widely known for his warmth and hospitality. The Rebbe considered it his honor to personally tend to the needs of his guests.

Once, the Rebbe’s father-in-law questioned his actions, and inquired as to why he doesn’t enlist help with the numerous chores. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak replied: “Shall I give away the mitzvah of hachnosas orchim, and even pay someone to take away the privilege?”

Avraham served his guests the best food, including the choicest meats. “Rach v’tov”, tender and good. (Bereishis 18:7). Rashi adds that it was served with “chardal”, mustard. What is the significance? Do we really think that Avraham needed mustard? And imagine how difficult it must have been to obtain mustard in the desert, yet Avraham had it readily available.

Dips have become the condiment to have with challah. When our married children join us for a Shabbos meal, I am sure to have a variety of dips on the table.

My husband couldn’t understand. He said we all grew up without dips. Was this new modern-day phenomenon really necessary?

And then, I saw the above Rashi, telling us that Avraham served mustard. Avraham thought of what would please his guests, how he could make his guests’ meal more enjoyable. I felt validated. A lesson from Avraham – serve what makes a happy guest. Welcoming guests is a mitzvah we can all do in a variety of ways.

After teaching a lunch-and-learn class in Boro Park, I lingered on, speaking with the women who attended. One of them approached me and asked if I would like to hear a dvar Torah, a Torah teaching. Always happy to learn, I said “sure”.

“Did you know that we can do hachnosas orchim in our cars? By giving someone a ride, taking them on an errand, driving them to a simchah or a doctor appointment.” “What a beautiful thought,” I mused. “One can even invite a guest without cooking, cleaning, or changing linen.” On a whim, I asked her if she needed a ride home. To which she replied, “How did you know?”

We recite in the morning prayers that hachnosas orchim is one of ten deeds whose benefits are infinite. We enjoy it’s fruits in this world, and are rewarded in the World to Come. May we all merit the privilege and the reward for our genuine acts of hachnosas orchim.

Rabbi Eliezer Abish
The Gift Of The Guest

Our Parsha picks up on the tail end of Avraham Avinu being circumcised along with everyone in his household as well. The Pasuk tells us that “Hashem appeared to Avraham in Elon Mamre, and he was sitting by his tent in the heat of the day.” As we know, Avraham was sitting at the opening of his tent in order to fulfill the mitzvah of inviting guests into his home. And indeed, Hashem sends angels his way. However, Chazal tell us that these guests arrived at a specific time during which Avraham Avinu was engaged in something very important. Very important. Nothing less than speaking to Hashem. And still, with that, he turned aside and greeted his oncoming guests. From here, derive our Sages, welcoming guests into our home is not equal to, but even greater than receiving Hashem’s own presence. How are we to understand this?

We perform mitzvos in order to grow closer to Hashem. And while it is fair to say that putting aside a direct experience with Hashem to engage with people, or even angels, is incomparable, Avraham still chose, and rightfully so, to welcome and spend time with the latter. The reason is clear in light of considering the functions of this world and the Next. In this world, our aim is to do and perform. It is a place of carrying out mitzvos. In the Next World, we will reap the benefit of our actions and enjoy the experience of an intimate, unparalleled relationship with Hashem. Avraham Avinu understood this, and knew that in this world, even amidst moments of direct communion with Hashem, his purpose – and our purpose – is engagement with the mitzvos. Thus, greater is the act of welcoming guests in this world than direct interaction with Hashem, whose full rewarded appreciation and experience is reserved for the Next.

The Gemara adds that it’s “even greater to greet guests than going to the beis midrash.” This means that if someone is readying himself for shul, and someone comes to his home and needs a place to eat and sleep, he is to first and foremost help him.

In Eastern Europe, there was a man named Zundel. He was well known because Zundel showed his true colors in patterns: he’d drift in and out of villages and towns, sleep in the shul for a day or two, and would tell people, “I’ve been sleeping in the shul for the past few days; could I sleep at your house for a few days.” Many Jews would put him up, but after he left, they realized that he had stolen their items. Zundel was a thief. He’d be gone for a few weeks and then come back and do the same thing. People realized what he was doing and no longer took him in.

On one occasion, Zundel showed up in Radin, the city of the Chofetz Chaim. He was trying to find a place to sleep, but no one was letting Zundel in, as he had already robbed several townspeople. Until he knocked on the door of R’ Naftali Trop, the Rosh Yeshiva in Radin. R’ Naftali opened up the door and let Zundel in. He then quickly prepared a meal and a place for him to sleep. Minutes later, his students turned to him and quizzically asked, “What are you doing? This man’s a thief!” R’ Naftali responded, “I learned the halachos of a thief, and I know he has to repay twice, sometimes four or five times of what he stole. But the halacha never says that he’s not entitled to hachnasas orchim!” “But Rebbe, he’ll steal from you!” “That’s my problem,” replied R’ Naftali. “I have to make sure he doesn’t do that, so I’ll be up all night making sure he doesn’t steal. But what does that have to do with my mitzvah of giving someone a place to stay?” And indeed, R’ Naftali stayed up that night while Zundel was in his house so he could perform the mitzvah of hachnasas orchim.

Helping people is the way we grow closer to Hashem. And there were those special individuals who went to great lengths to do so.

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